Darfur


The New York Times gave Darfur nearly four times the coverage it gave the Congo in 2006, while Congolese were dying of war-related causes at nearly 10 times the rate of those in Darfur.  Graph: John Emerson (backspace.com)

Two graphs, the New York Times gave Darfur nearly four times the coverage it gave the Congo in 2006, while Congolese were dying of war-related causes at nearly 10 times the rate of those in Darfur. Graphs: John Emerson (backspace.com)

Julie Hollar has written a superb analysis of why the conflict in the Congo is ignored by the media; Congo Ignored, Not Forgotten, When 5 million dead aren’t worth two stories a year. She covers when and why coverage was better, and what is going on now. I won’t repeat all she writes, it is well worth reading. Near the end she includes this paragraph:

Paying attention to the Congo would also mean reporting on the main factor fueling the conflict: the plunder of the country’s resources, which primarily benefits multinational corporations. The conflict areas of the Congo are rich with minerals like copper, tin, gold, diamonds, cobalt and coltan, a mineral used for cell phones and other common electronic devices. Rebel groups who hold these areas sell off the minerals at cut-rate prices, using the profits to maintain power as big companies look the other way. As happened with conflict diamonds in Sierra Leone and Angola, activists are pushing for a mechanism to make corporations verify that they aren’t buying the Congo’s conflict minerals.

The GDP of both Rwanda and Uganda include minerals stolen from the Congo. So far both countries are rewarded for this theft by praise for their economic progress, and of course by the money these minerals bring. Too many people in too many countries are profiting from Congo’s wealth. Canada is the largest mining interest in the Congo, and funds a lot of the conflict. Mostly all parties are perfectly willing to see the conflict continue. Despite the massive number of deaths, the use of rape as a form of terrorism, used along with murder and dismemberment to threaten and depopulate areas, and the conscription of children as soldiers by all sides, most of the media coverage of the Congo conflict involves endangered gorillas or Angelina Jolie. Media coverage discounts and ignores the people of the Congo.

The Congo conflict is sometimes known as Africa’s world war. Here is a list from 2001 of many of the parties involved, from Natalie Ware at American University.

  • The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC):
    * Hutu Interhamwe militia – mostly from Rwanda and responsible for 1994 genocide of Tutsis in Rwanda
    * Former Hutu members of the Rwandan military – also responsible for 1994 genocide of Tutsis in Rwanda
    * Mai Mai – group of traditional Congolese local security forces
    These groups operate inside the DRC supporting the government “often as guerillas operating inside territory held by antigovernment forces” (U.S. State 2001)
  • Libya – provides arms and logistical support but no troops
  • North Korea – sent advisors to train government troops
  • Rwanda – supports Congolese Rally for Democracy based in Goma (RCD/Goma) and Congolese Rally for Democracy based in Bunia (RCD/Goma); majority Tutsi
  • Uganda – supports the Movement for the Liberation of the Congo (MLC); mainly non-Tutsi
  • Burundi – fights against various Hutu groups based in the DRC that are against the Tutsi-led Burundi government
  • Angola – supports the government of the DRC
  • Namibia – supports the government of the DRC
  • Zimbabwe – supports the government of the DRC
  • Sudan – supports the Alliance of Democratic Forces (ADF); Ugandan expatriates against the government of Uganda

The conflict in the DRC is often characterized as an ethnic conflict. It is a resource war. The various sides exploit ethnicity when it works to their advantage in the pursuit of mineral and other natural resources. All the groups engaged in fighting in the Congo engage in terrorism and conscript children.

China is missing from the above list, its presence has expanded greatly since 2001. The west is entirely missing from the list. Canada, the United States, the UK, countries of the EU, are all players in one form or another, and have been for some time. They are a huge market for the stolen mineral wealth of the Congo, and home base for the multinational corporations who fuel the plunder. Canada is the biggest player in mining. China is also heavily involved in mining in the Congo. The US is supplying a great deal of military training and arms transfers to Rwanda and Uganda, which extend their reach and power into the Congo.

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ricemadagascar

Rice fields in Madagascar

Glenn Ashton of the The South African Civil Society Information Service has written a telling article about the new colonial land grabs in Africa titled Madagascar: the new land grab.

Just when colonialism was considered dead and buried, along comes neo-colonialism in its latest guise. Allied with its close relatives globalisation, free marketeering and lack of transparency, it is currently launching a new offensive on the disempowered population of this continent. …

Neo-colonialism is now garbed in new clothes. Powerful interests are presently seeking and gaining access to land in government-to-government deals as well as through private capital. These arrangements ostensibly offer to manage land that is not being economically utilised in order to improve food security. But for whom? …

The global food security focussed NGO, GRAIN, issued a report on this phenomenon in October 2008, where they cited more than 100 examples of this new neo-colonial land grab. These land grabs are primarily by nations that have insufficient natural capital or space – such as the desert-bound nations of the Middle East and overpopulated nations such as China and South Korea. They seek to improve the food security of those nations while undermining the ability of host nations to access similar benefits, through the alienation of prime agricultural land. The ecological impacts can also be significant.

Since the GRAIN report was published, the land grab has continued apace. The recent acquisition of a reported 1.3 million hectares (ha) of land in Madagascar by the South Korean company Daewoo Logistics Corporation on 99-year lease has raised eyebrows around the world. This land represents around half of that island nation’s arable land.

In Madagascar a reported 70% of the population suffer from food shortages and malnutrition. Nearly 4% are fed through aid programmes. Besides this, more than 50% of the population is below the age of 18. What hope is there for local youth when South African farmers are reportedly being recruited to run the highly mechanised and automated farms under the Daewoo lease? …

China is also actively seeking new land. Given its massive population and constrained access to farmland, China has moved aggressively into Africa with land interests in Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Nigeria, Uganda, Cameroon and Tanzania. …

Even the World Bank is continuing its role as a neo-colonial consensus agent by actively pursuing and financing access to ‘under-utilised land’ around the world through its International Finance Corporation.

Of course much of the land is “under-utilised” because African countries were following World Bank recommendations and requirements. Malawi used to provide free seeds and fertilizer to its farmers.

The results were impressive, but the subsidies ran afoul of the pro-market policies of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF), which argued that subsidies were “crowding out” commercial sales and constituted undue government interference in the economy. Under considerable pressure from these financing institutions, the programme was phased out. The IMF also insisted that Malawi sell much of its national grain reserve to pay off the debts of the state-owned maize marketing agency.

Most Malawian farmers, however, were too poor to pay commercial rates for fertilizer and seeds. As a result, maize yields plunged. When drought struck in 2001 neither farmers nor the government had adequate grain stores to see them through, and more than a thousand people are estimated to have died. Then after the failed 2005 harvest left 5 million of Malawi’s 13 million people on the brink of starvation, the newly elected government of President Mutharika defied the donors and launched the subsidy scheme with its own funds.

Without the seeds and fertilizer, the land was “under-utilized.” People starved because they could not farm. This has been World Bank and IMF policy throughout Africa. As Ashton points out:

… international finance instruments run by the then G5 (now expanded to the G8), such as the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund used aid and so-called development finance instruments to further their interests.

It has been established by repeated research over decades that the smaller the farm the greater the yield. For more information read the article Small is Bountiful, and check the references listed at the end. There are economies of scale with big agriculture. Big agriculture allows the proceeds to be concentrated among a few people unrelated to the people actually living on the land. It is generally harmful to the land, due to the use of toxic chemicals needed to sustain monocultures, and due to unsafe genetic engineering. It is harmful to the people who live in its vicinity, depriving them of their livilihood and damaging their health.

Ashton continues:

Perhaps more sinister is the recent news of leasehold rights being acquired for approximately 400,000 hectares of land in the Southern Sudan from the family of former warlord Gabriel Matip. In a deal struck by US financier Philippe Heilberg, who has used a British Virgin Islands subsidiary of his Jarch Group to facilitate the deal, private interests have intervened directly in disputed territories. Co-directors of the group reportedly include ex-CIA operatives. Given the ongoing instability in that nation and the forced eviction of millions in the neighbouring Darfur region, this sort of land acquisition is perhaps a harbinger of an unsavoury trend in who gets to control the land in disputed territories.

I wrote about this in an earlier post: Jarch Colonial Holdings, and quote Heilberg: “You have to go to the guns, this is Africa”. His intentions are clear. The Jarch management contains people with connections to both the current and the previous US administrations. You can see their management listed on the Jarch LLC website.

Ashton concludes:

Activities to increase agricultural growth in Africa have also been severely compromised by questionable alliances. For instance AGRA, the African Union endorsed ‘Association for a Green Revolution in Africa,’ has seen the undemocratic and unsolicited intervention of supposedly neutral funders such as the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation. The relationship between these funders and pro-genetically modified food interests (in what is now termed bio-colonialism) has served to actively undermine local agricultural collectives, NGOs and projects that aim to promote and share proven solutions to food insecurity and malnutrition.

This is perhaps the most dangerous manifestation of neo-colonialism as it operates behind a veil of philanthropy while (wittingly or unwittingly) undermining democratic structures and interests. The obscene profits accrued by capital over recent decades, instead of being taxed and distributed by state organs, are now in the hands of ill-informed and often ideologically biased do-gooders. For instance, given the technocratic origins of the Gates fortune, it is logical that undue emphasis will be placed on similar technocratic agricultural solutions.

These ‘solutions’ are imposed through slick public relations and the support of corporate aligned agri-business interests such as Africa-Bio and A New Harvest, both of which are linked to GM corporations such as Monsanto, the worlds biggest seed company and genetically modified seed distributor.

There is an urgent need to examine these new neo-colonial thrusts. Careful and objective analysis must be undertaken as to how food and land sovereignty is being compromised through naïve interaction with the new global powers of finance and trade. The interests of global capital need to be tempered by intervention and through more pragmatic approaches that take account of the historical relationships between land, community, food security and economic development.

It is ironic that while Africans have fought to cast aside colonial oppression and its concomitant heritage, we have instead opened gates (pun intended) to a new wave of colonial interests that threaten, yet again, to bypass the marginalised whilst enriching a well-connected minority.

It would be tragic to cast aside Africa’s recently won freedom for a yoke of a different design.

Under democratic governance the people who live on the land would determine how their land is used. As Vandana Shiva writes:

In a democracy, the economic agenda is the political agenda.

The US claims to support and foster democracy. This is a test. In fact, it is probably THE test. Without food, none of us survive.

Added January 31:

From the GRAIN website:

THERE ARE FOUR MAIN PARTS TO THIS LAND GRAB BRIEFING:

1. A summary and announcement – available online here:
http://www.grain.org/nfg/?id=610

2. The full report is available here:
http://www.grain.org/briefings/?id=212
Also available in PDF format:
http://www.grain.org/briefings/?id=212&pdf

3. The Annex to this briefing is a table with over 100 cases of land grabbing for offshore food production as presented in this report. It is available in a separate PDF file:
http://www.grain.org/briefings_files/landgrab-2008-en-annex .pdf

4. GRAIN has released a Google Notebook with full-text news clippings collected during the research for this briefing as a support to those who want to read more.
http://tinyurl.com/landgrab2008

The notebook is only available online, and the news clippings are not in any order, but it can easily be searched. We are doing this because this is not always an easy subject to research on the internet, if you want a broad picture. People may add further clippings to the notebook as they wish, to further build this collective resource – if you would like to participate, please send an email to landgrab@grain.org . GRAIN will not be maintaining nor be responsible for it. Most of the articles are at present in English. (A backup copy is available in PDF format from here: http://www.grain.org/m/?id=209 )

jarch
Because it is YOUR Land,
YOUR Natural Resources,
WE put boots on the ground to keep YOU In Line!

This looks like a job for AFRICOM.

From the Financial Times: US investor buys Sudanese warlord’s land. (h/t to b, and to b real for his extensive research)

A US businessman backed by former CIA and state department officials says he has secured a vast tract of fertile land in south Sudan from the family of a notorious warlord, in post-colonial Africa’s biggest private land deal. …

… In contrast to land deals between foreign investors and governments, Mr Heilberg is gambling on a warlord’s continuing control of a region where his militia operated in the civil war between Khartoum and south Sudan.

“You have to go to the guns, this is Africa,” Mr Heilberg said by phone from New York.

Jarch Management Group is linked to Jarch Capital, a US investment company that counts on its board former US state department and intelligence officials, including Joseph Wilson, a former ambassador and expert on Africa, who acts as vice-chairman; and Gwyneth Todd, who was an adviser on Middle Eastern and North African affairs at the Pentagon and under former president Bill Clinton at the White House.

Laws on land ownership in south Sudan remain vague, and have yet to be clarified in a planned land act. For this reason, some foreign experts on Sudan as well as officials in the regional government, speaking on condition of anonymity, doubted Mr Heilberg could assert legal rights over such a vast tract of land. …

Mr Heilberg is unconcerned. He believes that several African states, Sudan included, but possibly also Nigeria, Ethiopia and Somalia, are likely to break apart in the next few years, and that the political and legal risks he is taking will be amply rewarded.

Nigeria, Ethiopia, and Somalia, are all primary targets of interest for AFRICOM, all are targeted for “nation building” and for training proxy militaries.

“If you bet right on the shifting of sovereignty then you are on the ground floor. I am constantly looking at the map and looking if there is any value,” he said, adding that he was also in contact with rebels in Sudan’s western region of Darfur, dissidents in Ethiopia and the government of the breakaway state of Somaliland, among others.

This is what is important to remember. As b at Moon of Alabama writes:

An political connected outfit like Jarch will not make such an investment when it is not sure that it can push the U.S. government to protect it.

This looks like work for AFRICOM, and those nation “building” mercenaries employed by the State Department and the Pentagon, the same ones who have done so much for the Iraqi people, and for America’s image in Iraq.

The lease agreement was also described in the Sudan Tribune:

“Jarch has leased approximately 400,000 hectares gross of prime farmland from General Paulino Matip. In addition, Jarch will acquire more farm land within Southern Sudan,” said a statement issued by the investment group.

The statement also noted that Mayom county, where the farmland was leased, contains some mineral resources, for which contracts will be executed by the Government of Southern Sudan in early 2009.

There was another story about this in the Financial Times: Quest to create a new Sudan bread basket.

Unity state does border the White Nile and its flat, arable land could, with billions of dollars of investment in irrigation and roads, be transformed into a world-class bread basket.

Mr. Heilberg has no problem with war, violence, and death.

Mr Matip fought with the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement against the northern army before gaining notoriety during one of the bloodiest episodes in Sudan’s civil war, when he switched sides to form his own militia, with backing from parts of his Nuer tribe and the Khartoum regime.

“I am sure Paulino has killed many, but I am sure he did it in protection of his people,” Mr Heilberg says in his defence.

Which is very convenient and, of course, makes everything OK.

Mr Matip’s son Gabriel, who controls the company in which Jarch has bought a majority stake, told the Financial Times that he had negotiated with tribal leaders to secure access to more land.

He said the company also had written agreement for the agricultural development of the land, and other land it may secure in the south of the country, from the ministry of agriculture and forestry in south Sudan.

This means that people, who are likely illiterate, are being cheated out of their traditional lands, lands that have been in their clans and families for centuries. Written contracts backed up by guns and “law” will make that certain. Based on how this works in other places, it will have particularly adverse effects on women, who generally have some economic protections under traditional property practices. When these practices are “westernized”, women lose that traditional protection and get nothing in return.

b asks:

Now ask yourself why the U.S. is fighting terror in Somalia.

Who might have financed the tanks and other weapons from the Ukraine with destination to South Sudan and captured by Somali pirates?

And who finances the Safe Darfur campaign that wants the U.S. to militarily intervene in Sudan?

Mr. Heilberg, Joe Wilson and the investors who pay them are obviously ruthless about the consequences of their enterprise. But it is certain that this will end in war which will have to be endured by the people living on the fertile land Mr. Heilberg leased.

Why is such behavior still or again considered legal?

AFRICOM was designed for just such purpose. This is the “stabilization” and “nation building” that are more traditionally and more accurately called colonialism and imperialism.

On the Jarch Capital LLC website, with Africa highlighted in red, pictured above, it says: Because it is YOUR Land, YOUR Natural Resources!

Mr. Heilberg shows his true intentions and true contempt for Africans when he says: “You have to go to the guns, this is Africa”

___________________________________________

Added May 2009:

New York investment firm mulling more land leases in S. Sudan
Sudan Tribune
16 April 2009

Jarch Management Group, Ltd., a US investment firm, disclosed that it is considering additional opportunities to lease large tracts of farmland in Southern Sudan.

This report follows the announcement in January of a massive lease agreement that prompted some tension within governing circles in Southern Sudan.

In an apparent change of course from oil investing to agriculture, Jarch Management took a 70% interest in the Sudanese company Leac for Agriculture and Investment and leased approximately 400,000 hectares of land claimed by General Paulino Matip, a figure now straddling a deep fissure within the Sudan People’s Liberation Army.

In a statement emailed to Sudan Tribune today the company disclosed that it aims to lease another 400,000 hectares of land by the end of the year.

“Since its January 2009 announcement that it had leased about 400,000 hectares, the Company has had a multitude of offers to buy and lease farmland from around the world,” said a statement from the management of the company.

“However, the Company is focused on frontier African countries and continues to look for opportunities in farmland and other natural resources in these countries. As such, the Company hopes to conclude more deals for more leased farmland. The Company is hopeful that it can lease at least another 400,000 hectares of land by the end of the year.”

South Sudanese law requires that large leases of land be approved by two local government bodies. Accordingly, a January statement from Leac Company noted that the acquisition would include dealings with local land authorities and stressed that “the state and local governments shall have budgets for development because of the cash flows from the agricultural schemes the two companies will operate.”

While U.S. companies are banned from doing business in Sudan, agriculture in Southern Sudan is exempted from sanctions provided that the national government does not have any stake in the business and provided that no imports or exports pass through non-exempt areas.

Jarch Management Group, Ltd, which is registered in the Virgin Islands, is managed by New York investor Philippe Heilberg, commodities traders and former State Department and Central Intelligence Agency officials, among others.

Just before Bush left to play at being benevolent uncle in Africa, his administration cut funding for UN peacekeeping in African countries.

From ABC news:

On the eve of President Bush’s trip to Africa, his administration has decided to drastically cut money for United Nations peacekeeping missions in war-torn countries there.
. . .
In war-torn Liberia, which President Bush will visit on his trip, the White House has proposed spending $56 million less on the U.N. peacekeeping mission there than it did last year. Bush . . . visit(ed) Rwanda, which is still struggling to right itself after a devastating, years-long civil war took the lives of millions. His administration’s budget proposes cutting $5 million (from the UN tribunal in Rwanda.) . . .

The administration’s 2009 budget also cuts millions for U.N. peacekeeping efforts in Sudan; Democratic Republic of Congo, where a decade-long war still claims thousands of lives a month; Chad, where rebels attempted a violent overthrow of the government Feb. 2; and Cote d’Ivoire, whose stability the Bush administration says “is a critical element in restoring peace to the entire West African region.”

Obviously peace is way too important to pay to restore it.

Why did Bush cut funding for UN peacekeeping? The Bush administration is still planning on spending rivers of money on “nation building”, “stability operations”, and “peacekeeping”, just not with the UN. The Department of State just issued AFRICAP Program Recompete, looking for contractors to:

. . . undertake a wide range of diverse projects, including setting up operational bases to support peacekeeping operations in hostile environments, military training and to providing a range of technical assistance and equipment for African militaries and peace support operations.

And the mercenaries are salivating at the Bush administration plans to hire more and more mercenaries, private military and security contractors, to accomplish Bush aims in Africa.

In October (2007), leaders in the private military security industry — ArmorGroup, DynCorp, MPRI, and several others — gathered at the Phoenix Park Hotel near the Capitol for the annual three-day summit of their trade group, the International Peace Operations Association. Panel speakers and members of the audience debated the future of nation-building efforts in failed states.
. . .
. . . handing out his business card that day, Army Lt. Col. James Boozell, a branch chief of the Stability Operations/Irregular Warfare Division at the Pentagon, said that the U.S. military was in fact experiencing a “watershed” moment in its 200-plus-year history — nation building was now a core military mission to be led by the Army.

Boozell adds, however, that the Army can’t possibly raise up failed states without . . . of course, private security contractors . . . — boom times for nation building are here to stay.

They may need a lot more states to “fail” in order to keep the PMCs busy with new contracts.

Vijay Prashad and Mahmood Mamdani tell us how the US and the EU previously cut funding for African Union peacekeeping efforts in Sudan and Darfur. The AU was actually having some success in reducing violence. Bush does not want that success. By cutting UN peacekeeping funds now, Bush is trying to prevent an indigenous African force, or an international agency, from succeeding in peacekeeping.
In Darfur:

For a time the African Union was able to stabilize the situation, although it did not succeed in crafting a political solution to the problem. The African Union, created in 1999, has neither the financial ability to pay its troops nor the logistical capacity to do its job. The European Union, who paid the troop salaries, began to withhold funds on grounds of accountability, and it gradually killed off the peacekeeping operations. Columbia University Professor Mahmood Mamdani (who is one of the world’s leading experts on contemporary Africa) says of this, “There is a concerted attempt being made to shift the political control of any intervention force inside Darfur from inside Africa to outside Africa.” In other words, the U.S. and Europe are eager to control the dynamic of what happens in Africa and not allow an indigenous, inter-state agency to gain either the experience this would provide or the respect it would gain if it succeeds. The African Union has been undermined so that only the U.S. can appear as the savior of the beleaguered people of Darfur, and elsewhere.

Undermining the UN, and paying mercenaries instead of the UN, does not save money. This is not frugality. Private military contractors, PMCs, are in business to make money, and they are still very much on the Bush agenda.
cost + profit = increased cost

Of course the costs for PMCs can be reduced by using conscripts and child soldiers. And PMC profits can be increased by dealing in contraband. There are plenty of precedents.

I see these possible reasons why the Bush administration has cut UN peacekeeping funding.

  • Prevent African or international solutions to African problems.
  • Maintain the US as the only ones capable of solving violent unrest in African countries by preventing indigenous or alternative solutions.
  • Provide more jobs and contracts for corporate cronies, the private military contractors.
  • Prevent oversight, avoid US law and international law that might apply to US activities in African countries.
  • Continue an intentionally destructive policy of undermining the UN.
  • Incompetence (does not preclude any of the above.)
African Union troops in Darfur

What Nzimande has to say seems exactly on target according to what I have been reading. Because he is a Communist, many Americans will not give his words credibility. In fact, very few people in the US will even see them. Nevertheless, what he says about AFRICOM is important:

Blade Nzimande, general secretary of the South African Communist Party, issued a statement Aug. 14 calling upon progressives to study, discuss and oppose the “brazenly unilateralist” project.

AFRICOM, he suggested, is emblematic of U.S. militarization of its foreign policies and a trend toward merging development assistance and imperial strategies. AFRICOM represents colonial intrusion into African multilateral initiatives, in his view. Nzimande dismissed Senate testimony Aug. 1 by Assistant Defense Secretary Theresa Whelan justifying AFRICOM on grounds of efficiency. More relevant, he asserted, is a 2006 State Department report on “National Security Strategy” that “positions the U. S. as the custodian of human civilization.”

Calling for “autonomous development” and use of African resources for Africans, Nzimande connected the fight against AFRICOM with “a strong continental peace movement.” He condemned U.S. “hegemonic intentions” to station troops “in practically all parts of the world.”

As Vijay Prashad stated:

Under the guise of the War on Terrorism, the U.S. government has moved forces into various parts of Africa, where they were able to train African armies and to intervene in the increasingly dangerous resource wars.

And specifically about the situation in Sudan and Darfur he writes:

For a time the African Union was able to stabilize the situation, although it did not succeed in crafting a political solution to the problem. The African Union, created in 1999, has neither the financial ability to pay its troops nor the logistical capacity to do its job. The European Union, who paid the troop salaries, began to withhold funds on grounds of accountability, and it gradually killed off the peacekeeping operations. . . . “There is a concerted attempt being made to shift the political control of any intervention force inside Darfur from inside Africa to outside Africa.” In other words, the U.S. and Europe are eager to control the dynamic of what happens in Africa and not allow an indigenous, inter-state agency to gain either the experience this would provide or the respect it would gain if it succeeds. The African Union has been undermined so that only the U.S. can appear as the savior of the beleaguered people of Darfur, and elsewhere.

Or, as John Dean says of the Bush administration:

. . . neoconservatives now seem to embrace aggressive and unilateral intervention in foreign affairs.
(Conservatives Without Conscience, by John Dean, ISBN 0-670-03774-5, p.100)

Oil in Sudan (click map to enlarge)

Darfur – It’s about the oil.

The US started the current conflict in Darfur over oil, by funding military aggression, a proxy war, using Chad. As part of this proxy war, the US has continued to arm the larger of two rebel groups, the SLM. China needs oil, and now possesses 1.2 trillion US dollars in its banks. The oil business is done in dollars, and China has plenty. China has been making loans to African governments with no strings attached. This has shored up authoritarian rulers. But China has also funded and helped build schools, roads, and other infrastructure projects in the African countries with which it is dealing.

Over the last 3 decades, the United States and the big oil companies have completely wasted the opportunities they had to build and cement long term positive relationships in Africa. The US government and Big Oil have preferred arrogance, neglect, and single minded exploitation. They have used “military assistance” to deal with anyone who they think may stand in their way.

With the Nigerian government unwilling to build infrastructure in the Niger Delta, Shell could have done this relatively cheaply on its own, in partnership with local communities. Shell should have been less arrogantly careless about polluting the land and the water. It would have cost more. But if Shell had been willing to think long term, it would have paid off more. US support for the grotesque government in Equitorial Guinea is both foolish for long term US interests, and morally inexcusable. And former support for Savimbi and Unitas in Angola was another moral abomination that achieved nothing but death and suffering.

F William Engdahl details the history and describes the present situation in Darfur and Sudan:

(The) present concern of the current Washington administration over Darfur in southern Sudan is not, if we look closely, genuine concern over genocide against the peoples in that poorest of poor part of a forsaken section of Africa.

Instead, we now have:

. . . a new Cold War over oil, where the dramatic rise in China’s oil demand to fuel its booming growth has led Beijing to embark on an aggressive policy of – ironically – dollar diplomacy.
. . .
China is using no-strings-attached dollar credits to gain access to Africa’s vast raw material wealth, leaving Washington’s typical control game via the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) out in the cold. Who needs the painful medicine of the IMF when China gives easy terms and builds roads and schools to boot?
. . .
China has been generous in dispensing its soft loans, with no interest or as outright grants, to some of the poorest debtor states of Africa. The loans have gone into infrastructure, including highways, hospitals, and schools, a stark contrast to the brutal austerity demands of the IMF and World Bank.
. . .
This oil-related Chinese diplomacy has led to the bizarre accusation from Washington that Beijing is trying to “secure oil at the sources”, something Washington foreign policy has itself been preoccupied with for at least a century. No source of oil has been more the focus of China-US oil conflict of late than Sudan, home of Darfur.
. . .
With its oil demand growing by an estimated 30% a year, China will pass the US in oil import demand in a few years. That reality is the motor driving Beijing foreign policy in Africa.
. . .

Merchants of death –

The United States, acting through surrogate allies in Chad and neighboring states has trained and armed the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Army, headed until his death in July 2005 by John Garang, trained at the US Special Forces school at Fort Benning, Georgia (the notorious School of the Americas).
By pouring arms into first southeastern Sudan and since discovery of oil in Darfur into that region as well, Washington fueled the conflict that led to tens of thousands dying and several million driven to flee their homes.
. . .
The Pentagon has been busy training African military officers in the US, much as it has trained Latin American officers for decades. Its International Military Education and Training program has provided training to military officers from Chad, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Cameroon and the Central African Republic.

Much of the arms that have fueled the killing in Darfur and the south have been brought in via murky, protected private “merchants of death” such as the notorious former KGB operative, now with offices in the US, Victor Bout, who has been cited repeatedly in recent years for selling weapons across Africa. US government officials strangely leave his operations in Texas and Florida untouched despite the fact he is on the Interpol wanted list for money laundering.
US development aid for all Sub-Saharan Africa, including Chad, has been cut sharply in recent years while its military aid has risen. Oil and the scramble for strategic raw materials is the clear reason. The region of southern Sudan from the Upper Nile to the Chad border is rich in oil. Washington knew that long before the Sudanese government.
. . .

Chad oil and pipeline politics –

Condoleezza Rice’s Chevron is in neighboring Chad, together with the other US oil giant, ExxonMobil. They’ve just built a $3.7 billion oil pipeline carrying 160,000 barrels per day from Doba in central Chad, near Darfur, via Cameroon to Kribi on the Atlantic Ocean, destined for US refineries.

To do it, they worked with Chad “President for life” Idriss Deby, a corrupt despot who has been accused of feeding US-supplied arms to the Darfur rebels.
. . .
Supplied with US military aid, training and weapons, in 2004, Deby launched the initial strike that set off the conflict in Darfur. . . . The US military support to Deby in fact had been the trigger for the Darfur bloodbath. Khartoum reacted and the ensuing debacle was unleashed in full, tragic force.
. . .
The Chinese economic presence in Chad, ironically, may be more effective in calming the fighting and displacement in Darfur than any AU or UN troop presence ever could. That would not be welcome for some people in Washington and at Chevron headquarters, as they would not secure the oil.

Chad and Darfur are but part of the vast China effort to secure “oil at the source” across Africa. Oil is also the prime factor in US Africa policy today. George W Bush’s interest in Africa includes a new US base in Sao Tome/Principe, 124 miles off the Gulf of Guinea, from which it can control Gulf of Guinea oil fields from Angola in the south to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon and Nigeria. That just happens to be the very same areas where recent Chinese diplomatic and investment activity has focused.
. . .
Darfur and Chad are but an extension of the US Iraq policy “with other means” – control of oil everywhere. China is challenging that control “everywhere”, especially in Africa. It amounts to a new undeclared Cold War over oil.

There is much more information in the article, and it is well worth reading. The information in this article is available in bits and pieces in a variety of sources. Mr. Engdahl has put it together with succinct precision.

I think two of the particularly telling quotes from the article are:

US development aid for all Sub-Saharan Africa, including Chad, has been cut sharply in recent years while its military aid has risen.
and
The Chinese economic presence in Chad, ironically, may be more effective in calming the fighting and displacement in Darfur than any AU or UN troop presence ever could.

The cuts in US development aid, with increased military aid, is exactly the wrong way for the US to go, both in terms of US interests, and African interests. This is what the US did in the Cold War, and accomplished nothing good. This will cause enormous harm. In this context, the Africa Command appears to be an extension of the disastrous Iraq policy. I hope the US can find more positive ways to make friends and secure markets. The Iraq approach is an obvious and miserable failure. The American brand could become popular and successful again, but only if the US is willing to act in mutually beneficial fashion. So far the Cheney hand on foreign policy has steered relentlessly in the wrong direction.