nation building


africa_on_earthcc Hitchster

In view of topics in my last two posts, AGRA & Monsanto & Gates, Green Washing & Poor Washing and African Bloggers At The G20, there are a couple of articles at Pambazuka that have a lot to say.

Yash Tandon writes about the crisis of the global North in relation to the global South:

Western civilisation has been going through a deepening crisis over the last 120 years – to be precise since around mid-1880s when serious colonisation began of the African continent as a desperate attempt to get out of the crisis created by the limits to growth within Europe. The present systemic crisis – whose most recent manifestations are the global financial crisis and the ecological crisis – is only its latest manifestation. Western civilisation’s crisis is deeper than most people realise or willing to acknowledge.

… The ruling political and corporate elites in the West are losing control both in their own countries and over much of the South. Judging by the attempts made by them in recent months, it is evident that they have no clue about how to get out of the dual political-economic and ecological crises. They have serious problems of resource depletion and global warming which compound to create a situation not unlike what they experienced in the 1880s when they faced limits to growth in Europe.

The re-colonisation option does not look promising for the future, because although they are presently attempting to neo-colonise the South, this will meet with stiff resistance not only from the South but also from progressive peoples in the North.

It must be recognised that much of the South is still in the phase of consolidating the gains of national struggles. The vilification of these efforts as ‘failed states’ or as ‘terrorist states’ is misguided and dangerous. We must not fall into that trap.

Tandon provides a great deal more detail describing the historical problem and suggesting approaches to work towards solutions. Read the whole article: Political, economic and climatic crises of Western civilisation – Dangers and opportunities.

Another essay with a lot to think about is The global financial crisis: Lessons and responses from Africa by Demba Moussa Dembele. As the article summary describes:

The crisis provides fundamental lessons, says Dembele, the first being that markets do not have self-correcting mechanisms, and that market failures are not less costly than state failures. Secondly, “the collapse of the neoliberal dogma is a major blow to the international financial institutions. What is even more devastating to them is the reversal of most of the policies they had advocated for decades in Africa and in other ‘poor’ countries under the now discredited SAPs (structural adjustment programmes). The IMF and the World Bank are supporting fiscal stimulus – expansionary fiscal policies – in the United States, Europe and Asia.”

Thirdly, its clear that the state remains a central player in solving crises caused by markets, and is not the sole cause of economic and social problems in Africa that neoliberal policy has categorised it as.

Dembele writes:

One major lesson for Africa is that they should no longer trust the IMF and World Bank and for that reason they should not listen to their ‘advice’ anymore. This is why it is incomprehensible and even a shame to see African countries hold a meeting with the IMF in Tanzania with the aim of building ‘a new partnership’. In the statement issued after that meeting, African countries are calling on the IMF to extend its ‘experience and expertise’ as if African leaders and policy makers had not learned enough lessons from the experience of nearly 30 years of ruinous IMF policies from SAPs to PRSPs (poverty reduction strategy papers).

Another major illustration of the crisis of legitimacy of the neoliberal system is the strong recognition that the state is a central player in solving the crises brought about by unfettered markets, and it will remain a key actor in the development process, whether in developed or developing countries. Some may recall former US President Ronald Reagan’s assertion in the 1980s that the state was ‘part of the problem, not of the solution’. This signalled the era of massive deregulation and the assault on the state and public service and ownership. It opened the door to some of the most sweeping and devastating structural adjustment policies in Africa. African states came under vicious attacks as ‘predatory’, ‘wasteful’, ‘rent-seeking’, ‘corrupt’ and ‘inept’.

All these qualifications were intended to discredit the state as an agent of economic and social development and the experience of state-led development that took place in the post-independence period up to the late 1970s. Despite the remarkable achievements of that period, the IMF and World Bank used every possible negative example to blame the state for all Africa’s crises. They told African leaders that the state was the main, if not the unique, cause of the economic and social crisis in Africa Accordingly, the solutions they advocated included withering away the state by eliminating or limiting its intervention in the economic sphere. Hence the imposition of fiscal austerity programs, the downsizing of the civil service and the dismantling of the public sector with the privatisation of state-owned companies.

But the financial and food crises show that the state is an indispensable and indisputable agent of development and part of the solution to the current global crises. It is deregulation and market fundamentalism that are part of the problem.

Still in the name of ‘comparative advantage’, African countries were forced to give priority to cash crops at the expense of food production. The food crisis and Africa’s great dependence on food imports illustrate once again that the IFIs have misled African countries into adopting policies that are detrimental to their fundamental interests. The IMF and World Bank, which bear a great responsibility in the food crisis in Africa, are now all too happy to ‘assist’ African countries in proposing them ‘emergency loans’ to buy food from Western countries.

The same IFIs are behind the attacks against the state that translated into the destruction of the public sector to the benefit of foreign capital.

… privatisation translated into massive job losses and social exclusion. It may be argued that there is some correlation between the aggravation of poverty and the growing foreign control of resources and assets, because this control is associated with repatriation of huge profits and tax evasion. In a sense, privatisation can be assimilated to a robbery of national patrimony – including strategic sectors – through the transfer to foreign control of assets built throughout years of sacrifices by the people.

Therefore, reversing privatisation is necessary in order to restore people’s sovereignty over a nation’s resources. It is time for African countries to put back into public and collective hands the control of key sectors and natural resources. No genuine endogenous development is possible without control of a nation’s wealth. So Africa should learn from the lessons being given by capitalist countries, including the United States, which are nationalising their banks and financial institutions. But more importantly, African countries should learn from the examples of other southern countries, like those of South America and Asia, where governments are taking back what was sold off to multinational corporations.

There is much more detail, discussion, and documentation, read the whole article, The global financial crisis: Lessons and responses from Africa

I cringe when I hear about the G20 stimulus package using the IMF and the World Bank. Supposedly it is intended to help Africa get out of current problems caused by the collapse of global financial capitalism. So long as the IMF and World Bank continue their traditional practices, they will bring disaster. I think Naomi Klein offers some targeted advice to the US and specifically to the US Congress:

It should first of all demand an independent review of the role the IMF played in creating and deepening the crisis (for instance, by requiring that loan recipients deregulate their financial sectors and eliminate capital controls, as the IMF did during the Asian Economic Crisis). And it should demand that the IMF never require recipients of this loan money to make deep cuts to social spending (on health, education and pensions…) or to lay off public sector workers in the midst of the crisis. This is crucial because the IMF has been requiring exactly these types of budget cuts and layoffs in exchange for loans in Latvia and elsewhere in Eastern Europe, causing massive unrest. Further, if governments decide that in order to meet the crisis, they need to do things like subsidize farmers (the major demand in the Greece protests, for instance), they must retain the flexibility to do that.

The reasoning is simple: Obama is on record demanding that other G20 countries spend money on economic stimulus. The trillion dollar G20 pledge was presented to us as a global economic stimulus package. But the IMF is well known for demanding the exact opposite from its loan recipients: deep budgetary austerity, tax increases, and bans on subsidies. That means that unless there are clear conditions attached to the new IMF money, the extra trillion dollars could actually lead to deep economic contractions, with the new money just going to useless financial sector bailouts in countries around the world, rather than into real economy investments. It’s also worth noting that some of the money is going to the World Bank so it’s an opportunity to make demands that the World Bank invest in green energy and infrastructure, as opposed to dirty energy, a bad habit of the bank.

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cjtf-hoa-djibouti

Camp Lemonier in Djibouti, seen from space, view it in Google Maps.

It looks like Camp Lemonier is on its way to becomming a permanent base. From the Stars and Stripes (you can see more photos in the article):

Camp Lemonier grows to support AFRICOM

… Increasing American activity in the Horn of Africa has propelled Lemonier from a sleepy 97-acre post to a 500-acre base that’s become one of the military’s major installations on the continent. Last year’s stand-up of U.S. Africa Command means the base is only going to get busier.

“As AFRICOM matures, Camp Lemonier will transition to supporting long-term [theater security cooperation] efforts and establishing strong and enduring regional relationships,” Gen. William “Kip” Ward, the AFRICOM commander, said during testimony to the House Armed Services Committee in March 2008. “Camp Lemonier will be a part of supporting and developing regional African capability and capacity; thus, its funding support must continue.”

… Congress has set aside more than $100 million for camp improvements between fiscal 2007 and 2010 …

… the most telling indicators of the camp’s larger role may be the new infrastructure that will allow it to serve as a support hub for Africa Command. Crews have already broken ground on new taxiways to increase its ability to manage aircraft. Leaders are considering putting in a “hot pad” that will allow planes to refuel, rearm and get back on their way quickly.

Lemonier is now set to be an enduring base of operations for Africa Command. Navy Capt. Patrick Gibbons, the base commander, envisions the camp as a forward staging base for troops making last minute preparations before a mission. It is already a logistics hub that supports ships working in the Gulf of Aden and aircraft flying counterpiracy missions there. Other teams are tasked to pick up anyone who needs to be rescued. Lemonier’s mission even extends beyond the Horn of Africa region where Djibouti lies.

“The camp is becoming an enduring mission” …

Unfortunately, to date, and aside from the development photo ops in Djibouti, Camp Lemonier has contributed to destabilizing both Somalia, and Kenya, and facilitated the invasion and occupation of one country by another, the Ethiopian invasion and occupation of Somalia, and involved in planning and funding the disastrous raid on the Lord’s Resistance Army by Uganda in December. These are all the actions of AFRICOM in East Africa. AFRICOM and Camp Lemonier contribute to propping up the dictator Meles in Ethiopia, as the US cozies up to Meles, funding his ambitions and excesses in the way that has discredited American good intentions and foreign policy around the world. It does not matter how real your politik, deeds tell the story. Mary Carlin Yates was just in Ethiopia planning further cooperation. The effect will be to destabilize, exploit, and oppress in Ethiopia and its neighbors:

March 25, 2009 (ENA) – Prime Minister Meles Zenawi on Wednesday received and held talks with US Africa Command Civilian Deputy (AFRICOM), Ambassador Mary Yates.

Ambassador Yates said as Ethiopia is AFRICOM’s partner in security, the visit is intended to further scale up the relation.

Meles said Ethiopia and AFRICOM have been cooperating to ensure peace and security.

Accordingly, he said encouraging activities are being carried out in the area of military cooperation and capacity building.

The two parties have also discussed as to how to maintain the prevailing peace and security in Somalia, according to a senior government official who attended the discussion.

Of course step one to increase and maintain peace and security in Somalia would be to end Ethiopian involvement. There is nothing good Ethiopia can do in Somalia. It has no credibility. The history is so bad, that even if Ethiopians had good intentions, they would not be believed. That Ambassador Yates was discussing continued involvement in Somalia with Meles signals just how bad are US intentions, and how poorly informed is US planning.

AFRICOM is still looking for a permanent base in Africa. I doubt Camp Lemonier is seen as the permanent HQ, but it obviously is becoming permanent. Judging from a number of signals, including the very minor one, which parts of the archive of this blog are getting traffic, Ghana and Botswana are both under pressure and being seriously considered as potential home bases for AFRICOM. I surely hope Ghana can resist. The idea of hosting AFRICOM is not popular with any Ghanaians I know.

The US GAO, General Accounting Office, released a February report. From the New York Times

A report issued Wednesday by the Government Accountability Office acknowledged that the command had taken steps recently to win the trust of American diplomats and development experts, as well as African leaders. But it said the command must do a better job explaining what it does to build credibility among its United States government partners and with the African nations it is seeking to help.

“The military’s large size brings the promise of increased resources,” the report said, but that size also stirs concerns among African nations “about potential encroachment into civilian responsibilities like development and diplomacy.”

In an interview here on Monday, before the G.A.O. issued its report, Gen. William E. Ward, the head of the command, said many of the misperceptions about the command had been dispelled.

If General Ward believes the “misperceptions”, the products of realistic skepticism and knowledge of history, have been dispelled, he is living in a dream world. More likely he is continuing the same mistake AFRICOM planners have made all along, only listening to themselves, and those they have selected to agree with them.

The GAO report (PDF) on Africom makes clear that AFRICOM headquarters is still planned for the continent. It is one of the three main recommendations of the report:

• Include all appropriate audiences, encourage two-way communication, and ensure consistency of message related to AFRICOM’s mission and goals as it develops and implements its communications strategy.

• Seek formal commitments from contributing agencies to provide personnel as part of the command’s efforts to determine interagency personnel requirements, and develop alternative ways for AFRICOM to obtain interagency perspectives in the event that interagency personnel cannot be provided due to resource limitations.

• To determine the long-term fiscal investment for AFRICOM’s infrastructure, we recommend the Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the Secretary of State, as appropriate, conduct an assessment of possible locations for AFRICOM’s permanent headquarters and any supporting offices in Africa.

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David Axe has written a pleasant fantasy about US involvement in Somalia over at Wired’s Danger room: Pentagon America Intervenes in Somalia, Quietly (Corrected). It starts out:

Quietly and with baby steps, the Pentagon’s newest combatant command the U.S. is intervening in one of the world’s most tenacious conflicts.

One of the main reasons there is such a violent and tenacious conflict in Somalia is because of US intervention.

This would be a very nice story if it were true. I myself love to hear true stories of US generosity and benevolence. When true, these stories reinforce my love for this country and the constitutional and democratic foundations of its government. Unfortunately, Mr. Axe does not tell a true story. The true part is the US $5 million coming from the US State Department for a Somali security force. Although it will be interesting to see what actually happens to the money and who gets to spend and keep it.

Beginning in late December 2006 the US Ethiopian proxies invaded Somalia and overthrew the only functioning government Somalia had in about 15 years, the Islamic Courts Union, ICU. During the brief rule of the ICU, relative peace and stability returned to Somalia. Under the ICU there was no piracy by Somalis off the Somali coast, documented in this report from Chatham House PDF: Piracy in Somalia. That peace was brutally ended by the Ethiopian invasion, supported by US bombing of the civilian population, creating a worse humanitarian crisis than in Darfur. For more detail you can read a thorough a well documented report by Amina Mire on the invasion and its aftermath here: Menacing Somalia: Unholy Trinity of U.S Global Militarism, Meles’s Ethiopia and Thuggish Warlords.

The Bush administration alleged it was pursuing al Qaeda in Somalia. But as a West Point study cited by Amina Mire points out, al Qaeda was completely unsuccessful in Somalia. The Somali’s did not like them. The US sponsored an invasion, and caused a severe and ongoing humanitarian crisis for nothing, or for no reason that has been honestly revealed.

As Chris Floyd writes in The 13th Circle: Somalia’s Hell and the Triumph of Militarism:

… the extent of Washington’s direct involvement in the ongoing destruction of Somalia, which as we have often noted here, involved not only arming, training and funding the Ethiopian invaders, but also dropping US bombs on fleeing refugees, lobbing US missiles into Somali villages, renditioning refugees — including American citizens — into captivity in Ethiopia’s notorious dungeons, and running U.S. death squads in Somalia to “clean up” after covert operations. (The latter is no deep dark secret, by the way; officials openly boasted of it to Esquire Magazine.)

Now, as anyone not completely blinded by imperial hubris could have predicted, the entire misbegotten exercise has collapsed into the worst-case scenario. A relatively stable, relatively moderate government which held out a promise of better future for the long-ravaged land was overthrown– ostensibly to prevent it from becoming a hotbed of radical extremism. The resulting violence, chaos and brutal occupation by foreign forces led directly and inevitably to — what else? — a rise in radical extremism. Thousands of innocent people have been killed, hundreds of thousands have been driven from their homes, millions have been plunged into the direst poverty and the imminent threat of starvation and disease, unspeakable atrocities and unbearable suffering are arising, as they always do in any situation, anywhere, when a human community is destroyed.

David Axe continues his tale:

Somalia hasn’t had a functional central government in 18 years. Clan conflict, starvation and anarchy have contributed to what the U.S. Army’s top intel agent for Africa called a “vortex of violence” where the fighting at times escapes any rational motivation. That vortex of violence is a hallmark of so-called “Fifth-Generation Warfare.”

The Pentagon’s new Africa Command, more than any other U.S. command, is designed to wage 5GW, according to the command boss, Army General Kip Ward. Since military force often makes the vortex worse, Ward said Africom would “foster continued dialogue and development … enabling the growth of strong and just governments and legitimate institutions to support the development of civil societies.”

Somalia was returned to this vortex of violence by a US sponsored invasion. I think there is no question that military force makes, and in Somalia has made, the vortex worse. The US has been stirring the cauldron of 5GW. Bombing civilians, renditioning captives, and employing death squads are not the same as fostering “continued dialogue” in any lexicon. Yet these are what the US, the Pentagon, the State Department, and AFRICOM, have actually been doing.

You can view some pictures from the invasion of Somalia in Mire’s article, Menacing Somalia: Unholy Trinity of U.S Global Militarism, Meles’s Ethiopia and Thuggish Warlords,
or in these Somalia pictures from the Flickr photostream from Pan-African News Wire.

Added January 17, 2009:
If 5GW has been defined, I doubt what is described here meets the definition of 5GW.   I think the following from an article about HTS, the Human Terrain System, is more on target in that regard:

Gates and Patreaus are … to blame for perpetuating the belief that Irregular Warfare and Asymmetric Warfare are different from past Guerilla/Unconventional wars the United States has been involved with, whether fought in urban or jungle terrain (the singular difference being the globalization of insurgent warfare).

As one source put it, “After the takeover in the North of Iraq (the Mosul area) by the Green Beret’s with their trained Peshmerga’s, they were kicked out by General Patreaus, who during that time was the 101st Commander. He did this because it was his Battlespace. Our so called military leaders are part of the problem. That is why we’ve been in neck deep in this whole thing for seven years. Every military commander (Colonels on up to Generals) that are not Green Beret’s are trying to justify their existence in this Unconventional War. The military has even gone as far as creating terms like Irregular Warfare and Asymmetric Warfare (re-inventing the wheel). The term Special Operations Forces in the military is used loosely now because the military wants everybody to be SPECIAL. Besides, if the Green Beret’s were allowed free reign in this war, what would we do with all the MRAPS, TANKS,STRYKERS, and all other sorts of junk that we bought for the rest of the troops that have no business fighting in this type of war? Bottom line is that our military is still set up to fight a Conventional War.”

Section of a PDF map of the Great Lakes region, one of many maps available at ecoi.net, click on map to enlarge.

The Washington Post recently featured an article on how women are becoming successful entrepreneurs in Rwanda.

“We have overwhelming evidence from almost all the developing regions of the world that [investment in] women make better economics,” said Winnie Byanyima, director of the United Nations Development Program’s gender team.


For the worst of reasons, Rwanda became a testing ground for such theories after the 1994 genocide.

As both female and male survivors sought to rebuild coffee plantations with financial and technical assistance from international organizations, Maraba’s women, most trying their hands at the business of farming for the first time, were by far the faster students. They showed more willingness than men, officials here said, to embrace new techniques aimed at improving quality and profit. Now, Maraba’s female farmers are outdoing their male counterparts in both, numbering about half of all farmers in the village’s coffee cooperative but producing 90 percent of its finest quality beans for export.

The march of female entrepreneurialism, playing out here and across Rwanda in industries from agribusiness to tourism, has proved to be a windfall for efforts to rebuild the nation and fight poverty. Women more than men invest profits in the family, renovate homes, improve nutrition, increase savings rates and spend on children’s education, officials here said.

It speaks to a seismic shift in gender economics in Rwanda’s post-genocide society, one that is altering the way younger generations of males view their mothers and sisters while offering a powerful lesson for other developing nations struggling to rebuild from the ashes of conflict.

“Rwanda’s economy has risen up from the genocide and prospered greatly on the backs of our women,” said Agnes Matilda Kalibata, minister of state in charge of agriculture. “Bringing women out of the home and fields has been essential to our rebuilding. In that process, Rwanda has changed forever. . . . We are becoming a nation that understands that there are huge financial benefits to equality.”

“I think that now, boys and girls are different than they were,” said Eric Muhire, a junior in high school. “Today, woman are in business; before, if a woman had some money, she would have to give it to the man. They could not compete against a man. But now, they are competing and doing better.”

This is a very positive and encouraging article. A lot of this was done by the use of micro loans. I hope that this trend continues in Rwanda, moving toward full participation by all citizens in the economy of the nation.

Right across the border, in North Kivu in the DRC, things are a lot uglier. Sexual violence continues on a scale that is unimaginable. Some have called it femicide, it is not just a matter of rape, in the Congo there is a medical term for it – vaginal destruction.

Dr Mukwege and others have said time and time again that the current saga of the Congo has been going on for more than a decade.

The sordid saga ebbs and flows. But it was brought back into sudden, vivid public notoriety by Eve Ensler’s trip to the Congo in July/August 2007, her visit to the Panzi hospital, her interviews with the women survivors of rape, and her visceral piece of writing in Glamour magazine which began with the words ‘I have just returned from Hell’

From Women left for dead – and the man who’s saving them by Eve Ensler:

Before I went to the Congo, I’d spent the past 10 years working on V-Day, the global movement to end violence against women and girls. I’d traveled to the rape mines of the world, places like Bosnia, Afghanistan and Haiti, where rape has been used as a tool of war. But nothing I ever experienced felt as ghastly, terrifying and complete as the sexual torture and attempted destruction of the female species here. It is not too strong to call this a femicide, to say that the future of the Congo’s women is in serious jeopardy.

Dr. Mukwege has been fighting an heroic battle to save bodies and lives. But the odds are impossible, and not improving.

Stephen Lewis argues that the level of rape and sexual violence in the Congo is an act of criminal international misogyny, sustained by the indifference of nation states and the delinquency of the United Nations.

… suffice to say that in the vast historical panorama of violence against women there is a level of demonic dementia plumbed in the Congo that has seldom, if ever, been reached before.That’s the peg on which I want to hang these remarks. I want to set out an argument that essentially says that what’s happening in the Congo is an act of criminal international misogyny, sustained by the indifference of nation states and the delinquency of the United Nations.

Stephen Lewis goes on to say that even with the attention the violence in the Eastern Congo is beginning to receive, the recent peace commitment drafted by the UN hardly mentioned rape and sexual violence, and the amnesty provisions are a license to continue this violence without fear of accountability.

The same positive techniques that are rebuilding the economy in Rwanda can work in the Congo. In fact, they are already at work. But in places like North Kivu there isn’t a chance until the violence stops. Nevertheless, there are small efforts all around:

Chingwell Mutombu has created First Step Initiative (FSI), a microfinance organization setup for women in Democratic Republic of Congo. And she is just one of many working to improve conditions at home. She says:

My inspiration comes from the women I saw growing up. The concept of microfinancing is not new to African countries. They have been doing it for centuries. It is similar to when the community gathers money and gives it to one person to do business, and when the person is done with the money they give it to the next person. FSI was started to continue in that type of practice but through microfinancing which is more formal.

She gets a repayment rate of 95-98%, but there is far more need than resources. Most all microfinancing efforts in the DRC are headquartered in or near Kinshasha, although much of the need is out in the provinces among the villages.

But the violence and displacement in the Eastern Congo makes development of any kind next to impossible. To US and international business, the place is made of money:

The DRC holds 80% of the world’s coltan reserves, more than 60% of the world’s cobalt, and the world’s largest supply of high-grade copper.

These minerals are vital to maintaining U.S. military dominance, economic prosperity, and consumer satisfaction. Because the United States does not have a domestic supply of many essential minerals, the U.S. government identifies sources of strategic minerals, particularly in Third World countries, then encourages U.S. corporations to invest in and facilitate production of the needed materials. Historically, the DRC (formerly Zaire) has been an important source of strategic minerals for the United States. In the mid-1960s, the U.S. government installed the dictatorship of Mobutu Sese Seko, which ensured U.S. access to those minerals for more than 30 years.

U.S. military aid has contributed significantly to the crisis. During the Cold War, the U.S. government shipped $400 million in arms and training to Mobutu. After Mobutu was overthrown, the Clinton administration transferred its military allegiance to Rwanda and Uganda, although even the U.S. State Department has accused both countries of widespread corruption and human rights abuses. During his historic visit to Africa in 1998, President Clinton praised Presidents Kagame and Musevini as leaders of the “African Renaissance,” just a few months before they launched their deadly invasion of the DRC with U.S. weapons and training. The United States is not the only culprit; many other countries, including France, Serbia, North Korea, China, and Belgium, share responsibility. But the U.S. presence has helped to open networks and supply lines, providing an increased number of arms to the region.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank have knowingly contributed to the war effort. The international lending institutions praised both Rwanda and Uganda for increasing their gross domestic product (GDP), which resulted from the illegal mining of DRC resources. Although the IMF and World Bank were aware that the rise in GDP coincided with the DRC war, and that it was derived from exports of natural resources that neither country normally produced, they nonetheless touted both nations as economic success stories.

As noted above, the United States bears a fair amount of responsibility for the ongoing violence in the DRC. In Central Africa’s Great Lakes Region:

Today, President George W. Bush supports corrupt, illegitimate regimes that will either cooperate in the Global War on Terror, provide U.S. companies access to vital natural resources, or both. If history is any indication, this infusion of wealth and military training is likely to be disastrous for the people of Africa.

As Kagame hosts President Bush this week, (February 21, 2008) Rwanda continues incursions across the border into the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), with support from the U.S. government.

From 1996-2003, the Congolese people suffered a great deal from two wars that pitted Rwanda and its allies against the DRC. A recent report from the International Rescue Committee estimates that 5.5 million Congolese have died as a result of this conflict. According to Inter Press Service journalist Tito Dragon, “to control coltan mines that was the principal, if not the only, motivation behind the U.S.-backed 1998 occupation of part of DRC territory by Rwanda and Uganda.” In fact, in 2004, after a three-year investigation, a UN Panel of Experts implicated three major U.S. companies (Cabot Corporation, Eagle Wings Resources International, and OM Group) for fueling war in DRC by collaborating with rebel groups trafficking coltan. In spite of major human rights violations, Bush administration assistance to Rwanda continues today largely due to Kagame’s willingness to be engaged in the so called War on Terror.

So who and what is the War on Terror fighting? The following, which has been repeated many thousands of times in the eastern Congo, certainly meets the definition of terrorism. From the conversations with Dr. Mukwege as reported by Eve Ensler:

Most doctors, teachers and lawyers fled the Congo after the wars started. It never occurred to Dr. Mukwege to leave his people at their most desperate hour.

He first became aware of the epidemic of rape in 1996. “I saw women who had been raped in an extremely barbaric way,” he recalls. “First, the women were raped in front of their children, their husbands and neighbors. Second, the rapes were done by many men at the same time. Third, not only were the women raped, but their vaginas were mutilated with guns and sticks. These situations show that sex was being used as a weapon that is cheap.

“When rape is done in front of your family,” he continues, “it destroys everyone. I have seen men suffer who watched their wives raped; they are not mentally stable anymore. The children are in even worse condition. Most of the time, when a woman suffers this much violence, she is not able to bear children afterward. Clearly these rapes are not done to satisfy any sexual desire but to destroy the soul. The whole family and community are broken.”

The US is funding this terrorism, rather than fighting it.

Although Kagame publicly denies any direct involvement, Rwandans acknowledge that their president funds renegade General Laurent Nkunda’s militia in the DRC – a militia whose primary purpose appears to be to keep Hutu rebels away from the Rwandan border. UN peacekeepers accuse Nkunda’s Tutsi faction of some of the worst human rights abuses of any rebel group currently operating in the eastern region.

Bush knows that Rwanda’s involvement in the armed conflict in the DRC delays peace in eastern Congo, but he continues to authorize military aid to Rwanda. In 2007, the United States armed and trained Rwandan soldiers with $7.2 million from the U.S. defense program Africa Contingent Operations Training Assistance (ACOTA) and $260,000 from the International Military and Education (IMET) program. At the same time, the United States is involved in facilitating peace talks between Rwanda and the DRC and the various rebel groups operating in eastern Congo. Not only does arming Rwanda contradict the peace process, but it also delays the recovery of Rwanda from its 1994 genocide.

During the Cold War, the United States provided military aid to African countries to counter communism. Many of those countries – Somalia, Sudan, and the DRC – have now become hotspots of violence and economic chaos. It is no surprise that lending arms and financial support to corrupt dictators and human rights abusers contributes to destabilization, but still the U.S. government has yet to learn its lesson. Today, the rationale for providing military aid to countries like Rwanda is to counter terrorism; the methods and outcomes will likely be the same as they were in the Cold War era.

The Department of Defense argues that training and equipping African military forces will bring greater stability and legitimacy to African governments. This argument for professionalizing militaries was also made during the Cold War to support a policy that ultimately failed. Yet the same justification is being used to mask U.S. corporate interests in Africa’s vast resources.

For “anti-terrorism” read corporate welfare, at the expense of the citizens of Africa’s Great Lakes region, and ultimately, the citizens of the United States. Note in the Rwanda story at the beginning of this post, the military is conspicuously absent from the stories of development success. As long as the US leads its engagement with its military, the women, and all the citizens of the DRC will continue to suffer brutal terrorism. Only by leading with diplomacy and seeking political solutions will the US actually help rather than cause more harm. As Bahati Ntama Jacques points out:

Most countries have vehemently rejected the creation and implementation of a new U.S. military command for Africa (AFRICOM) and expanding the U.S. military footprint in Africa. Shifting U.S. policy away from defense toward human security, development, and diplomacy is the best path to long-term peace in the Great Lakes region and throughout Africa.

MAS peasants arrive in La Paz after 190km march in 2005
Picture: Indymedia Bolivia

When the proponents of AFRICOM talk about stability operations, one can look at Bolivia and Venezuela to see examples of how these operations work. With AFRICOM, USAID will be subsumed under the Department of Defense. In Bolivia USAID is using taxpayer money to destabilize the Bolivian government. AFRICOM intends increased use of mercenaries by US and corporate employers. In Venezuela US and Columbian mercenaries are contracted by large landowners, business owners, and other elites to control local populations and destabilize the central government. Much of the funding for the mercenaries comes from drug dealing. Many of the mercenaries come from AUC, a right wing terrorist organization from Columbia.

Undermining Bolivia by Benjamin Dangl:

Declassified documents and interviews on the ground in Bolivia prove that the Bush Administration is using U.S. taxpayers’ money to undermine the Morales government and coopt the country’s dynamic social movements—just as it has tried to do recently in Venezuela and traditionally throughout Latin America.

Much of that money is going through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
. . .

Morales won the presidency in December 2005 with 54 percent of the vote, but five regional governments went to rightwing politicians. After Morales’s victory, USAID, through its Office of Transition Initiatives, decided “to provide support to fledgling regional governments,” USAID documents reveal.

Throughout 2006, four of these five resource-rich lowland departments pushed for greater autonomy from the Morales-led central government, often threatening to secede from the nation. U.S. funds have emboldened them, with the Office of Transition Initiatives funneling “116 grants for $4,451,249 to help departmental governments operate more strategically,” the documents state.
. . .
“The U.S. Embassy is helping this opposition,” agrees Raul Prada, who works for Morales’s party. __ . . . “USAID is in Santa Cruz and other departments to help fund and strengthen the infrastructure of the rightwing governors.”

USAID has funded the regional right wing governors, allowing them to oppose democratic distribution of resources, giving them more political strength and clout to defy the central government. It has undermined youth movements, and other local political activities.

“USAID always took advantage of the poverty of the people,” Mamani says. “They even put up USAID flags in areas alongside the Bolivian flag and the wiphala.”

In the one demonstration project USAID invited Mr. Dangl to view, workers would not give their names, and said they would be beaten if they told the truth. And Fulbright scholars are being asked to report political information to the US embassy, in violation of Fulbright guidelines.

And this week from the Washington Post:

President Evo Morales declared a U.S. Embassy security officer to be an “undesirable person” on Monday after reports that the officer asked an American scholar and 30 Peace Corps volunteers to pass along information about Cubans and Venezuelans working in Bolivia
. . .
Fulbright scholar Alex van Schaick told The Associated Press that Cooper, the embassy’s assistant regional security officer, asked him to pass along the names and addresses of any Venezuelan and Cuban workers he might encounter in the country. “We know they’re out there, we just want to keep tabs on them,” Schaick quoted Cooper as telling him on Nov. 5.
ABC News reported that Cooper made a similar request to 30 newly arrived Peace Corps volunteers on July 29

The US embassy came out with the usual, why we would never consider doing such a thing, we only do good. They also made the following laughable statement:

Peace Corps volunteers had been mistakenly given a security briefing meant only for embassy staff, asking them to report “suspicious activities.”

In Venezuela:

Azzellini (Caracas-based German Political Scientist Darío Azzellini, author of a study of Columbian paramilitary activity titled The Business of War) reported that paramilitary operations are carried out by mercenaries from the U.S. and Latin America who are recruited by private military companies but pose as civilian employees. Beyond government oversight, they are contracted by large landowners, business owners, and other elites to control local populations.

A principal source of paramilitary income is their control of 100% of Colombian heroine exports and 70% of Colombian cocaine exports, Azzellini claimed. In Colombia, giant drug cartels manage large quantities of the drugs, but in Venezuela paramilitaries deal smaller amounts in local communities to increase their leverage within the populations they are contracted to control. Chavez and Azzellini publicized this “open secret” at a time of heated opposition accusations that Chávez does not sufficiently cooperate in combating drug trafficking through Venezuelan territory.

Azzellini explained that the groups now in Venezuela are descendents of the United Self-defense of Colombia (AUC), a brutal paramilitary force formed in the 1980s by Colombian elites to assume the dirty work of the government, which was seeking to improve its dismal international human rights reputation. While the AUC tactic of “total terror” has been used in Colombian cities such as Medellín, paramilitaries now in Venezuela leverage local economic and political power more than sheer violence, according to Azzellini.

Nonetheless, paramilitaries in Venezuela are known for “social cleansing,” or the hired killing of local community members, says the Ezequiel Zamora National Farmers’ Front (FNCEZ), an organization that defends the rights of rural communities. Since an agrarian reform law favorable to rural workers was passed by the Chávez administration in 2001, paramilitaries have murdered 190 rural community members who dared to stand up to the owners of plantations, milk factories, and mines.

The most recent killings were last month, when Municipal Legislator Freddy Ascaño and Community Council Federation President Alfredo Montiel were executed by paramilitaries in their municipality of Tucaní, south of Lake Maracaibo in western Venezuela, the local population reported

I don’t generally write about issues in Latin America. But the way the US deals with Latin America, historically, and especially under the Bush administration, has many parallels and lessons for African countries.

AFRICOM brags about engaging in stability operations and nation building.
Nation building and stability operations mean:

  1. Destabilize the current government (unless it is already a compliant or puppet government, in which case, undermine the opposition).
  2. Call opponents terrorists.
  3. Stabilize, engage in “nation building”, by supporting or installing a government that will follow US corporate bidding, rather than democratic principles.

This is imperialism.
“Stability” and “nation building” follow a Bush pattern of naming things the opposite of what they are and what they do.

Africa has already experienced some of these “stability operations”, in Somalia, destroying the only functioning government in 15 years, and creating an overwhelming humanitarian crisis, and in the Kenya election fiasco, being the most recent and dramatic. There are ongoing “stability operations” in other places in Africa and around the world.