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Looking at African Issues —

Today’s post features the continent of Africa. It is and always has been a very important region, often neglected by us here in the United States. Before going further you might want to refresh or renew your knowledge about Africa with this excellent “clickable” Africa Guide map. Much of what follows is not good news. It is news of colonialism and exploitation, of assumptions and imperialism.

Under the radar — Suzie-Q features this headline that speaks for many of us regarding the current U.S. militarization of Africa via its new Africa Command: “Don’t feel like the Lone Ranger. I hadn’t heard of AFRICOM either.” The second entry, “Rumble in the Jungle: The AFRICOM Boondoggle,” is a very good little primer on the structure and personnel in AFRICOM. To quote:

. . . major events that portend disaster in the future can slip by with barely a notice by the media, by Congress, or by the public at large. For example, does one voter in a hundred know that the Department of Defense has quietly activated a new regional military command? Just type in the acronym “AFRICOM” into a search box, and the reader will find a DOD website that presents the new United States Africa Command, in the same boosterish manner that Microsoft rolls out a new operating platform.

The Bush administration is very serious about this military effort in Africa, and here is why. A later headline from Suzie-Q reads “George Bush visits Africa to promote the US Africa Command.” To quote the quote:

Prof. Horace Campbell |Pambazuka News, Fe. 14, 2008 . . . looks at Bush’s visit as an attempt to further militarize the continent and consolidate US holding.

. . . One year after the announcement that he United States government was going to accelerate the militarization of Africa, President George Bush is embarking on a journey to Africa to coerce African societies to align themselves with the neo-conservative agenda of the present US administration. President George Bush will visit five African countries between February 15 -21. The countries are Benin, Ghana, Liberia, Rwanda and Tanzania. George Bush is a lame-duck President who cannot visit real global players so this visit to Africa is an effort to shore up the credentials of the neo-liberal forces in Africa while promoting the conservative ideas of abstinence as the basis of the fight against the HIV –AIDS pandemic.

U.S. military website AFRICOM United States Africa Command. General William E. Ward, Commander. The lead story (or propaganda, if you like) is headlined, “TRANSCRIPT: AFRICOM ‘Will Help Africans Deal with African Problems,’ Bush Says” To quote:

Command is focused on helping Africans address African problems, not on stationing American troops in or near Africa, President Bush said in a television interview March 19, 2008.

. . . Bush said his administration places high importance on Africa. “First of all, this administration recognizes that Africa is important,” Bush said. “That’s why we named an African command.”

In addition, he said, “hopelessness is the only way radicals can recruit, and therefore we have programs to deal with malaria and HIV/AIDS and hunger. But the other source of instability on the continent of Africa is civil unrest, is civil war, is inflamed passions that break out into violence. And it’s in our interests that we help Africans deal with those problems. That’s what Africa Command is meant to do. And so it fits into the broader scope of things, the broader war on terror, and also is a — it’s a commitment that we care about the people on the continent of Africa.”

There are many objections — These two and several others in this piece are courtesy of “betmo,” my blog friend: AlterNet writes, “US Militarizing Africa (Again)” on 3/2/08, and the Black Agenda Report features “Demilitarize Africa.” These also came in via “betmo” from the Common Dreams newsletter 2/25/08 – “Military plan for Africa panned.”

“Keep our Military Out of Africa” from After Downing St.org – HT to “betmo.” It is linked to “Resist Africom,” where you can sign up as an activist. The Granny Peace Brigade organization will be holding a “teach-in on Afrcom” on March 30.

It is all about the oil — Bluebloggin says, “Maybe you missed it.” The official line of the administration is supporting democracy, combating terrorism and HIV-AIDs, etc. It is not that simple, in my opinion. Just as in Iraq, it is about assured energy supplies. Quote:

Ghana has Oil reserves at 3 billion barrels

We all know why Bush is trying to mend fences in AfricOil. Funny, he finds Africans are suspicious of US Military presence. OK, so military bases aren’t happening, it was a bullshit idea, anyway. Thats what we say in Texas. Bush did not mention the military presence already in Africa. While he is on the Continent he had to address the ongoing genocides. Because the parts of Africa that really need his attention are so dangerous, he sent Condi instead.

Alternative to Middle East oil resources — A special report from the Boston Globe, “Oil In Africa” is a good basic primer with several articles on the subject, including: “Burdens of oil weigh on Nigerians,” and “Oil wealth helping few of Angola’s poor.”

Corporate exploitation vs. genuine assistance — The following story could stand for a whole host of Africa’s natural resources. It happens to be about farming. And it sounds like the U.S. AID is in on the deal. “Trade-Uganda: Privitisation of Seeds Moving Apace,” from IPS News – 2/21/08. To quote:

The Ugandan parliament will soon have a hearing on the draft Plant Variety Protection Bill, . . . likely to entrench the rights of breeders and companies while curtailing the rights of small farmers to exchange, save and breed new varieties using hybrid seeds. . . companies including the likes of Monsanto have been lobbying the government for such intellectual property protection.

They are doing all they can to capture the local market. Government research institutions such as the National Agricultural Research Organisation (NARO), which used to produce traditional seeds for farmers, are now being paid by seed companies to produce their hybrid seeds.

There have been concerted efforts from certain quarters to promote the use of hybrid seeds in Uganda. Early last year, a grant of 150 million dollars was provided to the country and its neighbours by the Rockefeller Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to launch the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). The money is to pay for more research into hybrid seeds, the provision of inorganic fertilizers, water management and extension services to facilitate the propagation of these seeds.

According to the government source, the US Agency for International Development’s project, known as the Uganda Agricultural Productivity Enhancement Program (APEP), has also been actively advocating the adoption of stronger intellectual property rules, including the use of biotechnology.

Private Security Contractors Look to Africa for Recruits.” Until the international security firm, SOC-SMG was thrown out of Namibia for violating their anti-mercenary laws, many caught in a 35% unemployment situation signed up as fighter private contractors. Some experts estimate that there are 4,000 South Africans fighting in Iraq. The story is from the Christian Science Monitor, 1/8/08. To quote:

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Over the past few years, in Namibia and Uganda, Mozambique, and Burundi, and scores of other impoverished, war-torn countries, American private security companies have increased efforts to hire former fighters for work in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other global hot spots, according to researchers, human rights activists, and those in the private security industry.

. . . But Nangolo and other human rights activists believe this new trend is exploitative as well as destabilizing in a region that is trying to move beyond its violent past.

. . . Since the end of apartheid, which left a number of highly trained, white South African fighters without military work, small private armies have operated regularly across Africa. They’ve helped government soldiers combat rebels in Sierra Leone, fought against Angolan rebels for control of oil fields, and have been accused of smuggling arms throughout the continent.

Pharma was also on the corporate exploitation list — “The True Story of How Multinational Drug Companies Took Liberties with African Lives” is a story published on 9/26/05 by Common Dreams in their newsletter. To quote:

The pharmaceutical industry is bracing itself for criticism when the film ‘The Constant Gardener’ opens next month. But Jeremy Laurance reports that away from the Hollywood script is a true story of how multinational drug companies took liberties with African lives with devastating consequences.

. . . Nobody knows what caused Anas’ pain but suspicion has fallen on Big Pharma. Six years earlier, Anas was a patient in a trial of a new drug run by one of the world’s biggest companies. A known side effect of the drug, called Trovan, was joint pain. The issues raised by Anas’ story have become the subject of a major British film.

2008 is the year we elect Bush’s replacement — OCP claims that he does not watch the polls. 19%?! That may be. But he seems pathetically needy for praise and acceptance, as noted in this story (reposted) about his visit to Kenya..

To quote: “And so when a reporter during a joint news conference with
Bush today asked Kikwete about African enthusiasm for Obama’s candidacy, he diplomatically played it down and heaped praise instead on the president who just gave him a five-year, $698 million aid package.

“Of course, people talk with excitement of Obama,” Kikwete said. But he added, “For us, the most important thing is, let him be as good friend of Africa as President Bush has been.”

As for Bush, he did not seem all that thrilled at the notion of being upstaged in his moment on the world stage. “It seemed like there was a lot of excitement for me — wait a minute!” he said with a laugh.

There are things citizens can do to get involves on behalf of Africa, such as “Resist AFRICOM” above. I got this note from one.com. It says, “We did it!” The organization reports that it got Commitments from the presidential candidates to visit Africa. That is a good way to conclude this post. There will be a new dawn in African/U.S. relations, just as there will be a welcome sunrise in Iraq.

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Cross posted at The Reaction

My “creative post” today at Southwest Blogger is about space.

View my current slide show about the Bush years — “Millennium” — at the bottom of this column.

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