Africa Anti-Imperialist Monthly | March-April 2019
Thirty-six covert US operations in Africa were named after many Americans discovered the death of four US troops in Niger in October 2017 because of ISIS attacks there. Maurice Carney says the operations – which stretch from Libya to the Democratic Republic of Congo, and from Senegal to Somalia – stem from the Donald Trump administration’s view that Africa is a field for “great power competition,” in the US’ fight against the rise in China and Russia’s economic and geopolitical influence in the continent.
Each of these operations are named and explained by Nick Turse and Sean D. Taylor. According to them, “The code-named operations cover a variety of different military missions, ranging from psychological operations to counterterrorism. Eight of the named activities… are so-called 127e programs, named for the budgetary authority that allows US special operations forces to use certain host-nation military units as surrogates in counterterrorism missions.”
The discovery of these covert operations makes the efforts of the Black Alliance for Peace more timely. It has submitted letters and petitions to US lawmakers, particularly in the Congressional Black Caucus, to investigate the impacts of US military presence in Africa through the US African Command or AFRICOM. “BAP calls for an end to AFRICOM and to all foreign interference in the affairs of African countries. War, drone strikes and sanctions have devastated nations and millions of people – they must end now.”
In this 2019 report, Amnesty International refutes the US government’s claim that while it has increased airstrikes in Somalia, it has not killed any civilian. AI investigates five incidents in Lower Shabelle in which 14 people were killed and eight were injured. These cases, it argues, constitute violations of International Humanitarian Law and can be considered war crimes. AI bolsters the claim that the US government is directly at war in Somalia, against Al-Shabaab, “an armed group that controls significant territory in the country.”
Writing on the same topic, Amanda Sperber focuses on the US government’s lack of transparency with regard to airstrikes in Yemen and Somalia, especially under the Trump presidency. She summarizes: “My investigation identified strikes that went unreported until they were raised with AFRICOM, but also others that AFRICOM could not confirm – which suggests that another US agency may also be launching air attacks in the region. The investigation also tracked down evidence that AFRICOM’s claim of zero civilian casualties is almost certainly incorrect. And it found that the United States lacks a clear definition of ‘terrorist,’ with neither AFRICOM, the Pentagon, nor the National Security Council willing to clarify the policies that underpin these strikes.”
Responding to The New York Times’ inflation of Russia’s role in Africa and its claim that the US military only has “a relatively light footprint” in the continent, Glen Ford presents facts about US military presence in Africa. He cites the claim of journalist Nick Turse that by 2017, AFRICOM was “conducting 3,500 exercises, programs, and engagements per year, an average of 10 missions per day.” He says that since its creation in 2008, AFRICOM has created a presence in the entire continent and played a crucial role in US President Barack Obama’s invasion of Libya in 2011 “that plunged the whole northern tier of the region into flames.”
Ford cites the following facts: (1) the US and Europe “fund and oversee” all peace-keeping missions in Africa, (2) those missions include the one in Somalia, where the US is engaged in a drone war that intensified under Trump, (3) under the eight-year Obama administration, AFRICOM’s bases jumped from three to 84, (4) six million Congolese have died because of attacks from neighboring US-backed countries Rwanda and Uganda, (5) US and Israel supported the division of the continent’s largest country, Sudan, into two, (6) 400,000 people have been killed in the civil war in South Sudan as a result of the said partition, (7) the US and France have teamed up in Mali and Niger.
He says the reason for louder US propaganda against Russia’s military presence in Africa is this: “African nations like Guinea, Burkina Faso, Burundi and Madagascar want to do arms and training deals with Russia, to diversity their defense suppliers and create a ‘multi-polar’ environment in Africa.” He also says that “The US has nothing to offer Africa but guns, drones and an extended half-life for the neocolonial order – and Russia can cut a better deal on the guns.”
The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is 70 years old this year, and Horace G. Campbell writes about its career as an instrument of Western powers, especially in Africa, and the crisis it is facing now. He says NATO is all about figting “the struggles for peace bread and justice by the poorer citizens of the planet, especially those who had emerged on the world stage after the decolonization of Africa, Asia, and the Caribbean.”
NATO has been a chief institution in upholding the “defense radius” of Europe which is claimed to be 4,000 kilometers from Brussels. While the French president Emmanuel Macron has apologized for killing more than one million Algerians in his country’s war with the African country, there is silence about NATO’s role in this crime. NATO also supported Portugal in suppressing its colonies Angola, Guinea and Mozambique.
Immediately after World War II, Africa was seen as crucial to European reconstruction. NATO was used to uphold US and European powers’ division of Africa among themselves, and NATO buttressed the apartheid regime in South Africa. Campbell decries the silence of even progressive scholars in Europe and the US with regard to NATO’s role in Africa. He warns that “The pace of change in Africa has created nervousness in the West and the deployment of French troops and AFRICOM is meant to contain the mobilization and organization of the oppressed in Africa.”
On April 11, the 30-year rule of Sudan’s now-former president Omar al-Bashir came to an end, following a military coup that in turn followed months of mass protests.
Whitney Webb traces the history of al-Bashir’s relationship with the US, Saudi Arabia and Israel, and narrates how he became an enemy of these countries after being their friend and ally for so long. She shows how Bashir’s policy of supporting Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen cost him politically in his country, and how his eventual move away from the war angered Saudi Arabia and made it support his ouster. Her conclusion: the events in Sudan “appear to be yet another example of foreign governments manipulating real dissent against an authoritarian government in order to install yet another authoritarian government more friendly to their interests but to the detriment of the people.”
Al-Bashir was replaced by a Transitional Military Council (TMC), which is negotiating with the Declaration of Freedom and Change Forces (DFCF) for the transfer of authority to civilians. After ousting al-Bashir, protestors continue to put pressure on the TMC to relinquish power to civilians. Among those making this demand is the Sudanese Communist Party, a significant presence in the DFCF, according to this report by People’s Dispatch. The conflict between the TMC and the protestors is intensifying, according to another report from People’s Dispatch, with the latter accusing the TMC of being similar to the al-Bashir government and subservient to “the US-backed Saudi-United Emirates Alliance.”
Writing separately after al-Bashir’s removal, Lee Wengraf and Magdi el Gizouli touch on international powers’ relationship to the TMC. Wengraf writes: “The Saudi and United Arab Emirates regimes have offered their support in the form of a $3 billion aid package, to include a $500 million deposit into the Sudanese central bank, a move rejected by protesters as shoring up the military regime… The precariousness of the Sudanese economy dependent on oil only reinforces the political will of the local and international ruling classes reliant on its extraction. The economic crisis underpinning the revolution is an expression, to an important extent, of the deep contradictions of the secession agreement of 2011 between Sudan and South Sudan.”
El Gizouli meanwhile traces the history of Mohamed Hamdan Daglo or Himeidti as a leader of a mercenary army “on commission to the EU to guard its borders against African migrants by whatever means it wishes in the blind silence of the African Sahara and by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to carry out their war against Yemen.” He observes that the ruling junta in Sudan has “emerged in the alliance of counter-revolutionary forces in the region and was rewarded almost immediately with generous political support and funding.”
For his part, Yash Tandon presents the political forces responsible for al-Bashir’s ouster. While saying that the revolt is “a step further to the possibility of revolution, liberation from a succession of military dictatorships and their foreign backers,” he also states that “it is going to be a long, hard battle” – and makes suggestions based on the experiences of the people’s struggle in Uganda.
On April 2, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, Algeria’s president for 20 years, was forced to resign by months-long mass demonstrations. For 90 days, he will be replaced by the senate president, Abdelkader Bensalah, in a caretaker presidency that does not appear to satisfy the protestors that ousted him.
Writing before Bouteflika’s resignation, Tin Hinane El Kadi provides the historical background and socio-economic context of the mass protests, as well as the regime’s efforts to maintain power and its eventual division. Bouteflika’s first response to the protest was to announce the postponement of the elections scheduled on April 18 and his refusal to seek the presidency anymore – already a concession from his initial plan of running again.
France, through no less than its prime minister Emmanuel Macron praised the declaration as “opening a new phase in Algeria’s democracy.” El Kadi says that Western powers may be siding with the autocratic regime, and against the protest movement, in order to maintain security and stability in the country – and to ward off another wave of migration to Europe.
Under Bouteflika, he says, the “asymmetric exchange” between Algeria and France continued: “For years, French firms have benefitted from juicy contracts, including the Metro of Algiers and the management of several airports across the country.” He also claims that “The free trade agreement between the EU and Algeria has resulted in a significant trade deficit for Algeria.”
Writing after Bouteflika’s resignation, El Kadi observes how the protest movement is pushing for demands bigger than the former president’s resignation, demands for genuine change, including liberation from France. He says that the transitional presidency of Bensalah, given the Constitutional mandate of holding power before an election is held, is currently repressing protestors, proof that it wants to maintain the regime in power.
Abayomi Azikiwe provides the political-economic context of the powerful Cyclone Idai – and Cyclone Kenneth also – that hit Mozambique and adjacent countries. He says Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Malawi are “struggling against the broader political and economic forces imposed upon them by the Western industrialized countries.”
He says that Mozambique, in particular, “despite its natural resources and strategic location, was compelled in 2018 to renegotiate the terms of its financial obligations internationally.” The “imperialist-engineered civil war” in the country ended only in the early 1990s, and its development is being hampered by decreasing commodity prices in the world market since 2014 and by “western-backed loans and other financial obligations.”
He states that climate change is behind the “worsening impact of cyclones and other weather-related issues.” He cites an article quoting Daviz Simango, mayor of the costal city of Beira in Mozambique, who says that “it unjust that African nations face some of the toughest challenges while contributing little to global warming. People in rich, industrialized nations produce much of the carbon dioxide and other gases that are warming the planet by burning the most coal, diesel, gasoline and jet fuel.”
This year marks the 25 anniversary of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Robin Philpot looks back at the shooting down of an airplane carrying two African heads of state in April 6, 1994, and claims that this event foreclosed “all hopes of peace and a democratic resolution of the conflict” in Rwanda, as well as hopes for peace in its neighbors Congo and Burundi. While the New York Times immediately blamed “Hutu hardliners” who oppose peace with the Tutsi for the attack, Philpot blames the Tutsi Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) led by Paul Kagame, which was supported by the US and the United Kingdom.
Citing Judi River’s book In Praise of Blood: Crimes of the Rwandan Patriotic Front (2018), Ann Garrison digs deeper. She claims that the RPF was indeed a division of the military of Uganda, which invaded Rwanda and fought the Rwandan people and military. It massacred Hutus and also Tutsis – in order to “provide an excuse for the dictatorship by the Tutsi minority who would then be able to claim victim status.” She says that “Western powers, including Canada, the UK, and the US have sustained that propaganda campaign for 25 years and made it a centerpiece of their ‘humanitarian’ interventionist argument.” She deplores proposed measures in the US Senate that would continue US aid to the Kagame regime.
In this article, Yu-Shan Wu tries to identify the factors that shape reporting of China’s role in Africa which tends to depict the Asian superpower as either a predator or a friend. First is perception towards China, which is affected by an entity’s level of relationships with China. Second is interest, whether China affects the interests of groups favorably or unfavorably. And third is lack of understanding, particularly in relation to Asian studies in colleges and universities. She also states how the lack of transparency in China’s dealings with particular countries and domestic politics shape perceptions of China’s role in Africa.
Dauti Kahura, on the other hand, writes about China’s China Global Television Network, based in Nairobi, and connects it with a “strategy for global supremacy,” “a hidden, subtle, and ruthless ambition and pursuit of global power that China hopes to use to conquer the world and re-establish China as the dominant civilisation that it once was in the centuries gone by.” He claims that CGTN’s bureau in Nairobi “in terms of strategic significance, geopolitical importance and long-term plans,… far outflanks the Washington bureau.” He also talks about how the BBC is sensitive to the development and is competing with its Chinese counterpart.
Julian Lahai Samboma writes a report about a conference on the work of Guyanese revolutionary Walter Rodney held at London’s School of Oriental and African Studies in March. Rodney’s work was discussed in relation to imperialism, Marxism, slavery, women’s oppression, Pan-Africanism and the need for revolution.
Meanwhile, Giovanni Vimercati provides a summary of the main points of Rodney’s 1972 classic How Europe Underdeveloped Africa: that within the international capitalist system, development (of some countries) could only entail underdevelopment (of many countries), that the two are connected by exploitation, and that the present exploitation and underdevelopment of Africa can be traced to the slavery imposed by the colonial powers, among others.
In this short piece, Laura Mann introduces a podcast series that she and her colleagues are creating regarding the production of knowledge about Africa. She details the ways in which scholars who are outsiders are privileged over insiders, or Africans themselves, and are calling for a soul-searching in relation to this condition, in order to “undermine colonial knowledge structures.”
Felix Tshisekedi, the new president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, is asking the US for help against the threat of ISIS attacks – and the US media is hyping the request and the supposed threat. This prompted Ann Garrison to republish her interview with Boniface Musuvali, who agreed to the republication, saying nothing in its contents has changed. The idea of an ISIS base in the DRC, where 90 percent is Christian and only two percent is Muslim, is preposterous, he claims. It is, however, being promoted to try to justify US military incursions in the country and in the region in the pursuit of economic and geopolitical objectives.
Speaking in time for African American History Month in the US, Abayomi Azikiwe talks about the African slave trade, its “economic basis” and “lingering impact in the present century. He claims that assumptions blaming corruption and lack of moral fortitude in the leaders of African countries for the poverty and underdevelopment in the resource-rich continent “are inherently racist and ignore the realities of the present international system of economic exchange and authority.” He claims that “Until there is a complete break with the character of imperialism there cannot be total freedom for the oppressed.”
He traces the root causes of displacement of migrants and refugees as follows: “Today the level of dislocation is greater than any time since the conclusion of World War II. United Nations agencies tasked to respond to humanitarian crises have documented that 75 million people are living as refugees or internally displaced persons. This situation is the result of imperialism which has waged war in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen and other geo-political regions. Migrants are seeking admission into the western industrialized states whose military forces and exploitative economic institutions have repressed and exploited their counties of origin.”
“Rather than address these failed foreign policies, the leaders of the West are reverting back to the mythology of past centuries. They dream of building fortress states aimed at keeping out the poor and dispossessed. The contradiction in such thinking is made futile by the rapidly worsening conditions of the working class and poor within the metropoles themselves.”###