From energy wars to water wars, the 21st century will be determined by a fierce battle for the world’s remaining natural resources. The chessboard is global. The stakes are tremendous. Most battles will be invisible. All will be crucial.
In resource-rich Africa, a complex subplot of the New Great Game in Eurasia is already in effect. It’s all about three major intertwined developments:
1) The coming of age of the African Union (AU) in the early 2000s.
2) China’s investment offencive in Africa throughout the 2000s.
3) The onset of the Pentagon’s African Command (Africom) in 2007.
Beijing clearly sees that the Anglo-French-American bombing of Libya – apart from its myriad geopolitical implications – has risked billions of dollars in Chinese investments, not to mention forcing the (smooth) evacuation of more than 35,000 Chinese working across the country.
And crucially, depending on the outcome – as in renegotiated energy contracts by a pliable, pro-Western government – it may also seriously jeopardise Chinese oil imports (3 per cent of total Chinese imports in 2010).
No wonder the China Military, a People’s Liberation Army (PLA) newspaper, as well as sectors in academia, are now openly arguing that China needs to drop Deng Xiaoping’s “low-profile” policy and bet on a sprawling armed forces to defend its strategic interests worldwide (these assets already total over $1.2 trillion).
Now compare it with a close examination of Africom’s strategy, which reveals as the proverbial hidden agenda the energy angle and a determined push to isolate China from northern Africa.
One report titled “China’s New Security Strategy in Africa” actually betrays the Pentagon’s fear of the PLA eventually sending troops to Africa to protect Chinese interests.
It won’t happen in Libya. It’s not about to happen in Sudan. But further on down the road, all bets are off.
Meddle is our middle name
The Pentagon has in fact been meddling in Africa’s affairs for more than half a century. According to a 2010 US Congressional Research Service study, this happened no less than 46 times before the current Libya civil war.
Among other exploits, the Pentagon invested in a botched large-scale invasion of Somalia and backed the infamous, genocide-related Rwanda regime.
The Bill Clinton administration raised hell in Liberia, Gabon, Congo and Sierra Leone, bombed Sudan, and sent “advisers” to Ethiopia to back dodgy clients grabbing a piece of Somalia (by the way, Somalia has been at war for 20 years).
The September 2002 National Security Strategy (NSS), conceived by the Bush administration, is explicit; Africa is a “strategic priority in fighting terrorism”.
Yet, the never-say-die “war on terror” is a sideshow in the Pentagon’s vast militarisation agenda, which favours client regimes, setting up military bases, and training of mercenaries – “cooperative partnerships” in Pentagon newspeak.
Africom has some sort of military “partnership” – bilateral agreements – with most of Africa’s 53 countries, not to mention fuzzy multilateral schemes such as West African Standby Force and Africa Partnership Station.
American warships have dropped by virtually every African nation except for those bordering the Mediterranean.
The exceptions: Ivory Coast, Sudan, Eritrea and Libya. Ivory Coast is now in the bag. So is South Sudan. Libya may be next. The only ones left to be incorporated to Africom will be Eritrea and Zimbabwe.
Africom’s reputation has not been exactly sterling – as the Tunisian and Egyptian chapters of the great 2011 Arab Revolt caught it totally by surprise. These “partners”, after all, were essential for surveillance of the southern Mediterranean and the Red Sea.
Libya for its part presented juicy possibilities: an easily demonised dictator; a pliable post-Gaddafi puppet regime; a crucial military base for Africom; loads of excellent cheap oil; and the possibility of throwing China out of Libya.
Under the Obama administration, Africom thus started its first African war. In the words of its commander, General Carter Ham, “we completed a complex, short-notice, operational mission in Libya and… transferred that mission to NATO.”
And that leads us to the next step. Africom will share all its African “assets” with NATO. Africom and NATO are in fact one – the Pentagon is a many-headed hydra after all.
Beijing for its part sees right through it; the Mediterranean as a NATO lake (neocolonialism is back especially, via France and Britain); Africa militarised by Africom; and Chinese interests at high risk.
The lure of ChinAfrica
One of the last crucial stages of globalisation – what we may call “ChinAfrica” – established itself almost in silence and invisibility, at least for Western eyes.
In the past decade, Africa became China’s new Far West. The epic tale of masses of Chinese workers and entrepreneurs discovering big empty virgin spaces, and wild mixed emotions from exoticism to rejection, racism to outright adventure, grips anyone’s imagination.
Individual Chinese have pierced the collective unconscious of Africa, they have made Africans dream – while China the great power proved it could conjure miracles far away from its shores.
For Africa, this “opposites attract” syndrome was a great boost after the 1960s decolonisation – and the horrid mess that followed it.
China repaved roads and railroads, built dams in Congo, Sudan and Ethiopia, equipped the whole of Africa with fibre optics, opened hospitals and orphanages, and – just before Tahrir Square – was about to aid Egypt to relaunch its civilian nuclear programme.
The white man in Africa has been, most of the time, arrogant and condescending. The Chinese, humble, courageous, efficient and discreet.
China will soon become Africa’s largest trading partner – ahead of France and the UK – and its top source of foreign investment. It’s telling that the best the West could come up with to counteract this geopolitical earthquake was to go the militarised way.
The external Chinese model of trade, aid and investment – not to mention the internal Chinese model of large-scale, state-led investments in infrastructure – made Africa forget about the West while boosting the strategic importance of Africa in the global economy.
Why would an African government rely on the ideology-based “adjustments” of IMF and the World Bank when China attaches no political conditions and respects sovereignty – for Beijing, the most important principle of international law? On top of it, China carries no colonial historical baggage in Africa.
Essentially, large swathes of Africa have rejected the West’s trademark shock therapy, and embraced China.
Western elites, predictably, were not amused. Beijing now clearly sees that in the wider context of the New Great Game in Eurasia, the Pentagon has now positioned itself to conduct a remixed Cold War with China all across Africa – using every trick in the book from obscure “partnerships” to engineered chaos.
The leadership in Beijing is silently observing the waters. For the moment, the Little Helmsman Deng’s “crossing the river while feeling the stones” holds.
The Pentagon better wise up. The best Beijing may offer is to help Africa to fulfil its destiny. In the eyes of Africans themselves, that certainly beats any Tomahawk.
I am reading Randall Robinson’s “Quitting America.” I’ve quit America, too, I just haven’t left this jive plantation yet. Its comin’!!
Robinson is my new/old hero. I needed to share this brilliant, powerful black man with ya’ll. Its old history – if you’ve heard it at all – but its relevant.
I love Toussaint! I love Randall Robinson!! I love Haiti!!!
What transpired in Ivory Coast recently, luckily, unearthed a great rot in our education system and upper echelons of power in Africa. Laurent Gbagbo, the professor of History, made a bad history for not understanding history. He mindlessly clung unto power so as to cause many deaths and many casualties.
Gbagbo’s saga is a test to our educational intergrity and worth for us as a society. Many would think a such highly educated person would know basic things such as human rights, freedom and rule of law, so as to uphold democracy especially elections. But nay, the guy thought though wrongly he was but a king.
After Gbagbo was shamefully dragooned out it came to light that his wife, Dr Simone Ehivet Gbagbo, also the historian, harshly used him to tighten his grip on power and terrorize the country by ignoring all rules in the book.
In this dirty business of dirty politics Gbagbo is not alone. Who knew that a professor of law like Abdulaye Wade (Senegal) would tamper the constitution and extend his term in office on top of grooming his son to inherit his presidency?
Who would risk thinking that a hyper academician like Robert Mugabe, would mess the way he has always been doing. Who would think that Mugabe would be hoodwinked by an illiterate like his wife Grace Marufu, so as to abuse the powers vested on him as president?
The sage has it that when you want to tame a bull, you must know where its strength and weakness lie. For African big men their strength-cum-weakness is in the bedroom. So who occupies and controls their bedrooms, control everything including them and their powers.
This can be seen in, among others, Simone, former political activist, who was able to make or affect whatever decision Gbagbo made. She was like a president, especially acting as an adviser to the president. Many people who know her believe Gbagbo’s decision not to cede power to a constitutionally elected president Alasane Ouattara, was the result of the advice of this lady.
When the world found that Gbagbo had lost his sense of reasoning, it intervened to see to it that he is booted out. Interestingly, UN and Ivorian former colonial master, the French, took a lead in getting rid of the tyrant.
Gbagbo and his wife were humiliatingly bundled before the media, as they were dug out from the bunker they had spent over two weeks hiding. Indeed, Gbagbo once again proved the sage that education sometimes does not emancipate the bearer if he is unable to read the signs of times. So too, was his son, Michel, who was severely beaten before the TV cameras. It was a shame of its own magnitude for the former president and his family to be treated just like common criminals. All this happened just recently. But did our venal rulers make any note of it?
Today’s analysis is based on hidden presidents, namely the first ladies and members of the families of the presidents. Simone was described by many media outlets as the lady that was feared more than the president himself. Moreover, she was implicated in many scandals among which is the case involving the disappearance of her husband’s rivals, prominent one being French-Canadian journalist Guy-André Kieffer. Kieffer is believed to have been hijacked under the instructions of Simone in 2004. Since then Kieffer has nary been seen anywhere.
What was unveiled in Ivory Coast is just a typical replica of what has, for long, been going on in many African countries as far as power greed is concerned. It is more a tip of iceberg. Sadly though, when all this sacrilege is going on, those who oil the cog are encouraged to produce more as they slink to stinking poverty.
Presidency in corruption-rampant Africa is the means to opulence, not only for the holder of it but also his or her family, friends in other cases even the tribe. The capital so much used by hidden African hidden presidents is nothing but sharing bed with the big man plus being able to manipulate him. In today’s analysis we shall try to explore incidents where the “hidden Simones or presidents behind the curtains” are going on with business as usual.
In Uganda, Yoweri museveni’s wife Janet, the first lady and minister is still a legendary when it comes to tame the man. It is alleged that clan and kids are all benefiting from the government of the day and nobody is blotting this nepotism.
In Guinea Bissau the tyrant Theodore Obiang Nguema allowed his namesake son to scoop from the treasury as much money as he deems fit. This tiny country with the population of a half a million, of which over 50% are living under a dollar a day, is like Nguema’s private estate. The son of president, who also is a minister in his father’s government, owns mansions and beaches worth millions of dollars in Malibu and a personal jet worth over $ 30,000,000 is untouchable. To add more flavour, the son of the tyrant spends a million bucks in every trip he makes to the US. Why is the US gagged? Wherever there is trouble, just drop a coin.
Not far from Equatorial Guinea, there is Congo Brazzaville where the son of the tyrant, Denis Christel Sassou-Nguesso, has all it takes even to stop IMF and WB from probing any malpractice involving public funds. Just like Nguema, the boy can spend any huge amount of money without raising any alarm! Remember this is the country of just 4,012,809. The irony is despite having a small population with where 50% lives under a dollar a day, the same has the income of $ 3,000,000,000 annually from oil. Where does the money go? Ask the tyrant, his son and cohorts. Anyway, this is Africa.
In Tanzania, the son of President Jakaya Kikwete, Ridhiwani and the president’s wife Salma, are occupying senior positions in the ruling party to which Kikwete is chairman. One opposition party (CHADEMA) recently alleged that Ridhiwan is a billionaire despite the fact that he just graduated from school recently.
To and more flavour, Salma runs an NGO that mints and prints millions of shillings without auditing report or anything near! So too, most of her friends are in high position thanks to their friendship to this hidden president.
In Kenya, Unga (Flour) scandal that left Lucy Kibaki morally nude, is still reverberating even though it was put to rest just like Anglo-Leasing scam.
In Ethiopia the wife of Prime Minister Meles Zenawi, Azeb Mesfin is known as Queen of Mega, thanks to being alleged to have an upper hand in mega corruption.
The last but not least player is none other than Robert Mugabe’s sweetheart Grace Gucchi Mugabe. This lady is renowned for over spending, especially at the time Zimbabweans are dying in thousands thanks to poverty and mismanagement. Grace stole thunder when she was linked with Bloody Diamond by Wikeleaks recently, before the media uncovered her coveted love with governor of Reserve Bank of Zimbabwe (RBZ), Gideon Gono. Thanks to her ability to muzzle Mugabe, nothing has ever gone wrong in their convenient marriage despite the leak. Gono is still the governor of RBZ and Grace is still first lady. This can show you how president behind the curtains are more powerful than those you see on the arena.
Going back where we started, what was unearthed in Simone Gbagbo sheds light on a true but grimmer picture of what has been going on in Africa where presidents behind the curtains have inflicted a great deal of sufferings to our people and our economies. Think about that and evaluate your ruler.
“For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved, it is the power of God.” 1 Corinthians 1: 18
I need some inspiration, a shot of adrenaline. Ladies and gentleman:
Dame Shirley BASSEY!
I was eleven years old. The riots were still fresh. The “Poor People’s March” had failed to ignite the revolutionary redistribution of wealth. “Soul Brother” graffiti was still plastered on burnt out buildings in DC. The faint smell of tear gas could be conjured by its mere mention.
On the radio, I heard the song below. Young as I was, I was terribly moved by it. Back then, in spite of the assassinations, gassings and general repression, there was hope, not merely rhetorical, but real hope. Idealism was not just a word in the dictionary, but a core value, shared by many.
I miss those times.