Obama in East Africa: U.S. imperialism sows turmoil throughout region

July 27 — President Barack Obama’s first visit to Kenya and Ethiopia highlighted Washington’s imperialist intervention in Africa. U.S. policy is aimed at pulling the two countries into a U.S.-led military alliance and increasing U.S.-based firms’ exploitation of Africa’s mineral resources.

Obama’s trip followed a visit to Washington by Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari, who held high-level meetings with Obama and officials from the State Department and Pentagon.

U.S. intervention during the George W. Bush and Obama administrations has decreased stability in the region and increased dependence on the Pentagon. On July 26, the same day that Obama arrived in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, a car bomb exploded outside the Jazeera Hotel in Mogadishu, Somalia, killing 13 people, at least one of whom was a Chinese national.

The president attended a business development conference in Kenya. He emphasized during his trip the much-touted, phenomenal economic growth on the continent.

Kenya is a capitalist country that is heavily dependent upon the marketing of agricultural products, clothing and tourism to the U.S. and West Europe. The East African state has been a longtime U.S. ally since the early days of independence in 1963 under the leadership of Jomo Kenyatta, its first president.

Increased exploitation of natural gas and other strategic resources in East Africa failed to relieve economic problems. Unemployment and poverty continue to trap millions, while economic relations with the imperialist states offer no significant prospects for the absorption of large segments of the population into the urbanized labor market. Most people still work in the agricultural sectors of the economy in the production of tea, coffee, sisal and other products.

During the 1990s, Kenya was unable to pay back its high-priced loans to the international financial institutions, which forced it to institute “reforms” that made the country more lucrative for investment from transnational corporations and banks. Following the passage by Congress of the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act under the Clinton administration, Kenyan workers began to produce clothing for export to the U.S. and Europe.

Mineral exploitation in Kenya is limited at present. Offshore, there has been exploration for oil resources near the border between Kenya and Somalia. These new areas of potential investment by transnational petroleum firms may be clearly related to the Kenya Defense Forces’ (KDF) intervention in Somalia, which was carried out in late 2011 at the aegis of Washington through the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM).

While in Kenya, Obama opened the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Nairobi and pledged over $1 billion in investments from the U.S. government, along with U.S.-based banks, foundations and donors. Some 50 percent of the investments will go to women and young people, who face obstacles when trying to start businesses, says Obama. They will have to satisfy the demands of the investors.

U.S. intervention increases, instability grows

While Obama spoke of human and especially women’s rights, the major thrust of U.S. policy in Kenya, Somalia and other East African states has been to increase U.S. military intervention and the extraction of minerals, while exploiting labor and importing commodities from these countries.

An article in the Sept. 23, 2014, Somalia Current explained that “Kenya recently awarded six oil and gas blocks to the international oil companies, within Somali offshore territory approximately 120,000 km2 [46,300 square miles]. Italy, Norway, the USA and France are tended to be exploiting the trans-boundary area. It was apparent that those greedy alliances’ aim is to plunder Somalia’s offshore hydrocarbon resources and this has become more obvious since Kenya started invading southern Somalia in October 2011 while its allies such as France, Italy and Norway kept quiet about the invasion.”

In December 2006, under the administration of President George W. Bush, the U.S. encouraged the Ethiopian government to invade Somalia in order to overturn the growing influence of the Islamic Courts Union. After a two-and-a-half-year occupation, the Al-Shabaab guerrilla movement emerged from the ICU and has continued a war of insurgency against the U.S. and European Union-supported regime in Mogadishu.

At present some 22,000 troops from the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) are still occupying the Horn of Africa state. The CIA and the Pentagon regularly conduct drone strikes in Somalia, where they have bases of operation.

Ethiopia, South Sudan

The 1974 Ethiopian Revolution and its socialist orientation were overthrown in 1991, just months prior to the collapse of the Soviet Union. Under the Mikhail Gorbachev government, Soviet support for national liberation movements and national democratic revolutionary governments in Africa had decreased, creating a crisis throughout the international community.

The post-1991 counterrevolutionary government in Addis Ababa has been closely aligned with the U.S. and other Western states. Although temporarily withdrawn from Somalia after defeats in early 2009, Ethiopian troops have re-entered the country.

The presence of both the KDF and Ethiopian troops are a cause for concern even within the Somalia Federal Government, which is recognized by Washington and Wall Street.

Obama also addressed the security and political crisis in the newly independent Republic of South Sudan. This state is the result of a Western-supported secessionist movement that split up the Republic of Sudan, based in Khartoum, which was previously the largest geographic nation-state in Africa.

South Sudan leaders have themselves been split over the future course of the country since December 2013. President Salva Kiir and former Vice President Reik Machar have led separate warring factions in the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army. This has resulted in the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people and the deaths of several thousand in a civil war in the continent’s, and the world’s, most recent state recognized by the United Nations and the African Union.

A joint statement by Obama and Ethio­pian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn praised AMISOM and the others fighting in Somalia against al-Shabaab and announced an agreement for “intelli­gence cooperation,” ostensibly against “terror­ism.” (White House press release, July 27)

Obama was scheduled to address the AU Commission based in Addis Ababa on July 28, but has no plans to meet with President Robert Mugabe of the Republic of Zimbabwe, who is the sitting chair of the continental body. This reflects U.S. imperialism’s hostility to Zimbabwe, particularly since its land reform program of 2000 redistributed white-owned farmland to Africans who had been expropriated during the colonial wars of the late 19th century.