Behind the Clinton tour
Secretary of State reveals U.S. imperialist policy toward Africa
Published Aug 20, 2009 8:31 PM
There was much anticipation on the African continent about Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton’s 11-day recent visit to seven countries. However, the
tour’s outcome largely reaffirmed the continuance of past U.S. policy
President Barack Obama has a direct connection to the East African nation of
Kenya. African heads of state hope that this historic link will inspire the
administration to look more seriously at U.S. foreign policy towards
However, the same economic and political interests that have driven U.S. policy
still prevail. U.S. imperialism’s strategy has been one of domination
through mineral extraction, trade, political engagement and military
Starting with Sudan in 1956 and Ghana in 1957, former British colonies, and
with former French possession Guinea-Conakry in 1958, the national liberation
movements in Africa gained tremendous momentum.
In 1960, 18 countries gained their independence from England, France and
Belgium. Algeria won independence from France in 1962. By 1963 there were more
than 30 independent states on the continent.
Nevertheless, the former European colonial powers and, increasingly, the U.S.,
still sought to dominate Africa’s politics and economies.
In 1965, Kwame Nkrumah, the former president of Ghana and a key leader of the
post-World War II African liberation struggle, said that the U.S. had become
the dominant imperialist power.
In his book, “Neocolonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism,”
Nkrumah said: “Faced with the militant peoples of the ex-colonial
territories ... imperialism simply switches tactics. Without a qualm, it
dispenses with its flags, and even with certain of its more hated expatriate
officials. This means, so it claims, that it is ‘giving’
independence to its former subjects, to be followed by ‘aid’ for
“Under cover of such phrases, however, it devises innumerable ways to
accomplish objectives formerly achieved by naked colonialism. It is this sum
total of these modern attempts to perpetuate colonialism while at the same time
talking about ‘freedom,’ which has come to be known as
Nkrumah stressed, “Foremost among the neocolonialists is the United
States. ... With methodical thoroughness and touching attention to detail, the
Pentagon set about consolidating its ascendancy, evidence of which can be seen
all around the world.”
In the 1970s and 1980s, the U.S. supported the most reactionary policies
towards Africa. Republican and Democratic administrations opposed and
undermined national liberation movements and progressive states. The
International Monetary Fund, World Bank, CIA and the Pentagon sabotaged
economic development efforts.
After white minority rule was abolished on the subcontinent with the
independence of Namibia and South Africa during the early 1990s, the U.S.
militarily intervened in Somalia from 1991-93, escalated its military
involvement with Mubarak’s government in Egypt and, in 1998, bombed
Following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the U.S. increased its intervention in
Somalia and intensified efforts to overthrow the governments of Zimbabwe and
U.S.-Africa policy under Obama
At a regional trade conference in Kenya, Clinton emphasized the
administration’s intentions to increase trade between the U.S. and
African countries in the region. She also met with the president of the
U.S.-backed Transitional Federal Government in neighboring Somalia.
At a joint press conference in Nairobi Aug. 6, Clinton and Somali President
Sheik Sharif Ahmed discussed how Washington can provide additional financial,
political and military support to the fledging government that is largely
propped-up by the African Union’s “peacekeeping forces”
(AMISOM). Clinton is the highest-ranking U.S. diplomat to make direct contact
with the Somali regime.
Somalia has been without an internationally recognized government since the
U.S.-backed Siad Barre regime collapsed in 1991. Although Bush’s
administration provided assistance for the AMISOM forces in Somalia, most of
the aid was funneled through the United Nations and the A.U.
In its coverage of the meeting, the Los Angeles Times reported, “Somali
officials said discussions centered on providing additional weapons, boosting
humanitarian assistance and formalizing ties.” The U.S. government
recently announced that it is sending 40 tons of weapons and munitions, in
addition to training a reconfigured military force to protect the Ahmed
U.S. military involvement in Somalia escalated during Bush’s
administration. In 2006, when the Islamic Courts Union took control of much of
the country, the CIA was suspected of funding warlords inside Somalia who
sought to promote U.S. aims there. In December 2006, the U.S.-backed government
in Ethiopia militarily invaded Somalia on behalf of the Bush administration,
supposedly to curb the rising tide of “Islamic extremism,” which
was linked to Al-Qaeda.
During Ethiopia’s occupation, the U.S. Air Force carried out six aerial
bombardments in Somalia, leading to the worst humanitarian crisis on the
continent. However, the Somali people’s resistance forced the Ethiopian
military to retreat in January of 2009.
Somali government officials see U.S. assistance as their only hope to counter
the radical resistance movements of Al-Shabab and Hizbul Islam. However,
Ahmed’s government has limited control there. Even Mogadishu, the
capital, is largely under the influence of Al-Shabab and Hizbul Islam.
The Al-Shabab and Hizbul Islam organizations have appealed to the Somali people
based on U.S. pledges of greater support to the transitional regime. Al-Shabab
Commander Sheik Muse Hassan Ali stated, “There is no difference between
Bush and Obama. Both are against Islam and are trying to eradicate Islamic
governments.” (Los Angeles Times, Aug. 7)
Ali said he welcomed the shipment of military equipment to the transitional
government because, “We are ready to confiscate all these
In South Africa, Clinton attempted to persuade the newly elected African
National Congress government of President Jacob Zuma to work with the U.S. to
remove Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and his Zimbabwe African National
Union, Patriotic Front party from the recently created inclusive government.
South Africa has worked with the Zimbabwe government to form a coalition with
the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, and to get Western sanctions
lifted. The U.S., Britain and the European Union imposed the sanctions in
response to the country’s land redistribution program, which was enacted
The ANC government resisted Bush administration pressure to cut off power
supplies and implement an economic blockade against Zimbabwe. South Africa has
extended credit to the Mugabe government to offset the impact of Western
sanctions. Obama has continued sanctions against Zimbabwe despite the coalition
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Clinton raised the impact of the
ongoing civil war in the eastern region of the mineral-rich central African
nation. The DRC has a long history of U.S. involvement. During the early days
of independence in 1960-61, the CIA plotted the overthrow and murder of
nationalist leader Patrice Lumumba, and later backed Colonel Mobutu Sese Seko,
who ruled for 37 years at imperialism’s behest.
After Mobutu was overthrown in 1997, the U.S. sought to continue its domination
of the DRC by supporting the governments in neighboring Rwanda and Uganda. A
regional war erupted in 1998, largely at the instigation of former President
Bill Clinton’s administration. The U.S. encouraged and financed the
Rwandan and Ugandan armies’ invasion of the DRC. A five-year war ensued
that drew in Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia on the side of the Congolese
government. Millions died in this war between 1998 and 2003.
U.S. mining firms are still extracting huge amounts of wealth from the eastern
and southern regions of the country. The Obama administration has announced new
initiatives to provide military training to the Congolese army. The U.S. also
supplies material and financial assistance to the U.N. Mission to the Congo
(MONUC) and its 17,000 peacekeepers, who are stationed in the country’s
In Angola, Clinton lectured the government run by the Popular Movement for the
Liberation of Angola (MPLA) about the need for transparency there. Angola is
now the leading oil producer in Africa.
During the first years of Angola’s independence, from 1975 to 1989, the
U.S. encouraged the efforts to undermine the former Portuguese colony by
supporting the counterrevolutionary UNITA movement, which was working on behalf
of the former apartheid regime in South Africa.
In Nigeria, Clinton criticized the government for corrupt practices and the
lack of good governance. Yet no mention was made of the role of U.S. and
European oil firms that dominate the economy and provide no benefit to the
majority of Nigeria’s people. Recent unrest stems largely from its
reliance on the same oil firms that make huge profits at the expense of workers
Clinton raised the purported threat of “Islamic terrorism” during
her Nigerian visit. “Al-Qaeda has a presence in Northern Africa,”
Such statements by the U.S. secretary of state reflect recent U.S. military
policy towards Africa. The 2008 establishment of the Africa Command (Africom)
signaled U.S. willingness to intensify its interventions on the continent.
Presently the U.S. has a military base in the Horn of Africa nation of
Djibouti. U.S. warships are patrolling the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean
under the guise of fighting “piracy.” Other military operations are
being conducted in the Gulf of Guinea off the West African coast—a major
source of oil exports to the U.S.
Daniel Volman of the African Security Research Project in Washington, D.C.,
revealed: “In May 2008, the United States Army War College in Carlisle,
Pa., hosted ‘Unified Quest 2008,’ the army’s annual war games
to test the American military’s ability to deal with the kind of crises
that it might face in the near future. [This] was especially noteworthy because
it was the first time the war games included African scenarios as part of the
Pentagon’s plan to create a new military command for the continent: the
Africa Command or Africom.” (AllAfrica.com, August 14)
In an earlier article, Volman reviewed the military budget submitted to
Congress by the Obama administration for 2010, which “proposes
significant increases in U.S. security assistance programmes for African
countries and for the operations of the new U.S. Africa Command (Africom). This
shows that—at least initially—the administration is following the
course laid down for Africom by the Bush administration.” (AllAfrica.com,
June 11) Volman says this budget includes funding for military education and
training programs in at least 17 African nations.
Administration policy continues imperialist aims
These developments indicate clearly that the interest in African affairs by the
current U.S. administration means a continuation of promoting and advancing the
economic and political priorities of the U.S. ruling class.
Gitau Warigi, a political analyst in Kenya, wrote in the Daily Nation that that
there were “strategic interests involved” behind Clinton’s
visit. This referred to U.S. attempts to regain ground lost during the Bush
administration, and Clinton’s criticism of the growing role of the
People’s Republic of China in Africa.
These attempts at increasing U.S. military involvement in Africa will not win
the hearts and minds of the continent’s people. The majority have not
significantly benefited from trade agreements and the presence of large-scale
business ventures. U.S. imperialism’s military adventures are always
designed to enforce existing relations of production and unequal terms of
It is only when the majority of the people in Africa take control of the
ownership and production of their economic resources that the potential will
exist for genuine independence and national development.
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