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Africa 2011: U.S. & French imperialism on the continent

Published Dec 12, 2011 9:06 PM

Washington and its NATO allies have intensified their military operations on the African continent. Nevertheless, the unequal distribution of wealth and economic power between the imperialist states and the oppressed postcolonial nations has continued to spark mass demonstrations and rebellions in various geopolitical regions on the continent.

The war against Libya represented the first major operation of the U.S. Africa Command, which was formed in 2008. The people of this oil-producing North African state put up formidable resistance to this intervention. It took six months for the war to drive the Libyan government from the capital of Tripoli and another two months to take the Jamahiriya strongholds of Sirte and Bani Walid. (Translation of Jamahiriya from Arabic means “the state of the masses.”)

Rebel forces patched together under the banner of the National Transitional Council could not have toppled Col. Muammar Gadhafi’s government without U.S.-NATO’s combined airstrikes, naval blockades, economic sanctions, intelligence operatives, special forces and their regional allies. Even this massive bombing, the murder of thousands of Libyans and the seizure of its national wealth cannot ensure its stability for imperialism. Resistance to these neocolonial designs continues.

U.S.-French base in the Horn of Africa

In former French colony Djibouti, the U.S. and France maintain a 6,500-troop military base. Both imperialist countries operate in neighboring Somalia, leading a combined effort to liquidate the Al-Shabaab Islamic resistance movement they call a “terrorist” al-Qaida affiliate.

The Kenyan Defense Forces have ground troops in Somalia supported by Ethiopia, African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) troops and Transitional Federal Government soldiers. Washington finances these African troops, and the Pentagon, the Central Intelligence Agency and the French military support them from the air and sea. Israel deploys drones.

Despite French and U.S. troop presence in Djibouti, its people erupted in February with widespread social unrest. Mass demonstrations and rebellions resulted in government repression leaving several people dead and injured.

The military alliance between Djibouti’s government and the U.S. and France has brought no economic benefits to this country of less than 1 million people with a gross domestic product of only $982 million. The country’s location on lucrative Red Sea shipping lanes gives it a strategic interest.

In November, it was announced that Djibouti will become more directly involved in the current war against Somalia, with the possible deployment of so-called peacekeeping troops to join AMISOM in Mogadishu. The country has also been the location for training the U.S.-backed Somalia TFG military forces as well as hosting “reconciliation” talks for the country that has not had an internationally recognized government in over two decades.

Defense Professional website says, “Djibouti is seeking to play a stabilizing role in the frequently tense regional politics of the Horn of Africa.” (Nov. 8) Objectively the imperialists are using Djibouti’s government to establish their broader political and military influence in Africa.

Burkin Faso & Ivory Coast

Two other former French colonies in West Africa, Burkina Faso and Ivory Coast, illustrate the impact of the world economic crisis and increased militarism.

In Burkina Faso between February and April, President Blaise Compaore’s Western-allied regime was forced to place the country under curfew after a mutiny within the armed forces and the police accompanied nationwide protests in response to the rising cost of living.

“Koudougou, located 100km west of Ouagadougou [the capital], was the birthplace of a wave of protests in the country two months ago, placing growing pressure on Compaore, who has been in power for 24 years. The first protest in Koudougou took place on Feb. 22 when students took to the streets, saying a school pupil said to have died of meningitis was in fact tortured and killed in police custody.” (AFP, April 28)

This same AFP article also pointed out: “Allegations of police impunity, torture and cover-ups and the high cost of living have fueled mounting protests by all sectors of the population against Compaore’s regime. The country is also beset by woeful social conditions, with much of the 16 million-strong population living on barely $1 a day, while prices of basic goods continue to rise.”

Following unrest, President Compaore dismissed his government’s cabinet. Nevertheless, without a major restructuring of political and economic relations with France and the imperialist states in general, there will be no real progress for the majority of Burkina Faso’s workers, farmers and unemployed.

Developments in Ivory Coast exposed escalating French military aggression in Africa. The imperialists took advantage of a months-long dispute over the results of a run-off presidential election between Alassane Ouattara and Laurent Gbagbo. Paris and Washington sided with Ouattara and sought to remove Gbago, the incumbent, from office under the guise of following international law.

After French paratroopers overthrew and captured Gbagbo in April, he was subsequently kidnapped and transported to a detention facility first in Ivory Coast and eventually to The Hague, Netherlands. There he is slated to be tried for alleged war crimes by the International Criminal Court.

The ICC has focused exclusively on the harassment, persecution and indictment of African leaders. These include President Omar Hussein al-Bashir of Sudan and the martyred Col. Muammar Gadhafiof Libya and members of his family and government.

Following the massive bombing of Libya and the government’s overthrow, the ICC suddenly abandoned plans to place Seif al-Islam Gadhafi, Moammar Gadhafi’s son, on trial. The Western-backed rebel forces had arrested him in November. The ICC chief prosecutor’s recent visit to Libya resulted in an announcement that the imperialist-installed rebels would be allowed to prosecute Seif and to also seek the death penalty in the event that he is found guilty of purported “war crimes.”

Governments and mass organizations in Africa have condemned the ICC for targeting continental leaders and organizations and for its refusal to hold the imperialists accountable for numerous war crimes in Africa and throughout the world. Over the last year the U.S., France, Britain, other NATO states and Israel have killed thousands of Africans in Libya, Somalia, Ivory Coast, Egypt and Sudan.