Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton toured nine African countries over an 11-day period beginning Aug. 1. During the tour Washington’s top diplomat pushed U.S. militarism and verbally attacked the People’s Republic of China. Clinton’s visit comes just two weeks after a major Africa-China summit meeting in Beijing between 50 countries on the continent and Chinese government leaders.
During the first stopover in the West African state of Senegal, which has been a close ally of the U.S., Clinton immediately launched into a tirade against China, implying that the White House is more concerned than China about the well-being and human rights of African people. This assertion comes as the Wall Street bankers and corporate chiefs are facing the worst economic crisis since the 1930s Great Depression. Consequently Africa and other developing regions of the world are looking for funding alternatives outside the Western capitalist states.
The movement toward economic and political independence from the U.S. and other imperialist states derives from the clear observation that the capitalism system is in crisis. Even leading economists in the West predict no end in sight to the downturn. U.S. diplomatic officials not only must overlook the economic downturn in Europe and North America, but must also avoid the scrutiny of their involvement in centuries of slavery and colonialism in Africa.
Therefore it seems absurd when Clinton said in Dakar, the Senegalese capital, that we “will stand up for democracy and universal human rights, even when it might be easier or more profitable to look the other way. Not every partner makes that choice, but we do and we will.” (News24.com, Aug. 5)
This is the same U.S. government that overthrew the sovereign North African state of Libya last year and oversaw the assassination of Libya’s leader, Col. Moammar Gadhafi. As Clinton was touring Africa, U.S. drones were bombing areas in Somalia under the guise of fighting “terrorism.”
China immediately responded to Clinton’s attacks: “Whether Clinton was ignorant of the facts on the ground or chose to disregard them, her implication that China has been extracting Africa’s wealth for itself it utterly wide of the truth. Her remarks betrayed an attempt to drive a wedge between China and Africa for the U.S.’s selfish gain.” (Xinhua, Aug. 2)
Characterizing China’s relations with Africa, Xinhua noted, “China’s booming economic relations with Africa have stemmed both from their time-honored friendship and complementary needs of development. Its genuine respect of and support for African countries’ development paths are lauded and welcomed across the continent. The friendly and mutually beneficial interaction between China and Africa gives the lie to Clinton’s insinuation.” (Aug. 3)
More militarism to ensure profits
The more Washington can stifle growing partnerships and alliances between China and Africa the more domination U.S. imperialism will have over the economic and political direction of the continent. The U.S. Africa Command, known as AFRICOM, is designed to enhance the presence of the Pentagon and CIA in all regions of Africa.
Clinton’s visits to Senegal, South Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, Ghana, Nigeria and Benin were in line with U.S. imperialism’s efforts to dominate the next phase of resource exploitation. New discoveries of oil and natural gas in West, East and Central Africa are estimated to be worth trillions of dollars in investments and trade.
In South Sudan, Clinton urged the government to reach a deal with the Republic of Sudan to get oil flowing again. South Sudan is a close ally of Washington. The partition of oil-rich Sudan into two countries has provided an opening for the U.S. to reenter that country’s oil industry, which had been dominated by China.
Throughout Central and East Africa, the U.S. has dispatched Special Forces units with the pretext that they are tracking down members of the Lord’s Resistance Army, which was formed in northern Uganda over two decades ago. There are plans to train an additional 2,000 African Union troops to pursue Washington’s policies within the region.
In Uganda and Kenya, Clinton stressed the need for African states to maintain a military presence in Somalia. There thousands of regional troops from Uganda, Burundi and Djibouti, which the U.S. finances and trains, are attempting to prevent the collapse of the Transitional Federal Government. Somalia and its breakaway regions are now producing oil, and the potential for deeper capital penetration is enormous.
Although the U.S. has backed Somalia’s TFG regime, even engineering Kenyan and Ethiopian invasions of the country during 2011, the security situation remains precarious. Al-Shabaab resistance fighters are still hitting back at U.S.-supported regional troops and the puppet governmental forces based in Mogadishu, the capital.
An Aug. 4 Associated Press report pointed out, “The U.S. has killed al-Shabaab militants in special forces raids, offered $33 million in bounties for the capture of its leaders and supported the interim government, which this week passed a draft constitution despite suicide bombers’ attempts to blow up the venue where they met to vote.”
The AP report noted that the Brookings Institution drew the link between corporate interests and the Pentagon: “There is increasing commercial interest in East Africa from the U.S., which sees its national security interests tied to security energy supplies.”
The report went on: “U.S. oil and gas companies are increasingly taking on acreage in East Africa. Houston-based Marathon Oil Corp. paid $35 million to Africa Oil Corp. for stakes in two Kenyan prospects last month, while Anadarko Petroleum Corp., also based in Houston, has made the decade’s biggest gas discovery off Mozambique and has rights to explore off Kenya’s coast.”
In Malawi, Clinton praised new President Joyce Banda for her commitment to economic reforms that make Malawi attractive to investors. Banda recently declined to hold the 54-member African Union Summit in Malawi because an African leader the U.S. considers an enemy, President Omar Hassan al-Bashir of Sudan, was planning to attend.
In South Africa, a business summit between corporate interests and U.S. capitalists took place in Sandton where governmental and business officials were seeking clarity on the continuing eligibility of Africa’s largest economy to participate in American Growth and Opportunity Act initiatives. AGOA proponents in the U.S. Congress are concerned about South Africa’s joining the BRICS states — Brazil, Russia, India and China — which have plans for economic relations outside Western dictates.
Peter Draper, of the South African Institute of International Affairs, said of U.S.-South African business relations that “there have been rumblings over the years concerning whether South Africa should be part of AGOA. U.S. industrial and agricultural groups want certain products excluded, or South Africa totally out.” (BusinessDay [SA], Aug. 6)
According to the same article, South African Ambassador to the U.S., Ebrahim Rasool, said that the “consequences for our companies and our country would be enormously unfavorable should the act and South Africa’s participation in it not be continued after 2015.” Rasool also said South Africa’s membership in BRICS was problematic and that “There is a feeling that South Africa, having joined BRICS, isin another league and does not qualify.”
U.S. has limited options in Africa
In light of the deepening economic crisis in the U.S. and the growing role of China in Africa, the Wall Street bosses and their government functionaries offer little in the way of new policy overtures for Africa outside militarism and disadvantageous business deals. Mass unemployment in countries such as South Africa illustrates the limitations of capitalist economic methods for even advanced postcolonial states.
Military policy that places emphasis on the broader intervention of AFRICOM will only bring about more instability in Africa. The current situations in Libya, Mali, Sudan and Somalia are evidence of the futility of African states forming partnerships with the Pentagon, since inevitably the economic and humanitarian situations worsen.
Africa must break with imperialism to place itself on a trajectory of genuine development and progress. Workers and farmers must be empowered to form governments based upon their own interests and not those of the imperialist states. n