A much-anticipated summit at the State Department and White House was held Aug. 4-8. Dozens of African heads of state and the chair of the continental African Union Commission attended.
Nonetheless, several leading countries were not invited or chose not to attend, including Zimbabwe, Sudan, Eritrea, Chad, Egypt, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Although AUC Chair Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma was present at the summit, it was not this organization that set the terms for participation.
A similar situation occurred earlier in the year when a European Union-Africa Summit was held in Belgium. Although the AU had met to determine how the meeting would be approached, in the final analysis the EU made the prevailing decisions.
In a public statement during the summit, Dlamini-Zuma suggested that the U.S. was not fully aware of developments in Africa. She warned that if Washington did not engage the continent, then it would effectively lose the character of relations in the future.
The AUC chair said, “It’s [to the U.S.’s] advantage to know what’s happening in Africa because if they don’t come to the party eventually the party will happen without them. Business people really know about Africa from the media, and American media is not really kind on Africa. They tend to report what bleeds and leads.” (sapa.org.za, Aug. 7)
In the Southern African state of Zimbabwe — whose leader, President Robert Mugabe, was not invited to the summit — an editorial in the government-owned Herald newspaper criticized President Barack Obama for his continuing attempt to blame Africa for its current economic problems. This was a significant theme in Obama’s speech before the Republic of Ghana parliament in 2009 after he took office. Specifically targeting Zimbabwe, Obama claimed that difficulties there, where the U.S. carries out sanctions, could not be blamed on the legacy of colonialism.
Mugabe, who is the incoming chairperson of the regional Southern African Development Community, is disliked by the imperialist countries because he implemented a radical land reform program that returns large portions of the land stolen by British colonialists during the 19th century to the African people. The Zimbabwe Revolution, fought during the 1960s and 1970s, was based on the return of the land to the Indigenous people.
The Herald editorial stressed: “President Barack Obama’s recent remarks urging Africa to stop making ‘excuses’ for the continent’s economic doldrums based on history of colonialism were not only unfortunate and ill-conceived but also insensitive. I’m not sure whether Obama has deliberately developed selective amnesia not to realise that the wealth accumulated by the country he now leads has been through the blood and sweat of those from the cradle of mankind.” (Aug. 3)
Pointing out the stark contradictions in the Obama administration’s approach to relations with Africa and the Middle East, the Herald continued, “Here is the leader of the free world who has been mum over the unrestrained bombardment and [killing] of innocent civilians in Gaza yet he wants to walk the moral high ground and lecture the historically and perpetually traumatised Africans on morality and righteousness. Africa’s socio-political and economic problems are a direct consequence of slavery and colonialism.”
Competition with China, others
The U.S. was attempting to buy some goodwill by announcing $33 billion in new investments on the continent. At the same time there was strong emphasis on the so-called “war on terrorism.”
After the summit’s conclusion, the U.S. announced that it would be subsidizing French military operations in West Africa. Obama is directing $10 million in supposed “foreign aid” to Paris to assist in purported “counterterrorism operations” on the African continent.
The money from the Pentagon will contribute to French military efforts to fight what is described as “terrorist groups” in Mali, Niger and Chad, the president wrote in a memorandum to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Secretary of State John Kerry. “I hereby determine that an unforeseen emergency exists that requires immediate military assistance to France in its efforts to secure Mali, Niger, and Chad from terrorists and violent extremists,” Obama declared. (The Hill, Aug. 11)
On the contrary, many African heads of state and opinion makers have stated that the character of investment and trade between Africa and Beijing is more beneficial to the continent than the ongoing neocolonial relations with the Western imperialist states. The Forum on China and Africa Cooperation, established in 2000, has held five full-fledged summits in both China and Africa. At present China is the number-one trading partner with AU member states.
In addition, AU member states have established formal economic and political relations with South American governments through the Africa-South America Summit, which has held three meetings in Africa and South America. Many African states are members of the Non-Aligned Movement involving more than 100 countries in the Southern hemisphere.
Iran and Japan have also held meetings with AU member states on improving relations. South Africa was brought into the Brazil, Russia, India, China association in 2010. The last BRICS summit was held in Durban, South Africa.
prioritized over trade
In fact, there is nothing the U.S. can offer Africa other than imperialist militarism and enhanced exploitation by the oil, natural gas and mining firms, along with predatory actions of the banks. Much of the discussion surrounding the U.S.-Africa Summit focused on “security issues” — in other words, what Washington describes as the “war on terrorism.”
The U.S. Africa Command was initiated by the previous government of President George W. Bush, but it has been strengthened and enhanced under his successor. The U.S. currently engages in joint military operations with at least three dozen states on the continent.
There is substantial Pentagon and CIA presence in countries like Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Uganda, South Sudan, the Central African Republic, Nigeria, Niger and Mali through troops on the ground, intelligence field stations and drone operations. Despite this heavy military presence, these states suffer underdevelopment and political instability.
Until Africa moves toward socialism, there will not be a general improvement in the living conditions of the majority of workers, farmers and youth. The foreign policy imperatives, including the character of relations with the West, will be determined in the present period not in Addis Ababa and Johannesburg, but in Washington and Brussels.