U.S. imperialism: Militarism and superexploitation in Africa

This article is excerpted from a paper presented at the 2017 Left Forum panel hosted by the United National Antiwar Coalition, on which the author serves as an administrative committee member. It is reprinted from Pambazuka News.

Africa policies [of the U.S.] have consistently remained destabilizing and predatory over the decades, despite the well-choreographed pretenses. It is this imperialism that has impeded the capacity of African nations to direct their future.

With the ascendancy of President Donald Trump to the White House, a strong focus has been placed on his role as a promoter of racism and national oppression domestically, along with warmongering abroad.

We observe keenly the escalation of tension in the Korean peninsula with the placement of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense missile system. The president’s posture in relationship to the government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea threatened the full resumption of an unresolved war just several weeks ago.

There have been increasing aerial attacks against purported al-Qaida targets in Yemen while the people in this Middle Eastern state, the least developed in the region, are suffering immensely from the Pentagon-coordinated war involving Saudi Arabian and Gulf Cooperation Council bombings, which have continued on a daily basis since March 2015, killing an estimated 12,000 people and prompting the widespread outbreak of cholera, impacting over 60,000.

The deployment of the Massive Ordnance Air Blast in Afghanistan represented a new level of warfare in that Central Asian country, which has been the focus of U.S. policy since at least 1979, when Islamist forces were unleashed against the Soviet-backed socialist government then in power. Since 2001, the Pentagon and NATO have laid waste to the country further, with thousands of foreign troops continuing to occupy the area.

Somalia, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Libya and beyond

Although the Trump administration’s foreign policy towards Africa has gained far less attention by the Western media, it has continued already existing hostilities on the African continent. Somalia was singled out when Trump ordered the escalation of Pentagon and Central Intelligence Agency personnel being stationed in this Horn of Africa state. A U.S. Navy Seal was killed by al-Shabab guerrilla units several weeks ago while embedded in the U.S. and European Union-backed Somali National Army.

Although the administration claimed it was doing away with the supposed restrictions on military actions in Somalia imposed by former President Barack Obama, the interventions by the U.S. in Somalia go back as far as the late 1970s. When Jimmy Carter was in the Oval Office, the U.S. encouraged an invasion by the government of then-President Mohamed Siad Barre against the Ogaden region of Ethiopia. The waning days of the George H.W. Bush tenure were marked by the invasion of 12,000 Marines into Somalia in the failed “Operation Restore Hope” beginning in December 1992, a plan inherited by Bill Clinton, which ended in disaster when the people rose up against the occupation.

Since 2006, the U.S., then under President George W. Bush, has encouraged and sponsored intervention into Somali national affairs. First by seeking to empower warlords to subvert the efforts of the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) and, after 2009, by recruiting elements of the UIC into the interim federal regime, Washington sought to guide political events in the oil-rich state.

Several neighboring states have been drawn into the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM), which now has approximately 22,000 troops from Kenya, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Burundi and Uganda. Police officers from Ghana, Sierra Leone and Nigeria are also a part of the mission.

In 1998, Britain, the former colonial power, along with the U.S., the EU and others, began imposing sanctions on the government of the southern African nation of Zimbabwe and the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), led by President Robert Mugabe. In 2000, when Zimbabwe passed legislation granting the right of the African people to radically redistribute land to the people, the sanctions and other forms of hostile propaganda deepened.

During the period of 1998-2000, the administration of President Bill Clinton was in power. The same sanctions continued through the entire two terms of the Bush White House. When Obama took office in January 2009, his regime continued and intensified the punitive measures against the ZANU-PF ruling party and various political officials, including President Mugabe.

Both Britain and the U.S. attempted to persuade South Africa, while former President Thabo Mbeki was in office, to impose a blockade on Zimbabwe. Britain also drew up plans for an evacuation of its settler population, who held United Kingdom passports. These suggestions failed and through the assistance of successive African National Congress governments, the support of the regional Southern African Development Community and the People’s Republic of China, Zimbabwe has been able to remain afloat.

U.S. imperialism through Africom

This, of course, was not the case in the oil-rich North African nation of Libya, which under the Jamahiriya system headed by Col. Muammar Gaddafi had attained the highest standard of living anywhere on the continent. It was the Democratic administration of Obama, with Hillary Clinton as secretary of state, which coordinated a war of regime-change and genocide that destroyed Libya as a viable state. Gaddafi was driven from the capital of Tripoli in August 2011 and later captured and brutally murdered by imperialist agents on Oct. 20 of the same year.

Today, Libya is a major source of instability and human trafficking internationally. Thousands have died off the coast of Libya in the Mediterranean Sea in attempts to flee the chaos and impoverishment there and throughout other regions of Africa and the Middle East. Now there are at least three identifiable regimes in Libya, which often engage in deadly military struggles for political and economic authority. The country has gone from being Africa’s most prosperous to dire poverty and balkanization. Numerous attempts by counterrevolutionary elements backed up by the White House, EU member-states and the United Nations to form a viable government have failed.

The situation in Libya is a direct result of the foreign policy of Barack Obama towards the African continent. Since the launching of the U.S. Africa Command (Africom) in 2008 under Bush, the presence of U.S. military forces on the continent has increased substantially. Obama announced just two years prior to leaving office that his administration would deploy in excess of 3,500 Special Forces and military trainers across 36 nations. A military base in the Horn of Africa state of Djibouti has been expanded and houses thousands of U.S. troops at Camp Lemonnier.

Imperialism in Africa today is at a critical stage, impeding the capacity of nation-states to direct their own futures. Despite Africa’s vast mineral and agricultural wealth and its labor power, a renewed debt crisis compounded by Pentagon, CIA and State Department interference is reversing the gains made in previous years.

Abayomi Azikiwe is the editor of Pan-African News Wire.

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