Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Whither Africa?

Imperialist Intervention & the Global Economic Crisis Fuels Conflict in AfricaFrom the Maghreb to the East instability and struggle intensifies

By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire

With the escalating military and economic role of the United States and the European Union on the African continent, mounting political crises have resulted in social unrest throughout the region. From Libya and Kenya to Nigeria and Somalia, internal turmoil, labor unrest and mass resistance continues to illustrate the interconnectedness of events throughout the international scene.

In the North African state of Libya, the U.S. and NATO-backed National Transitional Council (NTC) is continuing to unravel with the declaration of autonomy by elements based in the eastern sections of the country. In Benghazi where the rebellion began in February 2011 against the government of Col. Muammar Gaddafi, elite elements aligned with the former monarchy have declared that Barqa, also referred to as Cyrenaica, has established its own self-rule within a broader Libya.

These actions exposed the already tenuous coalition of forces that opposed the Jamahiriya as being based on regionalism and opportunism. The Tripoli-based TNC leadership immediately renounced the declaration of autonomy by western-backed forces in the east and pledged to maintain the "unity" of Libya even by force of arms.

Most keen observers of the rebellion and subsequent imperialist war against Libya beginning in early 2011 characterized the anti-Gaddafi campaign as a war for oil and an attempt to partition the state which was Africa's most prosperous. Such a division of the country can only benefit the imperialist governments and their domestic and regional allies who are now in total control of the petroleum and natural gas resources of Libya.

The instability generated by the internal rebellion and the massive bombing of Libya between March and October of 2011 has resulted in the displacement and re-location of hundreds of thousands of people both inside and outside of the country. In Mali, Niger and other countries that make up areas of the Sahel, conflict has escalated and the problems of food deficits have worsened the already humanitarian crisis stemming from the drought.

Inside northern Mali, the ongoing Tuareg rebellion has spread as a result of the fleeing of people who were living in Libya and allied with the previous government of Gaddafi. Better armed and experienced in combat, the Tuareg fighters have intensified their struggle against the central government in Bomako.

At the same time this escalating conflict in Mali has pushed tens of thousands across the border into neighboring Niger. This large-scale movement of refugees has worsened the food deficit crisis in Niger.

In a recent article by Massahudu Ankiilu Kunateh in the Ghanaian Chronicle it is pointed out that "Several countries in the Sahel region of western Africa need urgent support to prevent a full-blown food and nutrition security crisis, and to protect and restore livelihoods of communities dependent on livestock and crops, according to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO). " (Chronicle, March 12)

This same article goes on to note that "At least 15 million people are estimated to be at risk of food insecurity in the Sahel, in part due to localized, but significant, declines in agro-pastoral production. This includes 5.4 million people in Niger (35 percent of the population), 3 million in Mali (20 percent), around 1.7 million in Burkina Faso (10 percent), around 3.6 million in Chad (28 percent), 850,000 in Senegal (6 percent), 713,000 in the Gambia (37 percent) and 700,000 in Mauritania (22 percent)."

Kony 2012 and the Invisible Children: A Cover for Further Intervention

During the week of March 5, the Invisible Children project launched a massive public relations campaign over the internet utilizing social media aimed at building support for further U.S. and European military intervention in Central and Eastern Africa. The project is purportedly targeted against Joseph Kony's Lord's Resistance Army (LRA), a para-military organization that has been operating in northern Uganda for over two decades.

Reports from northern Uganda indicate that the LRA has been largely defeated in recent years and that the remnants of the organization has fled to neighboring states in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the Central African Republic and South Sudan. During October 2011, the Obama administration announced that it was dispatching 100 Special Forces and military advisers to these above-mentioned countries in the region to assist with the efforts of various governments to defeat the LRA.

Yet it so happens that at least three of these states, Uganda, the DRC and South Sudan, are rich in oil and other strategic minerals that are vital to the profitability of the ruling classes in North America and Western Europe. The U.S. and NATO have already escalated their presence in various regions of Africa and these military forces over the last year were involved in the naval blockade and bombing of Libya, the war against Al-Shabaab in Somalia as well as other so-called "anti-piracy" efforts in the Gulf of Aden and the Gulf of Guinea.

B. E. Wilson wrote in Alternet.org asking "What does Invisible Children share in common with the Discovery Institute, the leading organization promoting 'intelligent design,' a pseudo-scientific theory created to insinuate creationist ideas into public schools—or with The Call, whose leader Lou Engle claims homosexuals are possessed with demons….? All of these ministries—the Discovery Institute, Focus on the Family, the Family Research Council, The Fellowship Foundation, The Call, Ed Silvoso's Harvest Evangelism, and Invisible Children—received at least $100,000 in 2008 from what has emerged in the last decade as the biggest funder of the hard, antigay, creationist Christian right: the National Christian Foundation." (alternet,.org, March 11, 2012)

It is also important to emphasize that the International Criminal Court (ICC) chief prosecutor Louis Moreno Ocampo says that he supports Kony 2012. Ocampo has issued arrest warrants for numerous African leaders including Sudan President Omar Hassan al-Bashir, Muammar Gaddafi and other leading figures in the former Libyan government as well as Joseph Kony.

Filmmaker Jason Russell, who crafted the 30-minute video that was said to have been viewed 58 million times, has been criticized because the bulk of the money raised for the project does not go to victims of LRA violence but back into the coffers of this right-wing group. Russell in response to criticism said that "They hear the word charity and they don't understand why all of our money isn't going to Central Africa. We have found that putting money towards our media and our movie, changes lives." (Christian Science Monitor, March 12, 2012)

Kenya Fires 25,000 Health Care Workers

A major assault on labor is taking place in the East African state Kenya where some 25,000 nurses have been on strike demanding better pay and working conditions. The pro-Western government of Prime Minister Raila Odinga has sacked the nurses and is demanding an explanation as to why they should not be terminated before returning to work.

Union representatives told the nurses to return to work amid ongoing efforts aimed at negotiations, but when many of them arrived they were sent away with letters demanding to know why they have not come to work since the beginning of the strike since March 1. A letter from the Medical Services Permanent Secretary said "Absence from the place of work without permission is viewed as a gross breach of discipline and a contravention of the Employment Act." (The Standard, March 12)

In a rally at Uhuru Park on March 12 the nurses sought a meeting with Odinga but to no avail. Capital FM in Kenya reported that "One team led by National Nurses Association of Kenya Treasure Jeremiah Maina camped at the PM's office for four hours before joining their striking colleagues at Uhuru Park where they chanted slogans expressing their solidarity." (CapitalFm, March 12)

The Union of Kenya Civil Servants Secretary General Tom Odege said that "It is true people are receiving 'show-cause' letters and we want to ask the government not to go in that direction because forcing over 25,000 people to write response letters to them would amount to intimidation which I do not think is good for our relationship." These actions by the Kenyan government were condemned by various civil society organizations and two labor unions: the Kenya Health Professional's Society and the Kenya Union of Civil Servants.

Military Raid by British Special Forces Raises Tensions With Italy

British Special Forces launched a raid to rescue two detained construction engineers from the UK and Italy. Reports indicate that ransom had been paid for the Italian, Franco Lamolinara, yet the British military unit went ahead and conducted the raid without the knowledge of the government in Rome.

The individuals holding the two men had also made contact with the family of the Briton, Chris McManus. McManus' family admitted that they had received a phone from the people holding him but no deal was worked out for his release.

The incident has heightened tensions between London and Rome whose respective governments have differing policies on the handling of hostage crises. Britain has been staunchly opposed to negotiating for the release of hostages whereas Italy was willing to pay ransom for its nationals being held.

In the face of criticism of the British handling of the bungled operation, the government issued a statement on March 11 saying "There were no coherent demands, no requests for money, no money paid and no suggestion that these hostages would be released unharmed." (The Independent, March 12)

This statement conflicts with a report published by the Italian newspaper La Repubblica, which claimed that a portion of the ransom had been paid and "negotiations were initiated to achieve the liberation of the two hostages." The corporate media had alleged that the kidnapping was carried out by the Boko Haram religious group based in the north of Nigeria, however, the organization denied that they were involved in the apprehension some nine months ago.


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