From: Biniam Tekle (email@example.com)
Date: Fri Dec 05 2008 - 09:36:03 EST
Which Way America?
12/04/08, Kwame Osei
*Unless there is a fundamental change in America's policies towards Africa,
the continent will not gain much from the in-coming US government.*
Many people of African descent are anticipating that when Barack Obama
becomes the 44th President of the United States of America, the fortunes of
Africa will change. However, nothing will change unless US foreign policy
towards Africa changes drastically.
The G8 Summit held in June, pledged $6 billion dollars a year in so-called
aid to Africa. The low figure caused an official of Oxfam to say "We're
extremely disappointed by this wasted opportunity. They're offering peanuts
to Africa and recycled peanuts at that."
In 1999, debt service payments from Africa, the poorest region in the world,
to rich Western countries totaled $35.7 billion. African debt stands at a
crippling $300 billion.
According to The Guardian (U.K.) "African leaders invited to the G8
gathering expressed deep disappointment that the plan did nothing to open
western markets, cancel debts of the poorest countries or provide the
financial aid needed to meet the U.N.'s targets for tackling global poverty
Behind the shameful peanut throwing lurks a deadly western policy towards
Africa. The U.S. government which dominates the G8 has through the Pentagon,
the CIA, the World Bank and the IMF, systematically demolished African
economies, health and education sectors, and fueled eleven wars on the
continent with arms transfers and military training. This genocidal imperial
strategy has killed more than ten million Africans and has allowed the U.S.
and the West to obtain Africa's abundant natural riches very cheaply.
Nearly 80 percent of the strategic minerals the U.S. requires are found in
Africa, including 90 percent of the world's cobalt, 90 percent of platinum,
40 percent of the gold, 98 percent of chromium, 64 percent of the manganese
and one-third of uranium.
These minerals are needed to make jet engines, mobile phones, lap-top
computers, the digital-camera, cars, missiles, electronic components, iron
and steel. Africa also accounts for 18 percent of U.S. oil imports compared
to 25 percent from the Persian Gulf, with Nigeria and Angola being the fifth
largest and ninth largest exporters to the U.S. respectively.
Africa is the most war-torn region in the world with armed conflicts going
on in nine countries: Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Sudan, Burundi,
Chad, Rwanda, Somalia, Uganda, Ethiopia/Eritrea, Congo-Brazzaville and
Algeria. The long wars in Angola and Sierra Leone ended (for now) in April
and March 2002 respectively.
The U.S. has provided arms and/or military training to participants in nine
of these 10 wars, the only exception being Algeria. During the 1990s, 32
African countries (out of 53) experienced violent conflicts. According to
William Hartung, co-author of "Deadly Legacy: U.S. Arms to Africa and the
Congo War," a report released in 2000 by the New York-based World Policy
Institute, the U.S. sent $1.5 billion dollars in arms and training to Africa
during the Cold War years (1950-1989) and this "set the stage for the
current round of conflicts in the region."
Hartung points out that "The military skills and equipment supplied by the
U.S. are still being used by combatants in these wars." As "Deadly Legacy"
explains, "many of the top U.S. clients of the Cold War-Liberia, Somalia,
Sudan and Zaire (now DRC)"- were riven by violence, instability and economic
collapse during the 1990s (and still are).
Following the end of the Cold War, the Clinton Administration undertook "a
wave of new military training programmes in Africa." From 1991 to 1995, the
U.S. gave military assistance to 50 countries in Africa out of a total of
53; during 1991-98, U.S. arms sales and military training to Africa totaled
more than $227 million.
The U.S. has four different military training programmes for Africa:
International Military Education Training (IMET), Joint Combined Exchange
Training (JCET), African Crisis Response Initiative (ACRI) and the African
Center for Security Studies (ACSS). Under IMET, the U.S. gave $7.9 million
in outright grants to sub-Saharan Africa in 1998, increasing it to $8.1
million in 1998 and $8.5 million in 2000. In contrast, South Asia got only
$5.7 million, $5.6 million, and $5.8 million, respectively.
In 2000, the U.S. gave $8.1 million under ACRI to 39 African countries and
U.S. Special Forces have trained 34 out of 53 African national militaries
In the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the heart of Africa, U.S.
proxies Uganda and Rwanda occupy the eastern half of the country and are
looting its mineral resources and sending them to the West. The DRC is the
richest country in Africa holding the world's biggest copper, cobalt and
cadmium deposits. The war started by Rwanda and Uganda against the Congolese
government in 1998, has killed 2.5 million people and displaced 2.3 million.
Oxfam called this war, "the world's biggest humanitarian disaster."
Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia sent their armies to support the Congo
government and Burundi joined the other side. Thus began "Africa's First
World War" involving seven armies which has further wrecked a country
crushed by more than a century of western domination. The U.S. has given
arms and/or military training to all seven armies.
Rwanda and Uganda are the U.S. "staunchest allies in the region" and
Washington backed their invasion of the Congo according to Human Rights
Watch. Uganda received $1.5 million in U.S. arms and military training in
1999 and Rwanda got $325,000 under IMET in 2000. U.S. Special Forces have
trained the Rwandan Army in counterinsurgency, combat and psychological
operations, including instructions about fighting in the Congo. To keep the
war going, the U.S. has helped the other side too with Zimbabwe getting $1.4
million in U.S. military training in 2000 and Namibia $500,000.
Another U.S.-made disaster is the 27-year long civil war in Angola (Africa's
longest-running war) which ended in April 2002. The conflict killed 500,000
people and shattered the country.
The U.N. has warned of a catastrophe in Angola, where half a million people
face starvation (as a result of the war) and more than a million depend on
food aid for survival. Thousands of people have died of hunger over the last
few months, and more are dying every day.
According to the BBC, "It is the worst starvation to hit southern Africa in
over a decade." Three and a half million Angolans (a third of the
population) have been displaced by the war and eight to 15 million land
mines cover Angola, making agriculture hazardous.
As a result, fertile Angola has to import half its food requirements. There
are 100,000 disabled land mine victims, 82 percent of Angolans live in
poverty and a child dies of a preventable disease every three minutes. Like
the Congo, Angola is rich in minerals: it is Africa's second largest oil
producer (after Nigeria) with some of the largest offshore oil deposits in
the world, and its diamond output is worth about $800 million a year.
The civil war started with Angola's independence from Portugal in May 1975
when the left-wing Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) took
power and Washington launched a CIA covert operation in July 1975 to
overthrow it. The operation was the brainchild of Henry Kissinger, who was
then secretary of state in the Ford Administration. The CIA at the time was
led by George Bush Sr. The CIA plan included backing a South African
invasion of Angola in October 1975 and support for Union for the Total
Independence of Angola (UNITA), an opponent of the MPLA, led by the brutal
UNITA was an agent of the Portuguese colonial regime; its task was to
destroy the MPLA, and it had received aid from apartheid South Africa whose
invasion it joined. The U.S. asked for the South African invasion and helped
Pretoria airlift men and materiel up to the front line so the latter could
seize the capital Luanda and stop the MPLA from establishing itself as
Angola's first independent government. Before South African forces could
reach Luanda, however, Cuban troops landed there in November 1975 and beat
back the apartheid army.
The CIA spent $31.7 million on arming UNITA and the South Africans before
being shut down by Congress in 1976; U.S. aid to UNITA resumed in 1985 under
the Reagan Administration and Savimbi received $250 million between 1986 and
1991. U.S. support for Savimbi reached a record $50 million in 1989 when
George Bush Sr. became President.
As one observer put it, "Two military supply flights a day maintained a
UNITA campaign that became increasingly brutal and destructive. Savimbi...by
this time...was reduced to naked coercion. Men were forced to fight for his
army, women were dragooned into sexual slavery and peasant farmers had their
Those who challenged his authority would be accused of witchcraft and burnt
alive along with their families."
According to Human Rights Watch, UNITA forces "engaged in indiscriminate
shelling, long-term sieges that starved civilians, summary executions,
torture, mutilation of the dead, hostage-taking, and attacks on
international relief operations." The European Parliament denounced U.S. aid
to Savimbi and declared UNITA "a terrorist organization which supports South
Washington's support for Savimbi all in the name of US imperialism continued
even after the Cubans withdrew in 1991 and the U.S.S.R. collapsed. The U.S.
finally recognized the Angolan government in May 1993 under Clinton. By then
Savimbi was able to finance "his" war through illegal diamonds smuggling
with the conflict only ending after he was killed by government troops in
At the same time that it laid waste to Angola, the U.S. ensured a similar
fate for adjoining Mozambique, which also emerged from Portuguese
colonialism in 1975. Here, the U.S., again through South Africa, backed the
Mozambican National Resistance (RENAMO) "an artificial armed engine of
destruction," created by the intelligence service of the racist Ian Smith
regime of Rhodesia (now independent Zimbabwe).
Even more vicious than UNITA, RENAMO committed massive atrocities against
civilians and destroyed much of Mozambique's infrastructure in a 16-year
long civil war with the left-wing government of the Front for the Liberation
of Mozambique (FRELIMO). One million people were killed and five million
displaced by the time the war ended in 1992. In 1988, Roy Stacey, U.S.
Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, who was part of a group trying to end
Washington's backing for RENAMO, stated that the insurgents were carrying
out "one of the most brutal holocausts against ordinary human beings since
World War II."
Somalia which today is wracked by civil war and has no central government
was the top recipient (per capita) of U.S. military and economic aid in
Africa during the 1980s. Siad Barre, the country's dictator at the time, was
a key strategic ally of Washington in the Cold War and got $600 million in
Following Barre's rampage of killing and plunder, Somalia literally fell
apart. Barre's forces murdered 5,000 unarmed civilians from 1988-89 and in
1990 he was overthrown.
Similarly, Sudan today is embroiled in a 25-year old civil war that has
killed four million people. The U.S. is actively supporting the rebel
Sudanese People's Liberation Army (SPLA) against the government. However, it
has long been clear that Washington wants to keep the rebels strong enough
to prevent defeat but does not want them to become capable of toppling the
government. "Peace" a U.S. official explained, "does not necessarily suit
American interests. An unstable Sudan amounts to a stable Egypt."
Washington has fomented not only military conflict and genocide in Africa,
but also an economic holocaust through its agents the World Bank and the
IMF. The Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs) imposed by these institutions
on 36 African countries since 1980 have devastated the continent, decimating
national economies and health and education systems.
SAPs offer loans on condition that governments drastically reduce public
spending (especially on health, education and food subsidies) in favour of
repayment of debt owed to western banks, increase exports of raw materials
to the West, encourage foreign investment and privatise state enterprises;
the last two steps mean selling whatever national assets a poor country may
have to western multinational corporations.
Under SAP, sub-Saharan Africa's external debt has actually increased by more
than 500 percent since 1980, to $300 billion today. In 1997, the United
Nations Development Programme (UNDP) stated that in the absence of debt
payments, severely indebted African countries could have saved the lives of
21 million people and given 90 million girls and women access to basic
education by the year 2000. The All-African Conference of Churches has
called the debt "a new form of slavery, as vicious as the slave trade."
After twenty years of SAP, 313 million Africans lived in absolute poverty in
2001 (out of a total population of 682 million), a 63 percent increase over
the 200 million figure for 1994. Life expectancy has dropped by 15 percent
since 1980 and today is 47 years, the lowest in the world.
Forty percent of Africans suffer from malnutrition and more than half are
without safe drinking water. Health care spending in the 42 poorest African
countries fell by 50 percent during the 1980s. As a result, health care
systems have collapsed across the continent creating near catastrophic
More than 200 million Africans have no access to health services as hundreds
of clinics, hospitals and medical facilities have been closed. This has left
diseases to rage unchecked, leading most alarmingly to an AIDS pandemic.
More than 17 million Africans have died of HIV/AIDS which has created 12
Between 1986 and 1996, per capita education spending in Africa fell by 0.7
percent a year on average. Forty per cent of African children are out of
school and the adult literacy rate in sub- Saharan Africa is 60 percent,
well below the developing country average of 73 percent.
More than 140 million young Africans are illiterate. Given the annihilating
social impact of SAP all over Africa, it is not surprising that Emily
Sikazwe, director of the Zambian anti-poverty group "Women for Change,"
asked: "What would they the World Bank and the IMF say if we took them to
the World Court in The Hague and accused them of genocide?"
In 1966, a CIA-backed military coup overthrew Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana's
president. Hailed as "Africa's brightest star," Nkrumah called for an
anti-imperialist, pan-African organization and non-alignment in the Cold
War. In October 1965, Nkrumah published his famous work,
"Neo-Colonialism-The Last Stage of Imperialism" in which he accused the CIA
of being behind many of the crises in the Third World. The U.S. government
reacted by sending Nkrumah a note of protest and cancelling $35 million in
aid to Ghana. Four months later, Nkrumah was overthrown in the
IMF involvement in Ghana followed the coup and SAP was activated in 1983.
Seen as a "star pupil" by the World Bank and the IMF, Ghana privatized more
than 130 state enterprises including the mining sector (its main source of
revenue), removed tariff barriers and exchange regulations and ended
subsidies for health and education. As a result 20 percent of Ghanaians are
unemployed and the cost of food and services has gone beyond the reach of
the poor. GDP per capita was lower in 1998 ($390) than it was in 1975
($411); 78.4 percent of Ghanaians live on $1 a day and 40 percent live below
the poverty line; 75 percent have no access to health services and 68
percent none to sanitation.
The introduction of user fees for health care in 1985 combined with falling
wages and increasing poverty has reduced outpatient attendance at hospitals
by a third. As one observer put it, "Patients pay for everything; for
surgery, drugs, blood, scalpel, even the cotton wool." User fees in
education have raised the primary school dropout rate to 40 percent.
Ghana is the second largest gold producer in Africa (after South Africa) and
gold mining is the country's main source of income. SAP has compelled Ghana
to sell its gold mining sector to western multinational corporations which
now own up to 85 percent of the large-scale mining industry. More than half
of the 200 active gold concessions belong at least in part to Canadian
The corporations can repatriate up to 95 percent of their profits into
foreign accounts and pay no income tax or duties. This means that western
companies virtually monopolise Ghana's gold which contributes little to its
Just as "an unstable Sudan amounts to a stable Egypt" so an unstable,
war-wracked and poverty-stricken Africa amounts to a stable and prosperous
West. This is U.S. imperial strategy towards Africa and it has destroyed the
continent. The strategy aims at extracting the maximum amount of wealth from
Africa for the West at the lowest cost through the perpetration of a
holocaust created by eleven wars and structural adjustment programmes
imposed on 36 countries.
The wars have killed more than four million Africans and SAPs have led to an
estimated 21 million deaths; both have resulted in the transfer of hundreds
of billions of dollars to the West.
Most African exports to the West are raw materials and the wars have helped
keep their price low since the armies need to sell these for whatever money
they can get in order to buy weapons; a considerable portion of the weapons
are also bought from the West.
SAPs have transferred $229 billion in debt payments from sub-Saharan Africa
to the West since 1980. This is four times the region's 1980 debt. Like the
wars, SAPs also help keep raw material prices low by enforcing the expansion
of such exports to the West. The value of primary African exports has
dropped by about half since 1980.
Four hundred and fifty years of the slave trade and 150 years of western
colonialism in Africa helped build the U.S. and European economies;
Washington's ravaging of Africa continues this horrifying legacy and starkly
reveals the grotesqueness of the West.
**This article, reproduced and re-edited with permission, was first
published in the September 29 and October 3, 2008 editions of the Ghanaian
website, Public Agenda - www.ghanaweb.com. *
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