Development or Exploitation Ahead for AfricaJanuary 22, 2013
As of press time, the seizure of 40 foreign hostages at an Algerian gas field by Islamic terrorists is making international headlines. Admitting it may be “spillover” from the ongoing French military operation in Mali, the US government is confirming the use of surveillance drones to monitor the crisis and the entire scenario has raised the specter of (yet another) excuse for AFRICOM and NATO to put boots on the ground and bombs in the air in North Africa. And so dawns another day in the New World Order empire.
To say the French intervention in Mali is hypocritical is the second biggest understatement of the 21st century. The official line is that France is raining holy terror down on Mali now to smoke out the Islamic extremists who are threatening (according to the French) to overrun Africa...and perhaps Europe as well. The narrative is that at least one of the three partners in the Malian Islamist alliance—Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM)—has designated France as “a prime target for attack.” As Pepe Escobar of the Asia Times point out, however, this is the same AQIM that in 2007 merged with the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG) that France was funding, equipping, supplying, training and providing air cover for in the 2011 invasion of Libya.
To say the prospect of American intervention in Algeria to clean up the Islamist “spillover” from Mali is hypocritical is the biggest understatement of the 21st century. Keep in mind it is precisely because of the NATO-led Libyan love bombing of 2011 that AQIM is using Mali and Algeria as a base of operations. This isn't my opinion, this was the express fear that Algeria was warning about during the Libyan invasion. And, as Tony Cartalucci of the Land Destroyer Report notes, this is precisely what the Brookings Institution noted through its mouthpiece Bruce Riedel in The National Interest in August, 2011. The title of that report? “Algeria Will Be Next to Fall.” Yes, this is the same Bruce Riedel who co-authored the infamous Brookings report “Which Path to Persia?” that advocated supporting the State Department-listed terrorist organization the Mujahedin-e-Khalq (MEK) to terrorize Tehran.
Oh, and the other piece to this whole puzzle: the LFIG/AQIM that the French (and now possibly the US) are combating in Mali (and Algeria) are the self-same group that is now openly terrorizing Syria with the full aid, support and complicity of the NATO powers.
You know that feeling you get where you don't know whether to laugh at the outrageous absurdity of the hypocrisy that you're being asked to swallow or scream in outrage at it? We need a word for that. I propose we call it NATOsis.
Regardless, none of this will surprise observers of geopolitics in the age of the Global War of Terror. Nor will it surprise them to learn that Mali is Africa's third largest gold producer, is thought to have a potential 5000 tons of uranium deposits, a wealth of mineral resources, and, of course, unexplored oil and gas fields. Nor will it be difficult for anyone to surmise why the hostages in Algeria were captured on an Algerian BP natural gas field. All of this is perfectly predictable because it corresponds in every degree to the mode of neocolonial resource exploitation in Africa, a paradigm that has been in full operation for decades and is gaining steam as the scramble for African resources heats up.
As with every conflict, this resource war in Africa has two sides. On one side there are the neocolonialists of France, Britain, America and the NATO powers, with their pattern of propping up dictators and bombing countries to smithereens in order to insure their access to Africa's vast mineral wealth. On the other side is China, the world's second-largest economy and a country of 1.3 billion people that is in desperate need of an ever-expanding supply of resources to feed the gaping maw of its industrial production. In contrast to the NATO cronies, Beijing is hoping to secure long-term resource access not through the barrel of a gun, but by another time-test method: the greased handshake.
Increasing Chinese investment in Africa has not escaped the attention of Western governments over the past decade, nor has it gone unnoticed by the establishment mouthpiece press, which has dutifully portrayed such investment as a worrying development in international politics. The Chinese strategy is to seek cooperation with African leaders by exchanging infrastructure investment for access to resources. In complete contrast to the Western model—which relies on NATOsis-inducing hypocrisy about “human rights” while the atrocious actions of Western allies like Museveni and Kagame are tolerated or even encouraged—the Chinese do not concern themselves with the domestic politics of these countries at all. Whatever one thinks of these strategies from a moral point of view, it's clear that China is at a considerable strategic advantage in such a struggle. Just ask Gaddafi: he made a speech to the Oxford Students' Union in 2009 stating that China would win the competition for access to Africa's resources over the US precisely because they didn't take sides in internal political struggles. Then again, look what happened to Libya.
There are numerous examples of the Chinese model at work: the $20 billion Beijing will be loaning African governments for infrastucture and agriculture development over the next three years; China's commitment to sending medical personnel to Africa, launching training programs for African workers, and offering 18,000 scholarships to African citizens; the Chinese-funded $200 million headquarters for the African Union in Addis Ababa. The strategy is evident across much of Africa, and is already paying off: China-Africa trade has expanded to $150 billion a year and is overseen by the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC), which is forging closer ties each year.
A perfect case in point of where these two strategies collide is in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a much-neglected and war torn nation in Africa's geographical centre that happens to house trillions of dollars in untapped mineral wealth, including 30 percent of the world's diamond reserves and 80 percent of the world's coltan. Coltan is columbo-tantalite ore, essential for the production of certain electrical components used in cellphone manufacture. The ore is found in the country's eastern regions, which should surprise no one to learn is the epicenter of the Congo's war zones.
As journalist Nile Bowie points out in a detailed article on the situation, China had been steadily gaining access to Congo's mineral wealth in the first decade of the 21st century. In 2008, a deal had been struck between a consortium of Chinese companies and the DRC government, offering mining concessions in Katanga in return for a $6 billion investment in the country's infrastructure. Not surprisingly, the Washington consensus gang was having none of it: the IMF blocked the deal in 2009, claiming it broke the rules for foreign debt relief that the IMF uses to keep such governments in line. Meanwhile the US has been actively supporting, arming, training and equipping the Rwandan and Ugandan governments who have been so instrumental in fueling the conflict in the DRC in recent years.
African leaders increasingly face a stark choice: open the doors for Western business or face the gun barrel diplomacy that has wreaked such havoc in uncooperative nations like Libya and Mali. It is no wonder that so many African nations are increasingly turning to the Chinese model of infrastructure and development loans in exchange for access to markets, which is precisely why we are seeing an increasing effort in recent years to establish some sort of permanent Western military presence on the continent. From the CIA's covert operations in Somalia to NATO's love-bombing of Libya to the manipulations of the so-called Arab Spring in Egypt to France's boots on the ground in Algeria and America's increasing drone presence across the continent, it looks like 2013 will see Africa increasingly bearing the brunt of the West's military attentions.
The intimidation is obvious, but there are signs that Africa might be tiring of neocolonial business as usual, and now that there is a new player in town they are increasingly ready to test the waters with Beijing. If last year's African Union summit and FOCAC breakthroughs are anything to go by, Chinese-African cooperation will be one of the stories to watch this year. In the meantime, the world watches the war unfolding in Mali, holds its breath, and tries to stave off the NATOsis.