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The United States uses global think tank to justify policies in world conflict zones

By Jehron Muhammad | Last updated: Jun 12, 2019 - 10:35:43 AM

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A Congolese miner digs for cassiterite, the major ore of tin, at Nyabibwe mine, in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo. Increased violence and corruption in central Africa could be the result of the recent decision by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission not to enforce a rule requiring American companies to report their use of conflict minerals, warn Congolese civic groups, rights groups and U.S. senators.

Zimbabwean journalist Isdore Guvamombe, in a recent commentary titled “Africa does not need this thing called Africom,” called for the continent and its leaders to wake up and realize that the “United States and its (European) allies have crafted policies and strategies that enable them to get to the core of exploiting Africa’s resources.”

The former editor at The Herald writes those strategies depend on “military hegemony, disguised as military co-operation, through Africom and NATO.”

“These two superior military outfits are tools for penetration, conquering and … (gaining) access to (Africa’s fertile agricultural land, energy and mineral) resources,” he said.

Western powers’ unquenchable thirst for Africa’s energy and mineral resources is a matter of record. A 2007 piece in The Guardian titled, “The Scramble for Africa,” shows how little benefit Africa has historically received from its natural resources.

“With oil, gas, timber, diamonds, gold, coltan and bauxite, Africa is home of some of the largest deposits of natural resources in the world. Revenues from their extraction should provide funds for badly needed development, but instead have fuelled state corruption, environmental degradation, poverty and violence. Rather than being a blessing, Africa’s natural resources have largely been a curse,” said the article.

But the root of exploitation the world over has increasingly become the secret manipulation of information. And, once-staid think tanks have transformed into a “muscular arm of foreign governments’ lobbying in Washington.”

According to the New York Times, “More than a dozen prominent Washington research groups have received tens of millions of dollars from foreign governments in recent years while pushing United States government officials to adopt policies that often reflect the donors’ priorities.”

One such think-tank is The International Crisis Group (ICG), which describes itself as “widely regarded as the world’s leading independent, non-government source of information, analysis and advice to governments and international organizations on conflict issues.”

ICG also describes itself as committed to resolving deadly conflicts in some 70 areas of actual or potential conflict.

One research network said, if you are a policy maker concerned with questions of violent conflict and intervention in Africa, Asia, Europe, Middle East, Latin America, a practitioner in international peace building, a journalist or dedicated news consumer, committed to staying on top of the world-war related events, “then you have very likely (and unknowingly I may add) come across ICG reports, briefings, CrisisWatch bulletins or op-eds.”

A recent study produced by ICG claims the Islamic State has moved a significant portion of its operation to West Africa. According to the report, “The Islamic State in West Africa Province (ISWAP), a splinter of Boko Haram, is growing in power and influence in North eastern Nigeria. It has notched military successes and made inroads among Muslim civilians by treating them better than its parent organization and by filling gaps in governance and service delivery.”

Why does this matter asks ICG? “The resurgence of a potent jihadist force around Lake Chad means continuing conflict for Nigeria and neighboring states, as well as ongoing period for civilians caught in the crossfire.”

The military publication Stars and Stripes, in a May 19 piece titled “Islamic State group emerges as a political force in West Africa,” reads like its mouthing an ICG report. “Islamic State militants in West Africa are gaining the upper hand, carving out a ‘proto-state’ in northern Nigeria where government forces have been overwhelmed by attacks, U.S. military officials and security analysts (ICG) say,” the article said.

AFRICOM spokesperson Samantha Reho claimed, “Additionally, the group is also attempting to replace state institutions for the population under its control” in “an updated assessment of the terrorist group.”

Stars and Stripes continued, “AFRICOM’s latest threat assessment echoes the findings in a new report by the International Crisis Group, which said ISIS-West Africa has succeeded in distinguishing itself from other militant groups … .”

“What should be done?” This is a perfect opportunity for AFRICOM involvement, according to the ICG report, which recommends more military support to combat the ISIS-West Africa’s rise.

Interestingly, Nigeria’s Foreign Affairs Minister Geoffrey Onyeama, while reviewing the country’s “three year score card” concerning what was being done against the insurgency and throughout the region, never mentioned ISIS-West Africa.

He said the “conscious efforts of (Nigerian) President Muhammadu Buhari to reach out to neighboring countries have helped in the fight against Boko Haram insurgency in the country,” reported

Many published reports, including a New York Times article, “Foreign Powers Buy Influence at Think Tanks,” prove think tanks are being used to enhance foreign policy initiatives.

“I am surprised, quite frankly, at how explicit the relationship is between money paid, papers published and policy makers and politicians influenced,” said Amos Jones, a Washington lawyer who has specialized in the Foreign Agents Act, after reviewing transactions between the Norway government and Brookings, the Center for Global Development and other groups, reported the Times.

In a piece titled “The International Crisis Group: Who Pays the Piper?” Transnational Foundation for Peace and Future Research director Jan Oberg takes the think tank to task.

Oberg listed various foundations that have contracted the services of ICG. They included Rockefeller, Ford, MacArthur, the U.S. Institute for Peace (established by Ronald Reagan), Carnegie Institute, Sarlo Jewish Community Endowment Fund, Hewlett, and others.

According to Oberg, these major mainstream American policy-oriented foundations aren’t known for spending money on grants that could result “in building a knowledge base about, say, peace by peaceful means, non-violence and reconciliation.”

“Neither have they promoted studies of why violent conflict-management and so-called humanitarian interventions—e.g. Kosovo—have failed so miserably since the end of the Cold War—let alone promoted criticism of the only superpower’s (USA) reckless militarist, unilateralist policies (over) these years,” he added.

Dr. Berit Bliesemann de Guevara says “policy- makers” use research provided by ICG to “legitimize” their already established positions. A case in point is America’s war against terrorism, the alleged mobility of ISIS, and its establishment of an outpost in West Africa.

Dr. De Guevara, a researcher in peace building and the director of the Centre for the International Politics of Knowledge at the Department of International Politics, observed, “What seems especially important for the ‘impact’ is how policy-makers make use of think tank knowledge, and this can happen in different forms. Yes, they may use ICG’s knowledge to shape their views and policy preferences; yet often these are already shaped to a considerable extent, and all a think tank report is used for is to substantiate or legitimate a course of action that was already decided before.”

Guvamombe believes the development of the Southern African Development Community’s Standby Brigade “is the harbinger of realization of a long dream of the African Union to be able to deal with its troubled spots, without outside military intervention.”

Guvamombe said foreign military entities like NATO and AFRICOM’s “presence in Africa is akin to hunting with a neighbors’ dogs; they are too difficult to control.”

SADC’s initiative “to ban any deployment of foreign troops … especially under AFRICOM,” Govamombe wrote, is the “proper decision, because it prevents any kind of foreign influence on African leaders’ policies.”

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