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Politics, Protecting Resources And U.S. ‘hard’ Power In Africa

By Jehron Muhammad -Contributing Writer- | Last updated: Dec 28, 2017 - 7:55:53 AM

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(L-R) Uhuru Kenyatta, Jacob Zuma, Cyril Ramaphosa, Robert Mugabe

Africa began and ended 2017 with a controversial election in Kenya, and President Uhuru Kenyatta being re-elected while his main challenger, Raila Odinga, eventually deciding to withdraw. Elections also saw leaders like Togo’s president and head of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Faure Gnassingbe, trying to expand his time in office.

Meanwhile President Robert Mugabe’s wife, according to media sources, was widely blamed for the final downfall of one of Africa’s most revered leaders. Her effort to succeed him was blamed for pushing an already suffering Zimbabwe over the political edge, and for forcing the revolutionary leader to step down.


Closing the year, “anti-corruption candidate” Cyril Ramaphosa beat out former African Union chair Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma for the leadership of the African National Congress, South Africa’s ruling party. Hanging in the balance of the election is the future of South African President Jacob Zuma, whose ex-wife lost to the billionaire businessman.

The victory of Mr. Ramaphosa could lead to the party firing Mr. Zuma— similar to when Mr. Zuma, as head of the African National Congress fired President Thabo Mbeki. Ms. Dlamini- Zuma was thought to have the ability to give President Zuma, racked by scandals over alleged graft, including his ties to the Gupta family, possible protection from prosecution.

In North Africa, the 2011 U.S., European Union, UN and NATO overthrow of Libya’s Muammar Gadhafi and the destruction of the country came full circle in 2017. The country’s destruction has plagued much of Africa with uncontrolled migration, a forced displacement crises, and slavery in Libya.

Col. Zayed Arhoumah, a former associate of the Libyan anti-illegal immigration department, told Xinhua News, “The migration of Africans through Libya cannot be eradicated. It can only be managed and its negative effects … treated.”

CNN video revelations of slavery in Libya led to debates in the UN Security Council and a November Ivory Coast summit of African and European leaders that declared these abuses are a “abomination,” and “can no longer be ignored,” as stated by UN high commissioner for refugees Filippo Grandi.

But were the declarations of outrage really truthful?

Buying and selling of migrants are not particularly new, reported Quartz Africa. Author Simon McMahon of Coventry University wrote, “I heard (about selling and buying migrants) myself in 2015 when I was part of a research team which carried out interviews with nearly 200 people who had departed from Libya by boat, towards Italy and Malta.”

This view was confirmed by the EU’s representative for foreign affairs, Federica Mogherini, who expressed “total condemnation of these despicable acts.” She added, “This is not something that began one month ago. Everybody has known about it for years.”

Mr. McMahon writes that the primary European approach has been to “stem the flow of people departing Libya by boat.”

This is confirmed by the fact that the EU has increasingly provided funding as well as training to the Libyan coast guard and for detention centers to keep migrants on Libyan soil. These policies have reinforced the conditions they claim to want to resolve. The international medical humanitarian organization Medicines Sans Frontieres said it was “feeding the business of suffering.”

Also coming full circle in 2017 was another U.S.-sponsored failed policy that added substantially to this year’s refugee crises: the creation of Southern Sudan and the country’s subsequent civil war.

Over 30 million people, 46 percent of the world’s victims of forced displacement, are in Africa, reported Daily Nation. Displaced in the Horn of Africa are three million refugees and 4.5 million internally displaced persons. At the height of South Sudanese conflict, 2,000 refugees crossed the border daily into Uganda. Those numbers have dwindled today down to 400 daily with Uganda playing host to more than a million South Sudanese refugees, mostly women and children. In Kenya an estimated 56 percent of its 489,000 refugees are under the age of 18.

“Refugees are part and parcel” of the larger youth problem, which includes the lack of skills and high unemployment, a ticking time bomb that needs to be addressed, reported the Nation newspaper.

Many African leaders, including Ghanaian president Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo- Addo, are beginning to take steps to end the “unfair” practice of undervaluing Africa’s natural resources.

During a 2017 speech he said, Ghana and Ivory Coast, the producers of 65 percent of the world’s cocoa are only compensated $6 billion from an industry that annually is worth over $100 billion. If we turned the cocoa beans into paste, we would instantly double our earnings, said Ghana’s president. “It is time African countries are responsible for processing their own resources and managing these resources well to generate wealth for the population,” he said.

Tanzanian president John Maguful is creating a template for going after multinational companies that have historically undervalued Africa’s mineral resources while exporting and refining raw materials. Mr. Magufuli has been leading an effort to encourage mining companies to fairly compensate the country for its mineral resources, and to ensure that processing of those resources takes place within his country. He is also pushing the industry to hire Tanzanians. In addition, in March, Tanzania banned the export of unprocessed minerals.

Elected this year to chair the African Union’s anti-corruption crusade is Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari. Mr. Buhari might be the best man for bringing attention to corruption in Africa. As the president more than likely gears up for a re-election run, he has the perfect anti-corruption platform to run on, the prosecution and conviction of 1,124 corruption cases currently before Nigerian courts.

Besides attending the 72nd UN General Assembly in September and addressing its 193-member states, President Donald Trump’s only interaction with African leaders came when he hosted a luncheon that included representatives of Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, Uganda, and South Africa.

This hides America’s real interaction with Africa, which is in her little known and escalating war waged in Africa against “terrorists.” This came to light when four special operations soldiers died in an alleged ambush in Niger.

If this incident did anything, it helped reveal the U.S.-African military policy Mr. Trump inherited and appears to be continuing. The policy includes use of Africom, the U.S. military command in the Motherland, but has rarely been understood. In fact, far from abandoning this approach, according to published reports, “Trump is escalating it with relish.”

What the president and his administration appear to be doing is striping the previous policy of its soft power, reported Pambazuka News in South Africa, “to reveal and extend the iron fist which has in fact been the driving seat all along.”

To this end, Mr. Trump has increased drone strikes “removing limited restrictions made during the Obama era.” “The result has been a ramping up of civilian casualties, and consequently the resentment and hatred which fuels militant recruitment,” reported Pambuzuka. “It is unlikely to be a coincidence, for example that the al-Shabaab truck bombing that killed over 300 people in Mogadishu … was carried out by a man from a town which had suffered a major drone attack (in August) on civilians, including women and children.”