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The son of Africa claims a continent’s crown jewels

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On 14 October, President Barack Obama announced he was sending United States special forces troops to Uganda to join the civil war there. In the next few months, U.S. combat troops will be sent to South Sudan, Congo and Central African Republic. They will only “engage” for “self-defense”, says Obama, satirically. With Libya secured, an American invasion of the African continent is under way.

Obama’s decision is described in the press as “highly unusual” and “surprising”, even “weird”. It is none of these things. It is the logic of American foreign policy since 1945. Take Vietnam. The priority was to halt the influence of China, an imperial rival, and “protect” Indonesia, which President Nixon called “the region’s richest hoard of natural resources …the greatest prize”. Vietnam merely got in the way; and the slaughter of more than three million Vietnamese and the devastation and poisoning of their land was the price of America achieving its goal. Like all America’s subsequent invasions, a trail of blood from Latin America to Afghanistan and Iraq, the rationale was usually “self defense” or “humanitarian”, words long emptied of their dictionary meaning.

In Africa, says Obama, the “humanitarian mission” is to assist the government of Uganda defeat the Lord’s resistance Army (LRA), which “has murdered, raped and kidnapped tens of thousands of men, women and children in central Africa”. This is an accurate description of the LRA, evoking multiple atrocities administered by the United States, such as the bloodbath in the 1960s following the CIA-arranged murder of Patrice Lumumba, the Congolese independence leader and first legally elected prime minister, and the CIA coup that installed Mobutu Sese Seko, regarded as Africa’s most venal tyrant.

Obama’s other justification also invites satire. This is the “national security of the United States”. The LRA has been doing its nasty work for 24 years, of minimal interest to the United States. Today, it has few than 400 fighters and has never been weaker. However, U.S. “national security” usually means buying a corrupt and thuggish regime that has something Washington wants. Uganda’s “president-for-life” Yoweri Museveni already receives the larger part of $45 million in U.S. military “aid” – including Obama’s favorite drones. This is his bribe to fight a proxy war against America’s latest phantom Islamic enemy, the rag-tag al Shabaab group based in Somalia. The RTA will play a public relations role, distracting western journalists with its perennial horror stories.

However, the main reason the U.S. is invading Africa is no different from that which ignited the Vietnam war. It is China. In the world of self-serving, institutionalized paranoia that justifies what General David Petraeus, the former U.S. commander and now CIA director, implies is a state of perpetual war, China is replacing al-Qaeda as the official American “threat”. When I interviewed Bryan Whitman, an assistant secretary of defense at the Pentagon last year, I asked him to describe the current danger to America. Struggling visibly, he repeated, “Asymmetric threats … asymmetric threats”. These justify the money-laundering state-sponsored arms conglomerates and the biggest military and war budget in history. With Osama bin Laden airbrushed, China takes the mantle.

Africa is China’s success story. Where the Americans bring drones and destabilization, the Chinese bring roads, bridges and dams. What they want is resources, especially fossil fuels. With Africa’s greatest oil reserves, Libya under Muammar Gaddafi was one of China’s most important sources of fuel. When the civil war broke out and NATO backed the “rebels” with a fabricated story about Gaddafi planning “genocide” in Benghazi, China evacuated its 30,000 workers in Libya. The subsequent UN security council resolution that allowed the west’s “humanitarian intervention” was explained succinctly in a proposal to the French government by the “rebel” National Transitional Council, disclosed last month in the newspaper Liberation, in which France was offered 35 per cent of Libya’s gross national oil production “in exchange” (the term used) for “total and permanent” French support for the NTC. Running up the Stars and Stripes in “liberated” Tripoli last month, U.S. ambassador Gene Cretz blurted out: “We know that oil is the jewel in the crown of Libyan natural resources!”

The de facto conquest of Libya by the U.S. and its imperial partners heralds a modern version of the “scramble for Africa” at the end of the 19th century.

Like the “victory” in Iraq, journalists have played a critical role in dividing Libyans into worthy and unworthy victims. A recent Guardian front page carried a photograph of a terrified “pro-Gaddafi” fighter and his wild-eyed captors who, says the caption, “celebrate”. According to General Petraeus, there is now a war “of perception … conducted continuously through the news media”.

For more than a decade the U.S. has tried to establish a command on the continent of Africa, AFRICOM, but has been rebuffed by governments, fearful of the regional tensions this would cause. Libya, and now Uganda, South Sudan and Congo, provide the main chance. As WikiLeaks cables and the U.S. National Strategy for Counter-terrorism reveal, American plans for Africa are part of a global design in which 60,000 special forces, including death squads, already operate in 75 countries, soon to be 120. As Dick Cheney pointed out in his 1990s “defense strategy” plan, America simply wishes to rule the world.

That this is now the gift of Barack Obama, the “Son of Africa”, is supremely ironic. Or is it? As Frantz Fanon explained in Black Skin, White Masks, what matters is not so much the color of your skin as the power you serve and the millions you betray.

John Pilger is an Australian journalist and documentary maker, based in London. He has twice won Britain’s Journalist of the Year Award, and his documentaries have received academy awards in Britain and the U.S.

by John Pilger

(WWW.Johnpilger.com)

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Uganda: Minister aims to present oil bills this year

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By Elias Biryabarema

KAMPALA (Reuters) – Uganda‘s energy minister said she expects to send three petroleum bills to parliament by the end of the year as the government moves quickly to put laws in place to regulate the country’s nascent oil sector before the start of production.

Earlier in the week, President Yoweri Museveni said he would discuss a parliamentary vote to delay UK exploration company Tullow Oil‘s planned sale of stakes in local oil fields, pledging to defend the country’s interests in the case.

Earlier this week, Uganda’s parliament passed a resolution urging the government to withhold consent for Tullow‘s proposed deal with France’s Total and China’s CNOOC until laws were in place to regulate the industry.

“We’re working very hard, and we expect that by the end of this year we’ll have brought the three bills — Resource Management Bill, Revenue Management Bill and Value Addition Management Bill — to parliament,” Energy Minister Irene Muloni told a news conference on Saturday.

“The problem is that I can’t control the process thereafter. So how fast the bills will be debated and passed into law will depend on parliament, but at least on my side we’re moving very quickly.”

Last year, Tullow agreed to sell stakes in its Ugandan assets to Chinese group CNOOC and French oil company Total for $2.9 billion.

In March, Tullow said Uganda had assessed taxes of $472 million on its earnings from the sale, and it was disputing that figure. It has since begun an arbitration process before a tax appeals tribunal in Kampala.

The company, meanwhile, has been awaiting final government approval for the partnership, which would allow it to move ahead with a project to develop oil reserves.

Endorsement of the deal is expected to kick start a $10 billion investment to develop the country’s oil fields and start production.

Muloni said government officials expected to extract more favourable terms from companies in future oil deals because the discovery of oil has diminished the exploration risk for oil firms.

“Before the discovery we didn’t know what we had. We didn’t know whether we had oil or not, and for an oil company to bring in a big investment they needed stabilisation clause,” she said.

“Now we’re operating with certainty, we have the oil. So when we’re negotiating new deals, we’ll put up tough positions on the table.”

Hydrocarbon deposits were discovered along Uganda’s border with the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2006.

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