Archive | August 1st, 2018

Freedom Rider: AFRICOM is the Question

NOVANEWS
Freedom Rider: AFRICOM is the Question
Freedom Rider: AFRICOM is the Question

“They use ludicrous terms like ‘gold star family’ and make the case for continued American aggression around the world.”

The desire to be affirmed by American society has dangerous consequences for black people. This pernicious dynamic creates the inclination to worship any black face in a high place or to defend questionable activity. The death of special forces Sergeant La David Johnson in Niger is a case in point. Donald Trump’s racism and stupidity prevented him from performing the simple task of conveying appropriate condolences to Johnson’s widow. The ensuing brouhaha focuses on what Trump said in the phone call overheard by Congressional Black Caucus member Frederica Wilson.

Almost no one is asking about the fact that American troops are stationed in Africa at all. Few people realize that such a thing as the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM ) exists and that the military forces of most African nations have been under the de facto control of this country since the George W. Bush administration.

There is similar silence about the role that the United States played in bringing groups designated as terrorists into nations such as Niger and Mali. The decision to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi in Libya is directly responsible for Boko Haram and Al-Qaeda affiliate groups gaining a foothold throughout the region. Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and their NATO partners in crime were not just responsible for the deaths of thousands of Libyans, slavery in that country, and an ongoing humanitarian crisis. They are responsible for bringing state sponsored terror to the entire region.

“The military forces of most African nations have been under the de facto control of this country since the George W. Bush administration.”

Focusing on Donald Trump’s bad behavior is a sure path to confusion and accommodation. Instead of denouncing imperialism, otherwise sensible people are waving the flag and attacking Trump using right wing terminology. They use ludicrous terms like “gold star family” and make the case for continued American aggression around the world.

It is pointless to ask about the specific circumstances of Johnson’s death. He died along with three other soldiers in the murky circumstances that are to be expected in warfare. Any questions posed should be about America’s ever expanding empire and the determination to make war on as many places in the world as possible.

Black people should feel no need to validate themselves through military service or any other undertaking. As the people who have suffered through centuries of unpaid labor, Jim Crow apartheid and constant oppression, we should feel no need to uphold this system. Yet we have already proven a willingness to die for the interests of a corrupt and dangerous state. There is frankly no reason to show pride in Johnson’s death or to allow a member of the CBC to turn an important issue into nonsensical grandstanding versus Trump.

“The decision to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi in Libya is directly responsible for Boko Haram and Al-Qaeda affiliate groups gaining a foothold throughout the region.”

At this juncture in history all talk of patriotism is at best foolish and at worst a call for continued crimes and mass murder. It is also high time to end the deification of the American war dead, even when they look like us. They die because they are trying to kill other people.

Condolences to Johnson’s family are appropriate but they are also appropriate for the millions of people who lost loved ones to American empire building in Niger, Somalia, Libya, Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq. That is a short list which only includes the victims of American war crimes committed in the past 20 years.

No one should be fooled by crocodile tears from white Americans with grudges against Trump. If Sergeant Johnson had been killed by a police officer in an American city many of the same white people who now rush to call him a hero would either shrug their shoulders in indifference or applaud his death. They should not be allowed to jump on the bandwagon of fake concern because Trump is their target.

“Any questions posed should be about America’s ever expanding empire and the determination to make war on as many places in the world as possible.”

As for congresswoman Wilson, she has a golden opportunity to discuss the impact of American interventions abroad and question their rationale. But like the rest of her CBC colleagues, her interests are confined to reliance on the largesse of the Democratic Party and their corporate benefactors. Trump’s bad behavior makes him an easy target for scorn and a convenient punching bag for the useless black political class. If Wilson wants to take on the president it ought to be for more substantive reasons. Likening his boorishness to “Benghazi” uses a right wing trope for ridiculous effect.

Any discussion about Sergeant Johnson ought to point out that he was a victim of the poverty draft. Before enlisting he worked at Walmart, a sure path to continued poverty or to the dubious odds offered by the army. Trump said that Johnson “knew what he signed up for” but that is probably not true. He took a chance and hoped for the best. Unfortunately the machinations of Bush, Obama, Clinton and Trump made his choice a bad one. If the Congresswoman wants to have a debate she could start with the realities of Johnson’s life and how it ran afoul of United States foreign policy. Only then would her fight with a president be worthwhile.

Freedom Rider: AFRICOM is the Question
Freedom Rider: AFRICOM is the Question

“They use ludicrous terms like ‘gold star family’ and make the case for continued American aggression around the world.”

The desire to be affirmed by American society has dangerous consequences for black people. This pernicious dynamic creates the inclination to worship any black face in a high place or to defend questionable activity. The death of special forces Sergeant La David Johnson in Niger is a case in point. Donald Trump’s racism and stupidity prevented him from performing the simple task of conveying appropriate condolences to Johnson’s widow. The ensuing brouhaha focuses on what Trump said in the phone call overheard by Congressional Black Caucus member Frederica Wilson.

Almost no one is asking about the fact that American troops are stationed in Africa at all. Few people realize that such a thing as the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM ) exists and that the military forces of most African nations have been under the de facto control of this country since the George W. Bush administration.

There is similar silence about the role that the United States played in bringing groups designated as terrorists into nations such as Niger and Mali. The decision to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi in Libya is directly responsible for Boko Haram and Al-Qaeda affiliate groups gaining a foothold throughout the region. Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and their NATO partners in crime were not just responsible for the deaths of thousands of Libyans, slavery in that country, and an ongoing humanitarian crisis. They are responsible for bringing state sponsored terror to the entire region.

“The military forces of most African nations have been under the de facto control of this country since the George W. Bush administration.”

Focusing on Donald Trump’s bad behavior is a sure path to confusion and accommodation. Instead of denouncing imperialism, otherwise sensible people are waving the flag and attacking Trump using right wing terminology. They use ludicrous terms like “gold star family” and make the case for continued American aggression around the world.

It is pointless to ask about the specific circumstances of Johnson’s death. He died along with three other soldiers in the murky circumstances that are to be expected in warfare. Any questions posed should be about America’s ever expanding empire and the determination to make war on as many places in the world as possible.

Black people should feel no need to validate themselves through military service or any other undertaking. As the people who have suffered through centuries of unpaid labor, Jim Crow apartheid and constant oppression, we should feel no need to uphold this system. Yet we have already proven a willingness to die for the interests of a corrupt and dangerous state. There is frankly no reason to show pride in Johnson’s death or to allow a member of the CBC to turn an important issue into nonsensical grandstanding versus Trump.

“The decision to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi in Libya is directly responsible for Boko Haram and Al-Qaeda affiliate groups gaining a foothold throughout the region.”

At this juncture in history all talk of patriotism is at best foolish and at worst a call for continued crimes and mass murder. It is also high time to end the deification of the American war dead, even when they look like us. They die because they are trying to kill other people.

Condolences to Johnson’s family are appropriate but they are also appropriate for the millions of people who lost loved ones to American empire building in Niger, Somalia, Libya, Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq. That is a short list which only includes the victims of American war crimes committed in the past 20 years.

No one should be fooled by crocodile tears from white Americans with grudges against Trump. If Sergeant Johnson had been killed by a police officer in an American city many of the same white people who now rush to call him a hero would either shrug their shoulders in indifference or applaud his death. They should not be allowed to jump on the bandwagon of fake concern because Trump is their target.

“Any questions posed should be about America’s ever expanding empire and the determination to make war on as many places in the world as possible.”

As for congresswoman Wilson, she has a golden opportunity to discuss the impact of American interventions abroad and question their rationale. But like the rest of her CBC colleagues, her interests are confined to reliance on the largesse of the Democratic Party and their corporate benefactors. Trump’s bad behavior makes him an easy target for scorn and a convenient punching bag for the useless black political class. If Wilson wants to take on the president it ought to be for more substantive reasons. Likening his boorishness to “Benghazi” uses a right wing trope for ridiculous effect.

Any discussion about Sergeant Johnson ought to point out that he was a victim of the poverty draft. Before enlisting he worked at Walmart, a sure path to continued poverty or to the dubious odds offered by the army. Trump said that Johnson “knew what he signed up for” but that is probably not true. He took a chance and hoped for the best. Unfortunately the machinations of Bush, Obama, Clinton and Trump made his choice a bad one. If the Congresswoman wants to have a debate she could start with the realities of Johnson’s life and how it ran afoul of United States foreign policy. Only then would her fight with a president be worthwhile.

Posted in AfricaComments Off on Freedom Rider: AFRICOM is the Question

Recolonization of Africa by Endless War

NOVANEWS
Recolonization of Africa by Endless War
Recolonization of Africa by Endless War

“Washington is running a gruesome protection racket in Africa, simultaneously creating the conditions for armed groups to thrive while offering protection against them.”

Six years ago, on October 20th, 2011, Muammar Gaddafi was murdered, joining a long list of African revolutionaries martyred by the West for daring to dream of continental independence.

Earlier that day, Gaddafi’s hometown of Sirte had been occupied by Western-backed militias, following a month-long battle during which NATO and its “rebel” allies pounded the city’s hospitals and homes with artillery, cut off its water and electricity, and publicly proclaimed their desire to “starve [the city] into submission.” The last defenders of the city, including Gaddafi, fled Sirte that morning, but their convoy was tracked and strafed by NATO jets, killing 95 people. Gaddafi escaped the wreckage but was captured shortly afterward. I will spare you the gruesome details, which the Western media gloatingly broadcast across the world as a triumphant snuff movie. Suffice to say that he was tortured and eventually shot dead.

We now know, if testimony from NATO’s key Libyan ally, Mahmoud Jibril, is to be believed, it was a foreign agent, likely French, who delivered the fatal bullet. His death was the culmination of not only seven months of NATO aggression, but of a campaign against Gaddafi and his movement the West had been waging for over three decades.

“It was a foreign agent, likely French, who delivered the fatal bullet.”

Yet it was also the opening salvo in a new war –- a war for the military recolonization of Africa.

The year 2009, two years before Gaddafi’s murder, was a pivotal one for US-African relations. First, because China overtook the US as the continent’s largest trading partner; and second because Gaddafi was elected president of the African Union.

The significance of both for the decline of US influence on the continent could not be clearer. While Gaddafi was spearheading attempts to unite Africa politically, committing serious amounts of Libyan oil wealth to make this dream a reality, China was quietly smashing the West’s monopoly over export markets and investment finance. Africa no longer had to go cap-in-hand to the IMF for loans, agreeing to whatever self-defeating terms were on offer, but could turn to China –- or indeed Libya –- for investment. And if the US threatened to cut them off from their markets, China would happily buy up whatever was on offer. Western economic domination of Africa was under threat as never before.

The response from the West, of course, was a military one. Economic dependence on the West –- rapidly being shattered by Libya and China –- would be replaced by a new military dependence. If African countries would no longer come begging for Western loans, export markets, and investment finance, they would have to be put in a position where they would come begging for Western military aid.

“Economic dependence on the West –- rapidly being shattered by Libya and China –- would be replaced by a new military dependence.”

To this end, AFRICOM –- the US army’s new ‘African command’ –- had been launched the previous year, but humiliatingly for George W. Bush, not a single African country would agree to host its HQ; instead, it was forced to open shop in Stuttgart, Germany. Gaddafi had led African opposition to AFRICOM, as exasperated US diplomatic memos later revealed by WikiLeaks made clear. And US pleas to African leaders to embrace AFRICOM in the “fight against terrorism” fell on deaf ears.

After all, as Mutassim Gaddafi, head of Libyan security, had explained to Hillary Clinton in 2009, North Africa already had an effective security system in place, through the African Union’s “standby forces,” on the one hand, and CEN-SAD on the other. CEN-SAD was a regional security organization of Sahel and Saharan states, with a well-functioning security system, with Libya as the lynchpin. The sophisticated Libyan-led counter-terror structure meant there was simply no need for a US military presence. The job of Western planners, then, was to create such a need.

NATO’s destruction of Libya simultaneously achieved three strategic goals for the West’s plans for military expansion in Africa. Most obviously, it removed the biggest obstacle and opponent of such expansion, Gaddafi himself. With Gaddafi gone, and with a quiescent pro-NATO puppet government in charge of Libya, there was no longer any chance that Libya would act as a powerful force against Western militarism. Quite the contrary –- Libya’s new government was utterly dependent on such militarism and knew it.

“Gaddafi had led African opposition to AFRICOM.”

Secondly, NATO’s aggression served to bring about a total collapse of the delicate but effective North African security system, which had been underpinned by Libya. And finally, NATO’s annihilation of the Libyan state effectively turned the country over to the region’s death squads and terror groups. These groups were then able to loot Libya’s military arsenals and set up training camps at their leisure, using these to expand operations right across the region.

It is no coincidence that almost all of the recent terror attacks in North Africa – not to mention Manchester – have been either prepared in Libya or perpetrated by fighters trained in Libya. Boko Haram, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, ISIS, Mali’s Ansar Dine, and literally dozens of others, have all greatly benefited from the destruction of Libya.

By ensuring the spread of terror groups across the region, the Western powers had magically created a demand for their military assistance which hitherto did not exist. They had literally created a protection racket for Africa.

In an excellent piece of research published last year, Nick Turse wrote how the increase in AFRICOM operations across the continent has correlated precisely with the rise in terror threats. Its growth, he said, has been accompanied by “increasing numbers of lethal terror attacks across the continent including those in Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Tunisia.

“Boko Haram, Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, ISIS, Mali’s Ansar Dine, and literally dozens of others, have all greatly benefited from the destruction of Libya.”

In fact, data from the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism at the University of Maryland shows that attacks have spiked over the last decade, roughly coinciding with AFRICOM’s establishment. In 2007, just before it became an independent command, there were fewer than 400 such incidents annually in sub-Saharan Africa. Last year, the number reached nearly 2,000. By AFRICOM’s own official standards, of course, this is a demonstration of a massive failure. Viewed from the perspective of the protection racket, however, it is a resounding success, with US military power smoothly reproducing the conditions for its own expansion.

This is the Africa policy Trump has now inherited. But because this policy has rarely been understood as the protection racket it really is, many commentators have, as with so many of Trump’s policies, mistakenly believed he is somehow ‘ignoring’ or ‘reversing’ the approach of his predecessors. In fact, far from abandoning this approach, Trump is escalating it with relish.

What the Trump administration is doing, as it is doing in pretty much every policy area, is stripping the previous policy of its “soft power” niceties to reveal and extend the iron fist which has in fact been in the driving seat all along. Trump, with his open disdain for Africa, has effectively ended US development aid for Africa –- slashing overall African aid levels by one third, and transferring responsibility for much of the rest from the Agency for International Development to the Pentagon –- while openly tying aid to the advancement of “US national security objectives.”

In other words, the US has made a strategic decision to drop the carrot in favor of the stick. Given the overwhelming superiority of Chinese development assistance, this is unsurprising. The US has decided to stop trying to compete in this area, and instead to ruthlessly and unambiguously pursue the military approach which the Bush and Obama administrations had already mapped out.

“Terror attacks have spiked over the last decade, roughly coinciding with AFRICOM’s establishment. In 2007.”

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

Indeed, a detailed study by the United Nations recently concluded that in “a majority of cases, state action appears to be the primary factor finally pushing individuals into violent extremism in Africa.” Of more than 500 former members of militant organizations interviewed for the report, 71 percent pointed to “government action,” including “killing of a family member or friend” or “arrest of a family member or friend” as the incident that prompted them to join a group. And so the cycle continues: drone attacks breed recruitment, which produces further terror attacks, which leaves the states involved more dependent on US military support. Thus does the West create the demand for its own “products.”

It does so in another way as well. Alexander Cockburn, in his book Kill Chain, explains how the policy of ‘targeted killings’ –- another Obama policy ramped up under Trump –- also increases the militancy of insurgent groups. Cockburn, reporting on a discussion with US soldiers about the efficacy of targeted killings, wrote that: “When the topic of conversation came round to ways of defeating the [roadside] bombs, everyone was in agreement. They would have charts up on the wall showing the insurgent cells they were facing, often with the names and pictures of the guys running them,” Rivolo remembers. “When we asked about going after the high-value individuals and what effect it was having, they’d say, ‘Oh yeah, we killed that guy last month, and we’re getting more IEDs than ever.’ They all said the same thing, point blank: ‘[O]nce you knock them off, a day later you have a new guy who’s smarter, younger, more aggressive and is out for revenge.”’

Alex de Waal has written how this is certainly true in Somalia, where, he says, “each dead leader is followed by a more radical deputy. After a failed attempt in January 2007, the US killed Al Shabaab’s commander, Aden Hashi Farah Ayro, in a May 2008 air strike. Ayro’s successor, Ahmed Abdi Godane (alias Mukhtar Abu Zubair), was worse, affiliating the organization with Al-Qaeda. The US succeeded in assassinating Godane in September 2014. In turn, Godane was succeeded by an even more determined extremist, Ahmad Omar (Abu Ubaidah). It was presumably Omar who ordered the recent attack in Mogadishu, the worst in the country’s recent history. If targeted killing remains a central strategy of the War on Terror”, De Waal wrote, “it is set to be an endless war.”

“Endless war undermines China’s blossoming relationship with Africa.”

But endless war is the whole point. For not only does it force African countries, finally freeing themselves from dependence on the IMF, into dependence on AFRICOM; it also undermines China’s blossoming relationship with Africa.

Chinese trade and investment in Africa continues to grow apace. According to the China-Africa Research Initiative at John Hopkins University, Chinese FDI stocks in Africa had risen from just two percent of the value of US stocks in 2003 to 55 percent in 2015, when they totaled $35 billion. This proportion is likely to rapidly increase, given that “Between 2009 and 2012, China’s direct investment in Africa grew at an annual rate of 20.5 percent, while levels of US FDI flows to Africa declined by $8 billion in the wake of the global financial crisis”. Chinese-African trade, meanwhile, topped $200 billion in 2015.

China’s signature ‘One Belt One Road’ policy –- to which President Xi Jinping has pledged $124 billion to create global trade routes designed to facilitate $2 trillion worth of annual trade –- will also help to improve African links with China. Trump’s policy toward the project was summarized by Steve Bannon, his ideological mentor, and former chief strategist in just eight words: “Let’s go screw up One Belt One Road.” The West’s deeply destabilizing Africa policy –- of simultaneously creating the conditions for armed groups to thrive while offering protection against them – goes some way toward realizing this ambitious goal. Removing Gaddafi was just the first step.

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Buffalo Soldiers Go To Africa

NOVANEWS
Buffalo Soldiers Go To Africa
Buffalo Soldiers Go To Africa

“The last thing any African in the US wants or needs is the prospect of death in pursuit of a corporate agenda in Africa.”

In black barbershops across the U.S. where old school brothers talk trash about sports and beg young bloods to either comb or shave the tops of their nappy fades, there may be little knowledge of goings-on in Africa. There is however concern and bewilderment in those shops about the death of Sgt. La David T. Johnson in Niger last month.

America’s African community is drenched with its own blood, spilled during military conflicts instigated by an empire that uses soldiers drawn from the ranks of the poor and communities of color as cannon fodder. Like the Buffalo Soldiers who were ordered to kill Indians, Johnson is but the latest to be used and killed for an agenda his people did not set. In 1965 almost 25 percent of those who died in combat in Vietnam were African-descended soldiers. In 2003 blacks accounted for nearly 20 percent of deaths in Iraq. But the poignancy and special tragedy of Johnson’s death is that it occurred in Africa, the young man’s ancestral homeland. Not only is this fact not lost on the brothers in the barbershop, the Pentagon must also have long been concerned about the implications of sending latter-day Buffalo Soldiers to Africa.

“The first person appointed to head AFRICOM was Kip Ward, a black man.”

When U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) was established nearly a decade ago, the optics of the U.S. expanding its military presence in Africa must certainly have been a primary concern. Consider the evidence. The first person appointed to head AFRICOM was Kip Ward, a black man. Also, there were determined but unsuccessful efforts made to persuade any country to host AFRICOM headquarters in Africa rather than its ultimate location in Germany. Finally, the unstated objective of AFRICOM appears to be avoidance of U.S. casualties by training and directing Africa’s armies to act as proxies that carry out combat missions to ensure that Africa remains stable and conducive to the exploitative operations of major western corporations. For that reason great care has been taken to ensure that AFRICOM is not perceived as paternalistic. Specifically, the military forces of African countries are referred to as “partners” to incorrectly imply an equal relationship between the U.S. and African governments.

The nightmare scenario for AFRICOM is that U.S. soldiers of African descent and the communities from whence they come will not only see through the illusion and become aware of how they are being used as pawns, but they will also sympathize and empathize with some of the people who have been targeted by AFRICOM operations. For example, in the early years of the 21st Century when militant activists in Nigeria fought against environmental catastrophes caused by western oil corporations by sabotaging oil company operations and driving down profits, the creation of AFRICOM followed in short order. Because Africans everywhere can understand real people who struggle against oil companies and other multi-national corporations, AFRICOM obfuscates its true aims and claims that it is fighting only “terrorists.”

“The nightmare scenario for AFRICOM is that U.S. soldiers of African descent sympathize and empathize with some of the people who have been targeted by AFRICOM operations.”

As AFRICOM has increased the presence of U.S. military forces in impoverished and exploited regions of Africa, it has likely made areas that had little to no terrorist activity increasingly attractive territories for terrorist recruitment. Be it al-Qaeda, ISIS or some other group, some experts believe it is much easier when U.S. soldiers are actually lurking nearby for terrorist groups to persuade poor communities that the source of their misery is the U.S. This was the last lesson that Sgt. Johnson and three other U.S. soldiers learned when, according to reports, non-combatant villagers likely set them up for the attack that ended their lives.

While AFRICOM might point to the killings of the four soldiers as another justification for its construction of a major drone base in Niger, others can, with good reason, suggest that fighting terrorists for the sake of fighting terrorists is not the primary purpose of that base. The base is located in Agadez, which is a few hours away from the town of Arlit, where French companies conduct major uranium mining operations. France is the United States’ primary partner in imperialist crime in Africa, and logic suggests the drone base is to protect uranium mining operations and not Africa’s people from terrorists. This means that if Sgt. Johnson’s mission was to build support among the locals for the drone base it is likely that he tragically gave his life for imperialist access to Africa’s uranium.

“The drone base is to protect uranium mining operations and not Africa’s people from terrorists.”

America’s African community has the capacity to resist the U.S. militarization of Africa by simply refusing to participate. Between the years 2000 and 2007 black enlistment in the U.S. military declined by 58 percent. The military’s own studies showed that the unpopularity of the Iraq war was the primary reason for this development. One young would-be recruit referenced the Hurricane Katrina disaster and said: “Why should we go over there and help [Iraqis] when the [U.S. government] can’t help us over here?” He added that the war is unnecessary. “It’s not our war. We got our own war here, just staying alive.”

The war to stay alive in America has not abated, and the last thing any African in the U.S. wants or needs is the prospect of death in pursuit of a corporate agenda in Africa. Building greater awareness of AFRICOM’s reality will ultimately cause young Africans born and living in the U.S. to decline invitations to follow the tragic path walked by Sgt. La David T. Johnson.

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The American War Machine Is Already on the Death March Across the African Continent

NOVANEWS
The American War Machine Is Already on the Death March Across the African Continent
The American War Machine Is Already on the Death March Across the African Continent

Fleets of white Toyota trucks arrived in the desert to carry refugees and drugs to Europe and to bring weapons into central and western Africa.”

On October 4th, U.S. military personnel were on their way back to their forward operating base in Niger. They had been on a reconnaissance mission to the village of Tongo Tongo, near Niger’s border with Mali. US Joint Chiefs Chairman General Joseph Dunford says that fifty ISIS fighters ambushed them. The soldiers did not call for air support for the first hour, said General Dunford, thinking perhaps that they could handle the attack. By the time the drones came along with French fighter aircraft, ISIS had disappeared.

 

Tongo Tongo is in the middle of a belt that is ground zero for the illicit trade that defines the Sahara. West of Tongo Tongo is Gao (Mali) and to its east is Agadez (Niger). These are the main ports for South American cocaine, flown in on various kinds of aircraft (Air Cocaine, as they are called) and then driven across the Sahara Desert in trucks to be taken by small boats across the Mediterranean Sea into Europe. Evidence of the cocaine trade is everywhere – whether in Gao’s neighborhood known as Cocaine Bougou or in the nickname of one of the leading chiefs in Agadez – Cherif Ould Abidine – known as Cherif or Mr. Cocaine.

“Evidence of the cocaine trade is everywhere.”

Cocaine is one dramatic commodity. There are others: refugees and guns. This belt of towns just below the Sahara played a historic role as caravanserais for the old trades in gold, salt and weaponry. The creation of nation-states closed off some of these routes. In particular, Libya — under the previous regime of Muammar Gaddafi — largely shut down the illicit commerce from Mali and Niger. NATO’s war against Libya, which created chaos in that country, opened these routes up. Fleets of white Toyota trucks arrived in the desert to carry refugees and drugs to Europe and to bring weapons into central and western Africa. The trucks run from Agadez to Sabha (Libya) before they find their way to the port cities. There are several kinds of refugees — the adventurers (les aventuriers), many single young men who are leaving behind deserts of opportunity for Europe, and war refugees. Both are desperate, fodder in the hands of the smugglers who must get them — and the drugs — across the forbidding sands.

Firmly opposed to the refugee traffic across the Mediterranean, the European Union (EU) has joined hands with governments in Niger and elsewhere to make this southern border of the Sahara their frontier. Niger passed a draconian law in 2015 against smuggling. The EU provided funds to Niger’s military and police, which have started an all-out war against the smugglers. In 2016, Niger arrested over a hundred smugglers and confiscated their vehicles. People in towns like Agadez, a World Heritage site for its beautiful red buildings, say openly that they are vulnerable to extremist groups. There are many to chose from — al-Qaeda in southern Mali and southern Algeria, ISIS in southern Libya and Boko Haram in northern Nigeria and into areas near Lake Chad. No wonder that the United States calls the belt from Mali through Niger the “ring of insecurity.”

“The smugglers are abandoning the refugees at the first sign of trouble in the dangerous desert.”

It is notable that the pressure on the traffickers has not decreased the terrible situation for the refugees and the “adventurers.” They continue to come for reasons that have nothing to do with an open border or a closed border. But the new military presence has meant — as the International Organization of Migration says — that the smugglers are abandoning the refugees at the first sign of trouble in the dangerous desert. The United Nations has rescued over a thousand abandoned refugees and many hundreds are said to have died along this route. The Nigerien Red Cross says that one group of forty refugees died in May when their truck broke down. It is legible to believe that the death count will never really be known as the European border moves south, from the northern edge of the Mediterranean to the southern edge of the Sahara.

Five hours drive north of Agadez is the town of Arlit, one of the key sources of uranium. Readers might remember that the United States had accused Saddam Hussein’s government of procuring yellowcake uranium from Niger. This turned out to be a hoax, uncovered by Ambassador Joe Wilson when he went to Niger and met its former Prime Minister Ibrahim Assane Mayaki. The accusation against Iraq was false, but the Arlit mines are real. The town is a fortress of European mining companies, from Niger’s own government company to a series of French firms, most prominently Areva. The road out of Arlit is known as Uranium Highway. It is this road that was used by al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb when it came and kidnapped five French employees of an Areva mine in 2010. The Areva mines were also attacked by a car bomb in 2013. French Special Forces operate to protect these mines and the close to two thousand Europeans who live in this uranium town. “One of every three light bulbs is lit thanks to Nigerien uranium,” noted Oxfam in 2013. It is too precious for the French to be ignored. That is why France’s Operation Barkhane runs from across the Sahel, from Mauritania at one end to Chad at the other. It has its headquarters in Chad’s capital of N’Djamena.

“Arlit is a fortress of European mining companies.”

The French are not alone. The Americans not only have thousands of troops across Africa, but also have many bases. The most public base is in Djibouti (Camp Lemonier), but there are also bases in Ethiopia and Kenya as well as forward operating positions across the Sahel. The United States is also building a massive base at the cost of $100 million in Agadez. Air Base 201 will be mainly a drone base, with the MQ9 Reapers flown out of Agadez to collect intelligence in this resource-rich and poverty-stricken area. This base is being constructed in plain sight. It is, therefore, surprising to hear Senator Lindsey Graham — who is on the Committee on Armed Services — say, “I didn’t know there were 1000 troops in Niger.” He meant US troops.

There has been no evidence presented to the public that those who killed the US forces near Tongo Tongo were from ISIS. Privately US intelligence officials say that this is a guess. They are not sure about the combatants. In fact, US Africa Command (AFRICOM) officials concur, saying that it is “inappropriate” to speculate about the incident and those who attacked the US forces.

There is a particularly dangerous soup at work here. Certainly extremist groups operate in the region, such as the militants who freed over a hundred prisoners from a prison in Mopti (in central Niger). The dreadful desiccation of the Sahel has produced various feuds amongst herder communities in eastern Niger, where these have morphed into ethnic conflicts (and where certain groups — such as the Mohamid and Peuls — have used the opportunity to accuse the Boudouma of being, therefore, part of Boko Haram). Such opportunism was frequently used in Afghanistan, where tribes used American airpower to settle scores with their old adversaries (to blame someone for being Taliban was sufficient to call in an air strike).

“The United States is also building a massive base at the cost of $100 million in Agadez.”

The root causes of the conflicts are the same as elsewhere: environmental destruction, joblessness, war and the commodities (such as Cocaine and Uranium) that are essential to the West. None of this will be addressed. More troops will arrive in Niger. More destruction will follow. More sorrow. More anger. More war.

There will be no interest in the newly formed North African Network for Food Sovereignty (formed in Tunis on July 5th) and in its sensible charter of demands. Nor will there be any reflection on the assassination of hope for the Sahel, when Thomas Sankara — president of Burkina Faso — was killed thirty years ago on October 15th. “We must dare to invent the future,” said Sankara. What is before us from the American and French Special Forces and the militaries of Niger and Chad is not the future. It is wretched.

Posted in AfricaComments Off on The American War Machine Is Already on the Death March Across the African Continent

AFRICOM – Staggering But Not Yet Down For The Count

NOVANEWS
AFRICOM - Staggering But Not Yet Down For The Count
AFRICOM – Staggering But Not Yet Down For The Count

“The AFRICOM serpent has spent more than a decade slithering into almost every African country and establishing a venomous presence.”

Even though Donald Trump thinks Africa is a “shit hole” the continent forced its way into his life anyway in October when four U.S. soldiers were killed in Niger. After Trump deflected blame to others and made a soldier’s widow cry, he apparently returned quickly to his fantasies about boatloads of Norwegian immigrants swarming Ellis Island.

The military establishment was not so quick to change the subject. Their detailed investigation of the Niger matter has produced what is reported to be a damning assessment of the capacity of the U.S. military to carry out its imperialist agenda in Africa. The rest of us aren’t allowed to read it yet because, as the New York Times explained: “…public release has been delayed until General [Thomas] Waldhauser [head of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM)] appears before the Senate Armed Services Committee to present the command’s annual ‘posture hearing,’ scheduled for the last week of February.”

The New York Times goes on to say: “Defense officials said that the delay in part aims to keep senators from focusing on the Niger ambush during the hearing and, in turn, excoriating General Waldhauser when he testifies before the committee.” The convenient temporary suppression of the report will allow the General to present senators with the usual upbeat AFRICOM propaganda about U.S. soldiers digging wells and bringing medicine to downtrodden African villagers while giving friendly advice to African armies about how to fight terrorism.

“The convenient temporary suppression of the report will allow the General to present senators with the usual upbeat AFRICOM propaganda.”

Findings about failures of the campaign to militarize Africa are welcome news after the AFRICOM serpent has spent more than a decade slithering into almost every African country and establishing a venomous presence. Even better news is that the study reportedly “…calls for the Pentagon to scale back the number of ground missions in West Africa, and to strip commanders in the field of some authority to send troops on potentially high-risk patrols.”

With respect to the military deaths in Niger, the New York Times noted: “…[T]he ambush has exposed holes in the argument that the Pentagon has made under three different administrations: that in many far-flung places, American troops are not actually engaged in combat, but just there to train, advise and assist local troops.” Not only is the U.S. military engaged in combat, it has also formed an unholy alliance with France that gives both countries the opportunity to wreak havoc in Africa tag-team style. For example, in 2012 when one of Mali’s soldiers, who had been trained by AFRICOM, staged a coup that displaced Mali’s democratically elected government, the French military stepped in to try to clean up the mess.

“The study calls for the Pentagon to scale back the number of ground missions in West Africa, and to strip commanders in the field of some authority to send troops on potentially high-risk patrols.”

The U.S. has also had France’s back. State Department documents show that while Muammar Gadhafi lived, France coveted Libya’s oil and wanted desperately to stop plans to create a Pan-African currency backed by Libyan gold. In an effort to satisfy French desires, the U.S. stepped in and did the dirty work of arming vicious Libyan racists and terrorists who, in turn, not only committed a grisly assassination of Gadhafi, but also began a campaign of genocide against blacks in Libya.

In Niger, when French uranium mining operations in Arlit and a military installation in Agadez were attacked in 2013, the U.S. military stepped in, and its continuing involvement there eventually cost the lives of four U.S. soldiers last year. A Guardian article about the 2013 attacks said: “The militants vowed to hit any country that helped France…” Someone apparently made good on that threat.

Meanwhile, U.S. politicians claim they are clueless. Senator Lindsey Graham said: “I didn’t know there were 1,000 troops in Niger. This is an endless war without boundaries, no limitation on time or geography. We don’t know exactly where we’re at in the world militarily and what we’re doing.” Even though Donald Trump is probably less informed than Graham, his administration not only increased the number of drone strikes in Somalia, but also removed limits on drone strikes and commando raids that Barack (The King of Drones) Obama established in 2013.

“The U.S. has formed an unholy alliance with France that gives both countries the opportunity to wreak havoc in Africa tag-team style.”

Nevertheless, AFRICOM itself may already be downsizing. Lauren Ploch, a Congressional Research Service Africa analyst commented: “AFRICOM’s security cooperation spending was down in 2017 from the previous few years.” If the recently completed report on U.S. military engagement in Niger has the expected impact, the U.S. military presence in Africa will be scaled back even more — at least temporarily. But because the long-term interests of the U.S. Empire demand the continuing western capitalist domination of the African continent, the generals and strategists will no doubt huddle and figure out a more effective way to sell the AFRICOM idea, and it will return.

A temporarily scaled-back AFRICOM will present a window of opportunity that will probably close quickly. Those who want to prevent the further military domination of Africa must therefore make haste to do whatever possible to ensure that an already disintegrating AFRICOM project crumbles into dust and is swept away forever by African desert winds.

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Ghana Opposition Against AFRICOM Deal

NOVANEWS
Ghana Opposition Against AFRICOM Deal
Ghana Opposition Against AFRICOM Deal

“There is little discrepancy in the 2018 agreement ratified in Parliament and those signed under regimes headed by ex-President Jerry John Rawlings and Hannah Tetteh.”

A leader of the second largest political party in the West African state of Ghana, the Deputy Secretary General of the National Democratic Congress (NDC) Koku Anyidoho, was arrested on 27 March 2018 after making comments about the New Patriotic Party (NPP) government of current President Nana Akufo-Addo.

Anyidoho, in an interview over a national radio network Happy FM, severely criticized a military agreement between Ghana and the United States, which would in essence establish a Pentagon base inside the country. This decision was initiated by the executive branch of the government and approved by Parliament on 23 March 2018.

Opposition members of Parliament who opposed the character of the deal walked out of the legislative branch prior to the vote. The agreement has generated controversy leading to demonstrations in its aftermath. The NDC, a centrist-left organization, is the main opposition party in the Ghanaian Parliament.

The NDC Deputy Secretary General said that if the deal was not revoked there should be a political coup against the NPP regime. Immediately the Criminal Investigations Department opened an inquiry into the statements by Anyidoho. He was later taken into custody and spent two nights in detention under the authority of the Bureau of National Investigations.

“Opposition members of Parliament who opposed the character of the deal walked out of the legislative branch prior to the vote.”

Anyidoho was targeted during a joint press conference called by various opposition parties in Ghana. An article published by a news source inside the country said: “He was picked up at the International Press Centre in Accra today (27 March) during a press conference by a group of opposition political parties known as the Inter-Party Coalition for National Sovereignty, who are kicking against the Ghana-US Defense Cooperation agreement ratified by Parliament last Friday (March 23). The group comprises the People’s National Convention [PNC], the National Democratic Congress [NDC], the Convention People’s Party [CPP], the Progressive People’s Party [PPP], and the All People’s Congress [APC]. The press conference was attended by a number of the parties’ top officials including NDC’s General Secretary Johnson Asiedu Nketia, Hassan Ayariga of the APC and Bernard Mornah, PNC Chairman, who condemned the invasion of the press conference to arrest Ayidoho, saying it was an attempt to silence them and a threat to freedom of speech.”

Akufo-Addo’s NPP represents the political heirs of the forces who opposed the Pan-Africanist Kwame Nkrumah and the Convention People’s Party (CPP), which led the national liberation struggle that won independence from the British in 1957. In July 1960, Nkrumah became president of the First Republic just three years in the wake of independence.

After the US-engineered coup against the Nkrumah government on 24 February 1966, a military and police regime known as the National Liberation Council served for two years until elections were held in 1968 which brought to power the conservative pro-western elements which had always opposed the anti-imperialist and socialist policies of the Nkrumaist forces. A number of additional military interventions in Ghana politics occurred during the 1970s and early 1980s.

“Opposition parties said the arrest was an attempt to silence them and a threat to freedom of speech.”

Akufo-Addo, whose father was former Supreme Court Judge Edward Akufo-Addo, served as president of the Second Republic of Ghana between December 1970 and January 1972. The Second Republic was overthrown in a military coup by General Ignatius Kutu Acheampong.

Nana Akufo-Addo was elected as president in late 2016 amid worsening economic conditions in Ghana during this period. The situation was not an isolated one where with the decline of commodity prices on the international market prompted many emerging states into recession when the prices of oil, natural gas, strategic minerals and agricultural products dropped precipitously as a direct result of US foreign policy under the administration of President Barack Obama.

Strikes broke out in Ghana during 2014-2015 when oil workers, physicians, railway employees, educators and others were not able to secure adequate salary increases while the national currency, the cedi, declined in its real value. Similar developments occurred in the Federal Republic of Nigeria, the Republic of South Africa and the Republic of Angola, all of which are leading states on the continent.

Opposition alliance and mass demonstrations

Although there have been two previous military agreements with the US government in 1998 and 2015, the announcement about the enhanced deployment of Pentagon troops has set off a firestorm. Ghana is a strategically located state, which has agricultural (cocoa), mineral (gold) and energy (oil) resources, which are being produced and exported on the international market.

Peacefmonline.com noted that documents in its possession revealed that the NDC government under former President Jerry Rawlings in 1998 and the previous administration of President John Mahama, also of the NDC, had both signed military agreements with the Pentagon. Therefore, this media outlet surmised that the NDC was being hypocritical in their opposition to the most recent deal signed by the NPP.

This news agency says: “Peacefmonline.com has in its possession copies of a 1998 agreement signed by the Rawlings government with the USA; and also, an Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement entered into by Ghana and the United States in 2015 signed by then Minister of Foreign Affairs under the erstwhile Mahama regime, Hannah Tetteh. A quick read through both documents (the 1998/2015 agreements) show little discrepancy in the 2018 agreement ratified in Parliament and those signed under the NDC 1 and 3 regimes headed by ex-President Jerry John Rawlings and Hannah Tetteh, respectively on the blind side of Ghana.” [1]

In the aftermath of the approval of the March 2018 military deal with the Pentagon, opposition parties formed a Ghana First Patriotic Front (GFPF) to agitate against the incursion by the United States African Command (AFRICOM) and the policies of the NPP administration. Official government statements have denied that the character of the agreement between Washington and Accra jeopardizes the sovereignty of Ghana as an independent nation.

“There have been escalating clashes between Special Forces and local elements labeled as terrorists in Somalia and Niger.”

However, the US military has sought to spread its presence and influence throughout Africa over the last decade since the administration of former President George W. Bush. AFRICOM was formed under Bush in February 2008 and was expanded through the Obama administration. Since President Donald Trump has taken office more Pentagon and Central Intelligence Agency personnel have been deployed in Africa. There have been escalating clashes between Special Forces and local elements labeled as terrorists in Somalia and Niger.

A base of at least 4,000 Pentagon troops is stationed at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa. In Somalia at least one Pentagon soldier was killed in combat operations last year. During October 2017, four US Green Berets were slain in a battle in Niger, also in West Africa. No concrete explanation has been provided as to the actual circumstances surrounding the deaths of these elite combatants.

Many Ghanaians want to avoid an escalation of violence within their country. Some have said that the mere existence of US soldiers on their soil will invite attacks against the armed representatives of Washington.

On 28 March thousands took to the streets of Accra to denounce the military agreement with the Trump administration. According to one report: “A number of opposition politicians have joined in the demonstration, which started from the Kwame Nkrumah Circle and headed towards central Accra. Former Vice-President, Paa Kwesi Amissah Arthur and others who have declared interest in running for National Democratic Congress presidential candidacy, including Ekwow Spio-Garbrah, Sylvester Mensah and Joshua Alabi as well as parliamentarians Samuel Richard Quashigah, Okudzeto Ablakwa, James Kludze Avedzi and Rockson Dafeamekpor are all participating. Hassan Ayariga of the All Peoples Congress, Bernard Mornah, Chairman of the People’s National Convention, Socialist Forum convener Kwesi Pratt Jnr. and Bede Ziedin are among participants. Some of the participants in the Ghana First demonstration are bearing placards saying “Ghana not for sale,” “Ghana is better than US $20 million,” and “Why would you betray Ghana for money,” among others.

Founder of Ghana was removed for anti-imperialist stance

During the 1960s under the leadership of Kwame Nkrumah, the CPP categorically opposed US military intervention in Africa. Nkrumah in his book entitled Africa Must Unite, published in May 1963 at the founding of the Organization of African Unity in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, emphasized that there was no need for imperialist military bases in Africa.

Nkrumah was targeted by the former administration of the-then President Lyndon Johnson due to his anti-imperialist, socialist and Pan-Africanist politics. His 1965 book, Neo-Colonialism: The Last Stage of Imperialism, attracted the ire of the US, which issued a letter of protest through the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs G. Mennen Williams. Just a few months after the publication of the book, which identified US imperialism as the major impediment to the development, and unity of Africa, Nkrumah was overthrown in a coup while he was out of the country on a peace mission involving the occupation war of genocide in Vietnam waged by Washington for many years.

Today Ghana is the focus of Washington’s military interests. Consequently, it will take a mass movement operating on behalf of the people of the nation that can defeat these attempts to spread the tentacles of imperialism throughout the continent.

Irrespective of the subtleties of the various characters of US military presence in Africa it is only designed to facilitate the centuries-long exploitation and oppression of the people. The legitimate security and economic interests of Ghana and Africa as a whole will only be realised through the collective efforts of the masses themselves.

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Drones in the Sahara

NOVANEWS
Drones in the Sahara
Drones in the Sahara

“American, Italian, German, and French military forces are active in the country, and if any one of them makes a mistake, they can all become targets for retribution.”

Late in the morning of October 4 last year, a convoy of Nigerien and American special forces soldiers in eight vehicles left the village of Tongo Tongo. As they made their way between mud-brick houses with thatched roofs, they were attacked from one side by dozens of militants, if not hundreds. Outnumbered and outgunned, the Nigeriens and Americans fled, some on foot, running for cover behind trees and clusters of millet, their boots caked in the light brown earth. By the time the fighting was over, five Nigeriens and four Americans were killed, their bodies left naked in the bush after the militants took their uniforms.

The news went straight to the front pages in the United States and sparked a conflict between the family of one of the soldiers and President Donald Trump, after the president made insensitive remarks during a condolence call to the soldier’s widow. But the story also spread like wildfire throughout Niger, where the big news wasn’t so much that American soldiers had been killed, but that Americans soldiers were fighting in the country in the first place.

“I was surprised to learn that Americans had died in the Tongo Tongo attack,” Soumana Sanda, the leader of an opposition party in the Nigerien Parliament and taekwondo champion, told me in an interview in his pristine and sparsely decorated office in Niamey, the country’s quiet capital on the banks of the Niger River. “That was the moment I found out, as a Nigerien, as a member of parliament, as a representative of the people, that there is indeed (an American) base with ground operations.”

“The big news wasn’t so much that American soldiers had been killed, but that Americans soldiers were fighting in the country in the first place.”

It was the same on the street. Moussa, a middle-aged man who sells children’s textbooks and novels on a busy corner in Niamey, captured the feelings of many I talked with. “We were surprised,” he said. “For us, this is another form of colonization.” Out of apprehension that he could get in trouble for voicing his views openly, he declined to give his last name.

In fact, U.S. Special Operations forces have been in Niger since at least 2013 and are stationed around the country on forward operating bases with elite Nigerien soldiers. What happened in Tongo Tongo is just a taste of the potential friction and instability to come, because the pièce de resistance of American military engagement in Niger is a $110 million drone base the U.S. is building about 450 miles northeast of Niamey in Agadez, a city that for centuries has served as a trade hub on the southern edge of the Sahara Desert, not far from Mali, Algeria, Libya and Chad. In January, I hopped aboard an aging plane that followed a roundabout route to one of America’s largest-ever military investments in Africa, its latest battleground in an opaque, expensive, and counterintuitive war on the continent.

Flying into Agadez requires a tour around Niger’s countryside. I boarded a 30-year-old Fokker 50 propeller plane that is owned by Palestinian Airlines and leased to state-owned Niger Airlines with a Palestinian crew. After stopping in the southern cities of Zinder and Maradi, we descended on Agadez, its rectangles and triangles of compounds and dirt roads forming a mosaic, with the surrounding reddish beige of the desert stretching out in all directions as far as the eye can see.

The pièce de resistance of American military engagement in Niger is a $110 million drone base the U.S. is building about 450 miles northeast of Niamey in Agadez.”

On the southeast edge of the civilian airport, accessible by tracks in the sand used mainly to exit the town, is Nigerien Air Base 201, or in common parlance “the American base.” The base, scheduled for completion in late 2018, is technically the property of the Nigerien military, though it is paid for, built, and operated by Americans. It is being constructed on land formerly used by Tuareg cattle-herders. So far, there is one large hangar, ostensibly where the drones could be housed, a runway under construction, and dozens of smaller structures where soldiers live and work.

The air strip will be large enough for both C-17 transport planes and MQ-9 Reaper armed drones, as The Intercept’s Nick Turse found out in 2016 . A Nigerien military commander with direct knowledge of the base, who asked not to be named because he is not authorized to speak to the press, told me that it will be mainly used to surveil militants like Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, Al Mourabitoun, Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa, and local Islamic State affiliates including Boko Haram, which operate in border zones in neighboring countries. The U.S. currently flies drones out of an airport in Niamey, but those operations will be shifted to Agadez once the new base is completed.

American Special Forces operate separately from the drone base, which is run by the Air Force. The Green Berets are on the ground “training” Niger’s special forces and carrying out capture missions with them from the outposts of Ouallam near the Malian border, Aguelal near the Algerian border, Dirkou along the main transport routes between Niger and Libya, and Diffa, along the southeastern border with Nigeria and Chad, according to the same Nigerien commander. I’ve actually seen them at the Diffa base, a prominent local journalist has seen them at Dirkou, and I spoke to a person who worked at the Aguelal base.

When asked to confirm the American presence in those areas of Niger, U.S. Africa Command spokesperson Samantha Reho replied, “I cannot provide a detailed breakdown of the locations of our service members in Niger due to force protection and operational security limitations. With that said, I can confirm there are approximately 800 Department of Defense personnel (military, civilian, and contractor) currently working in Niger, making that country the second-highest concentration of DoD people across the continent, with the first being in Djibouti at Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa.”

The U.S. is just one of several Western militaries that have established and strengthened military ties to Niger over the past few years. France has had soldiers in the country since 2013, when it launched Opération Serval in neighboring Mali. In 2015, France reopened a colonial fort in Madama, close to the border with Libya — unthinkable during the times of Moammar Gadhafi; the Libyan leader maintained a sphere of influence in the region that would have been at odds with a French military presence. Germany sent its own troops in Niger to support the United Nations peacekeeping mission across the border in Mali, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel even visited Niger in 2017. And Italy recently announced it would send 470 troops to a French base in the north of Niger to fight migrant transporters.

France has had soldiers in the country since 2013, when it launched Opération Serval in neighboring Mali.”

I tried to find out what people think of the base and the drones that will soon be hovering overhead. After all, this was the biggest foreign military base in the region, an unprecedented uptick in Western involvement, as well as a major economic investment. But after a few days in Agadez speaking to a host of different people, I got the impression that the issue was taboo, and that very few people wanted to openly voice their concerns lest they be tagged with criticizing the current Nigerien administration, which could come back to haunt them.

I visited a school in Agadez and the principal, extremely hesitant about my presence, called me into a back room and declined to give his name. He told me that he couldn’t have an opinion on the Americans because he couldn’t figure out why they were really here. In my two weeks in Niger, I heard theories that the Americans were fomenting the terrorists themselves, digging for gold, or they’re after uranium, or oil, or even possibly the natural water aquifer beneath the Sahara, one of the largest in the world. Other than government officials, no one believed the Americans were here for security.

The base is a mystery for a reason. AFRICOM, which is the division of the Department of Defense that oversees U.S. military operations in Africa, has only allowed access to one news outlet so far that I know of, CNN , and denied me entry for this reporting trip. The public affairs office of the U.S. Embassy in Niger responded to repeated requests for an interview by saying they were processing the request and then eventually refused to answer my questions, explaining they were understaffed due to the three-day government shutdown in late January.

AFRICOM is notoriously restrictive in its access to reporters. A journalist for The Intercept was not allowed to visit another drone base in Cameroon , and people there were also cautious about discussing or criticizing it. This underlines a transnational fact: It’s not clear that American drones in Africa have made things safer. They are often more a source of fear than anything else.

The base in Agadez is about 6 square kilometers, though most of the land is yet to be developed. American troops patrol its perimeter, according to a neighboring village chief I talked with. The base is tucked away and hidden from Agadez first by the 8-to-10-foot wall that separates the city of 125,000 from the airport, and it is surrounded by a barbed wire fence with sandbags, so despite there being a few hundred Americans in Agadez, you would hardly know they were there unless you went looking. Both the Nigerien and the American governments prefer to keep it this way.

Opposition politicians say it violates Articles 169 and 66 of the Nigerien Constitution.”

There is an unusual question floating around Niger: Is the American base even legal? Activists, lawyers, and opposition politicians say it is isn’t, arguing that it violates Articles 169 and 66 of the Nigerien Constitution. These state that defense treaties require parliamentary approval — which hasn’t happened with the base — and that the defense of Niger is carried out only by Nigerien armed forces, not foreign forces. In an interview, opposition Member of Parliament Soumana Sanda told me that while he and his party, Moden Lumana, support the American military presence in his country, “just because we don’t respect democracy or rule of law in Niger doesn’t mean we should drag the great democracies of the world into illegality.”

The government’s defense of the base’s legality often fluctuates. The interior minister, Mohamed Bazoum, said in January during a speech for the 27th anniversary of the president’s political party that because the American and French parliaments never debated the bases, Niger shouldn’t have to either. “The protocols we signed are not defense agreements. If they were, they would be for our partners, too,” Bazoum told a cheering crowd of cadres clad in the ruling party’s signature pink sashes.

I showed the U.S.-Nigerien Status of Forces agreement, which is available to the public on the State Department website , to Soumana Sanda and Justice Minister Marou Amadou, as well as a leading constitutional lawyer, a member of Niger’s constitutional court, and a prominent NGO head. None of them had ever seen the document and were surprised that it was available online. When I read one sentence from the agreement to Sanda — that “the Parties waive any and all claims (other than contractual claims) against each other for damage to, loss, or destruction of the other’s property or injury or death to personnel of either Party’s armed forces or their civilian personnel arising out of the performance of their official duties in connection with activities under this Agreement” — he responded, “I wasn’t aware of all this.” He added, “Today I learned a little more” about the terms of American engagement. The base is rarely reported on by the Nigerien media, and most people who knew about it before Tongo Tongo got their information from foreign media reports.

The divide over the base’s legality and its value for Niger tends to fall under sharp lines based on proximity to the power structure. For instance, in Niamey I interviewed Brig. Gen. Mahamadou Abou Tarka, whose brother-in-law, Ahmed Mohamed, was recently named armed forces chief of staff. Tarka heads a $600 million fund for peace in the north of the country set up by the presidency, and he batted away questions about American mission creep. Before being escorted by bodyguards from his air-conditioned office to his chauffeured black sedan, Tarka told me that the government didn’t need to go through parliament because “we have not declared war, so the executive power considers it in its purview to strengthen the capacity of our military by bringing in allies.”

Any member of parliament can ask questions in parliament about the base, and one-tenth of parliament can call for an official inquiry into its legality. There are more than enough opposition MPs to do so, but so far they haven’t acted on their own questions about the base’s legality. Sahirou Youssoufou, journalist and editor-in-chief of L’événement newspaper, said it’s because at the end of the day, the opposition values good relations with the Americans over constitutional law. “These are political calculations. They don’t want to get in power and have all these partners at their back, their relations with them tainted,” Youssoufou told me.

“Tarka told me that the government didn’t need to go through parliament because ‘we have not declared war.’”

The irony is that while the American presence is supposed to help keep the country stable, the U.S. has participated with the Nigerien government in a constitution-bypassing maneuver that undermines the country’s already-fragile democratic process.

In the meantime, sightings of white soldiers in the desert animate residents’ imaginations and WhatsApp conversations. U.S. Special Forces seem to be involved in far-flung operations that go beyond the mandate of training Nigerien soldiers — Tongo Tongo is not the only example — and generate a lot of confusion, even among the government and its military.

For example, on a recent afternoon, local journalist Ibrahim Manzo Diallo received a video of a Tuareg woman and her two small children in the bush. She recounted how Nigerien and white soldiers abducted her husband and her husband’s friends, who had been camping in a nomadic tent outside Arlit, north of Agadez.

Curious about this incident, Diallo and I called the local prefect, Aghali Hamadil, who said that a mixed American and Nigerien patrol had indeed stormed a Tuareg camp, and while they released eight people, including the woman and her children, they detained four others and sent them to Niamey. When I asked Marou Amadou, the justice minister, whether this was true, he affirmed the account. “Yes, it’s the Americans. … They were looking for Goumour,” he said, referring to Goumour Bidika, who is “the main facilitator” for drug traffickers and terrorists in the Agadez region, according to a Nigerien commander with direct knowledge of the operation.

But that commander said Americans didn’t participate in the operation itself — the woman in the video who said she saw white soldiers had probably seen them at the Americans’ Aguelal base where the Tuareg captives were detained. The commander, who requested anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the press, said Bidika had been communicating with several terrorists they were looking for, and that he had escaped during the raid; four of his lieutenants were detained at Aguelal and sent to a Niamey prison instead.

Aguelal, west of Arlit, is near the Algerian border, and the secret American base there is a recent one. Its existence was partially confirmed in February, inadvertently, when it was discovered that Strava, a fitness app used mostly by westerners, had released location data that showed the global movements of the users of workout trackers like Fitbit — and the data showed unusual activity in far-off Aguelal.

Reached via email after the operation, Reho, the AFRICOM spokesperson, said “U.S. forces were not involved in any arrests in that region within the past week.”

She recounted how Nigerien and white soldiers abducted her husband and her husband’s friends.”

After NATO’s bombing of Libya in 2011 and the subsequent fall of Gadhafi, Agadez emerged as a main hub of migration of Africans to Europe – a trend that brought much-needed economic activity to the impoverished Agadez region. However, the economic spurt that surrounded migration has been throttled in the past few years by Nigerien police and military activity in the area, and the addition of American forces in Agadez will not help the situation.

Young men and women from all over West Africa ride buses to Agadez, and then pay hundreds of dollars to sit on top of yellow water jugs in the back of Toyota Hilux pickup trucks, holding onto pieces of wood to keep them aboard as they speed across the desert to enter Libya on their way to Europe. Up until 2015, the pickups were escorted north in convoys led by the Niger military for safety, and the migrants were made to pay bribes to Nigerien officials at checkpoints along the way.

Agadez depended on this industry for vital income, and the authorities profited from bribes the migrants paid. Things began to change when the city attracted media attention for the migration activity. The European Union held a joint summit with African nations in Valletta, Malta, and resolved to “set up a joint investigation team in Niger against migrant smuggling and trafficking.”

In 2015, the Nigerien government passed a law that targeted smugglers and human traffickers. With the legal backing and the political push from the European Union, by 2016 the government began arresting the drivers of migrants and impounding their vehicles. It also carried out patrols in the desert to turn back cars before they reached Libya. “By all accounts, the impetus behind passing this law was … European policymakers and European governments coming to Niger and saying, ‘You need to have a migrant smuggling law on the books,’” said journalist and researcher Peter Tinti, who has co-written a book on migration in the Sahel.

Once again, Western governments were forcing the Nigerien government to engage in legally dubious activity. Under Nigerien law, all citizens of West Africa have freedom of movement within Niger up until the Libya border, and most migrants making the journey aren’t coerced into doing so. Therefore, because trafficking is against the law only if a person is being transported against their will, the only crime that can be prosecuted is crossing into Libya without a visa. But since 2011, the central Libyan government recognized by the U.N. does not control the border with Niger, and the militias that control the southern towns in Libya ask for money, not visas, according to migrant transporter Bachir Amma. So the EU is trying to stop a flow of migrants that does not appear to break any local laws.

“Under Nigerien law, all citizens of West Africa have freedom of movement within Niger up until the Libya border.”

With their cars impounded, Agadez’s migrant transporters are now without jobs. The government does not seem to care. During an interview on the leather sofas in his office in Niamey, Justice Minister Marou Amadou laughed about the travails of Mohamed Anacko, the president of the Agadez Regional Council. “Anacko calls me whining all the time,” Amadou said. “I tell him, ‘Anacko, you can cry all you want, but it will continue’” — referring to regular police sweeps against migrant smugglers.

The EU had promised money to people involved in migrant transportation to start small businesses, but the “people who formerly worked in the migration industry are growing increasingly frustrated,” according to a reportby the Clingendael Institute in the Netherlands. Migrant transporter Bachir Amma said that 6,550 people registered as ex-participants in the migrant industry, and he himself had been approved for a $2,800 grant to start a restaurant in Agadez six months ago, but he still hasn’t seen the money. The Niger government also shut down a popular gold-mining site in the north of the country for opaque reasons, compounding the economic hardship.

The European response has been to ratchet up the number of soldiers in the country. The Italians opened an embassy in Niger in January 2018, shortly after they announced that they were sending troops to the north of the country to fight migration. It’s another sign that individual European governments decided they couldn’t depend on the EU as a bloc to protect their borders, and have been aggressively pursuing their own anti-migrant agendas in Africa. In 2017, for instance, Italian Interior Minister Marco Minniti struck deals with southern Libyan tribal leaders in an attempt to stem migration before people get a chance to cross the Mediterranean, in effect pushing Europe’s southern border into the Sahara.

The American base isn’t likely to bring reprieve to the region either. Despite the total cost of $110 million for construction and roughly $15 million in operating costs per year, very little of that money will go to the local economy. A young man who worked in the cafeteria of the base showed me the agreement he signed with the contractor that runs the cafeteria, Sakom. He was paid roughly $1.20 per hour, a low salary in Niger, and said he only got one day off every two weeks, working 12-hour days (the contract showed the hourly rate, but not the overtime or the number of days off). Most food, other than some fruits and vegetables, is shipped in from abroad. When I drove around the base’s perimeter with my colleague Diallo, a Sakom security vehicle began following us. Sakom’s representative in Agadez declined an interview request for this article.

The Americans have done very little to help people in Agadez, other than holding a handful of workshops that appeared to be ineffective. Zara Ibrahim, head of the Association of Women Against War in Agadez, facilitated a workshop in which U.S. soldiers demonstrated to a group of mothers how to brush their teeth. Despite the fact that no one in the room needed to be taught how to brush their teeth, over 60 women came, according to Ibrahim, who told me about the workshop while sitting on a plastic mat on the floor of her association’s office. A strong gust of wind kicked up sand outside the building we were sitting in, and passing residents leaned forward and shielded their faces with their elbows. “Some women thought they would get something out of it. … They told us they would prefer 50 kilo bags of rice instead of toothbrushes,” she admitted.

“Individual European governments have been aggressively pursuing their own anti-migrant agendas in Africa.”

Other workshops have included manuals on hand-washing and sexually transmitted infections, while soldiers donated some benches and notebooks to a local school. Some people appreciate the contact, but it hasn’t offered them much help. Ibrahim doesn’t understand why the local government never even explained what the Americans are doing in Agadez, arguing that the lack of communication lends itself to conspiracy theories, and that the political consequences can be dire. “It would be really easy to communicate to people in Agadez,” Ibrahim said, adding that “there’s a concrete example in Mali” of what happens if the local population is kept in the dark. In 2012, rebels and jihadi groups allied with Al Qaeda took over northern Mali following a Tuareg rebellion. As Ibrahim put it, northern Mali “woke up one morning under occupation.” The jihadi groups occupied the country’s three northern regions for nine months, until a French, Chadian, and Malian military intervention pushed them out of the towns and into the desert.

By staying behind their barbed-wire fences and providing little economic support to Agadez, the Americans run the risk of destabilizing the region. As Ibrahim remarked, “anyone can understand that.”

Mali woke up one morning under occupation.”

The man in the middle is Mahamadou Issoufou, the president of Niger. In power for six years, he has adopted a clear strategy for trying to keep control of things – by aligning himself closely with Europe and the United States, while presiding over an electoral system that his opponents describe as rigged. This is not a recipe for stability in a country that has had little of it since its founding in 1960, at the end of French colonial rule.

Issoufou is a trained engineer and a former secretary-general of Somaïr, a uranium mine that was run by the French company Areva. Until migration and terrorism, uranium was the focal point of outside, particularly French, interest in Niger. France’s electricity grid is powered by nuclear energy, and Areva’s uranium concessions in Niger provide up to one-fifth of the uranium necessary to power that grid. Issoufou’s predecessor, Mamadou Tandja, had sparred with the French over the concession, and in 2009, then-French President Nicholas Sarkozy visited Niger to negotiate a deal on opening a new mine called Imouraren. After a $1.2 billion deal was struck , Tandja tried to reverse the constitution to stay in power for a third term, and after street protests, a group of low-ranking army officers carried out a coup d’état.

When the transition period ended with Issoufou’s election in 2011, the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan caused a sharp downturn in global uranium prices. Areva dropped its plans for Imouraren, and Issoufou acquiesced to the French firm’s plans for delaying the mine until prices rose, denting economic growth prospects for the country. But despite losing out on Imouraren, Issoufou quickly became a donor darling and found that the closer he was to France and the West, the better his image and the more firm his hold on political power. Issoufou was criticized heavily for going to Paris to attend the “Je Suis Charlie” march in January 2015, and some human rights organizations view him as a lackey of the West. He works with Image Sept , a French firm with close ties to the Parisian political elite, to manage his image.

A couple of months before his re-election in 2016, Issoufou jailed his main political opponent and former close ally, Hama Amadou of the Moden Lumana party. Amadou was accused of trafficking babies from Nigeria — a charge that Amadou vehemently denies, but which few political observers in the country have cast serious doubt on. His party boycotted the election yet still managed to finish second, behind Issoufou’s 92 percent. The opposition coalition called the election “a sham ,” while the EU didn’t send an observer mission, which is rare in West Africa. Amadou is now in exile in France, having been released from prison temporarily for medical treatment.

“Areva’s uranium concessions in Niger provide up to one-fifth of the uranium necessary to power the French grid.”

Issoufou has taken unprecedentedly pro-Western stances on a number of key issues. He has allowed for the rapid expansion of the French and American troop presence, as well as opening up the country to German and Italian soldiers. He has shut down migration on Europe’s demand, against the economic interests of his own country. He has been rewarded for his efforts by French President Emmanuel Macron, who lauded Issoufou as “an example” of democracy on a recent state visit to Niger. And Issoufou has rewarded those in his administration who follow his vision: A couple of days after our interview, Issoufou had promoted Mahamadou Abou Tarka from colonel major to general .

Amadou, the justice minister, says the real reason the opposition complains about the foreign soldiers in Niger is because they are “interested in demoralizing our troops.” Amadou’s voice rose at this point in the interview. “They tell the soldiers, ‘They don’t have respect for you, they’re bringing bases in and the only way to restore our dignity is to get rid of them.’ These are calls for a coup d’état.”

His phone began buzzing, and he paused our conversation to take a call. It was son excellence, the new Italian ambassador, and Amadou’s mood lifted. “Happy new year. … For the judge? … I know him very well. … That will be in what domain? I’ll tell you what, we should meet early next week,” he told the ambassador.

Amadou is right to worry about a coup d’état. In 2010, he was a leading member of the civil society opposition to Tandja, the president at the time, and supported the coup that overthrew him in February of that year. Amadou was named leader of the transitional legislative body by the junta, and when he helped usher elections that Issoufou won, he was rewarded with the post of justice minister. He has held the post ever since. During his eight years as garde des sceaux, he hasn’t prosecuted any participants in the 2010 coup nor the transitional government for any wrongdoing, despite blatant corruption detailed by Transparency International . This is because when Amadou was the head of the transitional legislative body in 2010, he helped pass a new constitution that included an entire article guaranteeing amnesty for those involved in the coup, as well as their accomplices. Meanwhile, a number of soldiers have been arrested and convicted for coup plots during Issoufou’s two terms.

As a region, West Africa is no stranger to military power seizures. In neighboring Burkina Faso, the American-trained elite presidential guard carried out a coup that eventually failed in 2015, while an American-trained captain named Amadou Sanogo led a destabilizing coup in Mali in 2012. Niger has had four coups since 1960.

Niger is not at a level where it can say yes or no to the French or Americans.”

Many people I spoke to in Niger feel their country has had its autonomy usurped by Westerners. “The reality is that Niger is not at a level where it can say yes or no to the French or Americans. … We only have sovereignty on paper,” said Djibril Abarché, president of the Nigerien Human Rights Association. When I asked Amadou, the justice minister, if his country has effectively ceded its military command to Westerners, he balked and explained that the Americans “don’t give orders to our generals, they give orders to our soldiers.”

Is the American presence helping security at all? It’s up for debate. “If I put guards in front of my house to stop criminals from entering and the criminals still come, are the guards worth anything?” asked the secretary-general of Niger’s Islamic University, Seydou Boubacar Touré. “We have the American base, the French base, but Boko Haram continues to kill us. … I don’t see their utility here.” Attacks along the border with Mali and in the southeast on the border with Nigeria have been frequent for years. During my time in Niger, a Boko Haram attack in Diffakilled seven Nigerien soldiers and injured 25.

According to AFRICOM, based in Germany, “U.S. Forces are in Niger to work by, with, and through Nigerien partners to promote stability and security while enabling them to address their security threats.” The word “through” leaves the most question marks. Prior to the disastrous mission in Tongo Tongo, the U.S. had said that its troops were only in an advisory role in Niger. It’s a peculiar role. “It is a training mission,” Mahamadou Abou Tarka, the general, said about Tongo Tongo. The Americans were “training those (Nigerien) special forces in the area. It just so happens that those special forces received a mission to go and capture a terrorist,” he said.

The Tongo Tongo ambush is instructive because, according to Nigerien soldiers interviewed for this article, the American soldiers were in charge of the mission and didn’t listen to Nigerien advice. The soldiers had spent the previous day looking for Doundoun Cheffou, who is connected to militant group leader Abu Walid, in a village called Akaba across the border in Mali. Instead of Cheffou, they found food and other goods indicating he and his men were in the area.

“The American soldiers were in charge of the mission and didn’t listen to Nigerien advice.”

Rather than going directly back to their Nigerien base in Ouallam, they continued looking for him and when night fell, they set up camp 5 kilometers from Tongo Tongo, where the village chief had been known to give false alerts, according to a top Nigerien military officer with direct knowledge of the operation. By spending the night along the border area, they heightened the risks that they faced. There is talk of a sort of competition between the French and U.S. militaries, with each willing to undertake risky missions to prove there is a reason for them to be on the ground. However, Andrew Lebovich, Sahel specialist and visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, said, “It’s not really a competition, so much as they both have priorities and a desire to work with the government. Sometimes those priorities overlap, sometimes they don’t.”

It is precisely this logic that is so dangerous: American troops are deployed in an advisory and training role. But once on the ground, there is a tendency to push for more activity and engagement, and the Nigeriens have to consistently push back against that. A Nigerien officer with direct knowledge of the Agadez base said on condition of anonymity that what the Americans can and can’t do is a point of discussion on a daily basis. “I say no to the Americans every day,” he said.

The risks the Americans take result in mistakes, and the mistakes, rather than leading to a reconsideration of the risks, can lead to more escalation. After Tongo Tongo, for example, Niger authorized the U.S. to arm its drones in the country, though there are reports that ground missions by the U.S. may face greater scrutiny.

Sitting in the living room of his house in Agadez with his young daughter, Abbas Yahaya, a prominent imam, told me that he is concerned the American drones won’t be able to tell the difference between militants and regular convoys in the desert, who are often armed for protection against criminality. “A drone is manned by people on a military base in America, and many times they make mistakes, killing people who aren’t extremists,” he said. “This won’t solve anything; it will only bring more insecurity.”

“There is talk of a sort of competition between the French and U.S. militaries.”

Indeed, if a handful of Green Berets can conduct a botched mission that leads to a major escalation of the conflict, what happens when there are 2,000 to 3,000 U.S. troops operating on a base with armed drones and little to no accountability to the public?

I got the feeling that Agadez was just one or two mistakes away from a radical change in which the American military becomes the focal point of hostility. Armed drones are a major issue anywhere the U.S. uses them, but in Niger, the American base is in a major city not far from potential drone targets. Judging from the secrecy and lack of trust thus far, it’s not hard to envision a future in which an errant drone strike causes the population of Agadez to turn against the base.

The Americans don’t even need to make a mistake to get into trouble. Italian, German, and French military forces are active in the country, and if any one of them makes a mistake, they can all become targets for retribution. And the two mission that these Western militaries are engaged in – against migration and against terrorism – are at odds with each other, as Anacko, the president of the Agadez Regional Council, is trying to explain to the rest of the world.

Anacko is practically an institution in Agadez: Everyone knows him and he knows everyone. He has spent the last couple of years arguing with the government in Niamey and the EU that their anti-migrant measures are increasing youth unemployment and resentment towards “the West” at a time when Western militaries are rapidly expanding their presence on the ground. As he explains, you can either stop migration or terrorism, but not both.

When I met Anacko, he was meeting with other regional council leaders at his secondary office in Niamey, across the road from the national soccer stadium. I asked him where he saw the country headed. “In five years, maybe I’ll be a terrorist and you’ll find me in the mountains,” he said, ashing his Rothman cigarette in a blue plastic cup, desaturated by the fluorescent bulb above. I couldn’t tell if he was being serious, or if he had answered enough questions from Western journalists and researchers that he knew exactly how to pique their attention. “Would you come and interview me in the mountains?” he asked, laughing.

A knock on the door signaled the interview was over. On his way out of the office, he walked past a sign that read “Thanks to Swiss cooperation funds” that was taped on the door, and got into his chauffeured white Toyota Hilux pickup truck. I left with my colleague Omar Saley, past the fruit stands and past the smoke from meat grilled by the roadside, which wafted through the windows of our car on the cool, dry night. We had reached the Kennedy Bridge in the center of Niamey when we spotted Anacko in his truck, going to a meeting at one of the main hotels in the city. As his pickup turned, I noticed the words emblazoned on its side: “Gift from the European Union.”

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Africans Can Become a People Not to Be Trifled With

NOVANEWS
Africans Can Become a People Not to Be Trifled With
Africans Can Become a People Not to Be Trifled With

“One effective method of attacking the imperialist infrastructure is to drain its pool of enforcers by organizing a total boycott of the U.S. military.”

In 1835, poet Alfred Tennyson penned the oft-quoted verse:

“…in the spring a young man’s fancy lightly turns to thoughts of love…”

In 2018, “Gator Shoe Willie,” an 81-year-old barbershop philosopher said:

“…in the spring- in summer, winter and fall too – America thinks about only one thang – how to kick black folks in the ass…”

The latter observation is both more useful and more valid than the former, and is evidenced by recent events. This spring, two young black men at a Philadelphia Starbuckshad no opportunity to allow their fancy to turn lightly to thoughts of love or anything else because of the humiliation they experienced at the hands of a racist store manager and the police. The incident was only one of a series of high profile racial events that included the harassment of a young black woman in a Yale dormitory.

Even the Supreme Court got in on the action. Less than a month after police bullets ripped into the body of Stephon Clark, the highest court in the land felt obliged to also rip into the body of law that provides at least the opportunity to fight police violence directed at black lives – lives that don’t seem to matter very much in America. In the case of Kisela v. Hughes, the Supreme Court ruled that a cop who dropped to the ground and shot a woman who calmly held a kitchen knife cannot be held responsible for his actions because there was no prior case that “‘squarely governs’ the specific facts at issue.” The trick here is that because courts have routinely excused police misconduct, there will always be few, if any, precedent cases “squarely governing” uses of force in a way that is helpful to victims of police violence.

“America’s African population is faced with the challenge of analyzing its circumstances without regard for the political and legal paradigm established by oppressive forces.”

The Supreme Court’s decision in Kiselais but one example of the many ways that capitalism and its white supremacist institutional manifestations tinker with and manipulate the lives of black and other oppressed communities, almost as if these communities are toys – dangerous toys that can explode if not carefully managed. Management means constraining these communities and generally limiting their political and legal options to those which, when exercised yield only illusory reform or abject failure and frustration.

For those occasions when the oppressed find their state-sanctioned avenues for reform absolutely blocked, the laws of the ancestors impose an obligation to search for, or blaze new trails to liberation. Thus, America’s African population, which has learned from recent history that it will be beaten down even when the U.S. head of state has African blood, is faced with the challenge of analyzing its circumstances without regard for the political and legal paradigm established by oppressive forces. It is an analysis that must be ruthlessly driven by the desire to inflict lethal blows on the enemy system and achieve genuine power.

More than fifty years ago, Kwame Nkrumah, Ghana’s first president, took up the challenge of crafting a strategy for development of the African continent’s capacity to strike global capitalism where it hurts and to wield enough power to liberate Africa’s people from oppression and poverty. Many in the African diaspora who were familiar with Nkrumah’s plan to transform the entire African continent into a single, enormous socialist super state immediately recognized the impact such a continent-wide socialist “country” would have on African and other oppressed populations around the globe. However, with the passage of time, many have come to regard the idea as but a wonderful fantasy that can never be implemented because of the overwhelming power of imperialism. Yet, in the quixotic spirit of those who plotted the destruction of slavery in plantation shacks, perhaps it is time to re-visit Nkrumah’s vision.

“Those with power neither listen to, nor care about street protests, petitions and elections.”

Global capitalism is the enemy of African unity and socialism, and it consists of interlocking networks of economic, diplomatic and military forces working in collaboration to feed multi-national corporations with a steady diet of raw materials and valuable natural resources that can be transformed at minimal cost into products that can be sold globally at substantially marked-up prices — often in the same regions where the resources for manufacture were for all practical purposes stolen. It is now well-established that those with power neither listen to, nor care about street protests, petitions and elections. They are, however, keenly alarmed by any actual threats to the imperialist infrastructure. Therefore, in the struggle to defeat Africa’s enemies and to unite the continent, it is this imperialist infrastructure that must be attacked.

When those protesting environmental crimes in Nigeria destroyed western oil company pipelines and other Africans resisted contamination of waterways in the Horn of Africa with acts of so-called “piracy,” it was enough of a threat to the imperialist infrastructure to trigger the establishment of a new military institution — U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM). When Muammar Gadhafi threatened to destabilize western economies by creating a gold-backed Pan-African currency, it was enough of a threat to the imperialist infrastructure to trigger his brutal, grisly assassination. When France sensed that its uranium mining operations in Niger were threatened by so-called “terrorists,” it was enough to place U.S. military personnel in harm’s way, and to even sacrifice the lives of four soldiers.

“Global capitalism is the enemy of African unity and socialism.”

We therefore know where and how imperialism is vulnerable in Africa. The challenge is how to strike those vital targets without running headlong into imperialism’s massive, lethal defenses and counter-attacks. To that end it is important to remember the imperialist infrastructure is not limited to pipelines, mines and refineries. The infrastructure also consists of human resources, like soldiers, who are used as enforcers. Consequently, one effective method of attacking the imperialist infrastructure is to drain its pool of enforcers by organizing a total boycott of the U.S. military. This is a feasible, non-violent, low-risk operation that can be carried out even by those in the African diaspora.

Draft resistance and military boycotts have a long history, but what may be needed now is an organized effort to dissuade military enlistment, not just to send a message, but for the specific purpose of totally frustrating imperialist enforcement operations in underdeveloped regions of the world. Favorable conditions for such a movement already exist because there is broad and deep opposition to the very idea of U.S. military action in Africa. Even the creation of AFRICOM reflects imperialist fears of the global fury that would be triggered by a full-scale invasion of Africa by U.S. troops. For that reason, the Command is by design one that uses local military proxies rather than U.S. troops to carry out U.S. missions in Africa. It is politically and militarily safe only for U.S. military personnel to function as behind the scenes “advisors” and “trainers.”

“When Muammar Gadhafi threatened to destabilize western economies by creating a gold-backed Pan-African currency, it was enough of a threat to the imperialist infrastructure to trigger his brutal, grisly assassination.”

In the U.S., on a domestic level, the boycott of imperialist enforcement jobs has already occurred even though it is an instinctive rather than conscious, organized movement. As a consequence, law enforcement agencies across the U.S. are anywhere from desperate to panic-stricken as they feverishly attempt to recruit people of color into police ranks to blunt criticism of police violence. However, Africans in America have demonstrated consistently that they want no part of an institution that they perceive as a force charged with monitoring, harassing, humiliating, arresting and killing members of their communities. A boycott of the U.S. military may require little more than making the truth about U.S. violence in Africa as real as the police violence would-be recruits observe in their own neighborhoods.

Maximum effectiveness of a boycott will also require the participation of non-black youth. This too is an achievable goal. In the aftermath of the killings of four U.S. soldiers in Niger last fall, many progressive white youth turned their attention to U.S. military involvement in Africa and they were appalled by the unsavory collaboration between the U.S. and France for imperialist purposes. Heightened awareness of how the military is used not for the defense of the country but to ensure the profits of multi-national corporations can lead to a widespread refusal by young people of all communities to allow themselves to be manipulated and exploited as part of the imperialist infrastructure.

“A boycott of the U.S. military may require little more than making the truth about U.S. violence in Africa as real as the police violence would-be recruits observe in their own neighborhoods.”

Frustrating the military is but one method of contributing to the struggle for a liberated, united, socialist Africa. That strategy, along with all others can succeed only by organized and coordinated effort. Commemorations of African Liberation Day will be held all over the world this weekend. The All-African People’s Revolutionary Partymaintains a website that provides information about these events everywhere. These mobilizations are excellent opportunities to make connections with others who are willing to take the struggle to a more effective level.

There are many political strategies that can ease black misery, but Nkrumah’s Pan-African vision is one that contemplates a continent-wide socialist country capable of militarily, economically and diplomatically crushing any efforts to harm African and other oppressed people around the globe. A people unable to even enter a coffee shop without fear of police harassment very much needs that degree of power. It is only when that level of power is achieved that Africans everywhere will be able to credibly say at long last that they are not a people to be trifled with.

Posted in USA, AfricaComments Off on Africans Can Become a People Not to Be Trifled With

The Black Alliance for Peace Demands U.S. Out of Africa

NOVANEWS
The Black Alliance for Peace Demands U.S. Out of Africa
The Black Alliance for Peace Demands U.S. Out of Africa

We demand that the Congressional Black Caucus take a public stand in opposition to AFRICOM.”

African Liberation Day (ALD) grew out of the attempts to establish the continental unity of Africa and all African people 55 years ago and is now celebrated every May 25th around the world.

The Black Alliance for Peace (BAP), a project that centers a radical approach to the fight for collective people(s)-centered human rights that centers self-determination, the right for revolutionary change and anti-imperialism is commemorating ALD by demanding without equivocation that the United States close all U.S. bases and withdraws its forces from the African continent.

Why this Demand?

The African continent will never be free to develop its enormous potential as a revolutionary force for the advancement of all African people and all of humanity as long as U.S. imperialism is allowed to operate without restraint.

Today the U.S. is involved in an aggressive military re-conquest of Africa though its United States Africa Command, AFRICOM, formed in 2008 with the goal of enhancing U.S. influence throughout the African continent. AFRICOM has made African nations vassal states following the dictates of U.S. foreign policies, which are antithetical to the needs of African people.

According to Maurice Carney, executive director of “Friends of the Congo” and BAP member, “Due to the US and Europe’s inability to compete with China economically on the African continent, the U.S. launched AFRICOM to protect its strategic interests. Although AFRICOM representatives present a benign, humanitarian facade of building wells and training soldiers in human rights practices, its ever-expanding presence (estimated 2000 percent increase since its inception in 2008) has been devastating for the oppressed masses on the continent.”

“We must call out the members of the Black elite in the U.S. who collaborate with imperialist power.

Blocking the military expansion of the U.S. settler-colonial state must be seen by all serious revolutionary Pan-Africanists as a primary objective. However, BAP members understand that it also means that the internal contradiction represented in the collaboration of the comprador, neo-colonial criminals that run so many of the micro-states on the continent must also be targeted.

It means as well that we must call out the members of the Black elite in the U.S. who collaborate with imperialist power.

Margaret Kimberley from Black Agenda Report and member of the BAP Coordinating Committee points out that “Congressional Black Caucus members were once known as “the conscience of the Congress.” Unfortunately, most of them voted for the Trump administration’s $80 billion increase to the defense budget in 2017. Those funds will not only deprive the people of the U.S. the numerous governmental programs which provide for their well-being but will also be used to continue wars in Somalia, Congo, Kenya and Niger and result in death and destruction for millions of people.”

Therefore, we demand that as the 10th anniversary of AFRICOM approaches, the Congressional Black Caucus take a public stand in opposition to AFRICOM and cease its support of U.S. militarism and warmongering in Africa but also in the streets of the U.S.

So, on this African Liberation Day, join us in demanding that AFRICOM be dismantled and this country’s predatory actions against millions of Africans end immediately.

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Trump’s Protection Racket Swamps Africa

NOVANEWS
Trump’s Protection Racket Swamps Africa
Trump’s Protection Racket Swamps Africa

“Enormous sacrifices made in the protracted and often brutal anti-colonial resistance wars are now coming to naught.”

“If you saw some of the things that I see through intelligence — what’s going on in Africa — it is so sad, it is so vicious and violent — and we want peace. We want peace for Africa . We want peace all over the world.” Thus declares the self-styled angel of peace, Donald Trump, who pulled the rug from under the Iran nuclear deal on tacit orders from Israel, despite his skepticism about Israel’s desire for peace with Palestinians. The bigot-in-chief who once called African nations s***hole countries along with Haiti and Guatemala, has spoken. To uphold his barefaced racism, Trump made no secret of his desire to have more (White) immigrants from countries like Norway, whose citizens made it clear they were not interested in migrating to the US. Surprise, surprise, butmore Americans migrated to Norway in 2016 than Norwegians moving in the other direction. Norway must be desperately short of “the tired, the poor, the huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

Trump’s duplicitous longing for peace and the containment of violence in Africa is hardly borne by his reckless bombing of civilians in Syria to “protect” them from Assad’s alleged use of chemical weapons on his own people, a fabrication that enjoys the same level of credibility as the WMD lie that was used to invade and destroy Iraq. Rampant gun violence, his country boasting of 64% of the world’s serial killers and routine mass shootings in his backyard do not figure in his reckoning on violence while contemplating his peace-seeking mission in faraway Africa. His unabashed yearnings stand in sharp contrast to American arms and military hardware worth billions of dollars sold to adversaries in the Persian Gulf — Saudi Arabia ($110 billion ) and Qatar ($12 billion ) and the carte blanch supply of US arms and taxpayer dollars to Zionist Israel. Thanks to American death merchandise, mass murder and mayhem is being rained on civilians in Yemen by Saudi Arabia and fellow medieval Gulf monarchical serfs. Through no small coincidence, such royalty presiding over bastions of democracy are America’s staunch allies. And lapdogs. Peace indeed!

“Trump’s unabashed yearnings stand in sharp contrast to American arms and military hardware to adversaries in the Persian Gulf.”

Thousands of ex-apartheid petitioners called on Trump to “take the steps necessary to initiate an emergency immigration plan allowing white Boers to come to the United States…” in the wake of an impending South African constitutional amendment that would allow land to be stripped from White farmers and handed to Black Africans. South Africa’s Nobel Peace laureate, Bishop Desmond Tutu, would hardly be the ideal candidate for the petitioners to request that he use his good offices to reverse such measures. It had to be Trump. It takes one to know one.

Australia was another country where such sentiments for White farmers found sympathy. Some shared values and empathy here from countries that decimated their native populations. Fancy Palestinians calling on Trump to stop open-ended military aid to Israel where American weapons are used to kill unarmed protesters and the dispossession of Palestinians of their lands has become a norm. Trump’s reserves of empathy and a desire for peace in Africa naturally become exhausted when it comes to the deaths of unarmed African Americans at the hands of trigger-happy racist cops.

Trump’s concern for the welfare of Africans is matched by his ignorance of the continent, where he once invented a country, “Nambia ”, an improbable hybrid between the far-flung, culturally and linguistically distinct African countries of Namibia and Gambia. But who really gives a damn? All s***hole countries are alike. The presence of some 5,000 American military personnel (in all likelihood a gross under estimation, given the secrecy of the project “AFRICOM ”, a pet US creation) in some 52 of 54 countries of the continent is priming the continent’s complicity in Africa’s transition from classical colonialism to its modern equivalent, neo-colonialism. It is political retrogression with the detached collusion of many African countries themselves. Both projects target the continent’s natural resources including oil and vast mineral resources. Add that to the creation of yet another market for American arms to be used in the War on Terror and the repackaging of colonialism.

“Trump’s reserves of empathy and a desire for peace in Africa naturally become exhausted when it comes to the deaths of unarmed African Americans at the hands of trigger-happy racist cops.

US legislators had been completely kept out of the AFRICOM loop until 4 US Special Forces troops were killed in Niger and one in Somalia. The planned military scams provided a perfect rationale and cover, among others, for NATO’s vicious whacking of Gaddafi, to borrow lexicon from the mobster community. Soon after ousting the monarchy, Gaddafi closed the giant (20 square miles) Wheelus air base in Libya, then the largest US foreign military base. Hilary Clinton could not resist gleefully celebrating the gruesome death of Gaddafi with her infamous words “We came, we saw, he died.” Libya is one of the countries currently with an active American military presence. Naturally.

The smooth-talking Ghanaian President Nana Akufo-Addo, whose net worth is said to be about $250 million, complete with luxury properties in a posh London neighborhood, comes with an impeccable King’s English accent. An accomplished orator, he passionatelyargued against Western aid and handouts to his country stating that the aid was as harmful to the donors as it was to recipients. “We do not want to remain the beggars of the world,” he asserted in a speech to the RoyalAfrican Society, based in London. Bear in mind the lecture was not delivered to the African Union, not to member states of the Economic Community of West African States in Monrovia, Liberia, not to a graduation ceremony in an African university, nor during a state visit to any African country. His impassioned speech scorning dependency, was meant to impress, but flying squarely in the face of a recently concluded military agreement between Ghana and the US (you guessed wrong if you thought Boko Haram was Ghanaian). Some feeble backtracking and denials issued in response to protests by thousands of Ghanaians came a little late. The dependency die had been cast.

The situation in Africa is now so dire that if a new neo-colonial map were to be superimposed on the old map of the colonies delineated in the Berlin conference — the Scramble for Africa — in the 19thcentury, any resulting incongruities would be purely coincidental. Save for wantaway states like Eritrea, Somaliland and South Sudan. A new scramble for Africa is under way and being inaugurated without the pomp and circumstance of conferences under the auspices of aspiring Western imperial nations.

“These “collaborations” require African militaries to completely surrender command to AFRICOM.”

Post-apartheid South Africa, one African country that was initially hostile to AFRICOM’s establishment, has now fallen prey to this scam . A country whose apartheid era nuclear program was dismantled with the demise of apartheid rule, now happily allows US nuclear submarines to dock in “training exercises” in what is ostensibly branded a “theater of security cooperation.” This piece of lexical bullshit falsely creates the impression that equal partners are at work. Contrast this to the reality that these “collaborations” require African militaries to completely surrender command to AFRICOM — i.e. the US.The new Scramble for Africa has found willing African lackeys to go along with an unprecedented betrayal now under way. Swiftly and surely. Enormous sacrifices made in the protracted and often brutal anti-colonial resistance wars are now coming to naught. The US had adopted a hostile stance toward African liberation movements during the resistance era and later openly backed tyrants.

Only history will tell if the colonial-neocolonial transition can be halted. Uncommon creativity and public commitment will be called upon to re-launch another front to reverse this tragic south-bound trend. A daunting task indeed. Any armed resistance will likely be aborted by resorting to the handy pretext of “terrorism,” a term that is effectively ending the classical methods employed to rid Africa of colonial and settler rule. At least for now. Never mind that the purported harbingers of freedom, democracy and human rights located in Washington, Paris and London are the most ruthless purveyors of terror and violence in their varied manifestations: political, military, economic or cultural. Emerging African ideologues with a desire to consolidate political independence will be swiftly incarcerated or simply “disappeared” and foot soldiers brutally dispatched. The challenges will be very, very daunting. And that’s putting it mildly.

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