Africa’s cultural treasures must be returned and full reparation made

Africa’s cultural treasures must be returned and full reparation made

One of the most important aspects of continued foreign intervention in Africa concerns the plundering of cultural artefacts by the imperialist countries not least by Britain and its major cultural institutions. This has been highlighted recently by the so-called Magdala 1868 exhibition which opened at the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) in London in April 2018. Magdala 1868 is an exhibition of important cultural treasures including a crown, a royal wedding dress and various religious items plundered from the then Ethiopian capital of Magdala (Maqdala) during an invasion by British troops in 1868.

The Ethiopian government, which in 2005 managed to secure the return of the plundered Axum obelisk from Italy, has demanded the return of all the items plundered in 1868 not only from the Victoria and Albert Museum but also from other museums and archives throughout Britain, including the British Library, the British Museum, the National Archives of Scotland, and several university libraries. In 2007, the government filed a formal restitution to have the treasures returned to the rightful owners. Other Ethiopian organisations have also demanded their return, including the Association for the Return of the Maqdala Ethiopian Treasures which has been particularly active in Britain. Since 1868 several items stolen from Magdala have been returned, including some religious items. However, the V&A persists in holding onto plundered items and has prominently displayed them even before the current exhibition was launched. Hundreds of other items remain stored in other British museums, included many religious icons, illuminated manuscripts and even human remains. Some items are still held by the British monarch in the Royal Library at Windsor Castle.

The current exhibition has been staged in association of the Ethiopian government and the Ethiopian community in Britain. However, Ethiopia’s Director of Cultural Heritage Inventory, Grading and Inspection Desalegn Abebaw explained that ‘Showing the looted Mek’dela artefacts to the public is positive; We hope it is going to create pressure on them (the V&A) that will help us in our efforts to return the artefacts to where they belong. It’s good to show these artefacts to the public rather than locking them somewhere since the exposure is going to help us to return them.’ Elizabeth Wolde Giorgis, director of the Institute of Ethiopian Studies at Addis Ababa University added ‘They took someone else’s possession; it is criminal and they should apologize for it. No European artefacts have been looted and taken to Africa, so why should it be OK for a British museum to have looted African treasures and not apologize for it?’

Chalice made by Walda Giyorgis in Gondar, Ethiopia, 1735-40

However, V&A Director Tristram Hunt, refuses to provide any apology or to return the plundered treasures to their rightful owners. Expressing a view that has long been held by the plunderers of stolen goods in Britain and elsewhere he suggested that ‘the speediest way, if Ethiopia wanted to have these items on display, is a long-term loan… that would be the easiest way to manage it.’ Such colonialist logic must be condemned in the strongest terms. Those who stole the treasures or acquired them, to use the language employed by the plunderers, have no rights to make any decisions about the treasures of Ethiopia or those of other parts of Africa that must also be returned and full reparation made.

The role of the United Nations in Libya’s suffering

On 9 February, the Panel of Experts of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) Committee concerning Libya provided its interim report to this committee. The UN has not published the interim report nor made public its 11 recommendations but the Committee declared it would be following up 8 of these which related to its own work. This committee is currently chaired by Olof Skoog, Sweden’s representative to the UN and its resolutions are drafted by the UK mission to the UN, which is the current penholder for this committee.

However, on 7 February, Reuters news agency published an article in which it claimed to have seen the interim report.  It stated that the Panel of Experts had reported to the committee that “most armed groups involved in human smuggling and trafficking in Libya have links to the country’s official security institutions”.  The report went on to say that these groups “have specialized in illegal smuggling activities, notably human smuggling and trafficking”. The report further stated that Eritrean migrants reported being “arrested by the Special Deterrence Force (SDF), which is an armed group affiliated with the internationally recognized Government of National Accord’s Ministry of Interior” and then being handed over to various smuggling rings.

Libya’s capital, Tripoli, before NATO destruction
Sirte in Libya after NATO destruction

In a mid-January briefing to the UNSC, Ghassan Salamé, Special Representative and head of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL), stated that the “spectre of violence” is present in many parts of the country and that the “the fabric of Libyan society is frayed”. As well as the widespread violence which still racks the country, 7 years after NATO’s barbaric attack, the UNSC was informed that there are also summary executions and that “the displacement crisis in Libya is one of huge complexities”.

UN Security Council passing resolution 1973: (10 in favour (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Colombia, France, Gabon, Lebanon, Nigeria, Portugal, South Africa, United Kingdom, United States of America) (Against 0) (5 abstentions (Brazil, China, Germany, India, Russian Federation)
The UNSC cannot claim it is unaware of the consequences of the destruction of Libyan society, which was carried out by NATO and greenlighted by its own notorious resolutions 1970 and 1973 of 2011. However, at no point has the UN or its Security Council acknowledged their responsibility for the current suffering of the Libyan people nor the gross human rights abuses which are taking place in that country. The UNSC in providing diplomatic cover for NATO’s war of aggression against Libya acted in violation of its own charter which charges it with defending world peace and opposing wars of aggression. With regard to Africa, this is consistent with the UN’s previous activity. The UN must end its interference in Africa in defence of war and violation of the rights of Africa and her people.

The EU AU summit – the EU must end its interference in Africa

On 30 November, the two day EU-AU summit came to a close in Abidjan, the capital of Côte D’Ivoire. Commentators noted the neo-colonial overtones in the choice of venue, given that the current president of that country, Alassane Ouattara, was installed by French paratroopers in 2010 while the previous president, Laurent Gbagbo, is languishing in a prison cell in the Netherlands, another African victim awaiting his turn in the hands of the so-called International Criminal Court.

This reality was confirmed by the French president, Emmanuel Macron, who, on his way to Abidjan, delivered another one of his anti-African outbursts during his stop-over in Burkina Faso.  Asked by Burkinabe students, whom he was addressing at the University of Ouagadougou, why there were more French soldiers in Africa than African students in France, Macron declared that the students should applaud the French soldiers as they were allegedly all over Africa in order to protect Africans. Turning to the dire situation in Libya, which was also raised by the students, Macron declared that the problem in Libya is that Africans are making other African slaves and added that France intended to fight this crime. Not once did he mention the central role that France played in NATO’s destruction of Libya in 2011 and the elevation to power of those forces they had gathered together to wage war on that country. It was this act of aggression that has unleashed instability, insecurity and mass human suffering not only in Libya but also in the wider Sahel region.

Donald Tusk, President of the Council of the EU addresses the summit
The summit itself was attended by high ranking members of the EU, including Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission, Donald Tusk, the President of the Council of the EU and Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. Also in attendance were Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel and France’s president Emmanuel Macron The summit’s declared goal was to focus on investing in youth as well as discussing peace and security, mobility and migration and investment and trade.  The presence of such high powered EU politicians in Abidjan can be best explained by the statement of Angel Losada, the EU’s High Representative for the Sahel that, “…..the Sahel is one of the most important points and a polygon of crisis for Europe,…… it is the border of our border”. The summit can, therefore, best be viewed as part of the EU’s efforts to achieve its strategic goals in Africa. This reality was reflected in the agreements and declarations coming out of it. 

The summit issued a final declaration which addressed a number of areas, including economic growth, investment, peace, security, migration and governance. With regard to peace and security, the declaration claimed that Africa and the EU “….have common security threats…… particularly the growing terrorist threats and trans-boundary criminal activities” and that ‘peace and security’ would be at the heart of the EU-AU partnership. It further stated that the summit had agreed on “……. the principle of developing as soon as possible a framework document, which will put our partnership on peace and security on a more solid and structured basis”. In this way the EU aims to consolidate and intensify its already extensive and destructive military interference in Africa, which brings people in Africa neither peace nor security.

A key initiative unveiled by the EU at the summit was its External Investment Plan (EIP) whose declared aim is to “…. crowd in private investors, where viable business proposals meet social needs”. This plan envisages the establishment of a European Fund for Sustainable Development (EFSD) with an allocation of €4.1 billion from the European Commission and a further €44 billion of private capital from within the EU to fund investment in Africa.  Basing itself on the current neo-liberal dogma that economic development is dependent on attracting foreign direct investment, the EU declares that the EIP is its contribution to current global commitments to “mobilise private resources and to apply innovative financing models” to address the issues of social and economic development in Africa. It is clear from this that under the guise of addressing economic underdevelopment in Africa, the EU is seeking out investment opportunities for its monopolies to further plunder Africa and deepen its enslaving economic ties with the African continent.

In light of the current chaos in Libya, including the selling of people as slaves, which has resulted from NATO’s aggression against that country in 2011, the summit also issued a joint statement on the “Migrant Situation in Libya”. Reflecting the remarks made by Macron in Ouagadougou, the statement makes no mention of NATO’s aggression against Libya. Instead, it presents the issue as ‘a struggle against criminal human traffickers’.  It further “…..welcomed ongoing efforts of the Presidential Council and the Government of National Accord of Libya in undertaking appropriate measures to address such incidents”. This statement turns reality on its head, given the fact that it is precisely the various militias which NATO cobbled together in 2011 and which they have installed in power in that country who are responsible not only for the ongoing racist outrages but have been involved in such outrages since 2011.  Finally the statement declares that a “lasting resolution of the issue of African migrants is closely linked to addressing the root causes of the phenomenon and requires a political solution to the persistent crisis in Libya”.  With this statement, the EU signals its intention to use the chaos and insecurity its previous interventions in Libya and the wider Sahel have caused as justification for further intervention.

The EU-AU summit is a means for the European monopolies to further their interests in Africa. The EU must end its criminal interference in Africa which is bringing one disaster after a next for the people of that continent.

trans national ngos

21st Century Missionaries – trans-national NGOs in Africa

The African continent is awash with so-called non-governmental organisations (NGOs) which have their origins and bases in the former colonial powers as well as in the USA and Canada. In Kenya alone in 2016, there were some 12,000 foreign expatriates working for such NGOs. These trans-national NGOs, which number in their thousands across the continent, are active in all aspects of Africa’s social, economic and political life and represent a force aimed at undermining African independence and reinforcing Africa’s neo-colonial relationship with various big powers.
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in a 2013 publication noted that 8 trans-national NGOs, World Vision International, Oxfam International, Save the Children International, Plan International, Médecins Sans Frontières, CARE International, CARITAS International and ActionAid International, had a combined income of more than US$11.7 billion in 2011. This sum is greater than the World Bank estimates for the 2010 GDP of a large number of African countries, including Mozambique, Mali, Madagascar, Chad, Benin and Zimbabwe to name but a few. These 8 NGOs are all active in African countries, for example Oxfam operates in 32 countries on the continent, while there are others which are not on this list like Population Services International which operates in 28 countries in Africa. These organisations claim that, among other things, they are combating poverty, overcoming injustice, supporting family planning, empowering women and girls and carrying out a range of other activities that are, in reality, the responsibilities of the governments and peoples of the African countries themselves. In a 2002 article for the journal ‘International Affairs’, Firoze Manji and Carl O’Coill pointed out that in fact, the activities of the trans-national NGOs in Africa have expanded into more areas of African peoples’ lives, precisely as African governments were pressured to abandon their social responsibilities to their citizens under IMF Structural Adjustment Programmes and the neo-liberal economic dogma that the state should  abandon its responsibilities for ensuring the well-being of its citizens.  In this way, echoing the role of the missionaries in colonial Africa, these modern trans-national NGOs are part and parcel of the overall foreign intervention in Africa. Manji and O’Coill note that their activity is underpinned by  the same racist narratives from the colonial era which  presented Africans as ‘child-like sub-humans’ who needed the hand of the European colonialists to civilise them. The accuracy of this point is borne out by the fund raising propaganda of NGOs, such as Save The Children, which presents Africans in precisely this way. The authors of the article conclude that their activities “contribute marginally to the relief of poverty, but significantly to undermining the struggle of African people to emancipate themselves from economic, social and political oppression”.

“Another important aspect of these trans-national NGOs’ activities is the way in which they have become more overtly integrated into the mechanisms which the big powers use to interfere in Africa”.

Another important aspect of these trans-national NGOs activities is the way in which they have become more overtly integrated into the mechanisms which the big powers use to interfere in Africa. For example, many of them now receive a considerable proportion of their funding directly from the imperialist states. Britain’s Department for International Development (DfID) states openly that these NGOs are central to its ‘aid delivery strategy’ and reported that in 2012, some 16% of its bilateral aid budget was actually delivered through them. Through mechanisms such as the Program Partnership Arrangements, the British government hands over significant sums of money to these organisations. For example, under its 2011-2016 Program Partnership Arrangement, the government handed over £361 million to these NGOs. Among major recipients of British government funding in 2015 were Population Services International £48 million, Plan International £30 million, Oxfam £25 million, Christian Aid £21 million, Care International £19 million and the Clinton Health Access Initiative, which is a subsidiary of the Clinton Foundation, £19 million. Not surprisingly, many of these trans-national NGOs are highly dependent on funding from the various big powers and have in effect become extensions of these states and institutions. For example, according to the UNDP report, Care International relies on imperial governments and institutions, including the EU, the World Bank, Britain’s (DfID) and the USA’s Agency for International Development (USAID) for some 60% of its budget, while Oxfam received 44% of its 2015-16 budget from such sources. 

In addition to the institutional trans-national NGOs, there has also been the emergence of the so-called ‘charitable foundations’. These are trans-national NGOs which are set up by western millionaires and billionaires and include examples such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and the Clinton Foundation.  The former which was set up by the founder of Microsoft and his wife had an income in 2010 of US$53 billion, while the latter had a 2010 income of US$143 million. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation claim that their activities are aimed to “to help the world’s poorest people lift themselves out of hunger and poverty  and to save lives in developing countries”, while the Clinton Foundation claim that their activities are intended to “to transform lives and communities by improving global health, increasing opportunity for girls and women, reducing childhood obesity and preventable diseases, creating economic opportunity and growth, and  helping communities address the effects of climate change”.  With regard to Africa, the Gates Foundation states that it works closely with 10 African countries, including Ethiopia, Nigeria and South Africa, while supporting NGOs in other African countries such as Burkina Faso, Ghana, Kenya and Tanzania. They claim that their activity in Africa aims to “advance healthcare, improve agricultural production, strengthen financial services for the poor, and improve maternal and child health”, in other words to carry out the work of governments in Africa. The Clinton Foundation, for its part, states that it works in a number of African countries including Malawi, Rwanda and Tanzania with the aim of “strengthening health systems and expanding access to lifesaving treatments; providing farmers with tools they need to increase their incomes and strengthen their communities; and addressing climate change by making forests and cities more sustainable”.

The Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC) uses its networks in Africa to pressure African governments to remain subjected to the racism of the ICC
Having taken up the role of day to day governance in Africa on behalf of the imperial states, it is hardly surprising that these NGOs take an active part in the political life of various African countries. Using their considerable financial resources and their intimate connections to the ruling elites of the big powers, these trans-national NGOs operate in Africa as a law unto themselves and blatantly interfere in the internal affairs of the countries where they operate. Some use their wealth to set up and fund what they term ‘local African NGOs’ through which they then agitate in pursuit of their own goals. One such NGO is the Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC). This organisation which was established in 1995 in New York with the aim of campaigning for the establishment of an International Criminal Court, now has a network of organisations in Zambia, South Africa, Sudan, Cote D’Ivoire, Mali, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Uganda. The CICC is aggressively using these organisations to try to deter African governments from following through on their threat to leave the International Criminal Court because of its established racist bias.  This financial dependence of many African NGOs on foreign funders is exemplified by the case of the Southern Africa Trust, a South African NGO. This organisation states that its aim is to end poverty in the southern Africa region and make regional integration work for the poor. According to its financial accounts for the year ending 31 March 2016, it received 82% of its revenue for that year from Britain’s DfID and a further 12% from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, Ford Foundation, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa which is a subsidiary of George Soros’ Open Society Foundations, Oxfam and Trust Africa. Therefore, this organisation is totally dependent on these foreign funders and is incapable of acting outside of their interests in Africa. It is interesting to note that Trust Africa which is listed as one of the funders of Southern African Trust is itself a Senegal based NGO which is equally dependent on the same sources of foreign funding. It lists among its funders Humanity United, a US based NGO with links to the founder of eBay and to the McCain Institute for International Leadership which is named after the infamous US warmonger John McCain, the Dutch Foreign Ministry, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Ford Foundation, and the Open Society Foundations. Therefore, through deploying their huge financial resources, the big powers are able to develop throughout the African continent massive networks of ‘civil society’ which can be activated in pursuit of their political and economic aims in Africa. 

The neo-colonial nature of these trans-national NGOs activities in Africa has, not surprisingly, prompted various African governments to address this problem. Some countries, like Eritrea, have banned them outright from operating in their country, while others such as Kenya and Ethiopia have imposed requirements on such organisations to register in order to operate. In addition, Ethiopia has limited the proportion of their income that local NGOs can receive from foreign sources. In a circular issued in 2016, Kenya’s  NGOs Co-ordination Board noted that trans-national NGOs in that country were openly violating Kenyan law by ignoring  the need for non-Kenyan citizens to hold work permits; paying foreign staff 4 times more for the same job than what they paid  Kenyan nationals with comparable skills and qualifications,  as well as providing these foreign staff with additional benefits which they did not give to Kenyan staff;  recruiting foreign ‘volunteers’ who received benefits in excess of the salaries paid to Kenyan staff and that some people were making a lifelong career out of being NGO expatriates in Kenya. This activity of the trans-national NGOs in Kenya reflects the essentially racist and colonialist nature of these organisations’ activities in Africa. It is long overdue to put a stop to this element of foreign intervention in Africa.

Land-grabbing’ in Africa – a complex issue

Foreign intervention in the form of owning African land is a vast and complex subject. This complexity is increased by the difficulty of accessing accurate information and the need to understand the issue in its context. Two important sources of information on the topic are a 2009 report published by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) entitled ‘Land grab or development opportunity?: Agricultural investment and international land deals in Africa’ and a 2011 Oxfam report ‘Land Grabbing in Africa: A review of impacts and possible policy responses’. The former was based on research in 5 countries (Ethiopia, Ghana, Madagascar, Mali and Sudan) carried out over a period of 5 months covering deals greater than 1000 hectares (a hectare is roughly the size of a football field) over the time frame of 2004-2009. The latter was compiled in 2011 by Tinyade Kachika, a senior legal researcher at Oxfam. 

The key picture which emerges from the FAO/IIED report is that data on land acquisitions in Africa is scarce and often of limited reliability and therefore conclusions drawn from the study need to be treated with some caution. Nevertheless a picture is emerging of large-scale land acquisitions in Africa. The key features of this process include a significant amount of land being affected with some 2.5 million hectares of land allocated in the five study countries between 2004 and 2009. In addition, there is a rise in land-based investment although large-scale claims involving land of over 1000 hectares remains a small proportion of total suitable land in any one country. Furthermore, most of the remaining suitable land is already under use or claim, often by local people, and pressure is growing on higher value lands, such as, those with irrigation potential or closer to markets. There also appears to be an increase in the size of single land acquisitions, for example, there was a 452,500 hectare biofuel project in Madagascar, a 150,000 hectare livestock project in Ethiopia and a 100,000 hectare irrigation project in Mali. Another emerging feature appeared to be the dominance of the private sector in such land deals as well as the dominance of foreign investors, although domestic investors also seemed to be playing a major role.

Publicity for an anti ‘land-grab’ conference in South Africa in 2013
The Oxfam study also appears to show very high levels of activity with regard to land deals in Africa and argues that, in most cases, the land is not marginal as governments and investors have claimed. It notes that evidence in 2009 indicated that land deals in Ethiopia involved an estimated 602,760 hectares; in Ghana 452,000 hectares and in Mali 162,580 hectares. These land deals are driven by government policies which have the stated intention of attracting investment, particularly foreign direct investment with the aim of contributing to the economic development of the country. For example, the Oxfam report points out that the Mozambican government is promoting the country as a southern African agro fuel hub, and in 2007 alone, agro fuel investors in Mozambique applied for rights to close to 5 million hectares; Senegal’s Minister for Bio fuels and Renewable Energy confirmed that there were interests by investors to establish an irrigated agricultural zone ranging from 60,000 to 600,000 hectares for the production of ethanol in the country and in 2008, it was reported that investors in Tanzania were interested in producing bio-mass for either ethanol or bio-diesel on land measuring from 30,000 to 2,000,000 acres. The report further argues that as result of such deals rural communities are dispossessed of land that they have routinely used for ages in order to accommodate domestic policy decisions promoting foreign agricultural investments. In addition, it states that there is also evidence that the validity of some contracts directly entered into between foreign investors and rural communities has been in doubt and concludes that this therefore merits labelling many land deals as “land grabbing”. 

On the other hand, some African governments complain that the ‘land grabbing’ issue is being deliberately fanned by some ‘development charities’ and ‘non-governmental organisations (NGOs)’ in order to prevent African countries from developing economically, since they have a vested interest in maintaining poverty in Africa. For example in 2013, the Ethiopian government issued a briefing paper to address many of the claims around ‘land grabbing’.  The briefing paper states that all development activities by the government are immediately classified as “human rights violations” by the advocacy groups which themselves have a vested interest in making a living by allegedly making a contribution to poverty alleviation measures through getting funding from various donors. It is interesting to note that the ‘aid budgets’ of some of these donor countries dwarf the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of many African countries. For example, the 2016 USAID budget was US$27.2 billion which compared with a 2016 GDP of US $25 billion for Uganda, $15 billion for Zimbabwe, and $13billion for Mozambique. Furthermore the paper states that these groups are opposed to development in countries like Ethiopia because this will eliminate their reason for being. A further concern is that some of these ‘development charities’ are in fact linked to the secret services of the donor countries which use them to gather intelligence. As a consequence, their activities have been banned in some African countries. The Ethiopian government argues that all its land deals must meet strict criteria. First, land cannot be sold outright but can only be leased, secondly only land that is sparsely populated can be used and all deals must include a 40/60 split, whereby at least 40% of the produce must be for the local market whereas 60% can be exported. In addition, local labour must be used in the project and the government encourages the transfer of technology in these processes. The African Union has established a framework for land acquisition which includes many of the caveats the Ethiopian government outlined in its briefing paper.

Independent researchers note that NGOs like the Oakland Institute do act in the way suggested by the Ethiopian government. However, although they agree that the approach of the NGOs would prevent any form of national development since any attempt to build an agro-processing industry would be discredited as ‘land grabbing’, they, nevertheless, argue that the situation with regard to such land deals in Ethiopia itself remains complex. They point out that land policy in Ethiopia is based on a zoning system. Land which is zoned for peasant use is subject to redistribution according to the needs of each peasant household. However, land which is not included in the peasant use zone is available for land deals and accounts suggest that large tracts are taken out of peasant-use sector and allocated to foreign investors and that in some areas peasant farmers are losing their best lands to this.  They further argue that only leasing land to foreign investors and not selling it is not particularly significant, since in many African countries land sales do take place as a lease of 25 or 50 years for foreign investors and 90 years for housing. In any event, they caution against seeing the Ethiopian approach as a model for the rest of Africa. They argue instead that in evaluating such land deals, it is necessary to have a clear picture of what is meant by development by outlining the nature of this development, the class alliances it serves and the nature of the relations with foreign capital.

Land grabbing is undoubtedly one of the most hotly contested issues in the geopolitics of Africa, partly because comparatively large sections of Africa’s population are still closely connected to agricultural production whether on a subsistence basis or on a larger commercial scale so any threat to the people’s means of lively hood has serious potential implications.  The case of ZanuPF inspired land reclamation from big land owners with titles dating back to the colonial era in Zimbabwe is often cited in the western press from the perspective that this has been a failed project but the fact that there are conflicting interests at play who have definite agendas in pushing one or other narrative is clear to see.


Foreign military bases on the rise in Africa

One of the most concerning developments in the struggle between various foreign powers for control over Africa’s resources and exploitation of its people is the rise of the number of foreign military bases being established on the continent. Using as their pretexts, the so-called struggle against terrorism and piracy and the provision of humanitarian assistance, various foreign powers are establishing bases across Africa.
Camp Lemonnier – the hub of AFRICOM’s network of bases in Africa
In the lead in this regard is the USA which through its Africa Command (AFRICOM) in 2016 was active militarily in 32 African countries and had some 46 bases, outposts, and staging areas dotted across the continent. The hub of this massive network of US military intervention in Africa is the 600 acre Camp Lemonnier base in Djibouti, from which the US military co-ordinate their activities in both Africa and the Gulf of Aden. Interestingly, this base was previously a French Foreign Legion base. 

France, basing itself on its long and sordid colonial history in Africa, is the next in line with regard to foreign military bases in Africa. It currently has bases in Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Djibouti and Gabon and troops deployed in Mali, Mauritania, Burkina Faso and Niger.

China recently opened its first base in Africa

China, which has extensive economic interests in Africa, recently opened its first overseas base in Djibouti. Britain has two bases, one in Kenya and the other in Sierra Leone, while Japan has a base in Djibouti, Turkey has one in Somaliland and the United Arab Emirates has one in Eritrea and another in Somalia.

The quickening pace of the establishment of foreign military bases in Africa is a sign of the growing contention between these foreign powers for control of the continent and it represents a mortal danger to Africa and her people. The demand must be raised for the complete withdrawal of all foreign militaries from the African continent and for the end to foreign military intervention in Africa.

G20 Summit proposals reflect new scramble for control of Africa’s human and material resources

The recent summit meeting of the G20 countries in Hamburg, Germany, was the occasion for increasing contention between the big powers over the wealth of the African continent. The governments of Britain and Germany were the most active, both in response to the unprecedented activity of China, which now dominates Africa’s international trade. The new scramble for control of Africa’s human and material resources is well under way. 

The government of Germany (which currently chairs the G20) hosted a special conference on Africa held in June this year and attended by nine African heads of state and representatives of the IMF, World Bank and African Development Bank as well as government ministers and the German chancellor, Angela Merkel. As in the past the focus was establishing a so-called ‘partnership’ between the world’s twenty most powerful countries and the African continent. The outcome of the conference was the ‘Compact with Africa’ which, amongst other things, aims at encouraging the further penetration of Africa by the big financial institutions. This, it is claimed, is the best way to provide employment for Africans and thereby stem the constant flow of migrants forced to seek a livelihood in Europe, many of whom have ended up in Germany. Several African countries, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire, Rwanda and Ghana have agreed to be part of this compact. In addition, Cote d’Ivoire, Tunisia and Ghana have also agreed to seek further collaboration with Germany leading to more enslaving ‘aid,’ in exchange for even greater penetration of these economies by Germany’s financial institutions. Regarding Cote d’Ivoire, there is some evidence that Germany is seeking to increase its activities in Francophone Africa in contention with France.

British prime Minister, Theresa May, and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the G20 Summit – eyeing Africa’s wealth

These proposals have been adopted by the G20 as part of a more general ‘partnership’ with Africa which requires individual agreements between individual G20 members and African countries. The British government has also been eager to take advantage of the opportunity in the context of developing what it refers to as ‘Global Britain.’ Speaking at the summit Prime Minister Theresa May made an announcement of what was referred to as an ‘ambitious package of support to create new wealth in Africa,’ but which appears to be a new way of removing wealth from Africa for the benefit of the big financial institutions. According to May, one of the key elements will be the so-called London Centre for Global Disaster Protection, a means to provide insurance to cover various disasters in Africa such as drought and famine, which will allegedly decrease the need for what is referred to as ‘humanitarian aid.’ The government therefore plans to assist in building the insurance sector in African and other exploited countries as well as other measures to ‘help Africa integrate into global financial markets.’ This at a time when capital is flowing out of the African continent at a massive rate both by legal and illicit means. According to reports illicit capital flows may be as much as $60 billion each year. It is also clear that the British government’s new initiative is designed not only to increase the impoverishment of Africa but far from allowing Africa to develop its own independent financial institutions is also designed to create ‘more opportunities for London to become the finance hub for Africa.’ In short these and other measures aim to further the penetration of the big financial institutions in Africa and thereby maintain the foreign economic domination of the continent by Britain and the other big powers.

Both the governments of Britain and Germany claim that such measures will create jobs and lead to economic growth in Africa and by such means the problem of African refugees venturing to Europe will also be addressed. Critics of yet another new partnership for Africa point out that most African countries have not even been consulted. While nine African governments attended the conference in June only four were invited to the later G20 summit. History provides no evidence that ‘open markets, free trade, private investment’ have solved Africa’s economic problems, rather they are a cause of its underdevelopment and dependency and its peoples’ impoverishment. 

These efforts by both Germany and Britain, as well as other G20 countries including India, have little to do with concern for the millions of impoverished Africans but can be seen in part as a response to the influence of China in Africa, now said to have over 10,000 companies active in the continent employing several million Africans, handling over 12 percent of the continent’s industrial production, over 50 percent of all internationally contracted construction. China-Africa trade was valued at $300 billion last year. China’s economic and military rivals such as Britain have thus been compelled to intensify their efforts in Africa whether under the guise of combatting terrorism or alleged humanitarian concern. There can therefore be no illusions about the British government’s intentions nor the aims of other G20 countries. The demand must be for Britain and the other big powers to get out of Africa.


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