Category: Africa
Buffalo Soldiers Go To Africa | Black Agenda Report
| November 28, 2017 | 8:05 pm | Africa, Analysis, Imperialism | No comments

https://blackagendareport.com/buffalo-soldiers-go-africa

Buffalo Soldiers Go To Africa | Black Agenda Report

Buffalo Soldiers Go To Africa

08 Nov 2017
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.

Mark P. Fancher is an attorney who periodically writes for Black Agenda Report. He can be contacted at mfancher(at)comcast.net.

Africa Focus: Zimbabwe After Mugabe
| November 28, 2017 | 7:49 pm | Africa | No comments

Zimbabwe: After Mugabe, Looking Back

AfricaFocus Bulletin November 27, 2017 (171127) (Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor’s Note

In Zimbabwe, celebration at the departure of Robert Mugabe from office after 37 years in power has been fervent and heartfelt. But almost all of those celebrating also acknowledge the difficulties of the months and years to come. Hope is tempered by recognition that the structures of kleptocratic and military rule remain in place.

The trend lines for searches for Zimbabwe and for Mugabe both rose dramatically in the last two weeks (see http://tinyurl.com/ycnmc33s for a Google search graph). Predictably, global attention has begun to decline. But the juxtaposition of hope and pessimism has been a recurrent theme, with varying degrees of nuance and depth.

The two AfricaFocus Bulletins released today contain a selection of links and excerpts from commentators who provide insights going beyond most news coverage,  both looking back and looking forward.
This first Bulletin, looking back, highlights a Reuters special report on the events leading to Mugabe’s downfall, an article by Sarah Ládípọ̀ Manyika on the best (fiction) books of the Mugabe years, a short personal essay by Petina Gappah, one of the authors cited by Manyika, followed by excerpts from an extensive historical review by Paul Tiyambe Zeleza and from a passionate personal reflection by Leon Jamie Mighti.

The second Bulletin, looking forward, includes a summary report from Harare from IRIN News, additional links particularly on the economic challenges ahead, and excerpts from an essay written after the inauguration of the new President Emmerson Mnangagwa by commentator Alex T. Magaisa. http://www.africafocus.org/docs17/zim1711b.php.

For a full archive of previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on Zimbabwe, visit http://www.africafocus.org/country/zimbabwe.php

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor’s note+++++++++++++++++

Additional articles worth noting

MacDonald Dzirutwe, Joe Brock, Ed Cropley, “Special Report: ‘Treacherous shenanigans’ – The inside story of Mugabe’s downfall,” Reuters, Nov. 26, 2017 http://tinyurl.com/y6wwd2hy Reuters has pieced together the events leading up to Mugabe’s removal, showing that the army’s action was the culmination of months of planning that stretched from Harare to Johannesburg to Beijing.

Sarah Ládípọ̀ Manyika, “From Zimbabwe: The Best Books of the Mugabe Years,” Nov. 21, 2017 http://www.ozy.com – Direct URL: http://tinyurl.com/yaeuvdmf

Truth is said to be stranger than fiction, but Zimbabwe’s novelists have always shone a light on the truths — both complex and contradictory — of this nation. Mugabe himself embodies complexities and contradictions: He was a liberation hero and the first president of Zimbabwe who presided over a country that initially thrived, but at the same time there was a dark underbelly to his rule in the ’80s and ’90s. Then came the period of the 2000s when he led a country that was clearly in decline. These 10 books trace this arc of the Mugabe era.

Petina Gappah, “Mugabe and me: A personal history of growing up in Zimbabwe,” BBC, Nov. 25, 2017 http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-42109616

By the end of the academic year, I had studied constitutional law, and learned, through case law on illegal detentions, that all the time I had been gulping down books as a child in the library, a state of emergency had been in place in Matabeleland, and that region had been the theatre of mass killings by the army’s Fifth Brigade.

By the time I came face to face with Mugabe at my own graduation four years later, I was no longer a believer. Gone was the hero worship, but still left was deep and conflicted respect. As the Dean read out my achievements and I knelt before him to be capped, I looked into the face of my president. In that voice, the voice I had first heard in our township house when Zimbabwe was just a dream, Mugabe said to me, “Congratulations, well done.”

The last 17 years saw me count myself among his opponents as he waged another war, this time against the country he had promised.

We could not count all the bodies after that terrible war of liberation, but those that we could, we gave funeral rites and buried in places of honour. But how do you count the bodies of those who died in the war Mugabe waged against his own people?

Zimbabwe’s Political Watershed: A Tale of Failed Transitions

Paul Tiyambe Zeleza

Linked-In Pulse, Nov. 18, 2017 http://tinyurl.com/y9482jja

President Robert Mugabe, once the celebrated hero of Zimbabwe’s protracted liberation struggle who descended into an irascible octogenarian dictator, seems to have finally met his rendezvous with history. On Wednesday, November 15, 2017 the army overthrew him. He was placed under house arrest together with his much-reviled wife, notoriously known as ‘Gucci Grace’ or ‘DisGrace’. It has been an unusually slow motion and sanitized coup, homage to the unpopularity of coups in an increasingly democratic Africa. But it also underscores the fact that President Mugabe’s ouster arose out of an internecine struggle for power among the ruling elite. This suggests the limits of fundamental change in the immediate post-Mugabe era for the longsuffering masses of Zimbabwe.

Zimbabwe protesters on November 18, the Saturday before Robert Mugabe resigned. Credit: http://www.groundup.org.za

The Mugabe era began with so much promise in 1980 after a bloody liberation struggle that lasted almost two decades. It ended 37 years later in almost unimaginable ignominy, leaving behind a trail of economic mismanagement, widespread impoverishment, and millions of emigrants, not to mention the intangible but no less palpable wounds of national trauma, humiliation, and disillusionment. Much of the commentary in the African and international media has largely focused on the epic failures of the president and the outrageous foibles of his avaricious and ambitious wife. Specifically, they concentrate on the spectacular mistake President Mugabe made in firing his once close and loyal confidant Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, in an apparent bid to prepare his wife as his successor.

There can be little doubt the president and his wife finally overreached and sealed their fate by unleashing forces that they could no longer control. But the dramatic moment we are witnessing in Zimbabwe is rooted in a longer and far more complex history that transcends the fatal flaws of the president, his wife, and the country’s other leaders, however critical their respective roles maybe. It can be argued the current conjuncture in Zimbabwe represents the confluence of three failed transitions. The first was the problematic transition from the liberation struggle to a developmental post-colonial state arising out of the country’s decolonization in the era of neo-liberalism. The second was the challenge of shifting from an authoritarian to a pluralistic order when the winds of democratization, for the ‘second independence’, began blowing across the continent. The third concerns the management of inter-generational contestations for power in anticipation of the postMugabe era.

But unlike many countries that got their independence in the 1950s and 1960s, Zimbabwe attained its independence during a period characterised by global economic crisis and the ascendancy of neo-liberalism. The first severely limited primary commodity and export driven economic growth enjoyed by many of the newly independent countries in the 1960s, while the second entailed the ‘rolling back’ of the state that severely curtailed the developmentalist ambitions of the new government. To be sure, in the early post-independence years Zimbabwe’s record of achievement in the provision of social services especially education and health care was very impressive. But it was unsustainable following the imposition of structural adjustment programs, which, as in much of Africa, took a heavy toll on the economy particularly social services and formal and public sector employment. In fact, the austerities of structural adjustment programs (SAPs) galvanized the increasingly pauperised urban middle classes and the rural masses still awaiting their fruits of Uhuru into the wave of protests and agitation that crystallized into struggles for democratization, for the ‘second independence.’

By the late 1990s the comrades in power could no longer fool their beloved masses in the rural areas, the restive armies of unemployed educated youths in the cities, and the workers flexing their industrial muscles and discovering a new political voice through mushrooming civil society organizations and the MDC.

By the end of the 1990s both rural and urban discontent were growing. Indeed, the rural areas bore the brunt of economic decline engendered by the draconian regime of structural adjusment imposed with missionary zeal by the gendarmes of global capitalism—the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. This was compounded by political terror as the increasingly besieged regime sought to shore up its dwindling legitimacy and tattered revolutionary credentials by tightening its grip on the peasantry, its symbolic and substantive basis of power. The costs of the economic crisis, as manifested in food shortages and the politicization of food relief efforts, finally broke the proverbial patient backs of the peasantry.

Connecting the two, the peasantry and the working classes, the rural and the urban areas, and the country’s other spatial and social divides, including the ethnicized divisions between the old political geographies of Mashonaland and Matabeleland, which the Mugabe regime had manipulated to weaken the opposition and maintain its iron grip on power, was the draconian ‘Operation Murambatsvina,’ officially translated as ‘Operation Clean Up,’ but literally translated as ‘getting rid of the filth,’ through which the government sought to drain the cities including Harare, the capital, of political opposition. The operation was launched in 2005 and affected more than two million people. The bulk of the MDC’s parliamentary seats from previous elections were located in the cities.

This criminal evacuation program, which was widely condemned within Zimbabwe and internationally including by the United Nations, led to the destruction of the informal sector in the cities and the displacement of hundreds of thousands of people many of whom flocked to the increasingly destitute rural areas. This not only exacerbated rural poverty, but also helped dissolve some of the social and political boundaries, both real and imagined, between the rural and urban areas and dwellers, which raised national consciousness and reinforced opposition to the former liberation heroes turned into predators in power.

The violence and polarisation became even more evident in the election of March 2008. Preliminary indications were that the MDC was poised for victory both in the parliamentary and presidential elections. The government unleashed massive intimidation against the opposition and their supporters and perpetrated voter fraud, which provoked widespread condemnation at home and abroad. Both SADC and the United Nations tried to intervene. It took more than a month before the final results were declared after being doctored to prevent a run-off—the winner needed more than 50% for outright victory. Finally, on May 2 the Zimbabwe Electoral Commission announced that the MDC leader, Morgan Tsvangirai, had received 47.9% of the vote, trailed by President Mugabe who received 43.2%, and the rest went to minor candidates. For the Parliamentary elections the MDC secured 100 seats and the breakaway MDC-Mutambara 10 seats, while the ruling ZANU-PF garnered 99 seats. In the Senate ZANU-PF claimed 57 seats, MDC 24, and MDC-Mutambara 12.

Despite international condemnation and interventions, violence and intimidation against the opposition continued, which saw dozens of people killed. The MDC decided to withdraw from the second round of presidential elections scheduled for June 27, 2008. President Mugabe won 85.51% of the vote in a much-reduced turnout placed at 42.37%. He was sworn in immediately after the results were announced. The regional bloc and the African Union called for Government of National Unity (GNU) between ZANU-PF and the MDC, which was eventually formed in early 2009 under which Morgan Tsvangirai became Prime Minister. It was a bloated government with two deputy vicepresidents, two deputy prime ministers, 31 ministers, 8 ministers of state, 20 deputy ministers, and 9 provincial governors.

The oversize government was not matched by its efficacy, let alone were the political divisions overcome. Indeed, as with most marriages of convenience, it was a fragile, acrimonious, and temporary union that crumbled several years later. To be sure, under the GNU, the economy recovered from the economic crisis of the 2000s that was characterized by endemic shortages of goods, hyperinflation measured in the trillions, the collapse of educational institutions and health facilities, massive unemployment, and migrations of an estimated 3-5 million to South Africa and other neighbouring countries as well as Europe and North America.

The political respite that came with the containment of the MDC proved short-lived. Assured of its political dominance, ZANU-PF turned inward, and intra-party contestations over the post-Mugabe era heated up. As in many other dictatorships in post-colonial Africa, openly discussing the president’s fraility and demise were taboo. But everyone knew the old man was on his last legs as evidence mounted of his growing physical and mental infirmity. Predictably, the struggle centered on the position of the Vice-Presidency in which intra-Shona ethnic, generational, and gender cleavages reared their ugly heads. Ideology had long ceased to be a factor notwhitstanding invocations of tired socialist rhetoric and empty obeisance to protecting and promoting the ‘revolution.’

In recent years the intra-ZANU conflict has centered on the war veterans’ and postlibration generations coalesced around two key protagonists. On the one hand is the 75-year old Vice President, Mr. Mnangwaga, the cunning and ruthless ‘Crocodile’ infamous for orchestrating the Matabeleland massacres of 1983. On the other is the Generation 40 faction of post-liberation apparatchiks and looters beholden to the President’s wife, the combative 52 year old Ms. Grace Mugabe, who had since acquired an insatiable hunger for power beyond her earlier shopping addiction. Both sought the ouster of Ms. Joice Mujuru, a renowned war veteran in her own right, as Vice President, which happened in December 2014. Soon after Ms. Mujuru was expelled from ZANU-PF. Mr. Mnangwagwa and Ms. Mugabe fell into openly bitter jostling for power within ZANU-PF and for the president’s ear. The latter enjoyed the upper hand of marital intimacy and the support of the G40, while the former had the support of the war veterans and most crucially the military.

The reckoning came following the ouster of Mr. Mnangwagwa as Vice President on November 8, 2017. For the military and political elite that had accumulated vast wealth in an increasingly impoverished country and enjoyed political power for decades the prospects of Ms. Mugabe and the G40 supplanting them was anathema. They struck back on November 15. The hapless President quickly discovered that the weary population was not on his side as it marched in the streets of Harare with ecstacy not seen since independence. Even his party seemed more interested in protecting its hold on power and economic interests than in protecting him. Party branches passed no confidence votes in him and an emergency meeting was called to formally remove him as party leader. As with many dictators power oozed out of the once beloved and longdreaded President’s hands like air out of a deflated balloon.

The immediate trigger of President Mugabe’s fall came from the regime’s failure to manage the transition from the nation’s octogenarian founder to a successor and new political dispensation. The fratricidal conflict in ZANU-PF between the two generations means that the struggle for Zimbabwe’s future, the country of my birth whose struggles for liberation I cherish and whose bright future I yearn for, means the post-Mugabe era will be a troubled one. The vicious struggle between the two factions is less about charting a more productive future for the country, and more about safeguarding their ill-gotten wealth built on the carcasses of deepening poverty for millions of workers and peasants, not to mention the immiseration of significant sections of the middle classes. In short, both factions have profiteered from President Mugabe’s political repression and economic plunder.

Read full article at http://tinyurl.com/y9482jja

Op-Ed: Beware ‘Crocodile’ Mnangagwa – Zanu-PF is not renewing, it is a snake shedding its old skin

Leon Mighti

Daily Maverick, 21 Nov 2017

https://www.dailymaverick.co.za – Direct URL: http://tinyurl.com/y9h6k982

Those who believe Robert Mugabe should be punished for crimes against humanity and stand trial, I agree with you. If you believe that then you must believe the same for the number one henchman, Emmerson Mnangagwa. We cannot have a fresh start without a full account from Mugabe and Mnangagwa about what they did, who they did it with, and why they did it.

Let me share my Zim story with you.

When my mother fell pregnant at the age of 19, the first thing she did was buy life assurance. She didn’t want her only son to suffer in case something happened to her. So, she went to Old Mutual and got the best life assurance package they had. I sometimes see those adverts in the morning and think of it. Pay such and such at 20 and get R3-million if something happens.

My mother never thought that she would only live to be 29. She passed away so suddenly. There was a big fight for custody and perhaps even because of that life assurance policy. When it was all over we were well into the post-2000 Zimbabwe. That funeral policy ended up being worth less than the amount of taxi fare it cost to travel to the bank.

My mother worked all those years for nothing. Think about that for a second if you are a person who pays life assurance today. Politics can mess up your bank balance and wipe away a lifetime of sweat and tears. That’s how I was personally affected by the Mugabe era.

When I, like millions of others, ran away to try to pursue my dreams elsewhere. I had nothing. I struggled to pay for my fees at Wits. I was homeless for years and watched my peers graduate and buy cars while I stood selling earphones on the university library steps.

I left Zim back then because I had nothing, I wanted to be somebody and have something like the boys in my classes at CBC. I left Zim coz of the poverty I was tired of breathing every day. I left Zim because I wanted to be a doctor so badly but I didn’t have a chance in Zim (my marks were good but not good enough) at the one medical school that was present at the time. Only 200 could make it in and there was no graduate entry programme.

When my father died he was a plumber for the national railway services, the NRZ. He was a foreman and was damned good at what he did. One of my uncles (his cousin) loved to mock him for being a handyman but he loved that job and the dignity it offered him to provide for his family.

When he passed away he died a pauper. He was making less than R500 a month – when the government chose to pay. …

My father did his best to give me the best education; he gave me an education he could never afford. I went to Marist Brothers in Dete, and I was always one of the people who had to explain my fees situation. My trunk was never full, and Kudzai Mucheriwa is my witness. But my Dad did the best he could. I even went to CBC in Bulawayo and my stepmother hated it, she complained daily. I will never forget what my father said to her, “If we have to eat amacimbi (mopane worms) daily till he finishes school, we will eat amacimbi daily.”

He would do piece jobs for pennies in the many months that government did not pay. My father died still walking to work coz he could not afford to catch a taxi. From Northend to the NRZ close to the factories, in Bulawayo. If you know that area, imagine a qualified technical graduate, top of his class, a man who once managed city of Bulawayo water systems, a foreman for years. Walking to work.

Under Mugabe my father watched his dreams and efforts to create something of value for his family melt away. He tried to get into another country like so many others did to escape that suffocating poverty but it caught up with him…

I tell you those true personal stories to preface this next sentence.

I hate Robert Mugabe.

I haven’t shared how one of my grandmothers told me horror stories about some of what happened to her friends and family during Gugurahundi (the notorious massacres). She used to cringe when she saw that mass murderer on TV speaking as if he was God’s gift to Africa and Zimbabwe.

I hate Robert Mugabe.

I hate him so much I have obsessed over him, studying him, studying his rise to power and how he was able to destroy so many lives. How could one man do this. It was at that point that I realised he was NEVER ACTING ALONE.

I know that he did not do what he did alone. He had some people co-starring with him in this movie of Evil that we have all been watching since 1979. Joshua Nkomo warned people back then not to vote for an Idi Amin. He meant Mugabe, he had seen enough to make the conclusion; they say character is prologue.

So today I want to caution against dancing in the streets for the next Idi Amin whose governmental and leadership CV is as horrific as that of Mugabe, the number one disciple of Mugabe for 41 years. The co-star of the Robert Mugabe show.

Mr Emmerson (Crocodile by reputation) Mnangagwa.

If I hate Mugabe, I must also hate this man; there is no Mugabe without Mnangagwa. Two sides of the proverbial coin.

So having said all of this we have to truly consider if this is a #Freshstart for Zimbabwe?

Those who believe Mugabe should be punished for crimes against humanity and stand trial, I agree with you. If you believe that then you must believe the same for the number one henchman Mnangagwa. We cannot have a fresh start without a full account from Mugabe and Mnangagwa about what they did, who they did it with, why they did it. Until those people in those “affected” areas are made whole. Until they receive justice and closure. It was not a moment of madness as Mugabe and Mnangagwa have said on record, it was an intentional, calculated mass execution on ethnic grounds of innocent civilians. To put it in perspective, 30,000 lives were lost in the fight for independence, and just three years after getting it more than 20,000 people never lived to see it because Mugabe and Mnangagwa had to settle a tribal score with Mzilikazi and Lobengula.

For those who believe that Mugabe must account for all the farms that ended up belonging to his wife and not the people, Mnangagwa must account for the same corruption, he owns many farms too, and so do many military generals. The economic and social crimes that they see all of a sudden, both the Lacoste faction and the G40 faction committed those crimes against the dowry of Chimurenga that is not theirs to self-appropriate. Mnangagwa must explain what happened to the 15-billion. Is this what he used to pay the army for its loyalty? Those are blood diamonds, for sure.

For those who say Mugabe has been rigging elections, has been suppressing rights of the people to movement, to free speech, to fair trial. To all those people I say you are absolutely right. Mugabe did all those things, and he did them with Mnangagwa. Who helped Mugabe arrest journalists and activists, where is Dzamara? Mnangagwa must tell us where they buried him.

Read full article at http://tinyurl.com/y9h6k982

If this issue was forwarded to you by email, and you want to receive AfricaFocus Bulletin regularly, sign up here.

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

AfricaFocus Bulletin can be reached at africafocus@igc.org. Please write to this address to suggest material for inclusion. For more information about reposted material, please contact directly the original source mentioned. For a full archive and other resources, see http://www.africafocus.org

Africa/Global: Counterproductive Counterterrorism
| November 13, 2017 | 7:41 pm | Africa | No comments

Africa/Global: Counterproductive Counterterrorism

AfricaFocus Bulletin November 13, 2017 (171113) (Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor’s Note

What strategies work to counter terrorism effectively, whether in Africa or anywhere else in the world? Few would claim to have a convincing answer to that question. However, there is some real evidence of what strategies do not work and are even counterproductive. For example, a new UNDP study studying recruitment to violent extremism, based on interviews with former extremists in Nigeria, Kenya, and Somalia, found a number of factors underlying the growth of violent extremism. Particularly striking was the finding that 71 percent of recruits interviewed said that it was some form of government action that was the ‘tipping point’ that triggered their final decision to join an extremist group.

Those interviewed cited incidents such as ‘killing of a family member or friend’ or ‘arrest of a family member or friend’, as the incident that prompted them to join. These findings throw into stark relief the question of how counterterrorism and wider security functions of governments in at-risk environments conduct themselves with regard to human rights and due process. State security-actor conduct is revealed as a prominent accelerator of recruitment, rather than the reverse.

This AfricaFocus contains excerpts from the 128-page UNDP report “Journey to Extremism in Africa,” as well as links to a press release and the full report. It also contains a survey article by Obi Anyadike, Africa Editor of IRIN, on how police conduct (which should be the first line of defense against extremism) instead fosters recruitment through abuses against civilians. IRIN, founded by the United Nations, is now an independent non-profit news service featuring first-hand reporting on humanitarian crises.

Another AfricaFocus Bulletin, also released today, and available at http://www.africafocus.org/docs17/sah1711.php, focuses specifically on the questions raised for the recent deaths of four U.S. Soldiers in Niger. It features links and brief excerpts from articles selected to highlight questions asked, unasked, and half-answered.

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on peace and security issues, visit http://www.africafocus.org/intro-peace.php

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor’s note+++++++++++++++++

Unfair cop – why African police forces make violent extremism worse

Obi Anyadike, Editor-at-Large and Africa Editor

IRIN. 28 Septermber 2017

http://www.irinnews.org – direct URL: http://tinyurl.com/yab9couf

Part of a special project exploring violent extremism in Nigeria and the Sahel (https://www.irinnews.org/in-depth/countering-militancy-sahel)

Undermanned, underfunded, underwhelming: African police forces struggle to contain regular crime, and they are even further out of their depth when it comes to tackling violent extremism.

The best way to identify threats to public safety is a policing model that promotes trust and collaboration with the community, say the policy manuals on preventing violent extremism, better known as PVE. A positive relationship is believed to help build resilience to radicalisation.

But the reality in much of the world is that the police are viewed as corrupt, violent, and people best avoided.

“In African culture the police are there to intimidate, to coerce,” acknowledged Kenyan senior sergeant Francis Mwangi.

He is trying his best to change that perception. Sharp and articulate, Mwangi is the face of a new policing initiative in the Nairobi slum of Kamakunji, which aims to build a partnership with the community to help blunt radicalisation of the youth.

Traditional policing – far too often based on brutality and arbitrary arrest rather than proper detective work – can create more fear of the security services than the insurgents and is clearly counter-productive.

The effectiveness of police forces, whether national or international, such as this UN peacekeeping patrol in Mali in 2014, depend on good relations with local communities. But the growth of violent extremism in many countries is a signal that this counsel is often not followed in practice. UN Photo/Marco Dormino.

A new UNDP study based on interviews with more than 500 jihadists – drawn mainly from Kenya, Nigeria, and Somalia­ – found that in over 70 percent of cases “government action”, including the killing or arrest of a family member or friend, was the tipping point that prompted them to join.

Why is the culture of human rights abuse and resistance to reform so deeply ingrained?

Citizen or subject

Part of the problem is history. African police forces were set up by the colonial powers to maintain control over the local population. Independence didn’t really change that function. Their role largely remains regime protection and representation rather than serving the public.

As a result, most police forces are seriously undermanned. The UN recommends a ratio of 300 officers per 100,000 citizens. It’s a rough guide – force levels are influenced by a range of factors. But Kenya manages a ratio of only 203, Nigeria 187, and Mali – another country facing an Islamist insurgency – just 38.

Police forces are also underequipped. From vehicles and the fuel to run them, to paper, pens, and printing ink. The barest of necessities are in short supply, before you get to functioning forensic labs and national fingerprint databases.

Unsurprisingly, conviction rates are low. In South Africa, one of the more advanced police forces on the continent, only an estimated 10 percent of murder cases end in conviction. In crimes of sexual violence, it falls to between four and eight percent.

The temptation, then, is to turn to forced confessions. In Nigeria, torture has become such an integral part of policing that many stations have an informal torture officer, according to a 2014 Amnesty International report.

The prevalence of shoot-to-kill policies are also a reflection of the failure of the criminal justice system, with sections of the community seeing themselves as targets of persecution.

Police hit squads take that logic one step further. In the Kenyan port city of Mombasa, they are known to operate against so-called radical elements, whose deaths only serve to stoke the anger of Muslim youth, who view themselves as already marginalised.

Nigeria provides a stark example of the impact of the failure of due process. In 2009 the police killed Boko Haram founder Mohamed Yusuf while he was in custody. It did not stop his movement, and his successor, Abubakar Shakau, has proved a far more brutal and implacable enemy.

The impunity of the police commanders involved in the murder undermines the moral authority of the Nigerian state.

Governance failure is key in the tolerance of abuse. A corrupt political system breeds corrupt cops. If states are unwilling to provide opportunities, services, and rights to entire sections of its citizens, “there is then little reason to expect national police actors to do so”, argues a report by the Global Centre on Cooperative Security.

Sympathy for the police

The subservience of the police to the ruling elite doesn’t win them any political favours. Conditions of service are generally appalling and pay poor. Families of officers killed in action can struggle to receive their benefits – with kickbacks expected.

A former Nigerian Inspector General of Police acknowledged that some barracks were “to say the least, nauseating”. In the absence of accommodation, one Nigerian officer told IRIN how he spent the first few months of his posting to the northeastern city of Maiduguri sleeping on two plastic hard-backed chairs.

The police top-brass regularly make whistle-stop visits to the city as part of political entourages, but hardly ever drop in on the officers who are on the frontline of the insurgency, and very much targets for Boko Haram.

Predatory police take out their frustrations on the public – typically the most vulnerable and powerless members of society. According to an Afrobarometer survey across 34 countries, the police are universally regarded as the most corrupt of institutions – well ahead of even government officials.

“In most cases the police in Africa are demoralised because the remuneration they are getting is just peanuts,” said sergeant Mwangi in half-hearted mitigation. “They have a family to feed so can be prone to being compromised.”

In the Afrobarometer survey, more than half of respondents who had been victims of a crime did not report it to the police. Regionally, levels of distrust were highest in East Africa – just 43 percent said they would seek the assistance of police first if they became victims.

That’s because the police don’t have a monopoly on criminal justice. People often have multiple choices, with varying degrees of legitimacy and links to the state – from family and friends out to exact revenge, to local militia, customary courts, and formal commercial security guards.

Western models of PVE stress community policing – the ideal of the “bobby on the beat”. But in an African context, community policing means something quite different.

These informal security systems – some of which are just plain vigilantes – have less to do with notions of state legitimacy, “and more to do with what’s available, trusted, and affordable,” the Global Centre on Cooperative Security report points out.

Resistant to reform

Security sector reform is a growth industry in aid world, despite little concrete evidence of success. The reports compiled by external police experts, paid for with donor money, gather dust on the shelves of police commands, the officer in Maiduguri told IRIN.

According to researcher Alice Hills, police reform cannot be divorced from “fundamental socio-political change”. Without buy-in from the powers that be, the effects are only transitory.

The lessons being learnt by sergeant Mwangi in Kamakunji, for instance, are yet to feature in the curriculum of the Kenyan police college.

Reform is admittedly difficult to tackle in the middle of an insurgency. The priority of governments and their international partners is for harder-hitting security services, not the soft power of PVE.

What that can mean in practice is squads of men who are simply more proficient at harming their fellow citizens and extracting rents.

What is needed are “programmes that recognise that the core problems of governance lies in incentives and desire, not capacity,” write researchers Rachel Kleinfeld and Harry Bader.

oa/ag

UNDP, Journey to Extremism in Africa: Drivers, Incentives and the Tipping Point for Recruitment. 2017.

http://journey-to-extremism.undp.org/en/reports – Direct URL for full report: http://tinyurl.com/y9g6n6qp – Sept. 7, 2017 press release: http://tinyurl.com/yamo4ucy

Journey to Extremism in Africa: Key findings

Starting with the ‘accident of geography’ that is place of childhood, experiences related to living in highly peripheral regions of Africa – often borderlands and traditionally marginalized regions – begin to shape individuals’ worldview and vulnerability. Long-standing realities of ‘centre/periphery’ divides have, if anything, been exacerbated by the recent economic growth enjoyed overall in Africa. The vulnerabilities of communities living in such areas (macro- and meso-level factors) were, in the journeys to extremism of the individuals interviewed, refracted through micro-level experiences of early childhood. These included a relative lack of exposure to people of other religions and ethnicities. Perception of childhood happiness was lower among those who went on to join violent extremist groups within the sample. The critical factor in explaining childhood unhappiness that correlates with future extremism is perceived lack of parental involvement in the child’s life. Further, in environments where overall levels of literacy and education are low, individuals who later join violent extremist groups are found in this research to be particularly deprived in educational terms. Their experience of civic engagement in childhood was also low.

The findings also clearly differentiate between perceptions about religion and its significance as a reason for joining violent extremist groups, and actual religious literacy. Fifty-one percent of respondents selected religion as a reason for joining. However, as many as 57 percent of the respondents also admitted to limited or no understanding of religious texts. Indeed, higher than average years of religious schooling appears to have been a source of resilience. These findings challenge rising Islamophobic rhetoric that has intensified in response to violent extremism globally, and demonstrate that fostering greater understanding of religion, through methods that enable students to question and engage critically with teachings, is a key resource for PVE. Further, feeling that ‘religion is under threat’ was found to be a common perspective among many respondents. This sounds a warning that recruitment by violent extremist groups in Africa, using religion as a touchstone for other context- based grievances, can readily expand.

The Journey to Extremism research unequivocally underscores the relevance of economic factors as drivers of recruitment. The grievances associated with growing up in contexts where multidimensional poverty is high and far deeper than national averages, with the lived reality of unemployment and underemployment, render ‘economic factors’ a major source of frustration identified by those who joined violent extremist groups. This is a key dimension of individuals’ vulnerability to narratives that invite them to channel such grievances and associated desperation into the cause of extremism. If an individual was studying or working, it emerged that that he or she would be less likely to become a member of an extremist organization. Employment is the single most frequently cited ‘immediate need’ faced at the time of joining. Individuals who joined but were studying or employed (not in vulnerable employment) at the time of joining the organization took longer to take the decision to join than did counterparts either in vulnerable employment or unemployed. Respondents report uneven experiences in receiving salaries for being active members of violent extremist groups: some were paid above the local average, whereas at least 35 percent were not paid at all during their period of recruitment.

The research makes clear that a sense of grievance towards, and limited confidence in, government is widespread in the regions of Africa associated with the highest incidence of violent extremism. This may be an inevitable corollary of the life experience of growing up in the context of acute and relative multidimensional poverty, neglect and political marginalization affecting these areas. However, disaffection with government is highest by significant margins among the Journey to Extremism respondents who were recruited by violent extremist groups across several key indicators. These include: belief that government only looks after the interests of a few; low level of trust in government authorities; and experience, or willingness to report experience, of bribe-paying. Grievances against security actors, as well as politicians, are particularly marked, with an average of 78 percent rating low levels of trust in the police, politicians and military. Those most susceptible to recruitment express a significantly lower degree of confidence in the potential for democratic institutions to deliver progress or meaningful change. Meanwhile, positive experience of effective service provision is confirmed as a source of resilience: respondents who believed that governments’ provision of education was either ‘excellent’ or ‘improving’ were less likely to be a member of a violent extremist group, within the sample.

The research specifically set out to discover what pushed a handful of individuals to join violent extremist groups, when many others facing similar sets of circumstances did not. This specific moment or factor is referred to as the ‘tipping point’. The idea of a transformative trigger that pushes individuals decisively from the ‘atrisk’ category to actually taking the step of joining is substantiated by the Journey to Extremism data. A striking 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. These findings throw into stark relief the question of how counter-terrorism and wider security functions of governments in atrisk environments conduct themselves with regard to human rights and due process. State security-actor conduct is revealed as a prominent accelerator of recruitment, rather than the reverse.

If this issue was forwarded to you by email, and you want to receive AfricaFocus Bulletin regularly, sign up here.

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

AfricaFocus Bulletin can be reached at africafocus@igc.org. Please write to this address to suggest material for inclusion. For more information about reposted material, please contact directly the original source mentioned. For a full archive and other resources, see http://www.africafocus.org

USA/Sahel: Questions Asked, Unasked, Half-Answered
| November 13, 2017 | 7:39 pm | Africa | No comments

USA/Sahel: Questions Asked, Unasked, Half-Answered

AfricaFocus Bulletin November 13, 2017 (171113) (Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor’s Note

The U.S. military presence in Africa, which has been growing steadily since the years following the 9/11 attack, has been having a spotlight in U.S. media after the death of four U.S. soldiers in Niger on October 4. But despite numerous questions raised, and the prominent attention given to the characteristically obtuse and insensitive response from the White House, the questions raised have been at best half-answered. And fundamental questions about counterterrorism strategy and U.S. policy were left unasked in the Washington-focused debate.

While the Pentagon review about the details of the incident continued, and there were debates about both intelligence failures and whether the mission was in fact only “training and reconnaissance” or also a botched effort to target a “high-profile target,” questioning of existing policy was muted. Administration and congressional hawks focused on providing more resources to double-down on U.S. military involvement. Congressional critics focused on the lack of updated authorization and called for a full debate on counterterrorist military operations around the world, but the momentum for such debate quickly faltered.

The outcome to date appears to be much wider awareness of the extent of U.S. involvement, based on investigative reporting as well as the military’s own reports which previously attracted little media attention. But there was little if any sign of questioning the basic premise of U.S. strategy centering military responses to terrorist threats around the world. Even the critics who pointed out the ineffectual and even counterproductive results of U.S. policy made little effort to address the question of what should be done by African governments or multilateral efforts to counter real terrorist threats.

This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains a selection of very brief excerpts from coverage related to these debates over the last six weeks, in each case with a link to the full article. Some provide some partial answers; most leave more questions than answers. And key questions remain unasked. Another AfricaFocus Bulletin sent out today (and available at http://www.africafocus.org/docs17/cve1711.php) highlights more substantive discussion about one fundamental question only hinted at in Washington debate, namely, whether counterterrorism policies, whether by the United States or other actors, is not only ineffective but also counterproductive, serving to increase rather than decrease future terrorist threats. That, of course, is an issue which is not limited to Africa. But the default response in Washington to “double-down” on military engagement in the Sahelpromises not more security for Africa and the United States, but less.

For coverage of Niger in the Washington Post and the New York, in October and November 2017, use the following link to a customized Google search: http://tinyurl.com/y8vj87hd

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on West Africa, visit http://www.africafocus.org/west.php For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on peace and security issues, visit http://www.africafocus.org/intro-peace.php

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor’s note+++++++++++++++++

What happened and what is the U.S. doing in the Sahel?

Sudarsan Raghavan, “U.S. soldier in Niger ambush was bound and apparently executed, villagers say,” Washington Post, Nov. 10, 2017. http://tinyurl.com/y6v5qgor

Adamou Boubacar, a 23-year-old farmer and trader, said some children tending cattle found the remains of the soldier Oct. 6, two days after the attack outside the remote Niger village of Tongo Tongo, which also left five Nigerien soldiers dead. The children notified him.

When Boubacar went to the location, a bushy area roughly a mile from the ambush site, he saw Johnson’s body lying face down, he said. The back of his head had been smashed by something, possibly a bullet, said Boubacar. The soldier’s wrists were bound with rope, he said, raising the possibility that the militants — whom the Pentagon suspects were affiliated with the Islamic State — seized Johnson during the firefight and held him captive.

Ken Dilanian, Courtney Kube, and Mac William Bishop, “U.S. Soldiers in Niger were pursuing Isis recruiter when ambushed,” NBC News, Oct. 24, 2017. http://www.nbcnews.com – Direct URL: http://tinyurl.com/ydczxthm

The U.S. Special Forces unit that came under attack in Niger earlier this month had been pursuing a senior militant, multiple U.S. officials told NBC News. The officials did not provide the name of the target, whom one of the officials described as an ISIS recruiter. The soldiers did not succeed in catching him. …

The Niger mission was carried out under the broader auspices of Operation Juniper Shield, a program initiated under the Obama administration and reauthorized under the Trump administration, according to multiple U.S. military officials. Juniper Shield is intended to “disrupt or neutralize” terror organizations affiliated with Al Qaeda and the Islamic State operating across North and West Africa, primarily through the killing or capturing of members of its senior and intermediate leadership.

A subset of this operation, Juniper Micron, is focused specifically on supporting the French counterterror and stabilization mission in Mali, Operation Barkhane.

Alexis Arieff, “CRS Insight: Attack on U.S. Soldiers in Niger: Context and Issues for Congress,” Oct. 5, 2017. https://fas.org/sgp/crs/natsec/IN10797.pdf

Niger hosts one of the largest numbers of U.S. troops in Africa. In June, the White House reported to Congress that some 645 U.S. military personnel were stationed there to support counterterrorism operations by “African partners.” More recent news reports have cited 800.

These figures show a significant increase since 2013, when President Obama announced the deployment of about 100 military personnel to Niger for regional intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) operations. This trend has coincided with sizable increases in U.S. security assistance for African countries over the past decade, of which Niger has been a major beneficiary. In addition to conducting security assistance and cooperation activities in Niger and neighboring states, the U.S. military also provides logistical and intelligence support to France’s Operation Barkhane.

Sean Naylor and Paul McLeary, “Used to Afghanistan, Special Operators Suffer from Lack of Support in Africa,” Foreign Policy, Oct. 27, 2017. http://foreignpolicy.com – Direct URL: http://tinyurl.com/y9yghtuy

Four U.S. soldiers, four Nigerien troops, and an interpreter died in the Oct. 4 battle. It was a bitter reminder to the 3rd Group that it was no longer in Afghanistan, the combat theater where the Fort Bragg, North Carolina-based unit had been focused from 2002 until late 2015. There, its teams could call in airstrikes often instantaneously and almost always within minutes. But since switching from Afghanistan to North and West Africa, the group has had to grapple with what its veterans repeatedly refer to as the continent’s “tyranny of distance,” combined with a paucity of resources when compared with mature combat theaters like Iraq and Afghanistan.

The sheer vastness of the area of operations, combined with the lack of resources when compared with Afghanistan, can be a shock to special operators used to having drones and strike aircraft available to get a team out of trouble.

A former 3rd Group officer with extensive Afghanistan experience said for special operators who have spent their entire military career fighting in Afghanistan, the adjustment to Africa can be jarring.

“You had a shitload of resources in Afghanistan — even when it was underfunded, compared with Iraq — that you don’t have in Africa,” the former officer said.

Wider context on U.S. involvement

Karen Attiah, “After Niger, ramping up U.S. ‘agression’ in Africa is a really, really bad idea,” Washington Post, Oct. 24, 2017 http://tinyurl.com/y7c66xfp – includes excellent 3-minute video “Just what the heck is the U.S. military up to in Africa?”

In the absence of answers, and a lack of a clear and coherent Africa strategy to begin with, ramping up U.S. military aggression in Africa sounds like a really, really bad idea right now.

To be fair, the Trump administration inherited an overmilitarized Africa policy from the Obama administration, which oversaw the expansion of the Africom regional command and special operations forces. Africa hosts the second largest regional contingent of special operations forces after the Middle East. The percent of special forces deployed to Africa rose from 3 percent to 17 percent between 2010 and 2016. …

On Thursday, asked about why U.S. troops were in Africa, White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly said, “They’re there working with partners … teaching them how to be better soldiers; teaching them how to respect human rights …” However on Friday, the Post reported that the Pentagon was adopting a “status-based targeting” system for suspected terrorists, meaning troops will be able to use lethal force against a suspected member of a terrorist organization even if that person does not pose an immediate threat.

This should make anyone who cares about human rights and effective counterterror strategy quite nervous.

Tom Engelhardt, “The U.S. Military Is Still Doing Exactly What Bin Laden Wanted It To,” Foreign Policy in Focus, Nov. 8, 2017. http://fpif.org/u-s-military-still-exactly-bin-laden-wanted/

Looking back, 16 years later, it’s extraordinary how September 11, 2001, would set the pattern for everything that followed. Each further goading act, from Afghanistan to Libya, San Bernardino to Orlando, Iraq to Niger, each further humiliation would trigger yet more of the same behavior in Washington.

After all, so many people and institutions — above all, the U.S. military and the rest of the national security state — came to have a vested interest in Osama bin Laden’s version of our world. …

In twenty-first-century Washington, failure is the new success and repetition is the rule of the day, week, month, and year.

Take, for example, the recent events in Niger. Consider the pattern of call-andresponse there. Almost no Americans (and it turned out, next to no senators) even knew that the U.S. had something like 900 troops deployed permanently to that West African country and two drone bases there (though it was no secret). Then, on October 4th, the first reports of the deaths of four American soldiers and the wounding of two others in a Green Beret unit on a “routine training mission” in the lawless Niger-Mali border area came out. The ambush, it seemed, had been set by an ISIS affiliate. …

And suddenly U.S. Africa Command was highlighting its desire for more money from Congress; the military was moving to arm its Reaper drones in Niger with Hellfire missiles for future counterterrorism operations; and Secretary of Defense Mattis was assuring senators privately that the military would “expand” its “counterterrorism focus” in Africa. The military began to prepare to deploy Hellfire Missile-armed Reaper drones to Niger. “The war is morphing,” Graham insisted. “You’re going to see more actions in Africa, not less; you’re going to see more aggression by the United States toward our enemies, not less; you’re going to have decisions being made not in the White House but out in the field.”

Nick Turse, “It’s not just Niger – U.S. Military activity is a “recruiting tool” for terror groups across West Africa,” The Intercept, October 26, 2017. http://theintercept.com – Direct URL: http://tinyurl.com/yatdu2ed

The mission never made the front page of the New York Times or the Washington Post. It wasn’t covered on CNN or Fox News. Neither the White House chief of staff, the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, nor the president ever addressed it in a press briefing. But from mid-January to late March 2013, Green Berets from the 10th Special Forces Group deployed to the impoverished West African nation of Niger. Working alongside local forces, they trained in desert mobility, the use of heavy weapons, and methods of deliberate attack.

On May 15 of that year, another contingent of Special Forces soldiers arrived in Niger. For nearly two months, they also trained with local troops, focusing on similar combat skills with an emphasis on missions in remote areas. From the beginning of August until mid-September, yet another group of Green Berets traveled to the hot, arid country for training, concentrating on desert operations, heavy weapons employment, intelligence analysis, and other martial matters, according to Pentagon documents obtained by The Intercept via the Freedom of Information Act.

One constant of all of these counterterrorism missions, which were carried out by small teams of elite U.S. troops operating alongside Nigerien forces, was a concentration on reconnaissance. Until recently, such missions were conducted without notice or media scrutiny. …

U.S. efforts, primarily focused on training allies and proxies, are flawed, often ineffective, and can have destabilizing effects on countries that military operations are meant to strengthen, according to experts. Cast as benign training operations, they can lead to unforeseen consequences and dangerous blowback. …

“Simply throwing more money at the existing programs and doing what we’ve been doing — but just simply more of it — strikes me as a really bad idea,” [RAND Corporation analyst Michael] Shurkin added. “At the very least, we’re going to waste a lot of money. And we can definitely make things worse.”

Stephen Biddle, Julia Macdonald & Ryan Baker, “Small footprint, small payoff: The military effectiveness of security force assistance,” Journal of Strategic Studies, April 12, 2017. http://tinyurl.com/y9e5nbre

After 15 years of war in Afghanistan and Iraq, many now see ‘smallfootprint’ security force assistance (SFA) – training, advising and equipping allied militaries – as an alternative to large US ground-force commitments. Yet, its actual military efficacy has been little studied. This paper seeks to fill this gap. …

In fact, this idea of using ‘small footprint’ SFA to secure US interests without large ground-force deployments is now at the very forefront of the US defense debate. … More broadly, SFA is central to US policy for Yemen, Somalia, Libya, Niger, Mali, Nigeria, Pakistan, Mauritania and many other ongoing and prospective conflicts around the world. In fact, it has become a major pillar of global US national security policy – the 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance frames it as central to effective stability operations in an era in which US forces will no longer be sized to accomplish these by themselves. …

Our central finding is that effective SFA is much harder in practice than often assumed and less viable as a substitute for large unilateral troop deployments. For the US in particular, the achievable upper bound is normally modest, and even this is possible only if US policy is intrusive and conditional, which it rarely is. This is because SFA is best understood as a principal-agent (PA) problem, and one whose structural conditions promote large agency losses for the SFA provider. That is, the conditions under which the US provides SFA commonly involve large interest misalignments between the provider (the principal) and the recipient (the agent), difficult monitoring challenges and difficult conditions for enforcement – a combination that typically leaves principals with limited real leverage and that promotes inefficiency in aid provision.

For the foreseeable future, small footprints mean small payoffs for the US – where limited US interests preclude large deployments, major results will rarely be possible from minor investments in SFA. … But SFA’s real costs and risks are easy to underestimate, and its military benefits have often been oversold. Overuse is thus a real danger: SFA can help, but only rarely will it provide major effectiveness improvements from modest investments in training and equipment.

Yvan Guichaoua and Andrew Lebovich, “America’s Options in Niger – Join Forces to Reduce Tensions, Or Fan the Flames,” The Conversation, Nov. 3, 2017 http://allafrica.com/stories/201711030833.html

The links between militant groups in the region – whether identified as “jihadist” or not – are often fluid and belie easy categorisation. This label obscures a situation which deserves much more consideration before pulling the trigger. And it takes attention away from the experiences of local populations who are often stuck between militant groups and sometimes hostile governments and foreign armies.

The area in which the American soldiers died is already replete with all possible forms of foreign or domestic interventions. These range from muscular to diplomatic, security-oriented to development oriented. The G5 Sahel, a regional initiative backed by the French to enhance security cooperation, presents one opportunity to consolidate and harmonise these efforts. For now, though, it has struggled to develop its capabilities and to raise the money necessary to function.

Rather than considering whether they should revise their military rules of engagement, US authorities should ask themselves how they could contribute to what already exists. They should also understand that without attention to the local environment and genuine care for local civilians, the fire along the Mali-Niger border will only grow hotter and more difficult to contain.

[This article also includes a concise history of jihadist groups in the area.]

Ndubuisi Christian Ani and Omar S Mahmood, “Africa: What Trump’s Stance On Africa Means for Continental Security Efforts,” Institute for Security Studies (Pretoria), Nov. 6, 2017 http://allafrica.com/stories/201711070135.html

“When Donald Trump was elected president of the United States (US) in January, many wondered what his administration’s policy towards Africa would be. Ten months later, it is clear that regarding security at least, a reduction of the US cost burden for United Nations (UN) peacekeeping, combined with increased direct US military engagement and a preference for bilateral support, are key pillars. … these approaches risk constraining the capacity of nascent African initiatives that require predictable support not only on a bilateral level, but also from the UN.

The US continues to support the fight against extremist groups in the Sahel, Lake Chad Basin and the Horn of Africa. However Trump’s insistence on reducing US financial aid has affected many areas of cooperation with Africa on peace and security. This includes blocking proposals to use UN-assessed contributions to support African peace security operations like the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) and the G5 Sahel mission. The US has instead pursued a more bilateral approach.

Maradi, Niger – A Nigerien soldier from the 322nd Parachute Regiment shoots during target practice facilitated by 1st Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Soldiers April 3, 2007. The training is part of Operation Flintlock 2007 which includes an interactive exchange of military, linguistic and intercultural skills for Niger and the U.S. Credit: http://www.eucom.mil/media-library/photo/16808/eucom-photo

Wider context on security and the Sahel

For in-depth background analysis and first-hand reporting on conflict in the Sahel region, two extremely useful sources are the IRIN humanitarian news service and the International Crisis Group.

For IRIN background articles on the Sahel, see https://www.irinnews.org/in-depth/countering-militancy-sahel

An excellent overview from early 2016 by IRIN’s Africa editor Obi Anyadike is “Briefing: The new Jihadist strategy in the Sahel.” http://tinyurl.com/ycgxoxul

For recent International Crisis Group reports on the region, visit http://tinyurl.com/y7guaxeq

Three particularly relevant articles from 2017 on Niger, Mali, and Burkina Faso are the following.

“Niger and Boko Haram: Beyond Counter-insurgency,” 27 Feb. 2017. http://tinyurl.com/h8o44n7

“The Politics of Islam in Mali: Separating Myth from Reality,” 18 July 2017 http://tinyurl.com/y7ylld35

“The Social Roots of Jihadist Violence in Burkina Faso’s North,” 12 Oct. 2017. http://tinyurl.com/y889bu5w

New Sahel anti-terror force: risks and opportunities

IRIN, 30 October 2017

http://www.irinnews.org – direct URL: http://tinyurl.com/y9dv7pc6

Fabien Offner, Freelance journalist based in Dakar

Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger are teaming up to take on Islamist militants with the launch of a the 5,000-strong “FC-G5S” force in the restive Sahel. But are more boots on the ground the answer?

UN Secretary-General António Guterres recently told the Security Council, which votes today on whether to fund the nascent multinational military force, that supporting it was “an opportunity that cannot be missed” and that failing to back it would carry serious risks for a region where insecurity has become “extremely worrying”.

The Security Council “welcomed the deployment” of the force in a resolution adopted in June, but put off a decision about financing. The resolution’s wording was the subject of a prolonged tussle between France – the G5 force’s main proponent – and the United States, which didn’t believe a resolution was necessary, sees the force’s mandate as too broad, and, as the world body’s biggest contributor, isn’t convinced the UN should bankroll it.

On Friday, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said Washington wants to know “what the strategy would be, how they see this playing out, what’s involved in it, before we ever commit to UN-assessed funding”.

France has been working hard to win over the United States. On a visit to Washington last week, French Defence Minister Florence Parly said the former colonial power had no desire to become the “Praetorian Guard of sovereign African countries”.

Existing forces

In 2013 and 2014, France’s Operation Serval drove back militants in Mali’s northern desert from some of the towns and other sanctuaries they had taken. With attacks nevertheless continuing and having spread beyond Mali’s borders, 4,000 French troops are currently deployed under the banner of Operation Barkhane across all the G5 states.

Mali is also home to the 14,000-strong MINUSMA force, one of the UN’s most expensive peacekeeping missions. It has come under frequent attack by militant groups such as the Jama’a Nusrat ul-Islam wa al-Muslimin (JNIM), an al-Qaeda-linked coalition forged last March. Some 86 blue helmets have been killed in militant attacks since MINUSMA was established in July 2013.

Meanwhile, efforts by civil society groups to negotiate with some jihadist groups have come to nought, while parties to a 2015 peace agreement between Mali’s government and two coalitions of domestic armed groups – a deal that excluded the jihadists – are embroiled in violent divisions among themselves. Some of these domestic groups are also responsible for attacks against the state.

These divisions have dimmed hopes of forging any kind of common front against the jihadists, and even of properly implementing the 2015 accord. The government’s failure to address widespread political and economic grievance further undermines its position.

Humanitarian fallout

All this insecurity comes at a high price for Mali’s civilians. At the end of the 2016-17 academic year, 500 schools were closed, up from 296 the previous year, while the numbers of refugees and internally displaced reached a record 140,000 and 55,000 respectively.

Acute malnutrition among children under five has reached “critical levels” in conflict-affected areas around Timbuktu and Gao, according to UNICEF. The agency predicts that 165,000 children across the country will be acutely malnourished next year.

“Repeated criminal acts” prompted the International Committee of the Red Cross to suspend its operations in the northern Kidal region in mid-October.

Funding concerns

The primary mandate of the G5 force will be to secure the bloc’s common borders and fight “terrorist” and criminal groups.

The force’s headquarters were established in September in the central Malian town of Sévaré, but its financing has yet to be secured.

“Estimates still vary; nothing has been settled,” said a diplomat who has followed the latest developments. “If we get to 250 million euros at the donors’ conference in December, that would be very good. But even if financing is obtained in December, the force will not be operational the next day.”

The G5 says it needs 423 million euros to set things up and run the force for its first year, but so far only a quarter of this sum has materialised, with the G5 and the EU both coming up with 50 million euros and France another eight million.

“Mobilising sustainable and consistent financial support over a period of several years will remain a significant challenge,” conceded Guterres in his report.

Money is far from the only uncertainty: Trust between G5 member states remains shaky.

“The Burkina military believe their Malian counterparts are ‘lazy’ and joined the army to get an income and not to defend the country,” the International Crisis Group said, for example, in its latest report on Burkina Faso.

And the security and political agendas of G5 states are not always aligned. Facing an economic and social crisis, regional powerhouse Chad, which already has troops in MINUSMA and in a separate regional force fighting Boko Haram, hopes to make the most of its involvement in the force, whose remit it would like to see expanded to include other regional threats closer to home.

Risks

Given how often existing forces in Mali, including the army, are attacked (losing weapons and vehicles in the process), deploying yet more troops in the region carries a real risk of further boosting jihadists groups’ military assets.

“Malian armed movements have employed an increasing proportion of heavy weaponry from Malian government stockpiles – particularly ammunition for larger weapon systems such as rockets and artillery – as opposed to Libyan or other foreign sources,” Conflict Armament Research said in a 2016 report on the Sahel.

Human Rights Watch recently reported on “killings, forced disappearances and acts of torture” committed by security forces in Mali and Burkina Faso against suspected members of jihadists groups.

Even if they are only committed by a minority of soldiers, such acts lead civilians to mistrust the armies supposed to protect them, and in some cases to join the armed groups to seek their protection instead.

“The fighters are found among the greater population, are part of them and live with them. It is not easy to identify them. That makes combat difficult, even if there are far fewer jihadist than soldiers,” explained Ibrahim Maîga, a researcher with the Institute for Security Studies.

“You can’t defeat these people without helping the population caught in the middle. One side accuses them of being terrorists, the other of collaborating with national or foreign armies. This is why it is imperative that the state gains more legitimacy,” he added.

The G5 joint force’s first operations are expected to take place in the LiptakoGourma region, where the borders of Mali, Niger, and Burkina Faso meet. These states have been particularly affected by the attacks carried out by JNIM, Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, and Ansarul Islam against national and foreign security forces.

On 21 October, 13 gendarmes were killed when their barracks in Ayorou in Niger’s Tillaberi region came under attack.

The joint force will be deployed in an environment rife with trafficking of all kinds, and with globalised jihad, and where myriad local conflicts merge with and fuel each other.

On the border between Mali and Niger, economic rivalry between Tuareg and Fulani communities has deepened since becoming militarised and politicised.

Fulani youth – too simplistically – are seen as ready recruits to jihadist groups, and Nigerien Tuareg militia are being used by the government to hunt them.

In northern Burkina Faso, Ansarul Islam built its popularity by challenging social structures widely seen as inequitable, according to the ICG.

None of the groups operating in the region has claimed responsibility for the 2 October attack in which four US and four Nigerien soldiers were killed 200 kilometres north of Niamey – an attack a top US general has attributed to a local IS-affiliated group. The incident served to bring international attention to US military presence in the region, described by some media as a “shadow war” at a time when the US is in the process of moving its drone operations from Niamey to the central Niger town of Agadez.

“Our American colleagues believe the [Niger] attack against their troops exposes a dilemma: Do too much and be exposed, or don’t do enough,” a French diplomat remarked.

It seems the Pentagon is going for the first option: US Defense Secretary James Mattis recently informed Congress that the United States was increasing its antiterrorism activities in Africa and that new rules of engagement were being introduced, allowing troops to open fire on mere suspects.

But for the jihadist groups in the region, a greater US military footprint will feed their rhetoric of occupation and help swell their ranks.

fo/am/oa/ag

If this issue was forwarded to you by email, and you want to receive AfricaFocus Bulletin regularly, sign up here.

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

AfricaFocus Bulletin can be reached at africafocus@igc.org. Please write to this address to suggest material for inclusion. For more information about reposted material, please contact directly the original source mentioned. For a full archive and other resources, see http://www.africafocus.org

Africa/Global: Recent Books Read & Recommended
| October 31, 2017 | 8:19 pm | Africa | No comments

Africa/Global: Recent Books Read & Recommended

AfricaFocus Bulletin October 30, 2017 (171030) (Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor’s Note

As with other publications largely focused on current events, AfricaFocus Bulletin is confronted with an exponentially increasing bombardment of daily news. My approach as the editor is to select a particular topic of interest, sometimes highlighted in the news and sometimes not, and try to put it into context for readers with excerpts from the most relevant sources. But I also find it essential to try to step back and refresh my understanding of the wider context. For that, I find I must turn to books.

The list below, which I decided to share with readers, is all non-fiction, but it is not restricted to books explicitly on “Africa.” As readers are aware, AfricaFocus Bulletin centers Africa, but with the understanding that Africa is an integral part of and fundamentally affected by the wider global context, including developments in rich countries that still dominate the global order and disproportionately reap the rewards of a deeply tilted global political economy. In this critical time for the United States, my reading has also strongly concentrated on books providing context for understanding the situation in this country, where racial, class, and other divisions both parallel and help to mold global inequalities.

So, for your browsing and possible future reading, the lists below include books I have recently read and recommend to others who are interested in the topics (“recent” means in the last two years), as well as books I have noted that I would like to read. There are three categories: “Africa Past and Present,” “Current Global Issues,” and “USA Past and Present.” The comments are very brief, my own in the case of books I have read and taken from publishers’ descriptions in other cases.

I have also included links to Amazon listings, which often give access to a preview of the text and to Kindle editions, although I also encourage you to purchase from your own independent book store or from the publisher directly or suggest to your library to order, when those options are feasible.

The last AfricaFocus Bulletin including a substantial list of recommended books was in April, 2017: “African Feminism Past and Present” (http://www.africafocus.org/docs17/wom1704.php).

This AfricaFocus Bulletin is somewhat of an experiment, and I don’t know how frequently I will post such book lists, either as part of a topical Bulletin or as a separate Bulletin like this one. I do know I definitely won’t be able to read all the books I would like to read! But if you find this of interest, and have additional titles to suggest to me for future inclusion, be sure to send me your feedback and recommendations by email at africafocus@igc.org

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor’s note+++++++++++++++++

Africa Past and Present

Recently Read and Recommended

Gilbert Achcar, Morbid Symptoms: Relapse in the Arab Uprising. 2016 Gilbert Achcar, The People Want: A Radical Exploration of the Arab Uprising. 2013. Howard W. French, China’s Second Continent: How a Million Migrants Are Building A New Empire in Africa. 2014. Ricardo Soares de Oliveira, Magnificent and Beggar Land: Angola Since the Civil War. 2015.
The first three of these books, on topics often in the news, provide in-depth insights that go far beyond conventional reporting. Achcar’s two books provide an analysis and overview, focusing first on the Arab Uprising and then on subsequent events highlighting the resilience of the old regimes. French provides a first-hand report based on extensive interviews, featuring not the most often discussed geopolitical role of China, but the diverse faces of Chinese migrants around the continent. Angola, rarely covered by Western media, is well served for both specialist and general readers by Soares de Oliveira, whose book is a well-informed and well-written account of Angola in the 21st century.
Nancy Mitchell, Jimmy Carter in Africa: Race and the Cold War. 2016.
Stephanie J. Urdang, Mapping My Way Home: Activism, Nostalgia, and the Downfall of Apartheid South Africa. 2017.
Both books, Mitchell’s an academic study weaving together interviews and archival data and Urdang’s a personal and journalistic memoir based on a lifetime of engagement with African liberation, provide new insights even for those who were participants in or closely followed the events they describe. Mitchell’s primary focus is the Washington policy scene, where she digs deeply into the debates within the Carter administration on how to respond to Africa, given U.S. political realities. Urdang’s memoir ranges from South Africa to New York City to Guinea-Bissau to Mozambique, with reflections both on her personal experience and the complex contradictions of unfinished struggles for liberation.

Hope to Read Sometime

[Unless otherwise attributed, comments are from publishers’ descriptions.]

Ibrahim Abdullah and Ismail Rashid, eds., Understanding West Africa’s Ebola Epidemic: Towards a Political Economy. 2017.

While championing the heroic efforts of local communities and aid workers in halting the spread of the disease, the contributors also reveal deep structural problems in both the countries and humanitarian agencies involved, which hampered the efforts to contain the epidemic.

Kris Berwouts, Congo’s Violent Peace: Conflict and Struggle Since the Great African War. 2017.

“Berwouts is one of the very rare analysts who write what the population in eastern Congo thinks and feels.” – Denis Mukwege, women’s rights activist and gynecologist in eastern Congo

Mustafa Dhada, The Portuguese Massacre of Wiriyamu in Colonial Mozambique, 1964-2013. 2016.

“The murdered inhabitants of Wiriyamu, casualties of brutal Portuguese refusal to relinquish imperial rule, now have the recognition they deserve. Mustafah Dhada’s heroic work of historical reconstruction relocates these lost lives.” – Patrick Manning, University of Pittsburg.

Helen Epstein, Another Fine Mess: America, Uganda, and the War on Terror. 2017.

Epstein chronicles how America’s naïve dealings with African strongmen and singleminded focus on the War on Terror have themselves becomes sources of terror.

Helon Habila, The Chibok Girls: The Boko Haram Kidnappings and Islamist Militancy in Nigeria. 2016.

Nigerian novelist Helon Habila, who grew up in northern Nigeria, returned to Chibok and gained intimate access to the families of the kidnapped to offer a devastating account of this tragedy that stunned the world.

Godfrey Kanyenze et al., eds. Towards Democratic Developmental States in Southern Africa. 2017. Free download.

Kanyenze and his colleagues have assembled a distinguished team of writers to take the temperature of the regional political economy, and chart a path for its future development.

Seth M. Markle, A Motorcycle on Hell Run: Tanzania, Black Power, and the Uncertain Future of Pan-Africanism, 1964-1974. 2017.

A towering achievement in the burgeoning field of Black internationalism.” – Komozi Woodard, Sarah Lawrence College.

Sisonke Msimang, Always Another Country. 2017.

In her much anticipated memoir, Sisonke Msimang writes about her exile childhood in Zambia and Kenya, young adulthood and college years in North America, and returning to South Africa in the euphoric 1990s. She reflects candidly on her discontent and disappointment with present-day South Africa but also on her experiences of family, romance, and motherhood.

Alexis Okeowo, A Moonless, Starless Sky: Ordinary Women Fighting Extremism in Africa. 2017.

This debut book by one of America’s most acclaimed young journalists illuminates the inner lives of ordinary people doing the extraordinary.

John S. Saul, On Building A Social Movement: The North American Campaign for Southern African Liberation. 2016.

“Saul challenges us to demystify the national liberation movements many of us worshiped in order to see not only their strengths and weaknesses, but in order to understand the forces that have ground many of them to a halt. What an outstanding piece of writing!” –Bill Fletcher, Jr.,

Nick Turse, Tomorrow’s Battlefield: US Proxy Wars and Secret Ops in Africa. 2015.

“A dogged and intrepid journalist who won’t take ‘no comment’ for an answer, Nick Turse has done a fantastic job of exposing the U.S. military’s expansion into Africa and the proliferation of its secret missions on the continent.” – Craig Whitlock, Pentagon correspondent, Washington Post

Hendrik Van Vuuren, Apartheid Guns and Money. 2017.

This meticulously researched book lifts the lid on some of the darkest secrets of apartheid’s economic crimes, weaving together material collected in over two-dozen archives in eight countries with an insight into tens of thousands of pages of newly declassified documents.

Current Global Issues

Recently Read and Recommended

Bill Browder, Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One Man’s Fight for Justice. 2015.
Justin Gest, The New Minority: White Working Class Politics in an Age of Immigration and Inequality. 2016.
Pankaj Mishra, Age of Anger: A History of the Present. 2017.
These three books, in quite different ways, highlight the fact that the Trump election was the result not only of factors unique to the United States, but of global developments. Browder’s first-person account sheds light on the transition of the Soviet Union into a kleptocratic state, and its links to a global financial system facilitating these trends, as well as to the motives behind Russian intervention in that election. Gest provides a detailed comparison of Youngtown, Ohio and East London, UK, based on both interviews and survey data, highlighting both economic decline and the targeting of resentment against both societal elites and racial outsiders. And Mishra offers an intellectual history of resentment by angry men adopting extremist ideologies across the religious and political spectrum, from 18th century Europe to present-day Americas, Europe, the Middle East, and South Asia.
Patricia Hill Collins and Sirma Bilge, Intersectionality. 2016.
Zeynep Tufekci, Twitter and Tear Gas: The Power and Fragility of Networked Protest. 2017.
These two books challenge and guide readers to think more deeply about current issues. Collins and Bilge provide a succinct and clear exposition of the concept of “intersectionality” as indispensable for analyzing society “not as shaped by any single axis of social division, be it race or gender or class, but by many axes that work together and influence each other.” Tufekci provides a brilliant account of the complex effects and potential of social media drawing both on personal experience as an activist and keen scholarly insights.
Branko Milanovic, Global Inequality: A New Approach for the Age of Globalization. 2016.
Yanis Varoufakis, And the Weak Suffer What They Must? Europe, Austerity, and the Threat to Global Stability. 2016.
Yes, these books are by economists and include statistics and tables. But they are also well written, address fundamental issues, and are worth extra effort by noneconomist readers. Milanovic is the leading scholar on changes in inequality in the modern world, both “within-nation” and “between-nation.” Varoufakis is the former foreign minister of Greece who tried, but failed, to combat the destructive and myth-based austerity policies imposed by Germany and others on his country.

Hope to Read Sometime

[Unless otherwise attributed, comments are from publishers’ descriptions.]

Andy Clarno, Neoliberal Apartheid: Palestine/Israel and South Africa after 1994. 2017.

After a decade of research in the Johannesburg and Jerusalem regions, Andy Clarno presents here a detailed ethnographic study of the precariousness of the poor in Alexandra township, the dynamics of colonization and enclosure in Bethlehem, the growth of fortress suburbs and private security in Johannesburg, and the regime of security coordination between the Israeli military and the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.

Jeremy Leggett, The Test: Solar light for all: a defining challenge for humanity. 2017. Free download.

The conundrum of expensive and high-carbon kerosene vastly outselling inexpensive and zero-carbon solar is a defining test of humankind’s instinct for collective survival, Jeremy Leggett argues. If we cannot quickly replace oil-for-lighting with solar lighting, he asks, given all the blindingly obvious economic and social imperatives for so doing, what chance do we have with all the many other global problems we face?

Sasha Polakow-Suransky, Go Back to Where You Came From: The Backlash Against Immigration and the Fate of Western Democracy. 2017.

From Europe to the United States, opportunistic politicians have exploited the economic crisis, terrorist attacks, and an unprecedented influx of refugees to bring hateful and reactionary views from the margins of political discourse into the mainstream. In this deeply reported account, Sasha Polakow-Suransky provides a frontrow seat to the anger, desperation, and dissent that are driving some voters into the arms of the far right and stirring others to resist.

Adam Rutherford, A Brief History of Everyone Who Ever Lived: The Human Story Retold Through Our Genes. 2017.

Who are our ancestors? Where did they come from? Geneticists have suddenly become historians, and the hard evidence in our DNA has blown the lid off what we thought we knew. Acclaimed science writer Adam Rutherford explains exactly how genomics is completely rewriting the human story—from 100,000 years ago to the present.

USA Past and Present

Recently Read and Recommended

Carol Anderson, White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide. 2016.
Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation. 2016.
Michael Tesler, Post-Racial or Most-Racial?: Race and Politics in the Obama Era. 2016.
These works by three scholars writing for the public as well as other scholars, all written before the Trump election, are complementary. Anderson provides the clearest succinct account I am aware of the history of white backlash to Black advancement, from Reconstruction through Obama. Tesler presents survey data highlighting “modern” (coded) racism as compared to old-fashioned racism through the Obama years. And Taylor highlights the role of “black faces in high places” in the uneven advance of Black liberation from the civil rights movement through the rise of #BlackLivesMatter.
William J. Barber II, The Third Reconstruction: How a Moral Movement is Overcoming the Politics of Division and Fear. 2016.
Charles E. Cobb, Jr., This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible. 2016.
Superficially, these two books, one on the imperative of a new civil rights movement today and the other on the history of the civil rights movement in the U.S. South, might seem contradictory. But they both have a deeper understanding of U.S. history, looking back to Reconstruction and based on personal experience of engagement on the front lines of struggle, than a simplistic contrast of non-violence and violence. Nonviolent protest and political organizing, whether in the days of Reconstruction, the 20th century, or the 21st century, depend on some force that can defend those engaged in peaceful organizing.
Ari Berman, Give us the ballot : the modern struggle for voting rights in America. 2016.
Greg Palast, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy: A Tale of Billionaires and Ballot Bandits. 2016.
These two books by journalists, although different in style (Palast is a gonzo journalist in the style of Michael Moore), both provide well-documented accounts on the decades-long and successful Republican campaign to remove voters from the voters’ rolls, which continues to be a fundamental and potentially decisive feature of U.S. elections.
Katherine J. Cramer, The Politics of Resentment: Rural Consciousness in Wisconsin and the Rise of Scott Walker. 2016.
Jamie Longazel, Undocumented Fears: Immigration and the Politics of Divide and Conquer in Hazleton, Pennsylvania. 2016.
These two books by scholars are well-researched and well-written case studies, making use of both quantitative data and extensive personal interviews. Each explores in depth the views of a constituency that was critical in the 2016 Trump victory, going beyond stereotypes of “the Trump voter.” Cramer focuses on small-town Wisconsin. Longazel on his home town of Hazleton, Pennsylvania.
Nancy MacLean, Democracy in Chains: The Deep History of the Radical Right’s Stealth Plan for America. 2017.
Jane Mayer, Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right. 2016.
These are two fundamental books on the money and the minds behind the rise of the radical right in American politics and culture. Historian MacLean provides an in-depth analysis, based on archival sources, on the wide-ranging influence of “libertarian” economist James McGill Buchanan and the role of the billionaire Koch brothers in boosting his influence both in the academic and public policy arenas. Investigative journalist Mayer includes the Koch family, but also stresses that they are only one of a larger group of right-wing billionaires pushing the view that “liberty” means freedom of wealth from any public responsibilities.
Mark Landler, Alter Egos: Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, and the Twilight Struggle over American Power. 2016.
Laurence H. Shoup, Wall Street’s Think Tank: The Council on Foreign Relations and the Empire of Neoliberal Geopolitics, 1976-2014. 2015.
These two books on the shaping of U.S. foreign policy into the 21st century take two very different approaches. Landler is a careful but conventional account focused on the inside story of the distinctive policies of President Barack Obama and his Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Shoup provides a much deeper and historically rooted analysis of the the molding of foreign policy consensus on fundamental issues, which lies behind and constricts the debates over specific policy decisions. [Personal note: I was the co-author with Shoup of Imperial Brain Trust (1977), the early predecessor to this comprehensive second volume on the role of the Council of Foreign Relations, which takes the story from 1976 to 2014. Unlike Shoup, I have not followed up with our early research on this topic. I applaud the fact that he persevered and highly recommend this book to anyone trying to understand today’s foreign policy.]

Hope to Read Sometime

[Unless otherwise attributed, comments are from publishers’ descriptions.]

Hillary Rodham Clinton, What Happened. 2017.

“What Happened is not one book, but many. It is a candid and blackly funny account of her mood in the direct aftermath of losing to Donald J. Trump. It is a post-mortem, in which she is both coroner and corpse. It is a feminist manifesto. It is a scoresettling jubilee…. It is worth reading.” – The New York Times

Ta-Nehisi Coates, We Were Eight Years in Power. 2017.

“We were eight years in power” was the lament of Reconstruction-era black politicians as the American experiment in multiracial democracy ended with the return of white supremacist rule in the South. In this sweeping collection of new and selected essays, Ta-Nehisi Coates explores the tragic echoes of that history in our own time.

E.J. Dionne Jr., Norman J. Ornstein, and Thomas E. Mann, One Nation After Trump: A Guide for the Perplexed, the Disillusioned, the Desperate, and the Not-Yet Deported. 2017.

“If someone had hibernated through the 2016 election, woke up early this year and logged onto Twitter or turned on cable news and wondered, what the hell happened?, this would be the book to read” – The New York Times Book Review

Joshua Green, Devil’s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump, and the Storming of the Presidency. 2017.

Any study of Trump’s rise to the presidency is unavoidably a study of Bannon. Devil’s Bargain is a tour-de-force telling of the remarkable confluence of circumstances that decided the election.

Nikhil Pal Singh, Race and America’s Long War. 2017.

Singh argues that the United States’ pursuit of war since the September 11 terrorist attacks has reanimated a longer history of imperial statecraft that segregated and eliminated enemies both within and overseas.

Charles Sykes, How The Right Lost Its Mind. 2017.

Once at the center of the American conservative movement, bestselling author and radio host Charles Sykes is a fierce opponent of Donald Trump and the right-wing media that enabled his rise.

If this issue was forwarded to you by email, and you want to receive AfricaFocus Bulletin regularly, sign up here.

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

AfricaFocus Bulletin can be reached at africafocus@igc.org. Please write to this address to suggest material for inclusion. For more information about reposted material, please contact directly the original source mentioned. For a full archive and other resources, see http://www.africafocus.org

Somalia: Not Only a Somali Tragedy
| October 19, 2017 | 9:06 pm | Africa, Amy Goodman, Democracy Now, Juan Gonzalez | No comments

Somalia: Not Only a Somali Tragedy

AfricaFocus Bulletin October 19, 2017 (171019) (Reposted from sources cited below)

Editor’s Note

“I think it’s really quite tragic that a strategy run from Washington, D.C., and from the European headquarters in Brussels pays so little attention when over 300 people are killed, massacred, and another 500 people are struggling for their lives, and that very little support comes from the United States and the European Union to help the Somali government clean up this, help the people who have been injured or people who have lost their parents or their children.” – Dr. Abdi Samatar

The disproportion in global attention, even in other African countries, paid to the truck bombing in Mogadishu, as compared to other horrific terrorist actions carried out in Europe or the United States, is shocking but not surprising, since it is part of a familiar scenario. But it is particularly egregious given the high level of responsibility of outsiders in crafting the failed counter-terrorist strategies in Somalia over decades. That responsibility is widely shared, including not only powers and international organizations outside Africa, but also the African Union and Somalia’s immediate neighbors.

This AfricaFocus features excerpts from a Democracy Now program on October 17, including the interview quoted above, as well as links to other relevant articles highlighting both insights into the massacre itself as well as the counterproductive effects of failed counter-terrorism strategies.

If you are able to contribute funds, please see the GoFundMe campaign posted by Sadia Aden for families of the victims of the Mogadishu Massacre. https://www.gofundme.com/lendhandMogadishuMassacre The GoFundMe campaign is coordinated by the Adar Foundation in Springfield, Virginia (http://adarfoundation.org/), which is a nonprofit 501(c)3 run by Sadia Ali Aden. She is a Somali American human rights advocate who publishes articles on Somalia in HuffPost and elsewhere.

For previous AfricaFocus Bulletins on Somalia, visit http://www.africafocus.org/country/somalia.php

++++++++++++++++++++++end editor’s note+++++++++++++++++

The Mogadishu Massacre: Selected Articles Worth Noting

Jason Burke, “Thousands march in Somalia after attack that killed more than 300,” The Guardian, October 18, 2017 http://tinyurl.com/yd4y8mvw

“Thousands of Somalis have demonstrated against those behind the bombing that killed more than 300 people at the weekend, defying police who opened fire to keep them away from the site of the attack. Wearing red headbands, the crowd of mostly young men and women marched through Mogadishu amid tight security. They answered a call to unity by the mayor, Thabit Abdi, who said: ‘We must liberate this city, which is awash with graves.’The attack in the heart of Mogadishu on Saturday has been blamed on alShabaab, the local violent Islamist group, and was one of the most lethal terrorist operations anywhere in the world in recent years.”

Dr.Maryam Abdullah, among more than 300 killed in the     Mogadishu truck bombing, was due to graduate that same day     as a medical doctor after 6 yrs studying medicine.    

Jason Burke, “Mogadishu bombing: parents’ grief for medical student killed in blast,” The Guardian, October 16, 2017 http://tinyurl.com/y7sbvlfu

“On Saturday morning, Maryam Abdullahi Gedi made breakfast for her family, packed her books and laptop and set out across Mogadishu, the battered capital of Somalia, to see her supervisor at Banadir University about her thesis. She was excited about the prospect of her graduation as a medical doctor this week. Her father – who flew in from the UK to attend the ceremony – found himself at her funeral instead. Gedi, 24, was among more than 300 people killed in a massive bombing in the centre of the city on Saturday afternoon.”

Ibrahim Hirsi, “How Minnesota’s Somali community is mobilizing to help Mogadishu bombing victims,” Minnpost, October 18, 2017 http://tinyurl.com/ycqnvsda

“Minneapolis resident Ahmed Hirsi was only a few miles away from the powerful blast that killed hundreds of people in Mogadishu last Saturday. When he arrived on the scene, where a truck filled with explosives was detonated, Hirsi saw pavement covered in blood; bodies decapitated and shattered, burned beyond recognition. As the deadliest single attack in Somalia’s history, the explosions killed more than 300 people, including a Bloomington man — a death toll that’s expected to rise as crews continue to dig into the rubble for signs of life. Just hours before that fateful afternoon, Hirsi had posted smiling photos of himself on Facebook, urging young Somalis in the U.S., Europe and Canada to return to the East African country and get involved in efforts to rebuild it. On Monday, however, Hirsi returned to Minneapolis, still reeling from the shock of the bloody attacks that rocked Mogadishu, where he spent 10 days with a group invited by the Somali government to review parts of the country’s new constitution.

Alexis Okeowo, “Where is the Empathy for Somalia,” New Yorker, October 17, 2017 http://tinyurl.com/y9qqf2o9

“And so it was with a familiar disappointment that Somalis, within the country and among the diaspora, along with other concerned observers, watched as details of the attack failed to headline broadcast news or resonate globally on social media. There was no impromptu hashtag of solidarity, no deluge of television coverage. It was as if the bombing were just another incident in the daily life of Somalis—a burst of violence that would fade into all the other bursts of violence. The lack of public empathy was startling but not surprising.”

Amanda Sperber, “Shock and revulsion over Mogadishu bombing,” IRIN, October 16, 2017 http://tinyurl.com/y7yojlng

“The bomb was as enormous as the flecks of torn skin smudging the ground are miniscule. Entire overcrowded buses were blown up, every passenger killed. No one in the vicinity was spared: shopkeepers at the side of the road selling khat; office managers; children fooling around or running errands for parents; a medical student about to graduate; mothers; fathers; sisters; brothers. At approximately 3:30 on Saturday afternoon, a truck bomb was detonated in the middle of the traffic in Mogadishu’s Hodan district, next to the landmark Safari hotel, frequented by politicians and other Somali movers and shakers.”

 

Selected Related Sources on Violent Extremism

Obi Anyadike, “Unfair cop – why African police forces make violent extremism worse,” IRIN, September 28, 2017 http://tinyurl.com/yab9couf

“Undermanned, underfunded, underwhelming: African police forces struggle to contain regular crime, and they are even further out of their depth when it comes to tackling violent extremism. The best way to identify threats to public safety is a policing model that promotes trust and collaboration with the community, say the policy manuals on preventing violent extremism, better known as PVE. A positive relationship is believed to help build resilience to radicalisation. But the reality in much of the world is that the police are viewed as corrupt, violent, and people best avoided.”

UNDP, Journey to Extremism in Africa: Drivers, Incentives and the Tipping Point for Recruitment. 2017. 128-page research report, based primarily on data from Nigeria, Kenya, and Somalia. http://journey-to-extremism.undp.org/en/reports – Direct URL: http://tinyurl.com/y9g6n6qp

“The research specifically set out to discover what pushed a handful of individuals to join violent extremist groups, when many others facing similar sets of circumstances did not. This specific moment or factor is referred to as the ‘tipping point’. The idea of a transformative trigger that pushes individuals decisively from the ‘at-risk’ category to actually taking the step of joining is substantiated by the Journey to Extremism data. A striking 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. These findings throw into stark relief the question of how counter-terrorism and wider security functions of governments in at-risk environments conduct themselves with regard to human rights and due process. State security-actor conduct is revealed as a prominent accelerator of recruitment, rather than the reverse.”

Alexis Okeowo, A Moonless, Starless Sky: Ordinary Women Fighting Extremism in Africa. 2017. http://amzn.to/2xuy40W

From publisher’s description: “Okeowo weaves together four narratives that form a powerful tapestry of modern Africa: a young couple, kidnap victims of Joseph Kony’s LRA; a Mauritanian waging a lonely campaign against modern-day slavery; a women’s basketball team flourishing amid war-torn Somalia; and a vigilante who takes up arms against the extremist group Boko Haram.”

The Mogadishu Massacre in Somalia

Democracy Now, October 17, 2017

http://www.democracynow.org – Direct URL: http://tinyurl.com/ybu7fcgk

[Excerpts from transcript are below. Note that video and audio of the broadcast are also available at the link above.]

Rescue operations continue in Mogadishu, Somalia, after two massive truck bombs exploded Saturday, killing at least 300 in the country’s deadliest attack since the rise of the al-Shabab militant group a decade ago. The disaster is being referred to as the “Mogadishu massacre,” and some are calling it “the 9/11 of the Somali people.” The explosions came after the Trump administration stepped up a U.S. campaign against al-Shabab in Somalia. We speak with Somali scholar Abdi Samatar and journalist Amanda Sperber, who splits her time between Nairobi, Kenya, and Mogadishu, Somalia.

For more, we’re joined by Democracy Now! video stream by the Somali scholar and writer Abdi Samatar. He’s a professor of the Department of Geography, Environment & Society at the University of Minnesota, the author of Africa’s First Democrats: Somalia’s Aden A. Osman and Abdirazak H. Hussen. And joining us from Nairobi, Amanda Sperber, freelance journalist who splits her time between Nairobi, Kenya, and Mogadishu, Somalia. Her new article for IRIN News is headlined “Shock and revulsion over Mogadishu bombing.”

We welcome you both to Democracy Now! Amanda, let’s begin with you in Nairobi, Kenya. Can you explain what you understand took place, the horrific attack that killed more than 300 people and injured roughly that same number?

AMANDA SPERBER: Yeah. I mean, it’s pretty much what you said. The attacks were horrific. The outcome has been devastating. To me, what I think I’ve seen that’s been the most upsetting aftereffect is the—is really the lack of capacity that the country has to deal with this. People are still being pulled from the rubble. The hospitals are running out of blood. The hospitals don’t have enough supplies. So, I think, to me, what’s really devastating about this is—beyond what happened, it’s what happens next. And, I mean, I talked to one of the ministers who says there aren’t enough sheets, there aren’t enough water—there isn’t enough water, there isn’t enough antibiotics. So I think that’s where the real focus needs to be now.

AMY GOODMAN: Abdi Samatar, you’re a Somali scholar and writer. Can you talk about your thoughts on what has taken place, how unusual this is, if you feel it has anything to do with the increased U.S. military push in Africa?

ABDI SAMATAR: This is more than a massacre. It’s carnage. I have absolutely no doubt that this is the work of al-Shabab. The truck came on the road that comes from the west part of the city into the heart of the capital, and that area of the country and that area west of Mogadishu is completely controlled by al-Shabab. There’s nobody else. There’s no ISIS. There’s nobody else there. And so, speculations aside, this is a fact, if you look at the geography of the route that the truck took. So that’s the first thing to note.

The second thing to note is that, yes, this is carnage, but Somalis have been bleeding slowly to death in what professor Michael Watts calls “silent violence” over the last two-and-a-half decades or so. So, yeah, the concentration of the death in a small period of time in one place is horrific, but death of this kind has been taking place among the population by terrorists and by African Union forces over the last decade or so. So we should not be really surprised at this, but we should take stock of the sober nature of the calamity that’s Somalia.

And then the final thing I would like to say is this, that the United States government and the European Union, who support AMISOM, the African Union force in Somalia, populated by Ugandans, Ethiopians, Kenyans, Djiboutians and whatnot, they spend a billion-and-a-half dollars a year on that force. And that force is a conventional military force that’s placed, holed in, in locations outside and inside Mogadishu. If they were to spend a quarter of that sum of money on developing a Somali security force that’s mobile, that it can engage in guerrilla tactics and go after al-Shabab, this kind of a carnage would have been easily sort of avoided, and the people would have been saved. I don’t think the international community is serious about this. I don’t think they are interested in helping the Somali people. I think they are more interested in containing the Somali problem, as they call it, in Somalia, rather than claiming that they are nurturing the development of peace and democracy in that country.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Well, Abdi Samatar, I wanted to ask you about that African Union force. And specifically, what are the interests of—because they’re basically functioning as a proxy force for the United States and the European Union, that’s bankrolling them. What are the interests of specifically Ethiopia and Kenya in the ongoing military operations in Somalia?

ABDI SAMATAR: Well, let’s start with Kenya. Kenya invaded southern Somalia in 2011. The claim was that al-Shabab was damaging its economy because of a number of hostage takings along the Indian Ocean coast, the high tourist area of Kenya. Actually, the United States’ sort of reports from both the embassy and the Secret Service—I mean, the CIA, demonstrated that Kenya had this lust to occupy parts of Somalia long before those two incidents took place in 2010 and 2011. So, both Kenya and Ethiopia are interested to making sure Somalia never really comes back as a country and as a state that can challenge them in any way or sense.

So, there’s a—you have a problem here. Why would the African Union allow two countries who are neighbors, who have conflict of interest, to engage in Somalia? For instance, the Ethiopians control much of the southwest part of the country, and the Somali forces cannot really go there. They are dominated by the Ethiopians. And the Ethiopians and the Kenyans are nurturing what I consider to be tribal fiefdoms, much like apartheid and sort of bantustans, such that the central government never gains full authority across the country so that peace and order can be restored.

So, the United States is an ally of the Ethiopians. That’s where we use our drones to bomb places in the region. The Kenyans are close allies of the United Kingdom and the European Union. So, the question is really—Somalia is not the issue for them to save. It’s about sort of making sure Kenya and Ethiopia are doing what they do in the region in order to support the United States and the European Union.

AMY GOODMAN: Amanda, can you talk about the response in Somalia when President Trump announced that he was activating forces there? Explain what those forces were.

AMANDA SPERBER: Well, I think President Trump first made an announcement that he was activating offensive drone strikes. I believe that was back in March. And response then was kind of a mixture of skepticism, because, obviously, America is not known for successful drone strikes necessarily, but at the same time, Somalis really revile al-Shabab. There’s a sense that they want to move forward. So I think that there was also really a sense of hope and, genuinely, appreciation that they want—you know, like they don’t want al-Shabab to be the influential force that it is, so I think that they were—there was also a level of—a level of hope that this could turn things around. But all in all, I mean, that was mixed with a healthy sense of skepticism, given America’s reputation in this part of the world.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Amanda, you’ve written that you were surprised in your visits to Somalia about the extent of the U.S. presence there. Could you talk about that?

AMANDA SPERBER: Sure. I mean, I think when I went to Somalia, my understanding was not that the U.S. was leading—was not that the U.S. was leading the way in the country. My sense was that Turkey, the Gulf states and the United Kingdom were sort of taking the way. But upon getting on the ground, it was pretty clear to me, and made clear both by just the expats that I spoke to as well as the locals, that America is kind of at the forefront of operations and is invested strategically in Somalia’s security, both in terms of financial and—both in terms for financial reasons and security reasons.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to ask Professor Abdi Samatar about this question, in April, President Trump signing the directive classifying parts of Somalia as areas of active hostilities, meaning the Pentagon now has more power to carry out airstrikes and ground raids in the region, the classification also meaning the Pentagon will have more permission to kill bystanders.

ABDI SAMATAR: Well, I mean, the president did sign that, and that’s what it has meant. But as Amy suggested, we are not known, as Americans, particularly, I mean, our forces, to do the kind of surgical targets that can take terrorists out. I think if President Trump and his team were interested in reducing the level of tyranny and the, if you like, terrorism in the country, what they would have done is use the Somali security forces and spend maybe a couple of hundred million dollars on that rather than a billion dollars on the operations, and develop a mobile force that will act as a sort of a counter-guerrilla tactics—use counter-guerrilla tactics to go after al-Shabab, without involving Americans and anybody else, and, in that process, help Somalis rebuild the social and the sort of political infrastructure of their country. What you have, what Trump and his team are doing is doing their dirty work, as another scholar wrote in a book a few years back, and, in the process, not actually helping the Somali people take care of al-Shabab. I think Amanda is correct that Somalis revile al-Shabab, and I think they are capable of taking care of alShabab if they get the kind of resources they need to be able to go after them. So that’s one issue about that matter.

The other issue that needs to be brought to the table is that the Somali political class, not so much as the current government cabinet, but the Somali political class, is a rump, corrupt bunch of people who are less interested in their country and in their own people, and who are more interested in corruption and looting whatever little resources the country has, and is remaining in power. If that political class was on the same page as the Somali people in getting rid of Shabab, I am pretty certain the Somali people can raise enough resources to mobilize sufficient number of security forces that can drive al-Shabab into the sea. Unfortunately, you have two forces: the international community, who is not interested in helping Somalis save themselves, and you have a local political class, who are almost on the same page. And in between those two, the folks who are caught are ordinary people who have paid the ultimate price in this latest carnage in Mogadishu.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Professor Samatar, the goal of al-Shabab, if you could talk about that? What is the long-term political goal of al-Shabab? And also, the spread of the U.S. war on terrorism across sub-Saharan Africa—we had the report recently of four U.S. servicemen killed in Niger—could you talk about that, as well?

ABDI SAMATAR: I think the loss of American lives in the form that took place in Niger is quite tragic and not necessary. I think if we—as a government and as a country, if we were serious—that’s Americans—if we were serious in developing a mutually beneficial strategy, mutually beneficial for Americans, mutually beneficial for Africans, whether they are Somalis or Nigerians or whatnot, we will do a very different strategy in which local people are mobilized to defend themselves, and we will provide the resources necessary. So, my thinking is that sort of AFRICOM is doing the wrong tactics, much like AMISOM in Somalia is using conventional military resources and strategy to fight al-Shabab. So, it’s the wrong strategy, in my opinion. And the American government—not the American people, but the American government—is more interested in this, rather than in helping the local populations at a lower cost to all of us. So that’s the first thing.

If we come back to al-Shabab, al-Shabab controls much of the rural areas of southern Somalia, while AMISOM is holed in, in particular locations. And so, when AMISOM, for instance, moves into a town, takes over that town, Shabab just simply melt away into the bush, if you like, into the tropical bush in Somalia. The minute AMISOM withdraws, Shabab comes safely back and controls that territory. What you need here is a 10,000 to 20,000 Somali security forces, military and police forces, that are trained in guerrilla tactics, that are highly mobile. And the cost of that will be literally a fraction of the amount of money the European Union and the American government is spending on AMISOM, $1.5 billion. We can spend less than $200 million and get the job done and help the Somalis put Humpty Dumpty back together in a way that’s beneficial to them. But that doesn’t seem to be in the gray matter of those who are running the “war on terror” in Washington, D.C.

AMY GOODMAN: A final comment, Professor Samatar, on Niger and Somalia and the connection we should see? In the U.S. media, far more attention is being paid to, of course, the four U.S. Special Forces soldiers dead than the more than 300 people dead in Somalia.

ABDI SAMATAR: I think it’s really quite tragic that a strategy run from Washington, D.C., and from the European headquarters in Brussels pays so little attention when over 300 people are killed, massacred, and another 500 people are struggling for their lives, and that very little support comes from the United States and the European Union to help the Somali government clean up this, help the people who have been injured or people who have lost their parents or their children. By contrast, the Turkish government, literally immediately, as the explosions took place, sent a military plane with doctors and whatnot. Even the small country of Djibouti did something like that. So, the contrast between the bravado about fighting terrorism and supporting the local people who have become the victims of such terror is quite telling about what our agenda and strategy is in that part of the world.

If this issue was forwarded to you by email, and you want to receive AfricaFocus Bulletin regularly, sign up here.

AfricaFocus Bulletin is an independent electronic publication providing reposted commentary and analysis on African issues, with a particular focus on U.S. and international policies. AfricaFocus Bulletin is edited by William Minter.

AfricaFocus Bulletin can be reached at africafocus@igc.org. Please write to this address to suggest material for inclusion. For more information about reposted material, please contact directly the original source mentioned. For a full archive and other resources, see http://www.africafocus.org

America’s Scramble for Africa
| October 19, 2017 | 9:03 pm | Africa, Analysis, China, Donald Trump | No comments
US flag

America’s Scramble for Africa

CC0 / Pixabay
Columnists

Get short URL
Finian Cunningham
159271
https://sputniknews.com/columnists/201710191058385654-us-africa-trump-china/

The ugly row over whether President Trump disrespected the young widow of a fallen American soldier has overshadowed a bigger issue. That is, the increasing number of US military operations across the African continent.

Two weeks ago, Sgt La David Johnson (25) was killed along with three other US special forces troops when Islamist militants ambushed their patrol in the West African country of Niger. Trump got into hot water this week about reported offhand comments he made to the widow of Green Beret Johnson. The president denies he said anything disrespectful. Although the dead soldier’s family says otherwise.

In all the media controversy over what Trump said or didn’t say, questions about what US troops are doing in Niger are unfortunately overlooked. Not just Niger, but in dozens of other African nations.It is reckoned from US army data that there are thousands of special forces and other military personnel carrying out up to 100 missions at any given time in some 24 African states. That’s nearly half of all the countries comprising the African continent.

US special forces and surveillance drone operations are deployed in Niger, Chad, Mali and Sudan which all run along the southern Sahara desert. Further south in sub-Saharan Africa, US military are operating in Nigeria, Central African Republic, Uganda, Ethiopia and, of course, Somalia, where they are involved in a state of war against Islamist al Shabab militants.

The deployment of US troops in Africa was first stepped up under President GW Bush when his administration formed AFRICOM in 2007, a whole US command dedicated to the continent. Subsequently, under President Barack Obama, the American deployments increased further. Now under President Trump, the US force presence is reckoned to be at its highest level yet.

The official explanation is that American soldiers, Navy and air power, as well as CIA clandestine operations, are there to counter terror groups, who could plan and mount strikes on Europe and North America.True, there are several dangerous terror networks active in various African states, from al Shabaab in Somalia, to Boko Haram in Nigeria and al-Qaeda in the Maghreb. The latter has affiliates in Algeria, Mali, Chad and Niger where the US troops were killed recently along with a number of  local forces they were supporting.

But there is more than a suspicion that the US is using the cover of combating terrorism to conceal and project its real objective, which is to exert its influence over African nations. One observation for raising doubts is that the problem of these terror groups has actually grown more rapidly after the US troops started to be deployed in larger numbers under President Bush. Echoes of Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria here.

When Trump hosted several African leaders last month in New York during the UN annual congress he told them that his American investor friends were hotfooting it to the continent “to make a lot of money”. Typical of Trump, everything is reduced to filthy lucre. Now he may have been trying to charm his guests with a little light-hearted banter, but there’s much more to the joke. Africa is indeed seen as the continent of the future owing to its prodigious and still largely untapped resources.

The trouble for America and other Western powers is that China has stolen a march on them in terms of cultivating investments and harnessing resources across Africa. Under President Xi Jinping, China has investment projects worth an estimated $60 billion in dozens of African countries. This is way ahead of what the Americans or Europeans have invested.

Earlier this year, China opened its first ever overseas military base, in the East African country of Djibouti. That’s still small news compared with the reported 46 military bases that the US has across the continent.Beijing said its new military facilities in Djibouti are to secure vital shipping routes against piracy in the Gulf of Aden. That may be partly true. But there is also the factor of China wanting a security foothold in a continent where it has staked so much of its future economic growth plans.

The big difference between the US and China is that while Beijing has devoted most of its resources to developing trade and industry with African states, Washington’s emphasis is on military relations.

China has gained much respect from African nations for its genuine commitment to partnership. It is bringing capital and technology to Africa and gaining access to natural resources of oil and gas, metals and other minerals. Unlike the old European colonialism, China’s involvement in Africa is based on partnership and mutual development. For access to raw materials, China has built schools, universities, telecommunications and transport networks, which are all helping the continent reach its huge potential.

The Americans like the Europeans are stuck in an “extractive mentality” when it comes to Africa. But today, American capitalism is broke. It can’t even invest in its own nation never mind Africa.

Trump speaks for American capitalism. Knowing the rich resources possessed in Africa’s earth and its people, Trump salivates over the prospect of making big bucks. But the Americans aren’t prepared to spend the investment money needed to harness the rewards.That’s where the US military muscle comes in. In place of proper economic investment, diplomacy and political partnership, Washington is using its military edge to encroach on Africa — under the guise of “fighting terrorism”.

That’s not to say that American troops aren’t confronting terror groups. They are, as the deadly firefight in Niger shows.

But the real purpose for increasing US military strength in Africa is about securing American strategic economic interests “on the cheap” by using military power as opposed to deploying financial commitment in the way that China has.

The Americans want to have military firepower in place across Africa in the event of a sharp confrontation with China. China is seen as the global rival to failing US economic power. If relations turn really nasty — as they could over any number of issues, from North Korea to territorial disputes in the South China Sea — the US wants to have military ways to cut China off in Africa.

Like the Europeans in a previous century, the Americans are in a “scramble for Africa”. This time the scramble is all about cornering countries and resources from China’s legitimate expanding bilateral interests with African nations.However, America’s militarism in Africa will bring no benefit to the countries. As in other parts of the globe, the Middle East, North Africa, Central Asia, the pattern clearly shows that terrorism burgeons where US military operations occur.

Besides, American capitalism is not motivated by developing Africa for its people. It’s about making profits for Wall Street and rich investors like Trump.

The real danger is that this militarism will lead to another point of confrontation with China if the latter’s economic interests are threatened, as they were when US and NATO forces bombed Libya in 2011 for regime change.

It’s such a crying shame that American widows are having their hearts broken for a mission that is totally fraudulent — and getting no thanks for it from a callous Commander-in-Chief.

The views expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official position of Sputnik.