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4th media croppedUnity and Economic Development Essential for Genuine Progress in Africa

“Africa in Review 2013, Part II: Unity and Economic Development Essential for Genuine Progress”

From Malawi to Niger imperialist states continue to hamper sovereignty and peace

President Joyce Banda of the Southern African state of Malawi is currently facing a crisis quite similar to her predecessor, the late Bingu wa Mutharikia, in that western capitalist governments are consistently attempting to influence the policies of African countries. Under President Mutharika the so-called donor states withheld assistance to his government resulting in hyperinflation, food shortages and political unrest.

Mutharika’s sudden death in 2012 opened the way for President Banda to take office. She was promoted in the corporate media as the antithesis of the previous leader and consequently aid began to flow into the country once again.

Nonetheless, a scandal has erupted over the last several months involving allegations of large-scale embezzlement of state funds and even attempted-murder conspiracy of a treasury official who exposed the corruption.

Amid these reports of the mishandling of aid monies, dubbed by the press as “Cashgate,” several of the same governments and regional groups such as the European Union (EU), Norway and Britain, which had only months before championed the Banda administration in Lilongwe, have in fact suspended assistance.

These events have had a tremendous impact on the national economy of Malawi. In a recent article published by Maravi Post it reports that there is only one other country that was rated lower than Malawi in regard to economic performance in 2013.

The article says that “Malawi is the second 2013 world’s worst performing economy after war-torn Central African Republic, according to ranking by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) which rates countries by at least one measure.

According to the ranking available on CNNMoney, Malawi has an estimated average income of $215.22 (less than K100 000) while around half of the country’s mostly rural population live on less than one dollar (about K450) a day.” (December 23)

Banda is facing this crisis just months before national elections in May 2014. Her People’s Party says they will not be deterred by the scandal which has resulted in nearly 70 arrests of public officials including the former ministers of finance and justice.

It has been estimated that some US$300 million could be involved in the scandal. The aid money, reported to make up 40 percent of the national budget, is once again being utilized by the West to influence the internal politics of an African state.

In neighboring Mozambique, the specter of another civil war has surfaced with the withdrawal of the so-called Mozambique National Resistance (RENAMO) from the government which is dominated by the Mozambique Liberation Front (FRELIMO). FRELIMO led the armed struggle for national independence during the 1960s through 1974 when the Portuguese colonial regime collapsed through its defeats on the battlefield in Mozambique as well as both Angola and Guinea-Bissau, and a military coup by junior officers in Lisbon.

Mozambique under FRELIMO played an instrumental role in the liberation struggle in neighboring Rhodesia when the Zimbabwe African National Union Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF) maintained vital bases on Mozambican territory.

Several years after Mozambique gained its independence in 1975, RENAMO, which had its origins in the Portuguese intelligence services (PIDE) and was supported by Rhodesia and apartheid South Africa, began to attack every development project established by the FRELIMO government.

Zimbabwe during the 1980s after the attainment of independence from British settler-colonialists, deployed 10,000 troops to protect the Beira Corridor in order that goods could be transported from the Indian Ocean port to Zimbabwe which is a landlocked country. By 1992 a ceasefire had been negotiated between RENAMO and FRELIMO.

During this time the Rhodesian settlers had long been defeated and the racist apartheid-regime in South Africa was in decline. RENAMO entered the electoral political fray but could not gain a majority within parliament or take over the presidency.

At a time when Mozambique is being cited for its phenomenal economic growth that is largely being driven by the emergence of the country as a hydrocarbon producer, RENAMO has launched a series of attacks in the North.

The economic growth in Mozambique could not have taken place without debt relief during the late 1990s when countries throughout the continent were being strangled by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank and other financial institutions.

In a recent news article on the economic situation inside Mozambique it quotes a former prime minister saying “When we came to the fifth rescheduling, in 1997, we realized that the debt was unsustainable – that is, that the reconstruction development plan could not be implemented with that debt, because about 75% of the resources should have gone towards debt servicing,” said Luisa Diogo, who has served as the country’s minister of financing and planning and then its prime minister between 2004-10.

Diogo continued pointing out that “There was one debt that we were paying and another that was pending. So we decided to seek debt forgiveness. When we have a clear program and convictions and are defending a just cause, the partners end up by giving way. We wanted larger debt forgiveness than they were offering. We wanted the money to be used for education, health, water supply and roads. We had already shown, in HIPC-1 [heavily indebted poor countries], that our country was serious, with a serious and far-sighted leadership. We had the evidence in hand that we were serious, and our macro-economic indicators showed that.”(Zawya.com, December 17)

Nonetheless, with prospects for a decline in economic growth and an escalation of political instability, the Southern African Development Community (SADC) is quite concerned about the RENAMO rebels and their attacks which have resulted in dozens of deaths.

Although the apartheid regime no longer exists in Southern Africa after 1994, a rebel group like RENAMO could still pose serious challenges for Maputo.

South Sudan and the CAR: The Need for an Independent African Standby Force

The fighting in the Republic of South Sudan since December 15 has somewhat overshadowed the ongoing conflict in the Central African Republic (CAR). In the CAR hundreds have been killed and thousands dislocated in fighting between the Seleka government headed by Interim-President Michel Djotodia and the so-called Anti-Balaka forces.

With the intervention of greater numbers of French troops, 1,600, as well as African peacekeepers from Chad, the internal situation has become more complicated and tense. On December 23, Chadian troops opened fire on protesters in the capital of Bangui killing at least one person. The demonstrators reportedly perceived the Chadian troops as being supportive of the Seleka regime.

Also on December 23, nine other people reportedly died as a result of clashes between the Anti-Balaka forces, who are mainly Christians, and supporters of Seleka, which is dominated by Muslims. Can the existence of French, Chadian and other military forces inside the CAR normalize the situation absent of an overall political solution?

Repeatedly, as was demonstrated in Mali, Somalia and Niger, the African Union (AU) has not been capable of intervening in these conflicts without the financial, military and political backing of the imperialist states.

These interventions led by the imperialist states do not serve the interests of the African workers, farmers and youth but strengthen the military and economic interests of the West.

In the Republic of South Sudan, the United States has already said that it has deployed 45 troops to evacuate its citizens and protect its interests inside the oil-rich central African state. This is not the first time that the U.S. has sent troops into South Sudan.

In 2011, the Obama administration announced that it was sending 100 Special Forces into four African states: the CAR, Uganda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and South Sudan supposedly to track down Joseph Kony of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).

During December 2012, the White House also reported that the Pentagon would send 3,500 troops and military trainers to 35 different African countries. With all of the U.S., French and NATO intervention in Africa why is there increasing instability on the continent?

The answer to this question lies in the fact that these imperialist military forces are not in Africa to stabilize the political situations but to further exploit the economic resources and labor of the people.

Until Africa can control its own borders and maintain security within various nation-states, the former colonial powers along with the U.S. will continue to run rampant all over the continent.

Algeria and Niger: France and the U.S. Seeks to Justify Military Occupations

After the French intervention in Mali during January, the In Amenas natural gas field in neighboring Algeria was attacked by a group of Islamist guerrillas. Over 60 people were killed in the seizure of the plant and the recapturing of the gas production facility by the Algerian armed forces.

The occupation of Mali by France, which was supported by the Pentagon, laid the basis for the incident in Algeria. Later in Niger, a West African state that was formally colonized by France, Islamic guerrillas had been holding French hostages for several years.

Four French citizens were released from their captors in Niger in October probably due to the paying of a huge ransom. The killing of two Radio France International journalists in Mali was reported to be linked to their celebration of the release of the hostages in neighboring Niger.

Niger is a large uranium-producing state. At present the U.S. and France are both occupying Niger in order to protect the Paris-owned Areva mining corporation’s economic interests.

On December 21, two thousand people demonstrated in the capital of Niamey demanding that Areva pay more taxes into the national treasury. This march coincided with negotiations between the Niger Government of President Mahamadou Issofou over a possible 10-year contract involving the two French-owned mines inside the country.

In a Reuters press agency article it states that “Niger wants to increase the royalty tax for uranium from 5.5 percent of sales to as much as 12 percent, depending on profits, in accordance with a 2006 mining law. Areva says this would make its mines unprofitable.” (December 21)

One of the leaders of the demonstration told Reuters that “Our 2010 constitution gives the Niger people exclusive ownership of natural resources,” according to Ali Idrissa, coordinator of transparency campaigner ROTAB, which organized the protest. “It is not down to a company to choose its own tax regime,” the organizer said.

Adding insult to injury, the Pentagon is building a drone station in Niger while Special Forces are guarding the construction of these offensive military operations. Of course the presence of U.S. and French military forces in Niger is clearly related to the exploitation of uranium.

Under the guise of combating “terrorism” the U.S. and France are escalating their military presence on the African continent. Yet the larger and more intense their interventions become the greater the instability and conflict in Africa.

Conclusion: The Need for a Pan-African Solution

The notion that Africa cannot resolve its own internal problems is being utilized to escalate neo-colonial intrigue. The “terrorism” of a few organizations based in various regions of North, West, East and Central Africa, serves as a rationale for the usurpation of national sovereignty and political independence by the imperialist states and the economic interests that they support.

Consequently, the African states through their regional organizations and the AU must move rapidly to establish an independent military force capable of dealing with growing crises of security and stability which largely stems from the legacy of colonialism and the neo-colonial character of the unequal relations between the post-independence governments and the Western industrialized states.

With the new discoveries and exploitation of greater amounts of oil, gas and other natural resources in Africa, the military intervention on the continent will escalate.

If governments are not willing to take up the need to compel these imperialist armies to withdraw their forces from Africa then a people’s movement must be built to place this on the agenda of every popular organization, trade union, student union and farmers’ association.

Until Africa is free of imperialist occupations and all that it implies in regard to stability and growth, there will be no peace and genuine development on the continent.

Mr. Abayomi Azikiwe, Editor, Pan-African News Wire, is one of the frequent contributors for The 4th Media.