Date: Thu, 11 Mar 1999 05:06:47 -0800 (PST)
Via Workers World News Service
What drives the conflict in central Africa?
By Deirdre Griswold, Workers World, 18 March 1999
Wars are raging throughout Africa. The largest area of confrontation is Congo and the countries on its borders: Angola, Rwanda and Uganda. What is driving these conflicts?
It is impossible to find the truth in the Western capitalist media. Every article, every television commentary, focuses only on the results, not the causes.
We are shown suffering and devastation almost too horrible to contemplate. But left out is the enormous pressure being exerted on Africa by the huge transnational imperialist banks and corporations and the government bodies that front for them. The implied racist message is that Africa can't govern itself.
Take this quote from a substantial article in the Jan. 12 New York Times entitled "Congo's Struggle May Unleash Broad Strife to Redraw Africa":
"Wars between nations, largely absent since Africans became independent starting in the 1960s, may become more common. As troubling, many experts say, the national boundary lines that have defined African countries for a century, and lent some stability, may slowly come apart. ...
"Congo is particularly divisible, experts say, because those foreign [African] troops tread on land rich in gold, diamonds, copper, cobalt, oil and timber. Each outside nation has interests in Congo--security, financial or both. So some Africa watchers say that a second or more subdued scramble for Congo, this time involving not European colonists but its own neighbors, is also helping pull the nation apart."
What a convenient revelation! This time the Europeans are not involved, claim the unnamed "experts." The recarving is all being done by other Africans.
But the exploitation and plunder of Africa by Britain, France, Portugal and Belgium didn't end with decolonization, as the Times writers should know well. And they don't even ask if U.S. imperialism, which has supplanted the European colonialists as the major exploiting power in so much of the developing world, has a stake in these wars.
The article identifies six countries--Uganda, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia and Chad--as "outside nations" whose troops are fighting in Congo.
CONTRAS AND TALIBAN
In this day and age, shouldn't the writers for the Times know full well that one of the main strategies of the imperialists is to let other forces do their fighting for them?
Wasn't that the meaning of the "Vietnamization" of the war in Southeast Asia? Wasn't that how the Contras became a force in Nicaragua? Isn't that how the Taliban were able to oust a progressive government in Afghanistan and install one of the most reactionary regimes in the world?
For many years, the U.S. government claimed to have no direct role in these struggles. The full extent of its military involvement and the billions of dollars spent on counterrevolution came out only much later.
The history of imperialist plunder of Africa is too infamous to be belittled by any honest writer. And not only the European colonial powers have been involved. In the century now drawing to a close, the U.S. government and the banks and corporations it represents have played an increasingly pivotal role as the major imperialist power in Africa, with Britain as their main partner in crime.
The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency maneuvered the assassination of Patrice Lumumba, the Congo's first president, in 1960. It was behind the overthrow of Ghana's Marx ist leader, Kwame Nkrumah. It took the entity known as UNITA and molded it into a powerful army trying to defeat the popular revolutionary government in Angola. In all these cases, it found agents to do its dirty work so that its own hands could be concealed. All of this has been well documented.
Why can't the media here even ask the question: Is the same process happening right now in Africa?
AGGRESSIVE U.S. EXPANSION
There is a new world situation ushered in by the collapse of the Soviet Union. The U.S. imperialist policy makers see immense opportunities to expand their global power. With no rival coming anywhere near them in economic or military might, they think they can ride roughshod over whatever measure of national sovereignty the African masses have been able to attain.
After World War II many heroic national liberation movements began to render colonialism unworkable. They received support and sustenance from the bloc of socialist countries, which was nowhere near as wealthy as the imperialists but did provide assistance.
It was no golden age. Many movements were set back. And the eventual split between the Soviet Union and China had a grave impact, helping to fracture many African liberation movements.
But taken as a whole, it was a time when the imperialists had to accept some measure of independence in many African countries, including a degree of state control over natural resources and vital areas of the infrastructure like banking, railroads, telephones and so on. They feared that unless they struck a compromise with the bourgeois elements, they could lose everything in a revolutionary upheaval of the masses.
Even those military and political leaders who came to power with Western backing, like General Mobutu in the Congo, benefited from this arrangement by keeping a larger share of the national wealth than the imperialists really wanted to concede.
During this period, a strong Pan-African movement sought to unite all the African countries.
While the imperialists fought among themselves for the biggest share of the loot--the Congo was a prime example, with the U.S., France and Belgium all backing different factions in the 1960s--they were united in trying to crush any truly popular and revolutionary development.
`STRUCTURAL ADJUSTMENT' AND U.S.-BACKED INSURGENCIES
Over the past decade, "structural adjustment" programs forced on Africa by the International Monetary Fund and World Bank have stripped many countries of whatever control they still exercised over their economies. Under the catchword "privatization," they have had to surrender ownership of mines, industries, communications and finance.
Today, the rivalry among the imperialists has sharpened greatly. The push to recarve Africa is coming most aggressively from the Anglo-U.S. alliance, at the expense first and foremost of the African people. French imperialism is being pushed back, losing control in areas where it has maintained neocolonial relations.
In Rwanda, for example, where French was the official language and the currency was convertible to the franc, the takeover by an insurgent force in 1994 has led to its realignment into the English-speaking bloc.
While the U.S. hand is not always visible, it is widely acknowledged that Washington has provided important backing to the present regimes in Uganda and Rwanda, including military support. They, in turn, have invaded Congo twice-- first to overthrow the dictator Mobutu, and now in a war against the more progressive government of Laurent Kabila, who had been their ally in the first struggle.
Kabila has tried to strengthen the national economy, making contracts with neighboring African countries like Zimba bwe, Angola and Tanzania to develop Congo's mineral wealth. This angered a number of imperialist mining companies, which lost contracts they thought were in the bag.
But now Rwandan and Ugandan troops are occupying the eastern third of the country, where Congo's great mineral wealth is concentrated. They seem to have abundant weapons and access to the most up-to-date satellite communications technology. And they are making their own contracts with imperialist corporations.
Angola, which has itself been at war with the U.S.-backed UNITA army for many years, at immense human cost, answered Kabila's call for help when Congo was invaded last summer. So did Zimbabwe, Namibia and Chad.
But new offensives by UNITA--which the U.S. claims it no longer bankrolls--have forced Angola to bring home almost all its troops in recent weeks. Clearly, UNITA is once again on the CIA payroll--if it ever was dropped.
In the imperialist world order, some countries--indeed, whole continents--are seen by the ruling capitalists as existing for no other purpose than to provide cheap raw materials and labor.
This has been nowhere more apparent than in the attitude of the European and U.S. ruling classes toward Africa. No amount of sighing over human rights or attending endless conferences promising minimal aid for economic development can drown out the imperialists' real interest in Africa.
They are scrambling over each other to grab Africa's riches for their global industrial machine. In the process, they will create, take advantage of and envenom antagonisms among different cultures, religions and regions.
This is the main driving force behind the African wars.
(Copyright Workers World Service: Permission to reprint granted if source is cited. For more information contact Workers World, 55 W. 17 St., NY, NY 10011)
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