and Askia Muhammad
(FinalCall.com)–In a June 26 address delivered to the Corporate Council on Africa’s Business Summit in Washington, D.C., President George Bush formally announced his intention to visit five African nations in five days. His plans were to begin in Senegal on July 7 and conclude the excursion in Nigeria on July 12.
He told the gathering of potential investors at the Washington Hilton Hotel that the administration believes that growth and prosperity in Africa will contribute to the growth and prosperity of the world.
“In 11 days, I leave for Africa and I will carry this message: The United States believes in the great potential of Africa. We also understand the problems of Africa. And this nation is fully engaged in a broad, concerted effort to help Africans find peace, to fight disease, to build prosperity and to improve their own lives,” he said.
The trip coincides with the Annual Summit of the African Union from July 10-12 in Maputo, Mozambique; however, Mr. Bush is not expected to attend.
‘Bush’s presence in Africa signifies the smbolic re-enactment of the Berlin Conference, an extension of the White supremacy policy under the glove of being a friend.’
-Dr. Conrad Worrill
National Black United Front
In fact, Africa’s leading statesman, former South African President Nelson Mandela, blasted the announced visit, though much of his criticism was targeted at Mr. Bush’s war in Iraq.
Mr. Bush said he will visit Senegal to see “West Africa’s longest-standing democracy” and will go to South Africa to meet with elected leaders “who are firmly committed to economic reforms in a nation that has become a major force for regional peace and stability.”
The President said he also will visit Uganda, praising the nation for its progress in reducing the HIV infection rate. He will end his trip in Nigeria, “a multi-ethnic society that is consolidating civilian rule, is developing its vast resources, and is helping its African neighbors keep the peace,” he charged.
This will only be the second trip by a U.S. president to the continent; Democrat Bill Clinton did it in 1998. His high-profile trip five years ago still suffers from severe criticism that Mr. Clinton failed to deliver on his promises to Africa, and that the world’s only superpower is more responsive to the needs of Europeans at the expense of African nations.
Mr. Bush says that his trip should serve as a signal of his commitment and optimism about the continent’s future. Others, however, view the trip as a new inroad to dominate U.S. occupation, and see the proposed humanitarian goals of the U.S. as disingenuous.
Outlining regime change goals, Mr. Bush expressed his agendas for the Congo, Liberia and the Sudan. He called for African governments to actively support the creation of an integrated national army and the establishment by June 30 of a transitional government in the Congo.
In addition, he is demanding that Liberian President Charles Taylor cede power by the same deadline. He announced that he will return Special Africa Envoy, former Senator John Danforth, to the Sudan within two weeks, and urged that “all nations, including the nations of Africa,” support his appeal for regime change in Zimbabwe.
“Many African leaders are currently pledged to the path of political and economic reform. That shared commitment is expressed in the standards of NEPAD, the New Partnership for Africa’s Development. Yet, those standards are mocked by some on the continent, such as the leader of Zimbabwe, where the freedom and dignity of the nation is under assault,” Mr. Bush said.
“I am not anticipating a massive occupation of Africa, but there are enough hints right now that there may be a redeployment of troops, particularly in the oil-rich areas,” Trans Africa Forum Director Bill Fletcher told The Final Call from his Washington, D.C. office.
“The attitude of the United States since the end of the Cold War has been less focused on the building and preservation of states and more on the preservation of security and interests. Insofar as there will be civil conflicts that might lead to the erosion of a particular state, you can also see the further spread of warlords and the U.S. cutting whatever deals it wants in order to serve its own interests. The United States has to renounce the notion of regime change,” the director said.
He also insisted that, during the Cold War, Africa was viewed primarily from the standpoint of resources and position vis-a-vis the then-Soviet Union. “Therefore, any leader who was willing to sell their soul to the United States was accepted as an ally. The Clinton era did not see any qualitative improvement in relationship to Africa, and what we saw was them throwing us a bone with the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), which, in my opinion, is more beneficial to western interests, as opposed to Africa,” he said.
In fact, a core requirement to receive AGOA funding is that a country cannot take any action that undermines any U.S. national security or foreign policy interests. “This means that when the U.S. went to the United Nations Security Council to ‘bumrush’ a proposal to invade Iraq, this was the kind of thing that was probably held over the heads of Guinea, Angola and the Cameroon,” he said.
“Bush’s presence in Africa signifies the symbolic re-enactment of the Berlin Conference, an extension of the White supremacy policy under the glove of being a friend,” commented Dr. Conrad Worrill, chairman of the National Black United Front, referring to the turn of the 19th century conference where Europe carved up Africa.
“The Western world has, as its objective, the recolonization of Africa and setting Africa back in its quest for independence. Unfortunately, the European world, over the last 20 years, played on the weaknesses of African disunity,” he said.
A U.S. military outpost?
What also has observers concerned is what is thought to be the unspoken agenda of the renewed U.S. interest in Africa–establishing military bases.
In the midst of a crisis, caused when the U.S. temporarily closed its brand-new embassy in Nairobi because of terrorist threats, the Kenyan Parliament demanded action from its government on June 17, following reports that the U.S. was interested in establishing a military base there, according to the Pan African News Agency (PANA).
One week earlier, sources in Ghana reported on the “Rumor Mill” page of Ghanaweb that the U.S. plans to sharply reduce its forces in Germany, Turkey and Saudi Arabia, while planning to boost its presence in Africa, including possibly stationing 1,000 troops in that West African country.
At least one member of the Congressional Black Caucus has officially raised the question about the possible U.S. military expansion in Africa,– Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.). In his May 14 letter, Rep. Rangel asked Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld directly, whether or not the U.S. was invited to locate a new military base on the continent by the heads of any African governments.
Acting unilaterally in establishing new military bases, without the input of a broad range of African leaders, “would be tantamount to imposing a presence that would be equivalent to imperialist occupation,” he warned.
The White House has nothing to say about the matter, according to newly appointed Press Secretary Scott McClellan, in response to a question from The Final Call on June 20. And, while Secretary Rumsfeld did personally acknowledge receipt of Mr. Rangel’s letter, the Pentagon has remained tight-lipped about the question of military expansion in Africa.
Those who are interested in finding out about U.S. military aims in Africa should “ask the administration,” commented Hope Sullivan, daughter of the late Leon Sullivan, who founded the bi-annual African-African American Summit in 1991. Ms. Sullivan will hold the Sullivan Summit in Nigeria this year and will receive Pres. Bush at the meeting.
“The summit objectives are clear,” Ms. Sullivan continued. “We’ve always been talking about bringing economic development to the continent, and we’ve always been talking about debt relief, and we’ve been talking about bringing health care and education. Those remain to be the topics that we’re focused on for this summit, so I’m probably not the right person to talk to about (Bush’s military plans in Africa).”
The heads of state of several African countries who were not able to attend Rev. Sullivan’s funeral two years ago are planning to pay their respects at a traditional African funeral for the legendary Baptist preacher and civil rights organizer during the conference.
The oil agenda
Salih Booker, executive director of Africa Action, said the Pentagon is looking for countries where it can have agreements to have access to airfields and seaports. Particularly in West Africa, the whole focus is on oil, he agreed.
Mr. Booker noted that a neo-conservative Israeli group did a study on West African oil, to argue that the U.S. should focus more on West African oil and less on Saudi Arabia or the Middle East, because it’s easier to transport to the U.S. and in some cases, like Nigeria, it’s a higher grade of crude. But the group noted that there should be a security component to this plan, he said.
In addition, Mr. Booker pointed to the small island of Sâ€¹o TomÅ½, in the Gulf of Guinea off the west coast of Africa near Nigeria.
“There have been negotiations going on about establishing a U.S. (Navy) base there. And, of course, the U.S. does have a military–they call it a camp, I consider it a base–in Djibouti. That’s the one they set up as part of the whole mobilization for the war on Iraq,” he said.
In addition, the U.S. already has a basing agreement with Kenya, established under former Kenyan President Daniel Arap, but the opposition was always saying it may be in violation of the Kenyan Constitution because the Parliament had not approved it.
“Maybe they’re trying to get the Parliament to approve it for once,” Mr. Booker commented.
Because of the appearance of the U.S. oil interest, Rep. Rangel is suspicious that the Pentagon may be using the “fear of terrorism as a pretext to control the resources in Africa,” said George Dalley, Mr. Rangel’s chief-of-staff, in an interview.
Mr. Rangel is “suspicious of the Pentagon’s intent,” said Mr. Dalley, who told Senators Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R-Texas), and Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.), just that in May 14 letters to them. While Mr. Rumsfeld met and discussed possible military expansion plans with those two senators, he did not discuss the idea with any members of the Congressional Black Caucus.
“I think the President is showing that he is serious about Africa and he is surprising his doubters,” Constituency For Africa (CFA) Director Mel Foote told The Final Call. Mr. Foote attended the President’s speech, as well as advised U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell regarding a number of key issues surrounding Africa, including peace recommendations in Sudan and reports on the spread of HIV/AIDS. He said Pres. Bush deserves high marks on honoring his commitment to visit the continent and that the intent is good.
“It will be a short trip, he is very focused on what he hopes to accomplish in these countries and I am very pleased with his efforts at this point,” Mr. Foote said.
The CFA director said some of the key components that will ultimately make the trip a success for Africa is his discussion with leaders concerning his policies, the $15 billion commitment to Africa’s health crisis, trade, investment, energy security, terrorism and the need to stop conflict.
“Some of his regime change policies are a matter of controversy,” Mr. Foote said. “I think the administration’s policy toward Zimbabwe is misguided somewhat. I always felt it was connected to the British support of the U.S. in Desert Storm. We all know, however, it is a mess there and he is looking square at it. As for right now, Mugabe has to go, but I don’t want him to go by gun barrels or coup d’etat. Nothing like that. I would like to see a transitional government take place, the return of the rule of law established so that it will prepare the country for the next election.”
“If African people could, for a moment in time, bury our bloody differences, we wouldn’t need the Europeans. Therein lies our biggest challenge,” said Dr. Worrill. “We must recognize that we can accomplish all of what we need without the U.S., Britain, France, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Belgium and all of the former slave trading nations. But it is a colonial mindset on the part of some of the African leaders, who will take a crumb from the former slave masters and colonizers, and prop themselves up as though they are independent.”