Scramble for Africa
By Finian Cunningham
October 21, 2017 "Information
- 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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
billion in dozens of African countries. This is way
ahead of what the Americans or Europeans have
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
to say that American troops aren't confronting
terror groups. They are, as the deadly firefight
in Niger shows.
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.
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.
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.
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.
American capitalism is not motivated by developing
Africa for its people. It's about making profits
for Wall Street and rich investors like Trump.
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
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
Cunningham has written extensively on international
affairs, with articles published in several
languages. He is a Master’s graduate in Agricultural
Chemistry and worked as a scientific editor for the
Royal Society of Chemistry, Cambridge, England,
before pursuing a career in newspaper journalism. He
is also a musician and songwriter. For nearly 20
years, he worked as an editor and writer in major
news media organisations, including The Mirror,
Irish Times and Independent.
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