…the fact remains that the ICC is an imperialist court. Some members of Parliament, the President, his Deputy and some African heads of state seem to have come to this realization just a year or a few months ago. It is true that this court targets and is pleased to try Africans, right from the African Presidents to small time rebels. This is despite the fact that other than the Democratic Republic of Congo, the worst war crimes in the recent years have taken place outside of Africa. It is also not just any other criminal African President/rebel that the ICC targets. Some can actually survive their dragnet if they have good relations with the western powers. In Libya for instance, armed rebels toppled and murdered Muammar Gaddafi with the support of the imperialist countries. In the process, they killed thousands of dark skinned Africans Workers who were operating in the different economic sectors in Libya. Today, it is Gaddafi’s son, Saif who is standing trial at the ICC and not the racist Al Qaeda linked rebels. (Nobody is telling us who is currently mining Libya’s oil). In the case of Ivory Coast, a rebel leader, Allasane Ouattara violently ousted President Laurent Gbagbo from power, with direct combat involvement of the French Army. While Ouattara had destabilized the north for many years, causing uncountable deaths and untold suffering to the people of Ivory Coast, it is Laurent Gbagbo who is sitting at the ICC, and not Ouattara. The biggest culprit in the DRC conflict which has claimed over 6 million lives is Rwanda’s Paul Kagame, who at this moment a darling of imperialism hence untouchable by the ICC.
The International Criminal Court with its selective justice has become a vehicle for enforcing neocolonial interests in Africa. ICC has proven that it is beholden to countries that are not even signatories to the Rome statute that set it up. Once again, the spotlight is on Africa as four Kenyans – three political leaders and a journalist – have been indicted at the International Criminal Court (ICC). Once again, the question that has never been answered is, why Africa? And why the speed? In Anglo-Saxon parts of the world, some leaders are treated with kids’ gloves when they commit ‘crimes against humanity’. Others, like the former British Prime Minister Tony Blair and former US President George Bush, go to write memoirs defending their abuse of international laws. Let us put this in context, in Ivory Coast, ex-President Laurent Gbagbo was ‘abducted’ (the words used by Jerry John Rawlings, former President of Ghana) at midnight and carted off to The Hague. In my view, his crimes remain unknown except to the French and his Ivorian adversaries. Charles Taylor (Liberia) remains in The Hague incarcerated. Now we learn that all along, the former President of Liberia may have been a CIA agent. So we can guess why the leadership of the United States would like to see him remain in The Hague. He knows too much. In the case of Libya, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi and his sons were even indicted before the ICC could establish whether they had committed crimes ‘against humanity.’ Other Africans from the Democratic Republic of the Congo are also facing charges in The Hague. In the Sudan, a sitting head of state, President Omar Bashir, has also been indicted. The queue of Africans waiting to be hanged by this international court is endless. Yet, a cursory glance at the world also tells of many crimes committed against ordinary citizens – from Palestine to Afghanistan, to Libya and, of course, Iraq. Who bears responsibility for these crimes? Are we suggesting that the lives of Iraqi, Libyan and Palestinian children and women do not matter? How come no one is facing so-called justice in The Hague? This raises serious questions about the selective justice and double standards of the international systems of justice that is selectively applied to Africa and especially African leaders by the so-called ‘international community’. It leaves me with no option but to conclude that the ICC has become a vehicle for enforcing neocolonial interest in Africa, which members of the UN Security Council can exploit. What is even more worrying is that the ICC has become a tool in the hands of vicious African elite/politicians fighting for the national cake. All it takes is to convince the so-called international community that your opponent needs to go to The Hague. I will suggest in all seriousness that serious crimes against humanity have been committed in Libya by NATO forces, and by both sides in the post-election crisis in the Ivory Coast. But we are yet to see some action on that front. The work of the ICC will make sense, and justice will be served, if the leaders who authorised the bombing of Tripoli under the guise of UN resolutions also face the same justice that the Kenyans are supposedly going to face.
It was Alexander Murdoch Mackay, the Scottish Presbyterian missionary to Uganda, who observed in 1889: “In former years, the universal aim was to steal Africans from Africa. Today the determination of Europe is to steal Africa from the Africans.” A hundred and twenty-three years later, Europe appears to still be trying to steal both Africa and the Africans. They are now using their new creation, the International Criminal Court (ICC), to steal Africans from Africa to put on show-trials in Western Europe.
This has been seen as a means of destabilising the African continent – something which then makes the political domination of Africa and the subsequent exploitation of African minerals and resources that much easier. As the African Union has put it: “The abuse and misuse of indictments against African leaders have a destabilising effect that will negatively impact on political, social and economic development of member states and their ability to conduct international relations…”
The ICC’s actions have provoked furious debates over the Court’s potential impact, its exclusive focus on Africa over other parts of the world, its selection of cases, and the effect of its indictments and prosecutions on peace processes on the African continent. Over-zealous evangelism has been caught up in double standards, hypocrisy, racial stereotyping, and national and personal agendas.
Judge Richard Goldstone (the ICC enthusiast from South Africa), has highlighted the political nature of the international criminal tribunals that preceded the ICC: “The problem with the UN Security Council is that it says no in the case of Cambodia, Mozambique, Iraq and other places where terrible war crimes have been committed, but yes in the case of Yugoslavia and Rwanda. That’s a political way of deciding where international justice should be meted out. There has long been a concern that these tribunals ‘politicise justice’… It is noteworthy that no ad hoc tribunals were established to investigate war crimes committed by any of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council or those nations these powerful states might wish to protect.”
Pro.f Mahmood Mamdani, the influential Ugandan academic, agrees: “The fact of mutual accommodation between the world’s only superpower and an international institution struggling to get its bearings is clear if we take into account the four countries whereby by 2009 the ICC had launched its investigations: Sudan, Central African Republic, Uganda and DRCongo. All…are places where the US has no objection to the course charted by the ICC investigations.
“In Uganda, the ICC has charged only the leadership of the [rebel group] LRA but not that of the pro-US government headed by President Museveni. In Sudan, the ICC has charged officials of the Sudan government. In DRCongo, the ICC has remained mum about the links between the armies of Uganda and Rwanda – both pro-US – and the ethnic militias that have been at the heart of the slaughter of civilians.
Mamdani notes further that: “The ICC’s attempted accommodation with the powers that be has changed the international face of the Court. Its name notwithstanding, the ICC is rapidly turning into a Western court to try African crimes against humanity. Even then, its approach is selective: it targets governments that are adversaries of the US and ignores US allies, effectively conferring impunity on them.”
In their well-argued paper, “The Impact of Timing of International Criminal Indictments on Peace Processes and Humanitarian Action”, Jacqueline Geis and Alex Mundt noted that “although the ICC was established as an impartial arbiter of international justice, both the timing and nature of its indictments issued to date suggest that the intervention of the ICC in situations of ongoing conflict is influenced by broader external factors.”
“Broader external factors” bring into sharp focus the indictment by the ICC of the ex-Libyan leader, Muammar Al Gathafi, during last year’s NATO war in Libya. Gathafi’s indictment contrasts starkly with the ICC’s silence on the presidents of Syria and Yemen, and the King of Bahrain where similar “war crimes” and “crimes against humanity” as alleged by the ICC to have occurred in Libya under Gathafi have happened over the past year. But Gathafi, then being bombed and wanted by the Western powers, was indicted by the ICC, while, to date, the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, the Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, and the King of Bahrain Hamadibn Isa Al Khalifa have been left in peace.
Another example is the ICC actions in Sudan regarding the Darfur situation, which have been particularly controversial not least because Sudan, as a non-signatory of the Rome Statute, does not come under the ICC’s jurisdiction. In so doing, the ICC has polarised international opinion on the Court.
Unfortunately for the ICC and Europe, they are targeting Africa at a time when the continent is asserting its political and economic independence. As a result, Africa has rejected European and ICC attempts at regime change by deeply questionable legal diktat. Broadly, the ICC has emerged as a de facto European court, funded by Europe, directed by Europe, and focused almost exclusively on the African continent, and thereby serving Western political and economic interests in Africa.
Geis and Mundt have noted how the ICC’s Africa focus is fragmenting international opinion: “The broad international consensus in favour of the Rome Statute has begun to fray as the Court pursued justice in some of the world’s most politically charged and complex crises, all of which happened to fall within Africa. At the same time, other states such as Burma and North Korea have so far eluded potential ICC investigations, most likely for geopolitical reasons and/or deference to regional interests. Other commentators alleged that the prosecutor has limited investigations to Africa because of geopolitical pressures, either out of a desire to avoid confrontation with major powers or as a tool of Western foreign policy.”
This reality has been picked up by the Rwandan president, Paul Kagame. He has dismissed the ICC as a new form of imperialism created by the West and “put in place only for African countries, only for poor countries”. He said that the ICC reflected “colonialism, slavery and imperialism”.
The distinguished international peace researcher and a past senior vice rector of the United Nations University, Prof. Ramesh Thakur, reflects this growing consensus within the developing world: “A troubling issue is how an initiative of international criminal justice meant to protect vulnerable people from brutal national rulers has managed to be subverted into an instrument of power against vulnerable countries. A court meant to embody and pursue universal justice is in practice reduced to imposing selective justice of the West against the rest.
The International Criminal Court is a permanent tribunal to prosecute individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, and the crime of aggression (although jurisdiction for the crime of aggression will not be awakened until 2017 at the earliest).
The ICC was created by the Rome Statute which came into force on 1 July 2002. The Court has established itself in The Hague, Netherlands, but its proceedings may take place anywhere. It is intended to complement existing national judicial systems, and may only exercise its jurisdiction when national courts are unwilling or unable to investigate or prosecute such crimes.
Currently, 122 states are states parties to the Statute of the Court, including all of South America, nearly all of Europe, most of Oceania and roughly half the countries in Africa. A further 31 countries, including Russia, have signed but not ratified the Rome Statute. The law of treaties obliges these states to refrain from “acts which would defeat the object and purpose” of the treaty until they declare they do not intend to become a party to the treaty. Three of these states—Israel, Sudan and the United States—have informed the UN Secretary General that they no longer intend to become states parties and, as such, have no legal obligations arising from their former representatives' signature of the Statute. United Nations member states have neither signed nor ratified or acceded to the Rome Statute; some of them, including China and India, are critical of the Court. On 21 January 2009, the Palestinian National Authority formally accepted the jurisdiction of the Court. On 3 April 2012, the ICC Prosecutor declared himself unable to determine that Palestine is a "state" for the purposes of the Rome Statute and referred such decision to the United Nations. The establishment of an international tribunal to judge political leaders accused of war crimes was first made during the Paris Peace Conference in 1919 by the Commission of Responsibilities. The issue was addressed again at a conference held in Geneva under the auspices of the League of Nations on 1–16 November 1937, which resulted in the conclusion of the first convention stipulating the establishment of a permanent international court to try acts of international terrorism. The convention was signed by 13 governments, but was never ratified, and the convention never entered into effect.
The United Nations stated that the General Assembly first recognised the need for a permanent international court to deal with atrocities of the kind committed during World War II in 1948, following the Nuremberg and Tokyo Tribunals. At the request of the General Assembly, the International Law Commission drafted two statutes by the early 1950s but these were shelved as the Cold War made the establishment of an international criminal court politically unrealistic.
Benjamin B. Ferencz, an investigator of Nazi war crimes after World War II and the Chief Prosecutor for the United States Army at the Einsatzgruppen Trial, one of the twelve military trials held by the U.S. authorities at Nuremberg, later became a vocal advocate of the establishment of an international rule of law and of an International Criminal Court. In his first book published in 1975, entitled Defining International Aggression – The Search for World Peace, he argued for the establishment of such an international court.
The idea was revived in 1989 when A. N. R. Robinson, then Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, proposed the creation of a permanent international court to deal with the illegal drug trade. While work began on a draft statute, the international community established ad hoc tribunals to try war crimes in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda, established in 1994, further highlighting the need for a permanent international criminal court.
In June 1989, motivated in part by an effort to combat drug trafficking, Trinidad and Tobago resurrected a pre-existing proposal for the establishment of an ICC and the UN GA asked that the ILC resume its work on drafting a statute. The conflicts in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia as well as in Rwanda in the early 1990s and the mass commission of crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide led the UN Security Council to establish two separate temporary ad hoc tribunals to hold individuals accountable for these atrocities, further highlighting the need for a permanent international criminal court.
In 1994, the ILC presented its final draft statute for an ICC to the UN GA and recommended that a conference of plenipotentiaries be convened to negotiate a treaty and enact the Statute. To consider major substantive issues in the draft statute, the General Assembly established the Ad Hoc Committee on the Establishment of an International Criminal Court, which met twice in 1995.
After considering the Committee's report, the UN GA created the Preparatory Committee on the Establishment of the ICC to prepare a consolidated draft text. From 1996 to 1998, six sessions of the UN Preparatory Committee were held at the United Nations headquarters in New York, in which NGOs provided input into the discussions and attended meetings under the umbrella of the NGO Coalition for an ICC (CICC). In January 1998, the Bureau and coordinators of the Preparatory Committee convened for an Inter-Sessional meeting in Zutphen, the Netherlands to technically consolidate and restructure the draft articles into a draft.
The United States and Israel refuse to ratify, acknowledge or adhere to ICC.
Following years of negotiations, the General Assembly convened a conference in Rome in June 1998, with the aim of finalizing a treaty. On 17 July 1998, the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court was adopted by a vote of 120 to 7, with 21 countries abstaining. The seven countries that voted against the treaty were China, Iraq, Israel, Libya, Qatar, United States, and Yemen.
The Rome Statute became a binding treaty on 11 April 2002, when the number of countries that had ratified it reached sixty. The Statute legally came into force on 1 July 2002, and the ICC can only prosecute crimes committed after that date. The first bench of 18 judges was elected by an Assembly of States Parties in February 2003. They were sworn in at the inaugural session of the Court on 11 March 2003. The Court issued its first arrest warrants on 8 July 2005and the first pre-trial hearings were held in 2006.
During a Review Conference of the International Criminal Court Statute in Kampala, Uganda, two amendments to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court were adopted on 10 and 11 June 2010. The second amendment concerns the definition of the crime of aggression.
The United States government has consistently opposed an international court that could hold US military and political leaders to a uniform global standard of justice. The Clinton administration participated actively in negotiations towards the International Criminal Court treaty, seeking Security Council screening of cases. If adopted, this would have enabled the US to veto any dockets it opposed. When other countries refused to agree to such an unequal standard of justice, the US campaigned to weaken and undermine the court. The Bush administration, coming into office in 2001 as the Court neared implementation, adopted an extremely active opposition. Washington began to negotiate bilateral agreements with other countries, insuring immunity of US nationals from prosecution by the Court. As leverage, Washington threatened termination of economic aid, withdrawal of military assistance, and other painful measures. The Obama administration has so far made greater efforts to engage with the Court. It is participating with the Court's governing bodies and it is providing support for the Court's ongoing prosecutions. Washington, however, has no intention to join the ICC, due to its concern about possible charges against US nationals.
The United States voted ‘no’ to the Rome Statute during the Rome Conference in 1998 when its demand that it maintain its Security Council veto on possible cases was not met. In an effort to maintain US influence in the drafting process and due to a deep-seated belief in the principles underlying the ICC, President Clinton signed the Rome Statute on December 31, 2000, on the last day that the Rome Statute was open for signature, demonstrating an ongoing policy of “constructive engagement.” After the Bush Administration entered office, on 6 May 2002, President Bush “suspended” the Clinton signature, demonstrating that the United States would no longer be involved in the ICC process and that it did not consider itself to hold any legal obligations under the treaty. Since then, the Bush Administration has undertaken a policy of “active opposition” to the Court through a global campaign to obtain immunity from ICC jurisdiction through a multi-pronged approach. As part of its efforts, the Bush administration has been approaching countries around the world seeking to conclude Bilateral Immunity Agreements (BIAs), purportedly based on Article 98 of the Rome Statute, excluding its citizens and military personnel from the jurisdiction of the Court. These agreements prohibit the surrender to the ICC of a broad scope of persons including current or former government officials, military personnel, and US employees (including contractors) and nationals. These agreements, which in some cases are reciprocal, do not include an obligation by the US to subject those persons to investigation and/or prosecution. Many governmental, legal and non-governmental experts have concluded that the bilateral agreements being sought by the US government are contrary to international law and the Rome Statute. Furthermore, the United States has gone so far as to suspend military assistance to those States Parties which do not sign these agreements, amounting to arm-twisting and bullying of economically vulnerable States that support the ICC. While 101 governments have reportedly signed BIAs, less than 40% of these agreements have been ratified by Parliament or signed as an executive agreement. In fact, many legal experts argue that the executive agreements are unconstitutional and require the approval of Parliament, and are thus not valid agreements. Furthermore, more than half of States Parties have resisted signing BIAs – despite large economic penalties imposed by the U.S. – and 53 countries continue to publicly refuse to sign. In addition, several intergovernmental bodies have publicly opposed these agreements and have encouraged other states to resist signing such agreements and continue to uphold the integrity of the Rome Statute.
Fatou Bensouda. Five of the court’s judges including Chile Osuji who is presiding over the Ruto case, are African. The first Vice President of the Court and the Deputy Registrar are Africans.
“My largest constituency is Africa and its state parties. I make every effort to liaise with them and be truly attentive to their concerns.”
If we take the perspective of the African victims, the issue suddenly gets another dimension. It is critical that one does not conflate the selfish myopic interests of African leaders for those of the millions of African masses. For instance in Kenya, in opinion poll after opinion poll, the citizens of Kenya have supported the ICC process to the hilt. By and large the victims and survivors of the 2007/2008 post election violence which gave rise to the current Hague trials featuring Uhuru Kenyatta and William Ruto have NOT clamoured for those cases to be abandoned.
Indeed, on October 30, 2013, the legal representative for the victims referred to the attempts to seek a deferral "repugnant and odious" as you can see from this news link:
NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 30 – The Legal Representative for Victims in the case against Uhuru Kenyatta has urged the International Criminal Court (ICC) to reject the President’s application for a stay of his trial.
Fergal Gaynor contends that the application is one of many stall tactics President Kenyatta has employed and would be, “repugnant and odious to the administration of justice,” should trial chamber V(b) allow it.
“The application is made in the context of a multi-faceted campaign by the accused, supported by his Government, to avoid trial,” Gaynor’s response reads.
He argues that President Kenyatta’s rallying of the African Union against the ICC and the subsequent petitioning of the United Nation’s Security Council for a deferral is proof of the defendant’s campaign to avoid trial.
“International efforts to support that campaign include an address by the accused on October 12, 2013, two days after the defence filed the application, in which he described the court to the African Union as “[a] painfully farcical pantomime” and as “the toy of declining imperial powers”. The accused also asserted that “we only get bias and race-hunting at the ICC,” Gaynor quoted.
The lawyer also argues that allowing a stay of President Kenyatta’s case in order to allow for a pre-trial evidentiary hearing could cause more prosecution witnesses to withhold their testimony.
“The risk of withdrawal of key witnesses is already serious. The Kenyan media has heavily publicised the withdrawal of prosecution witnesses in this case and in the Ruto and Sang case. The Ruto and Sang trial has also seen widely-publicised efforts to reveal the identity of a protected witness during the proceedings,” Gaynor reminded the chamber.
He also made the case that the credibility of the prosecution witnesses can be challenged during the trial process and witnesses OTP-118, OTP-11 and OTP-12 need not be subjected to a pre-trial evidentiary hearing.
“The risk that those would not return to testify if exposed to such an experience is considerable,” Gaynor argues.
More compellingly however, Gaynor makes the case that those he represents have waited for justice long enough and would suffer a grave injustice should President Kenyatta’s application be granted.
“The victims in Kenya see no sign of any genuine effort to prosecute before the Kenyan courts any of those responsible for the crimes committed against them. Rather, they see the accused and his Government making an enormous effort at the highest international levels to bring the present trial – which is their only hope of justice – to an end. To grant the application would truly be “repugnant and odious to the administration of justice,” Gaynor concludes.
President Uhuru Kenyatta's anti-West rhetoric was cooked up in the UK by some White cooks with neo-conservative Tory links as you can see in the passage below:
BRITISH Public Relations firm BTP was contracted by Uhuru Kenyatta to manage Jubilee campaigns.This firm developed the Anti-ICC and Anti-western strategies which Uhuru used to project the ICC and most western countries as ‘interfering’ with Kenya’s domestic affairs. This firm used media connections and ‘international contacts’ to market Uhuru as a victim of politically instigated fabrications by his Main Challenger, Raila Odinga.Here was a man whose campaign was based on anti-West sentiments, yet employed propaganda minted by a western (European) PR firm to ascend to power.For close to a year, Uhuru readily used the services offered by the West. It was all politics. All PR spin. . .and it worked.Here is the list of BTP operatives which surrounded Uhuru even as he unashamedly lectured off the West and created a siege mentality among his followers:1. Mark Pursey-Briton, Head of BTP Kenyan operations.
2. Charles Anglin-Advisor(Briton)
3. Simon Waddington-Strategist(Briton)
4. Milan Starcevic-Strategist(Briton)
5. Charlie Tarr-Strategist(Briton)
6. Anuuret Rai- Strategist (Briton)This team was assisted by local representative Nana Gecaga and TNA media pointman Moses Kuria.Another Uhuru lawyer Stephen Kay, another Briton; and Ed Staite, former advisor to British Chancellor of Exchequer, also a Briton joined this long list of expatriates working for Uhuru.SOURCE: Kenya Today
David Hoile is the author of a book slamming ICC as "Africa's Guantanamo Bay".
What he does NOT disclose is that he is a paid lobbyist for ICC fugitive Omar al Bashir of Sudan.
Here is a snippet of an expose:
David Hoile is an apologist for the Sudanese Islamist regime. He works for the European-Sudanese Public Affairs Council. The British ‘professor’ is noted for his defence of Khartoum actions in Darfur. In particular he stands up for the President Omar Al-Bashir (critique of his views here). At present he is active in opposing charges levelled against the dictator by the International Criminal Court.
Hoile’s identification with Islamism goes further. He states that (here), “The fact is that within the Arab and Islamic world Sudan has led the way with regard to women’s social, political and economic rights.” Not surprisingly he has attracted the admiration of Respect Party notable, Yvonne Ridely (here).
In Le Monde (29.9.10) it is revealed that he attended the Geneva building of the ”conseil des droits de l’homme’ (human rights council) on the 16th of September. He claimed to represent an independent NGO under the name of ‘David Howil’. At a meeting of the Hawa Society for Woman, a ‘GONGO’ (Government Operated non-Governmental Organisation), he attacked the International Court, calling it a “ European Guantanamo”. ‘Howil’ , defending Sudan against “propaganda” saw “positive developments” in its human rights record.
In the 1980s Hoile was one of the leaders of the Federation of Conservative Students. He backed the Contras in Nicaragua, UNITA in Angola, and attacked the ANC. He is worse a badge saying “Hang Nelson Mandela”. Hoile equally enthused over Remano, the anti-Frelimo guerilla movement in Mozambique, financed by the South African apartheid regime.
More background here.
Funny that Tory racists should admire brutal Sudanese Islamism so much.
Or perhaps the racists and misogynists of Khartoum really are defenders of human rights.
By the way, do you KNOW who was one of the most ARTICULATE and VOCAL proponents of the Hague option a couple of years ago?
Load the following video link to your browser:
And talking of imperialism. neo-colonilaism and Africa, I found this South African intervention by
Andile Lungila, the former Deputy President of the ANC Youth League writing in Issue 183 of the African Communist (January 2011) intriguing:
21st Century Imperialists and Neo-ColonialistsChina’s Export Import Bank, Exim, pledged finance for major road and rail construction projects and for the rehabilitation of its mining sector, badly damaged by years of war, corruption and neglect. China has reportedly already dispatched 5 000 containers of mining equipment to renovate mines involved in Katanga province. DRC Planning Minister Oliver Kamatu has said $3-billion will go towards bringing mining back into operation and $6-billion will be spent on infrastructure projects. China’s Sinohydro Corporation and China Railway Engineering Corporation have negotiated a deal giving them a 68% share in a joint venture, with 32% going to state copper mining company Gecamines. Chinese state companies have been granted rights to two large copper and cobalt concessions representing around 10,62-million tons of copper and 620 000 tons of cobalt. The DRC produced 500 000 tons of copper annually in 1989 at its highest levels of output.
The new infrastructure proposed will consist of 3 300km of road and 3 000km of railway. Mineral-rich Katanga will be connected by rail to the port of Matadi in the west and by road to Kisangani on the Congo River. Transport links to Zambia in the south will also be improved.
Two hydro-electric dams are proposed to facilitate mineral exploitation and export energy to take advantage of power-starved Africa, particularly Southern Africa. Most of the infrastructure construction will be carried out by Chinese companies and labour with very little benefit to the Congolese workforce or to the wider economy. DRC Infrastructure Minister Pierre Lumbi reported to the DRC parliament that the deal included the construction of several hundred clinics, hospitals and schools, but this contribution is small for a country the size of Western Europe.
As with previous sell-offs of mineral rights in the Congo, the value of the concessions to China cannot be easily quantified. No tender process is in place to assess the assets. But Congo businessmen speculate that China will reap at least $30-billion in profits.
The privatisation programme in the DRC, implemented by the Washington dominated International Monetary Fund and World Bank after the end of the war in 2003, opened the door for dividing up the nationalised mining industry.
Contracts were drafted that gave mining concessions away for as little as $15-million when resources were valued at $60-billion.
China’s increased role in DRC has displaced the former colonial power Belgium, which has become highly critical of President Joseph Kabila’s government.
Kabila has forced the Belgian government to close its consulates in Bukavu, withdrew DRC’s Ambassador to Brussels and closed the consulate in Antwerp earlier this year. The Belgium diamond industry is said to be horrified by the move.
The other protagonist in the ‘Great Game’ is the USA. The value of Obama’s family background was recognised early in his bid for the presidency of the United States by Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security adviser under President Jimmy Carter and a key figure in the formulation of Obama’s foreign policy. In August 2007, Brzezinski declared that Obama “recognises that the challenge is a new face, a new sense of direction, a new definition of America’s role in the world”. Brzezinski was among major figures in the US foreign policy establishment who saw in Obama a means of giving the USA a “new face” to the rest of the world, something they deemed critical after the blunders and setbacks to American imperialism under Bush. Obama lived up to expectations in Ghana. He played on his African ancestry, just as he had emphasised his Muslim heritage the previous month in Cairo. The image of the two Obama children walking out into the sunlight from the “door of no return” at Cape Coast Castle, from which so many Africans did not return, was a skilfully exploited photo opportunity. Leaving this scene of so much human suffering, Obama said:
“It reminds us that as bad as history can be, it’s always possible to overcome.”
This was meant to imply that no matter what Africa has suffered in the past, and no matter what the continent continues to suffer at the hands of the banks, corporations and Western governments, the responsibility and the fault rests with the African people themselves.
Obama brought an uncompromising message, spelling out in a more open way than George Bush dared to do during his visit to Ghana in 2008, that aid would be made available only in return for the implementation of policies that serve the interests of the US government and corporations and that there would be less of it in future.
“Development,” Obama told parliamentarians, “depends upon good governance. That is the ingredient which has been missing in far too many places, for far too long. That is the change that can unlock Africa’s potential. And that is a responsibility that can only be met by Africans.”
But the lecture also carried a threat:
“We have a responsibility to support those who act responsibly and to isolate those who don’t, and that is exactly what America will do,” Obama declared.
It was a message no pink-faced Western leader could have delivered without arousing resentment in Africa. The provision of aid has always been a political mechanism to force former colonial countries to pursue policies that serve the interests of the imperialist donors.
But whereas Bush was obliged to make some token gestures, such as setting up the Millennium Challenge Account and increasing funding for Aids and malaria, Obama used the kudos he derived from his ancestry to point-blank insist that African governments toe the US line.
Obama’s insistence that Ghana and other African governments achieve “good governance” is a demand for more of the free-market measures that are already being imposed with disastrous results for the social conditions of the population. “Good governance” means privatising essential services such as telecommunications, water and power, as well as social services like health and education. It also means removing subsidies from small farmers and abolishing import controls.
Ghana has gone a long way down that route, which is why it has been favoured with visits from two successive US presidents. It is far from being one of Africa’s poorest countries, but 70% of the population in its northern regions live on less than a dollar a day. Life expectancy is only 58 years. Women often have to walk more than 3km to find water, and it is seldom clean. This situation is set to worsen dramatically. The global recession has hit Africa hard. Ghana was among those countries granted debt relief in 2005, but with the value of its currency falling, it is rapidly sliding into debt once more. The government’s response has been to impose an austerity budget in an attempt to balance the books.
Obama has shifted the emphasis of the “war on terror” from Iraq to Afghanistan and Pakistan. But the place of Africa in US global strategy remains essentially the same. First, it is a vital source of strategic resources such as oil and gas, but also of many key minerals. Second, a high proportion of the world’s shipping lanes run close to Africa’s shores.
It follows that any American administration must make the establishment of US domination of Africa a priority.
What was not mentioned on Obama’s Africa trip was the new US military command for Africa, Africom, established under the Bush administration. Previously US military operations in Africa were divided between the Middle East and the European commands. The decision to establish a separate African command represented an intensification of US strategic interest in Africa. Currently, Africom’s headquarters are in Germany.
The intention is to find a base on the African continent, but the Bush administration could not persuade any African country to offer facilities. Obama could not raise such a politically sensitive issue publicly. In conjunction with his visit, however, Africom was carrying out a programme of activities, including the visit of the guided missile destroyer USS Arleigh Burke to Dar es Salaam in Tanzania and a seminar on “health and security” in Lusaka, Zambia.
This militarisation of US foreign policy in Africa reflects America’s inability to deal by economic means alone with the growing rivalry it faces. China has just surpassed the US to become Africa’s main trading partner. America’s trade with Africa was worth $104-billion in 2008, a 28% increase, but China’s trade with Africa was worth $107-billion, a tenfold increase over the last decade.
In conclusion, I would like to discuss the relationship between China and the US. China officially ended its decadelong yuan-dollar peg in 2005, due to pressure from the Bush administration for more “flexible” exchange rates, but continued to maintain tight control over the currency to keep Chinese exports competitive. At the same time, the yuan’s gradual revaluation of 20% over the past three years generated enormous pressure on Chinese exporters, even before the collapse of the foreign orders in recent months. Amid escalating job losses and the prospect of social unrest, there are mounting calls within China for the government to devalue the yuan. By last November, 20-million rural migrant workers in China had already lost jobs, with new estimates pointing to 40-50-million more in early 2010. These figures do not include millions of unemployed urban workers. At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao blamed the US for “excessive expansion of financial institutions in blind pursuit of profit” and “lack of self-discipline among financial institutions and rating agencies” for the present global economic crisis. While not naming the Obama administration, Wen declared: “Protectionism serves no purpose except to worsen and prolong the crisis”. The US-China tensions have raised fears that Beijing could dump its US assets of more than $1-trillion, precipitating a devastating collapse of the dollar. It could provoke China into a sudden dramatic reconsideration and readjustment of its exchange rate and foreign reserves management, up to and including its willingness to hold US sovereign bonds. It must be remembered that the dollar-yuan link, established in 1994, allowed a real price system to arise in China and created a single economic fabric stretching across the Pacific. Before long, the whole region had adopted what has come to be known as the East Asian Dollar Standard. A significant proportion of Chinese goods are manufactured on behalf of US corporations, boosting their profit rates and temporarily sustaining the consumption of Americans despite the stagnation and, in many instances, decline in real wages. More importantly, China’s expanding trade surpluses became a major source for buying US Treasury bonds, helping finance the US trade and balance of payment deficits. China and Japan alone hold a quarter of the $5,8-trillion outstanding US government debt. The flow of cheap credit and low-price goods from Asia helped the US Federal Reserve Board maintain a low interest rate policy, thus providing the basis for Wall Street to create ever bigger debt and credit bubbles and creating an expanding market for industries in China, including those owned by US firms.The US and China are playing the ‘Great Game’ in the same manner that former imperial powers Tsarist Russia and Great Britain played in an earlier historic epoch. The US strategy is to keep China off balance and to preserve the ever-growing mass of dollars from deflation and displacement. The US must necessarily “ride the tiger” of China’s rise; of China’s holdings of $2-trillion in dollar reserves and corporate bonds; and of China’s growing involvement in Africa for natural resources. In doing so it hopes either to cement China’s involvement in the international status quo that will continue to subsidise America’s relentless economic decline in coming decades or, failing that, to exploit the social fissures in Chinese society and have an opportunity to have a client regime in China. China’s strategy is to exploit the blunders and arrogance of past and present US administrations, and employ its relatively strong economic position to strengthen its geo-political position, and thus accelerate the US’s already diminishing hegemony.
There is an African idiom that asserts that “when two elephants fight, it’s the grass that suffers”. In this instance it would appear that Africa will be the grass to suffer in the ‘Great Game’ of imperialists!
Cde Lungisa was the ANC Youth League Deputy President; Pan African Youth Union ; Vice President and Executive Chairperson of the National Youth Development Agency