The political situation in Africa grows more dire daily, which is perhaps not surprising but is certainly deeply disturbing. It will be remembered that Western-sponsored aggression against Somalia was the beginning of the latest wave of disasters. Then came Western-sponsored aggression and actual aggression against Ivory Coast to install a brutal dictatorship under the cloak of election, then came Western destabilization and aggression against Libya, then came Western aggression against Mali, and now we have Western aggression against the Central African Republic. In all these countries the consequences have certainly not been favourable, and they appear fairly often to have been disastrous. This coincides with the ongoing problems in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (most of which are aftermaths of the Western-backed invasion of the DRC in 1997), and in the MalagassyRepublic (which is an aftermath of the Western-backed coup). Instability in Zimbabwe may also be attributed to this, as may the ongoing instability in Mozambique and even in Angola.
Of course all of these countries bear considerable responsibility for their own problems, but there is very little doubt about the fact that the West’s involvement in the continent has been increasingly destructive over the last decade. This, perhaps not coincidentally, is also the period during which the West has substantially cut its aid to Africa. Perhaps it did not wish to waste time improving infrastructure and financial systems in a continent which it was proposing to turn into a combination wasteland and garbage-heap?
It is, however, striking how little advantage the West has acquired from all this. Supposedly, the invasion of Somalia was going to secure the Horn of Africa for Western oil and transport interests, whereas it touched off a wave of piracy and has yet to show much sign of offshore oil development. (Ditto in Ivory Coast, where the aggression was apparently mainly for oil rights.) In Libya oil production has plummeted as the gunmen whom the West installed in power have begun shooting each other and splintering the country into combative, repressive fragments. Much the same seems to have happened in Mali, although nobody outside the country seems to care (the war was, after all, fought to facilitate a pogrom against white people). It is striking that in all these countries, the war was fought by Muslims against Muslims, although with the funding and heavy-weaponry provided by Christian mercenaries. It’s almost as if the real object of the exercise is to make life as lousy as possible for as many Muslims as can be managed.
The situation in the CAR is particularly striking. It will be recalled that France had spent decades propping up increasingly vile regimes which were based on bigoted and repressive Christian regimes trampling on the rights of the Muslim majority. This included the deluded (and reputedly cannibalistic) rule of Emperor Bokassa, friend, ally and possible table companion of President Giscard d’Estaing. It will perhaps be recalled that France based its main African intervention forces in the CAR until France’s neo-colonial system in Africa began unraveling under the assault of the Clinton administration in the US, which wanted everything for itself. As a result the stability of the CAR itself ceased to be guaranteed.
Eventually South Africa pulled some of France’s CAR chestnuts out of the fire and arranged for a corrupt pseudo-elected dictator to be installed with South African assistance and French backing. However, the French wound down their involvement in the CAR in order to get more heavily involved in Mali, and meanwhile the South African government forgot all about what they were doing there. Hence, when the northern “Seleka” coalition attacked to overthrow the dictator, the South Africans found themselves outnumbered forty to one, with no intelligence worthy of the name, no prospect of reinforcement or resupply, and no reason for being there. After a short and bloody rearguard action the South Africans fled and abandoned the mission and Seleka took over.
It doesn’t seem as if Seleka have been a particularly competent government. In essence, they were people from the highly disorganized north, which shared almost no culture in common with the south (where the mines and what little money hadn’t yet been stolen was). Inevitably this was transformed by some into a Muslim-Christian conflict, and the presence of Chadian troops to help Seleka hold on to power, as well as the absence of any legitimacy or indeed purpose for the government, did not help. The Christians set up anti-Seleka militias, no doubt with French backing, the Muslims were urged to become more ludicrous by the usual suspects in the Arabian Peninsula, and meanwhile nobody else cared because, frankly, nobody would lift a finger if the whole Central African Republic were abducted by aliens from Galaxy Zog.
Ultimately, however, the conflict between Muslims and Christians was stoked up to the point at which corrupt journalists from French papers and from the Guardian were in a position to pretend that Christians faced “genocide” unless the Islamofascists were crushed immediately. It was the usual balderdash which is always used to cover up criminal international aggression. In reality the number of people killed was terrible, and the Seleka government was appalling, but the alternative showed no sign of being better. Then the French bribed the President to invite them in, and the mercenaries of the Légion Étrangère moved in to do the dirty work – that is, to protect the Christian militias in their anti-Muslim massacres. The Chadians and Seleka, after potting a few French and their allies, fled northward to where the mercenaries couldn’t get at them, probably hoping (probably correctly) that the brutal behaviour of the foreigners would ultimately provide more legitimacy for Seleka than anything else, and perhaps help erase the memory of their bungling thuggery.
And meanwhile Barack Obama, whose regime provides funding and transport for the French mercenaries since it can no longer afford to launch aggressions itself, piously declared that the CAR people should stop killing each other. As usual, Obama manages to be a more odious human, and a worse President, than George W Bush or any of his predecessors.
Incidentally, but not coincidentally (it is probably far more causative) there’s a very interesting recent book by the Hungarian-born scientist and statistician Morten Jerven called Poor Numbers which details why we don’t know diddly-squat about African economies. Jerven contends that most African countries don’t collect statistics effectively because they are discouraged from doing so by both donors and international finance agencies; he also points out that most international financial agencies differ dramatically and indeed absurdly over how wealthy African countries are and how their economies change over time. Many African countries deny this, but this may be a political matter (since Jerven is particularly critical of the way in which elite agencies like central banks and NGOs are privileged over the more grassroots statistical agencies and the agricultural service systems which they are meant to serve).
Jerven certainly makes a plausible case, which helps to explain why South Africa seems to be doing so badly (economically speaking) while other African countries appear to be doing brilliantly and yet are also somehow falling apart. What seems to be really happening is that these countries are exporting more unprocessed minerals which are counted as if the export were benefiting the countries (whereas it actually benefits the countries where the transnational mining companies are based) and these countries have evolved small affluent classes which appear to be spending more (and therefore boosting imports of luxury goods). In other words, South Africa on a grand scale, with as little attention as possible paid to the poorer sections of the economy and community.
In that case, what’s surely happening is a growing socio-economic divide within African countries (which does seem to be happening, and which may be even worse in many countries than in South Africa) which is driving increasing conflict – and meanwhile the central state is weaker and less legitimate, hence less able to address that conflict. And therefore foreigners step in because the real beneficiaries are the mining and agribusiness companies based elsewhere. And since those companies are mainly based in the West, where the public is reluctant to send off troops to die except in defense of Jesus against the devilish Muslims, the easiest place to do the job is in Islamic countries.
But it seems likely that this tendency, this combination of greed, guns and gullibility, is coming soon to a theatre of war near you.