Continental Blowback.

December 7, 2012

One of the remarkable developments in Africa since the end of the Cold War has been its ideological absorbtion into the Western imperialist system. This wasn’t at all new — recall how Israel was used as a device to penetrate African governments and take them over in the 1960s, before the October War upset the applecart — but it went into crescendo mode after 1991, particularly in the Great Lakes region at first. One response to this challenge was to set up the AU, which at the time seemed to be a really, really pitiful entity aimed at pretending that Africa was in any way capable of unity, but which in retrospect looks like a smart idea to try to institutionalise hostility to Western imperialism. Another was the South African arms deal, which was opposed in South Africa entirely by those who supported Western imperialism and therefore wanted South Africa to be too militarily weak to do anything to resist it.

Well, those hopes and dreams all faded even before the Mbeki presidency was eliminated. One by one, the major nations of Africa have queued up to become satellites of the United States. In West Africa, Nigeria (doubtless fuelled by Shell) clamoured to assist Britain and the United States — and eventually France — in their efforts to install puppet regimes in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Cote d’Ivoire. In East Africa and the Horn, Kenya, Uganda and Ethiopia jostled with each other to see who could commit the worst violations of internationa law in serving American imperialism in Somalia, while the AU cheered them on.

One could argue, of course, that they had little or no choice in this matter. The AU took a stand against NATO’s aggression against Libya in 2011. Not a firm stand — given that various AU countries offered basing or overflight rights to NATO countries, and given that South Africa had voted for the aggression in the UN Security Council, the AU’s stand was about as firm as undercooked blancmange, though considerably less tasty. Nevertheless, it was a stand, which included calls for negotiations between rebels and government. It accomplished precisely nothing, and might have been expected to accomplish nothing; the AU simply does not have the power to stop NATO once it gets going. On the other hand, the AU does sometimes show that it has modest power — for instance, in stopping South Sudan’s crazy aggression against Sudan earlier this year. In the end, nothing is lost by being true to your principles, except the Western money flowing into your Cayman Islands bank account in exchange for betraying them. For most African political leaders, that is a big enough loss.

Anyone who is sane can see that Western intervention tends to have catastrophic consequences. This might seem to be a good enough reason for opposing Western intervention; South Africa, for instance, in the past, opposed Western intervention in Zimbabwe because we wanted to see that country continue functioning for our own purposes, and seeing the West kick it to pieces for ideological reasons was not in the interests of our business community (even though it was the local business community that was shrieking for the crucifixion of Zimbabwe). However, the more powerful countries in Africa have tended to be willing to throw weak or distant countries under the bus, on the assumption that this would have no painful consequences in their own countries.

But just how true is this?

Nigeria¬† has helped out Western imperialism in Ivory Coast and is proposing to help it out in Mali — and has also probably been a silent partner in the British attacks on Liberia and Sierra Leone. As a result, Nigeria enjoys a good deal of political endorsement. British and American media outlets are always willing to give Nigeria a favourable representation as the new glorious leader of Africa. However, apart from the obvious fact that the Nigerian government is a hideous corrupt mess and that none of the obvious problems of the criminal petrostate and the resistance to the petrostate have been solved, and apart from the ongoing organised crime crisis which tears southern Nigeria to pieces, much of northern Nigeria is in a state of virtual anarchy owing to the Islamic insurgency there which has only been encouraged by the ambiguous on-off support which Islamic fundamentalism has enjoyed from the Abuja government, and by the brutal, clumsy and apparently completely ineffectual attempts at repression which have been imposed there.

Of course, it is quite likely, given conditions in Nigeria, that the northern Islamist movements would have taken up arms sooner or later. However, the general corruption of the state, its reluctance — refusal, actually — to create any real sense of nationalism, encourages the pursuit of confessional identity as the only viable alternative to greed and subservience to foreigners. (Significantly, a major concern of the northern Islamists is xenophobia, and especially anti-Western attitudes. Of course, the local wars have not thus far been predominantly aimed against Islamists — though the proposed invasion of Mali in order to reinstall a neoliberal government is being sold as an anti-Islamist operation. However, since the Nigerian government is lining up with the same Western governments which are butchering Muslims across the oil-rich world, it is easy to see how Islamists in Nigeria can spin their resistance to the neoliberal government as a kind of counter-Crusade.)

The Malian operation will add fuel to this fire — and, of course, Mali’s travails arise directly out of the Western aggression against Libya, which was backed by South Africa and not seriously opposed by any African country, so this is yet another example of how African leaders’ failure to live up to their purported ideals makes the position of those leaders more difficult.

On the other side of the continent, Uganda and Kenya are in a rather similar position. Uganda has been the spear-carrier for American imperialism in the continent virtually since Museveni took over — no doubt his successful takeover, so heavily promoted by the Western media, had some or other Western support, just as was the case with his blood-drenched predecessor Idi Amin. It has served as a base for the invasions of Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as for the destabilisation of the Sudan. Most recently it has provided troops for the suppression of the Somali liberation war. One would expect that Uganda would receive some credit for all this, especially since the natural response of the Sudanese was to foment a resistance war in northern Uganda. However, the West is cutting back on its support for Uganda, just as the West is also denouncing Rwanda (having belatedly discovered, after eighteen years, that Kagame’s tribalist military dictatorship is unprepossessing, perhaps because the West would rather do a deal with the corrupt but pliable government of the DRC than with the corrupt and stroppy government of Rwanda). Uganda has not suffered very seriously, but it has suffered for its behaviour.

Kenya, meanwhile, waddled happily into the Somali war like Louis Napoleon staggering goutily into war with Germany. Apart from the fact that its troops are bogged down in an endless campaign in that hostile desert, the Somalis have decided to launch respond much as the Sudanese did, by encouraging rebellion within Kenya. It transpires that northern Kenya is virtually lawless — not a pleasant thing to be reminded of, given that the Kenyans are heavily dependent on tourism and the illusion of peacefulness which that requires. Therefore, the Kenyan military decided to sort out the problem by murdering a popular cleric in the North, thus cementing Islamic support for the Somali resistance. As a result there is a very small-scale urban guerrilla war going on, mainly involving civilian murders, which the Kenyan government is incapable of responding to. Meanwhile, up north, the cattle raiders recently wiped out more than a platoon of police who had been sent to wander around and pretend to combat them. How did these cattle raiders get access to military-grade weaponry?

All this suggests that helping out Western imperialism has presented a few problems for the governments of the countries which do it. The reason is simple — the West is chiefly concerned with installing puppet governments in countries which have natural resources which Western imperialism wishes to control. This is only to be done easily in weak, unstable states, of course, such as Somalia and Ivory Coast. Using local countries as military proxies means that this can be done with minimal cost to the imperialists. Unfortunately, however, the cost for the proxies is maximised, because the imperialists can walk away and the proxies cannot. Also, such wars generate refugees which flood across the region and the proxy country can hardly justify closing its borders to them — but the refugees know that the proxy country has attacked them, and regardless of their religion or politics they tend to be hostile to it. Hence the action inevitably destabilises the proxy. Because the imperialists are not interested in spending money on maintaining stability in the region, they are not going to help the proxy fight its battles once the puppet government has been installed in the invaded country, and unfortunately the proxy country probably already has deployed its best troops and secret police in the invaded country to cope with the resistance . . .

It would seem, therefore, that the long-term consequence of imperialist intervention in Africa is remarkably similar to imperialist intervention in Mesopotamia and Central Asia; a growing hostility to imperialism across the entire region, which is initially expressed in hostility to imperialist agents. In other words, the world is becoming more dangerous and violent because of the greed of the Anglo-American imperialists and their satraps.

So what else is new, then?