New ‘last frontier’ for globe-trotting Yankees

Developing Just Leadership

Zafar Bangash

Jumada' al-Ula' 29, 1418 1997-10-01

Special Reports

by Zafar Bangash (Special Reports, Crescent International Vol. 26, No. 15, Jumada' al-Ula', 1418)

Africa has caught the attention of Uncle Sam which can mean only one thing: more trouble for the beleaguered continent. As if French and British ‘benevolence’ were not enough, the cigar-chewing Americans, notorious for leaving death and destruction in their wake, can only add to Africa’s woes.

US president Bill Clinton is expected to visit the continent early next year. The Americans do not care a dog’s bone about Africa. In fact, most Americans would be hard pressed to tell where the continent is; but there is no denying the fact that a mad scramble is under way for Africa’s riches, dubbed the ‘last frontier’.

Last October, Clinton sent his octogenarian secretary of State Warren Christopher to Africa to drum up support for an African peacekeeping force before he was consigned to the geriatric ward. Then in March, first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, during her two-week journey, visited Senegal, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Uganda and Eritrea.

The list of countries is important. A visit to South Africa, arguably the most important African country, is understandable. But when Hillary drops in in Kampala (Uganda) and Asmara (Eritrea), then it should give cause for concern. Both countries, together with Tanzania, are involved in the destabilisation campaign against Sudan.

Kampala is the linchpin of this policy, providing mercenaries as well as sanctuary to Sudanese rebels. Tanzania, too, especially its former president Julius Nyerere, is very much involved. In fact, there is a symbiotic relation between Tanzania and the various anti-Sudan groups. Ugandan president Yuweri Museveni and Eritrean president Isaias Afewerke, both Christians but ruling predominantly Muslim countries, are graduates of Dar es-Salaam University. Nyerere himself is the product of Christian missionary schools.

If Museveni implements the policy formulated by Christian Solidarity International (CSI) headed by the British baroness, Caroline Cox, Nyerere is doing the pope’s bidding. It is interesting to note that while Catholics and Anglicans do not get along in their own countries, they are quite willing to cooperate against Islam and Muslims around the world.

Africa which had barely a million Catholics at the turn of century, now boasts 60 million in a continent with a population of 650 million. Muslims form a majority in at least 40 of the 53 member States of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). Catholics have a majority in none, yet they rule or have ruled in several: Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Tanzania etc. Ivory Coast’s capital has a shining new Cathedral built on the model of St Peter’s Basillica in Rome. A number of other Muslim majority States - Uganda, Ethiopia and Eritrea - are also Christian-ruled.

The change of guards in Zaire was facilitated through mercenaries from Uganda, Rwanda, Angola and Tanzania. Paul Kagame, the Rwandan strongman, openly admitted this last July. In an article in the Washington Post, reproduced in the Manchester Guardian Weekly (August 24, 1997) Lynne Duke wrote that US Special Forces have been involved for three years in training Rwandan troops. The Post correspondent relied on internal pentagon chronology for the story.

Tanzanian army units were involved in the overthrow, in 1979 of Idi Amin bringing Milton Obote, a Christian, back to power in Uganda. General Tito Okello took over briefly from Obote before he too, was driven from power by Museveni in 1986; with British and Tanzanian help.

The political furniture of Africa is being rearranged because of its vast natural resources. Rich in minerals and diamonds, these are covetted by western, especially US multinationals. The scramble for Africa’s mineral resources has been spurred by fear that the western financial system may collapse at any time. Mexico’s financial crisis in 1994 and Thailand’s in July all point to the fragility of the system. Thailand’s woes have sent jitters in Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Philippines and Hong Kong.

Even while Uncle Sam is trying to shore up the crumbling financial system, he is busy grabbing real assets - minerals, diamonds and gold - as opposed to paper assets like junk bonds, in case the system folds in on them. Clinton’s visit to Africa must be viewed against the backdrop of this looming crisis.

America’s arrival in Africa has given the French second thoughts about their commitments, especially military, in Africa. French cooperation minister Charles Josselin admitted on July 10 that his government was reviewing defence accords with its former African colonies.

He made an oblique reference to the US wishing to replace France as the virtual ‘protecting power’ in the region whose raw materials represent huge economic potential. Josselin said ‘certain countries’ sought to draw African elites toward themselves by citing France’s tight immigration laws which are resented in French-speaking African States.

He said the future missions of the French army in Africa would be aimed mostly at ensuring ‘security rather than defence and preparing for peace.’ Defence matters will now fall to Uncle Sam. French president Jacques Chirac echoed similar sentiments on August 28.

Muslimedia: October 1-15, 1997

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