Sunday, February 29, 2004

Big brother is bugging you 

This US political consultant thinks that scare tactics are the best strategy to win the elections:

Only terror and Iraq work for the GOP's advantage... So the key is for Bush to heighten the saliency of terrorism as an issue. After all, Americans are wrong to see terrorism as a fourth-place issue... The more they feel that terrorism is still at our doorstep -- as it is -- the more they back Bush as the better wartime leader... Bush must make clear to us all the threats that remain.

That UK military historian sees a world of differences between bugging and eavesdropping...

There is a world of difference. Bugging is usually an illicit and sometimes a criminal activity. It often involves breaking and entering; at the very least, underhand activity. Interception, however, is an everyday activity of all governments, carried on not only against each other but also their own citizens. It is an essential tool in the fight against terrorism and organised crime and, while British courts impose strict limitations on the evidential use that can be made of material thus acquired, even the judiciary recognises that the police and the anti-terrorist organisations could not function unless they eavesdropped on their targets.

... in order to absolve the government and blame the victims:

If the substance of the story comes down to radio interception, the grounds for outrage are greatly diminished. This is an electronic world. Governments and organisations which expect not to be overheard should go into another business.

You thought we live in 2004? Wrong. Since 9/11, we are all living in a timewarp... back to 1984. "This is an electronic world", indeed. For these experts, as for New Labour and GOP, "power is not a means; it is an end".

Saturday, February 28, 2004

"Oh dear, there will be a transcript of this and people will see what he and I are saying" 

Clare: Why bug Angola, Cameroon, or Guinea? Don't they know the Gulf of Guinea is closer than the Persian Gulf?
Kofi: Remember Tony's words, whend he said "Africa is the scar on the conscience of the world."

2003:::January 31
2003:::March 2
2004:::February 26

Friday, February 27, 2004

Fridayblog: blogging loud! 

When I got this idea of the Fridayblog, I didn't foresee how far-reaching it would become for me. It's like a little oasis of fresh air in a sea of African Oil swamps. I thought it would be fun to have a recurrent section of the blog inside the blog that would be like a nice rendez-vous for you and me. The truth is now that I need it more than you likely do. I wait for the last moment, when I'm done with "serious" posts; then I can just relax in front of my CRT, then freestyle like creazy on my keaboard and use the literary means of the personal narrative to tell you about the people I've been connected with in the week that's now ending. It's all about conversations and actions happening right here right now in cyberspace; conversations you can join if you want to.

What were the most interesting conversations of the week? Asking that question now leads me to a set of topics that was widely discussed by like-minded bloggers lately: Joi Ito's post following Zephoria's echo chamber essay (that was itself a kind of reply to David Weinberger's article on Salon) is a good example of conversations I've followed without actively participating. However, the ideas expressed in the posts and some comments the triggered haunted me. It's only now that I realise that the Fridayblog - which is a good example of metablogging or blogging about blogging - is an excellent way (at least for me) to avoid becoming an "echochamberist" (I borrow this funny word from Joi Ito himself). Why? Because fridayblogging helps me distance myself from what I'm writing about: these conversations have already taken place and I'm not trying to make a smart contribution; being more meditation than minute-blogging, the words that come to my minds now open a new trajectory in the stream of my consciousness. It's like de-programming myself from the group-think nature of the echo-chamber phenomenon. (You're lost? Don't worry because the cool thing about fridayblogging is that I will then write about something else).

Ethan spent two days revising his "digital democracy" post. He turned it into an essay that will be eventually included in a book O'Reilly is planning to publish on Emergent Democracy. Congratulations to you Ethan. I'm glad some of my modest contributions to the debate were incorporated to the draft. I advise those who enjoy my fridayblogs to read it and send him your feedback. A place to look for the future of digital democracy is Adam Curry's blog news agency concept. The idea was in the air; he captured it nicely. I don't know if he intends to implement the concept. If he does, I'll keep track of the project to see how and if I can contribute. It's a practical solution to the issues adressed in Ethan's essay. Joi Ito's new interest for Africa and his connections to global media might help boost such a project. By the way, Joi was serious about visiting Africa. This what he wrote this week in the post I mentioned earlier:

Shouldn't we recognize the fact that people will hang out with their friends and create communities and try to focus on how use these communities together with our weak ties? I think that the project that Ethan and I are planning is an example of this. The idea is to take a group of bloggers to Africa. The strong ties allows us to have a group of people with whom we share a context so that we can support each other and work together to think about and create action based on things we see and learn in Africa. Going to Africa is an attempt to forge weak ties with a community outside. I think that without the smaller group of friends, trying to tie my Africa experience into my daily life would be more difficult and I think that going to Africa will enrich my local community with lots of new information and culture. I think the perfect balance is what we are trying to achieve.

Things are coming full circle. Time to talk about something else: the second Bloggercon is scheduled for April 17. It will be massive, and I'm sure most people I mentioned in this post will be there. So will I (hopefully). Join us. As for blogging & Africa, blogging from Africa or Africa-focused blogging, Akwe sent me a mail: I'll keep her offline reply to my online comment to her lastest Blogafrica post about Amoako's blog OFF the record. As for Amoako himself, he wrote about the audience's reaction to his speech (read "lecture") in Washington last week: "there was a lot of enthusiasm for the ‘capable state’ concept", he says. I read this as an invitation to reply, given the fact that I discussed his (not yet copyrighted) "capable state" concept in my previous comment to his speech. And I sent him my congratulations for his nomination and participation to the Commission on Africa, launched and chaired by British PM Blair. Yes!

Another big surprise came though my mailbox: (probably) after reading my post about his forthcoming book, Thomas Barnett from U.S. Naval War College dropped me a mail. He wants to send me an advance copy of his manuscript. Expect an interview with him soon on African Oil Politics. Before I went to bed, tired and happy, someone who has read my post on Sao Tome's revenue management law sent me a copy of the draft written byMartin Sandbu from Columbia University. What can I say about all these unexpected developments in Blogalia? Just 4 words: the power of blogging. I have no choice but keep on blogging loud!

Nigeria's sea-based war against pipeline pirates 

I just read a story that can be read as a follow-up to my post on "Sea-based terror" sent two days ago, on Wednesday 25 and a previous one on piracy in the Gulf of Guinea. The excellent Environmental News Networks's site published an article by Associated Press journalist Dulue Mbachu that confirms the trend towards an increased militarization of Gulf of Guinea waters:

A donated U.S. Coast Guard ship sailed Thursday to Nigeria, where navy commanders said they would rig it with cannon and machine guns to guard international oil production against pirates and militants. The newly rechristened N.N.S. Obula, which arrived in the commercial capital of Lagos on Thursday following a 60-day voyage from Guam, is one of seven vessels the United States is donating to Nigeria, Africa's largest oil producer. Three ships arrived last year and three more vessels are expected in coming months. The ship, with an estimated worth of US$3.5 million, will be refitted with cannon and machine guns to battle militants and criminal gangs along the coast and the winding waterways of the violence-torn southern Niger Delta, said Lt. Commander Mohammed Wabi, spokesman for Nigeria's navy command post in Lagos. "We will use the ships ... to check the activities of those who steal crude oil," Wabi said. "The ships will be fully geared with guns and such military equipment you would expect a navy ship to have." Nigerian Vice Admiral Samuel Afolayan called upon the ship's new crew to "end the trouble in the Niger Delta," where ethnic and political militants frequently attack multinational oil installations... accusing the firms of colluding with Nigeria's government to deprive the impoverished, swampy region's residents of oil revenues.

I have nothing to add but this: in August 2003, Nigerian federal authorities have already established a joint security task force in Delta State (including army, navy, air force and mobile police) known as "Operation Restore Hope" that have not eradicated violence from the oil-rich region. Maybe the name of the operation is to blame: it didn't turn out well in Somalia and it's not working better in Nigeria. Or maybe the problem can't be solved by military might alone.

Thursday, February 26, 2004

U.S. Lifts 23 Year Old Ban on Travel to Libya 

It's what some people call a breaking news of historic magnitude. If you've read our previous posts, you probably know better. Blair will visit Libya soon. US oil companies will resume their Libyan activities. Libya will be a key ally of the US-UK and will be rewarded with military cooperation and business investments. What can we add to this concert of forthcoming breaking news? This vintage African Oil Politics comment: Libya is the first high profile case of the US-UK "axis of oil", also known as "US-UK energy dialogue" revealed by the Guardian:

The [UK] government is helping the US to secure a guaranteed supply of oil from new sources in Africa and elsewhere... According to an internal memo to George Bush and Tony Blair, cooperation between the two governments has already delivered "immediate... substantial benefits". The decision to act was taken at a private summit at the president's Texas ranch in April last year.

That was few weeks AFTER Libya got in touch with the United Kingdom in a gesture to be reintegrated into the international community. CIA chief Tenet confirmed the date of the move in his latest declaration to the US Senate: "For years Qadhafi had been chafing under international pariah status. In March 2003, he made a strategic decision and reached out through British intelligence with an offer to abandon his pursuit of WMD."

You can image what Blair, who was already spying on the United Nations on behalf of the US National Security Agency, has made of such a piece of "intelligence":

American and British governments have woven together the "separate strands" of their countries' energy and foreign policies in a "frank sharing of strategic analysis and assessments". The countries have agreed "a set of coordinated actions to help achieve [their] objectives" across the world. The big British and American energy companies have been given favoured access to the discussions between the governments, taking part in meetings with officials. Both governments are keenly aware that, while the demand for oil is likely to rise, they cannot depend on the volatile and hostile Middle East as a safe source. ... British officials were charged with developing "investment issues facing Africa that could be ripe for US-UK coordinated attention".

The Guardian story focuses on West African oil, but given Libya's energy reserves, there's no reason to exclude the possibility. The "substantial benefits" to be gained by the US-UK partnership from the Libyan move are obvious enough for us not to feel that such a backward-looking view is somehow vindicated.

Pentagon report may change climate at White House & World Bank 

According to a Pentagon planning unit, climate change is a national security threat greater than even the scourge of international terrorism. Peter Schwartz, CIA consultant and former head of planning at Royal Dutch/Shell Group and Doug Randall of the California-based Global Business Network, the authors of a report entitled "An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for United States National Security" forsee how global warming could push the planet to the edge of anarchy and annihilation.

'Disruption and conflict will be endemic features of life,' concludes the Pentagon analysis. 'Once again, warfare would define human life.' The findings will prove humiliating to the Bush administration, which has repeatedly denied that climate change even exists. Experts said that they will also make unsettling reading for a President who has insisted national defense is a priority.

According to writer and independent journalist Mark Hertsgaard, the most immidiate outcome of the report will be felt at the World Bank. Those who have expected a gradual change at the institution might might well be surprised by a radical tipping point U-turn on April 15:

One immediate effect may involve the World Bank, whose board of directors is expected to vote by April 15 on a controversial recommendation to stop all funding of coal and oil development, the two fuels most responsible for the carbon dioxide emissions that propel climate change. The vote poses a dilemma for World Bank president James Wolfensohn, for the recommendation comes from an advisory commission he himself appointed to show that the bank was open to input from civil society. ... Citing the dangers of climate change and the often punishing human rights and pollution effects on local people, the review urged that the bank halt all coal loans immediately and all oil loans by 2008. ... These changes would amount to a virtual revolution in the World Bank's operations, so it's not surprising that bank management has resisted them. ... According to a draft response, World Bank management wants the board to reject nearly all the commission's reforms. Rather than halt coal and oil loans, management urges $300 million to $500 million a year in new funding. Fossil fuels, reasons the draft, are the cheapest energy available and thus promise to speed Third World countries' ascent from poverty.

I'm not as optimist as Mark. The World Bank is already an ice-age body, with a default built-in sub-program designed to help it resist change. Climate change is unlikely to overcome the Bank's institutional homeostasis. If something moves, it will be for political reasons.

Resource curse in Nigeria & in the NYT 

I can't help being appalled by Nigeria’s rising poverty level. Then I read Jeff Madrick's review of the Mineral Resources and Economic Development,
by Stanford economic historian Gavin Wright and his colleague Jesse Czelusta. The orignal paper is rather nuanced (check the document in my pdf permalinks); reviewed by the New York Times, it takes a more upbeat tune: Gavin Wright agrees that "overdependence on a single resource can lead to poor policies, but it is by no means inevitable. To the contrary, many developed and developing nations have used their mineral resources as springboards to wealth and broader-based development - not least the United States itself. ... Some nations do well with their endowments, others do not." Now I feel much better.

Sao-Tome: Oil revenue management law 

After pioneering the "resource curse" research field, Jeffrey Sachs from Columbia University is now applying his knowledge and connections to help countries and African oilstates facing the "paradox of plenty". Last year, he has assembled a team of scientists and experts to advise the Sao Tomean government on a pro bono basis. Lately, Martin Sandbu, the man in charge of the "oil revenue management law" side of the project, has handed the draft of his work to the authorities in Sao Tome. Here's a nice little story about his adventures in Sao Tome:

Sao Tome and Principe, a poor island nation off the coast of Africa, recently discovered oil and, fearing this "paradox of plenty," asked for advice. The first influx of money from oil exploration contracts with Chevron/Texaco and other companies could be over $100 million, several times Sao Tome and Principe's annual gross domestic product (GDP). In September, [Martin] Sandbu was asked to sit in on a phone call with Jeff Sachs and the President of Sao Tome and Principe. As a result, President Fradique de Menezes, invited a group of advisers to Sao Tome and Principe in November 2003, and that group included Sandbu. During his research on the island, Dr. Sandbu conducted over forty interviews with presidential staff, cabinet ministers, parliament, judiciary, civil society, unions, and UN staff. Sao Tome and Principe is a small country, which offers the possibility for great change," says Sandbu. "It doesn't suffer the inertia of some of the larger countries, so there is hope this new wealth can be managed differently, in a way that alleviates poverty and disease." Sandbu may return to San Tome in a few weeks to help advise parliament on the writing of the "oil revenue management law," aiming to help the country avoid the problems that have plagued other low-income oil exporters. By integrating natural resource management for the benefit of everyone, Sao Tome and Principe stands to become a model for sustainable development in the 21st century.

I think I heard something like this about Chad before oil started to flow. Then the president started to use its oil bonanza to buy guns.

Escaping the Resource Curse 

Escaping the Resource Curse:

Managing Natural-Resource Revenues in Low-Income Countries

Hosted by

Center on Globalization and Sustainable Development

The Earth Institute at Columbia University

Sponsored by

The Open Society Institute

February 26, 2004

9:00 am – 5:30 pm

I really get mad when I read a workshop program like that and can't attend it physically nor digitally. I'll be doing a little research of mine and try to find a blogger amongst the speakers: George Soros, Terry Karl, Jeffrey Sachs, Michael Ross, Philippe Le Billon, Martin Sandbu, Simon Taylor...

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Introducing the African Force  

While American and British officials were waiting for Libya to express regrets about its PM Ghanem's comments and accept full responsibility for the Lockerbie bombing, African diplomats were gathering around Gaddafi, in Syrte. A special summit of the African Union (AU) is scheduled for Feb. 27 and 28, following a meeting of African defence ministers that took place earlier, Feb. 22 and 23. The leaders are expected to adopt the African Common Defense and Security policy discussed by the defence ministers.

The summit will come as the conclusion of a process that started two years ago, at the inaugural summit of the African Union, in South Africa in 2002. The summit had then approved the creation of a Peace and Security Council and was followed over the last two years by detailed proposals for an African Standby Force (ASF) and for a Common African Defence and Security Policy (CADSP). These discussions gave birth to plans for a continent-wide defence policy and a permanent military rapid reaction force. These plans are already ground-breaking, but Gaddafi has more ambitious visions for Africa:

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, who likes to be seen as something of an African patriarch, on Monday renewed his call for a much more radical idea: the merging of all national militaries into a single, million-strong African army, saying this would halve the continent's defence expenditure. While this plan reputedly enjoys just enough support to get on to the Syrte summit agenda, most African countries dismiss it as unworkable or undesirable.

President Festus Mogae of Botswana, a former Oxford University economist, has clearly expressed his skepticism and dismissed the idea as "Gaddafi's dream". He's maybe right, but the idea of an African Union that would replace the Organisation of African Unity also sounded like a fantasy when it was first made public. Nothing will stop Gaddafi on his way to becoming a patriarch - as long as he uses Libya's oil money to foot the bill for his visions, and find African leaders ready to listen for money.

Sea-based terror & WMD proliferation in Africa 

Since Africa is considered the soft belly in the war on terror, and containerized shipping a vulnerable link in the chain of global trade, containerized shipping in Africa is becoming a hot topic in U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Every year, some 200 million sea cargo containers move among the world's top seaports. This represents around 80 percent of world trade traffic, an attractive target for terrorists as well as a hard-to-monitor way to transport WMD: nearly 50 percent of the value of all imports arriving in the United States is made via sea container. With the American presence and anti-terror operation in the Horn of Africa, the continent has started playing an increasing role in the global U.S. war against sea-based terror and proliferation. More African countries are being invited to join in the fight.

In December 2003, the Container Security Initiative (CSI), a U.S. anti-terror initiative to secure cargo, became operational at the port of Durban: As part of the CSI program, CBP [U.S. Customs and Border Protection] will deploy a team of officers to the port of Durban to work with host government personnel to target high-risk cargo containers destined for the United States. ... CSI is the only formal program in operation today that is designed to detect and deter terrorists from exploiting the vulnerabilities of containerized cargo. When in South Africa last week, General James Jones discussed with Mbeki who declared that "fighting terrorism is very much on the African agenda."

Last week, Liberia and the United States signed an "agreement that would permit American security forces to board and search any ship under the Liberian flag suspected of carrying weapons of mass destruction (WMD), their delivery systems, or related materials." The importance of such an agreement is obvious: Liberia, with more than 2,000 vessels under its flag, has the second largest ship registry in the world after Panama. According to a CNN report, one-third of America's imported oil arrives in the United States on Liberia-flagged tankers. The deal has been facilitated by the Liberian international ship and corporate registry, a US-owned company which runs Liberia's maritime operations from is headquarted in the United States. Oil tankers and western ship owners make use of Liberia's flag of convenience for its tax benefits. I ignore how often they travel African waters; but one thing is certain: US navy, coast guards or custom agents are now to be find in North Africa (the Med), East Africa (the Horn), South Africa (Durban) and (soon) West Africa (the Gulf of Guinea) with Sao Tome or any other Gulf country as a likely location for a forward operation base. Rule America!

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

China-Angola reconstruction cooperation 

China's African oil politics is making inroads in Angola, starting with infrastructure and reconstruction cooperation. Angola and China are both ruled by market-friendly communist regimes: oil and politics strengthen any kind of business ties.

Lybia's PM buying a virtual peace 

The diplomatic community was expecting the United States to lift the ban on American passport travel to Libya today. Officials in the Bush administration's State Department had let it be known that the United States would announce the good news on Tuesday 24. Then something unexpected happened that triggered the decision by the US administration to delay easing Libya sanctions. What exactly had happened?

Earlier, [Libya's Prime Minister] Dr Ghanem was asked [on the BBC] why Libya had paid compensation over Lockerbie but not apologised. He said: "We feel that we bought peace. After the sanctions and after the problems we faced because of the sanctions, the loss of money, we thought it was easier for us to buy peace and this is why we agreed on compensation." But the victims' relatives insisted they had not been bought off, and expected Libya to take responsibility and co-operate with further investigations.

Ghanem's frankness became the media hype of the day. First, British officials tried to alleviate the devastating blow of Ghanem's declaration to Blair and his plan to visit Libya. British Foreign Secretaty Jack Straw declared that as far as the UK was concerned, the Libyan position remained unchanged: in a letter sent to the United Nations in August 2003, Libya wrote that it "accepts responsibility for the actions of its officials," one of whom was convicted of the bombing. The Tory opposition didn't take things so lightly and urged Blair "not to visit Libya until proper and public assurances are received". In the USA, the first reaction was to insist Libya take responsibility and admit Lockerbie bombing. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher Libyan leadership to "to explain and retract". Later on, the United States announced its decision to delay the lifting of travel restrictions. End of drama. How should one understand PM Ghanem's declaration and what does the American decision change?

First of all, one has to understand that Shukri Ghanem is not a diplomat, but an economist. He was appointed in June 2003 as Prime Minister, but his real job is the transformation of the Libyan economy: he has to open the economy to foreign investment and implement a new liberalization policy. He either knew what the impact of his words would be on the relatives of those who died in the bombing or he couldn't imagine such a thing. In the first case, he may have spoken as he did to show the Americano-British part that Libya remains defiant, untamed.

Mr Ghanem's remarks are very much in line with Libya's previous tactics of putting up a smokescreen to hide the fundamental changes in its position. This would be easily understood by Libya's friends. His words even echo the words of Colonel Gaddafi himself last summer when Libya finally agreed on compensation for the Lockerbie attack. For example, Mr Ghanem said of Libya's decision to pay compensation for Lockerbie: "We thought it easier for us to buy peace and that is why we agreed to compensation." The Libyan leader also declared that Libya had bought its way out of trouble. "God curse money. What is money for? With money we defend our country."

As for the importance of the travel ban on US-Libya oil relations, it is very limited. Those who think that easing the sanctions now could allow U.S. oil companies to resume activities in Libya ignore the fact that US oilmen already travel to Libya: "Eventually removing the travel ban would not have much effect on the U.S. oil companies, whose executives have been able to visit Libya in recent years with special permission." Since there is no technical reason to maintain the travel ban, Ghanem's words as well as US/UK reactions are but a diplomatic face-saving issue for the parties involved. Pure machismo!

Sudan: illusion of peace, reality of conflict 

Marian Tupy, Africa specialist at the Cato Institute, wrote an exciting commentary on Sudan's ellusive quest for peace. Like in his previous essays and op-eds, Tupy remains a contrarian, an anti-utopist. One may not share his deep seated beliefs, but one cannot easily discard the cold-blooded clarity of his analysis. And that's one more reason to read his latest piece; once again, he's thought-provoking, refusing to indulge himself into the kind of rosy optimism expressed by the current U.S. administration's Africa officials when it comes to Sudan.

Rebel leaders from the south of Sudan and the government negotiators from the north have been meeting in the Kenyan city of Naivasha, attempting to put an end to Africa's longest civil war. The U.S. secretary of state, Colin Powell, who attended the peace talks last year, has telephoned the negotiators to urge them toward a final agreement. Despite the State Department's "optimism," however, the sad truth is that the accord will, at best, result in a prolonged, but ultimately doomed, ceasefire.

The rest of the piece is a review of the key obstacles likely to block the road to peace. The legal component of the agreement is a first problem:

According to reports, the rebels and the government in Khartoum have agreed to share revenue from Sudan's southern oil fields. But there will be two legal systems -- restricting the application of the harsh Islamic Sharia law to the Muslim north -- and two separate banking systems, allowing southern banks to charge interest on loans to individuals and businesses. Further, there are unanswered questions concerning a legal system that will govern the capital city and the fate of three provinces in central Sudan, which will either form a part of north or south. After an "interim" period of six years, the South will be allowed to hold a referendum on whether it wants to remain a part of Sudan or become independent.

Similar agreements in the history of the Sudanese North-South divide offer a Rosetta stone for guessing the probable outcome of the lastest deal and the current peace process: previous agreements have failed. In a way, the legal issue is but an illustration of the territorial borders issue that African leaders have so far failed to confront. The map of Africa-as-we-know it today has been determined in 1884-1885 by the agreements of European colonial powers. State borders thus doesn't reflect "national" nor cultural boundaries, but the balance of power between former western rulers whose views and interests have been confirmed in the ongoing post-colonial era: out of concern that new genuine national borders would bring new conflicts, the OAU (Organisation for African Unity) confirmed the status quo in 1963.

Boundaries of the "spheres of influence" became territorial and then state borders. Thus, the map that was drawn with no regard for historically as well as culturally and linguistically evolved identities became the de-facto political space of modern Africa. Many African "nations" (or groups of kinsmen) were split up. Others, enemies from time immemorial, were forced to live under the same regimes, sharing the same "country". As a matter of fact, the possibility of a territorial breakup of Sudan has been recently discussed by Hassan al-Turabi, the former deputy of the current leader of Sudan, General Bashir. Turabi interestingly states that the U.S.-backed agreement favours secession for the South. These words echo Marian Tupy's view. Beyond the legal and territorial obstacles lies the biggest issue of them all: the oil revenue sharing scheme.

Importantly, the Sudan peace plan does not address the long-term fate of the southern oil fields. Most of the country's 600 million barrels of oil reserves are in the south. Under the Naivasha agreement, the money from the sale of oil must be shared equally between the north and the south. So, what will happen to that agreement after the six-year interim period? There's every likelihood that the south will declare independence. The south had fought for independence for three decades and the interim period will not stifle the separatist sentiment. In addition, the prospect of benefiting from oil revenues without having to share them with the north will no doubt strengthen the appeal of southern independence. Similar feelings can, for example, be observed among the Yoruba and Ogoni people in Nigeria, who believe that they are not getting their share of oil revenues.

As you can see, Marian Tupy's commentary echoes the views held here at African Oil Politics. His conclusion is that the oil money is unlikely to solve Sudan's problems because of the oil curse - not to mention the conflict in the Darfur!

Monday, February 23, 2004

Sao-Tome: Study renews debate on US military base  

The U.S. Trade and Development Agency (USTDA) gave more details about the study project we reported last week for Sao Tome port and airport facilities. The agency awarded two grants to the Ministry of Public Works, Infrastructure and Land Affairs of Sao Tome & Principe. The grants are described as follows:

The first grant, in the amount of $450,000, will fund a feasibility study on the development of a deepwater port on Sao Tome. The second grant, totaling $350,000, will fund technical assistance to assist with a development plan for Sao Tome’s airport. The grants represent the first investments by USTDA in Sao Tome & Principe... In particular, the USTDA-funded deepwater port study will review potential sites and identify the optimal location for the port, as well as make recommendations on its operation. The USTDA-supported technical assistance program will assist with the development of a strategy for the expansion and modernization of Sao Tome’s current airport facilities.

The USTDA press release doesn't say anything about the military base, but we know for a fact that the agency operates "at the nexus of foreign policy and commerce" and is no foreign to The White House African Policy. On the other hand, U.S. Ambassador Kenneth Moorefield who signed the agreement to study the possibility of developing a deep-water port and expanding the country's tiny airport, is also ambassador to Gabon - another African oilstate. Based on these pieces of information, analysts easily made the relevant connections. Alex Belida, from the Voice of America, did just that:

Pentagon officials remain tight-lipped about any possible plans they may have for Sao Tome. On Thursday, they dismissed questions about possible U.S. military access to any new port or airport facilities that might be developed on the island as hypothetical. But the Pentagon's interest is evident: last September, a top U.S. military commander told reporters Sao Tome is a potentially ideal site for one of the Pentagon's so-called Forward Operating Locations, bases available for temporary use by American forces in an emergency. Air Force General Charles Wald is deputy commander of the U.S. military's European Command, which is responsible for most of sub-Saharan Africa. He visited Sao Tome last year. He noted it is strategically located in the Gulf of Guinea, close to both west and central Africa, areas where U.S. forces have had to operate on occasion in the past, and might have to operate in the future. He also said it is in a region where stability is needed, especially as U.S. oil imports from West Africa grow.

During his latest anti-terror meeting with Thabo Mbeki, US General James Jones, the supreme commander of the U.S. military's European Command, sang his favourite mantra: "America sees Africa as a soft target for terror networks due to weak institutions, poor security and long stretches of unguarded coastline." The important words here are ungarded coastline. He already said two years ago that the military deal with Sao Tome would involve coast guards patrol training and capacity building. As African Oil Politics wrote few weeks ago, the growth of piracy activities in the Gulf of Guinea, especially in Nigeria, is the perfect rationale for a U.S.-backed military monitoring of the oil-rich area. Besides, as has been reported about the anti-terror meeting in South Africa:

Washington hopes to secure "forward operating locations" to enable it to react to security threats in Africa without setting up permanent bases, a US military source said. Officials have not confirmed reports that Washington is looking at sites in Mozambique and Sao Tomé and Principe off West Africa.

There won't be any official confirmation before the U.S. congress is handed the report that General James Jones and General Charles Ward are writing. Wait few more weeks. Stay connected.

Chad: oily courtship by U.S., China & France 

Chad, one of the the poorest countries in the world, was an area where French interests remained paramount, though sometimes challenged by Lybia. Then, oil was discovered. American firms got rid of the French and built the Doba-Kribi pipeline, the largest private investment in Africa. The $3.7 billion underground pipeline stretches 670 miles and ferry crude oil to the Atlantic coast, through another France-influenced country: Cameroon. Oil began to flow in Oct. 2003, transforming the country into Africa's latest oilstate. Chad's new status brought attracted lots of attention from U.S. media as never before. The New York Times wrote lately:

Oil is bringing big changes to Chad, some cultural... like the way the World Bank will be overseeing how Chad manages its new wealth... Because the pipeline stands to transform this landlocked country, for better or worse, Chad is under a special glare — from the oil industry, global lending institutions and development groups. The investment has come with strings attached: the oil revenues are to be transparent, and the government is to use the wealth to better the miserable lives of its nine million citizens. A citizens' committee is to review all spending to see that it conforms to the law.

All this attention doesn't change the nature of the regime: when handed its a $25 million "signing bonus" four years ago, the regime spent the first chunks on essential poverty reducing-mesures such as buying arms and refurbishing ministers' offices. In case more oil is discovered in the country, the regime would certainly welcome a differnt kind of investors. Why not China?

the state-owned China National Petroleum Corp. (CNPC) had just signed a major oilfield deal with the central African country of Chad and was very likely to launch oil prospecting there from November this year. The bold step of conducting oil exploration in the country was made just as the largest Chinese land oil producer had listed Chad along with neighboring Niger as its focus for tapping oil resources in Africa this year... The Chinese company is considering pursuing more oil interests in neighboring Chad and Niger now, as a major anticline structure traversing the three countries is believed to be a potential oil and gas bonanza. As Interfax previously reported, CNPC was awarded the oil prospecting rights for the exploration of two blocks, the Tenere and Bilma, in Niger last November and signed a deal concerning the rights with the Nigerois Ministry of Mining and Energy.

After Hu Jintao's latest trip to African oilstates Gabon, Algeria and Egypt, China's intentions towards African oil are thus confirmed. In order to remind Chad of its presence in the country, France allocated 4 million euros to the Chadian "energy sector" through its aid agency AFD. A security assisance deal already links Chad and France: 950 French troops are positionned in the Kossei military base.

Oil reserves: SEC probes Shell while Exxon smiles 

The mood is gloomy at Shell: US Securities and Exchange Commission launched a formal investigation after the company decided last month to cut its estimated oil and gas reserves by 20 percent. The company was already facing a major PR backlash because of the way the chairman, Philip Watts, managed the issue. This formal probe will only hasten full disclosure and a greater oversight of the firm's corporate structure.

The revision occurred in part because Shell had classified oil and gas in some of its Nigerian and Australian projects as "proven" in the late 1990s, even before the fields were developed. Watts was head of Shell's exploration and production unit... and was responsible for classifying reserves.

In the 1990's, Philip Watts was in charge of the subsidiary in Nigeria. Part of the explanation for Shell's reserves downgrade has to do with the financial incentives offered by Nigerian authorities to oil firms that could show reserve bonus. Shell failed to disclose these incentives, until it could not hide them anymore: between 1991 and 2001, Nigerian authorities had, introduced fiscal incentives to encourage companies to devote funds to oil exploration. It was a way of using fiscal measures to gear up exploration among oil companies. But Shell didn't reported these incentives over new discoveries to investors and regulatory authorities in the United States and Britain. The market was furious. The Financial Times reported earlier this month that Nigeria accounted for about a third of 3.9 billion proved reserves, thus making the country the largest contributor to the slashed reserves. Other industry sources say "natural gas was a big factor in Shell's misjudgement in prematurely booking some of Nigeria's oil and gas fields that are ready for development between 1996 and 2002".

Since then, several oil and gas companies, including Houston-based El Paso Corp. have cut their assessments of reserves. Amid this increased investor scrutiny of reserves as well as the U.S. market regulator's formal investigation into RoyalDutch Shell Group, ExxonMobil remains upbeat: the world's largest publicly traded oil company announced that "it added the equivalent of 1.7 billion barrels of oil to its reserves in 2003 as additions exceeded production for a 10th straight year. Proven reserves [jumped] to 22 billion barrels of oil equivalent on Dec. 31... The company said its oil and gas holdings would take 14 years to exhaust at current production pace."

DiamondWorks' projects in Mozambique & Nigeria 

Petrolplus Africa, a subsidiary of Vancouver-based Canadian resources firm DiamondWorks Limited, is conducting a feasibility study for the oil pipeline from Mozambique’s seaport of Nacala to Liwonde. Wilfred Ali, project coordinator for the Nacala Development Corridor (NDC), expects a survey report before the close of the year.

the pipeline, which sources say will cost close to US$1billion, is expected to reduce transport costs which are largely driven by import costs for oil... The 400 km oil pipeline is crucial to Malawi’s aspirations in the Nacala Development Corridor (NDC), a spatial development with Mozambique and Zambia. [Signed in May last year,] Petrolplus Africa’s agreement with the Malawi government mandates the firm to carry out a feasibility study of the pipeline project and if found viable, put up infrastructure in return for fuel supply contracts.

Energem Petroleum, another subsidiary of DiamondWorks, has entered into a deal with Yinka Folawiyo & Sons Ltd. of Nigeria to set up a gasoline and oil products storage and distribution business.

The two companies will operate an oil products receiving, storage and distribution depot with a monthly capacity of 150,000 tonnes in the deep water port in Lagos, Nigeria's capital. DiamondWorks said the project will cost about $10 million US and will be the only privately owned depot in Nigeria capable of receiving, storing and distributing full cargos of petroleum products for distribution into the Nigerian petroleum market, the largest in Africa.

DiamondWorks is best known as a diamonds mining company operating in West Africa (Angola, Central African Republic, Sierra Leone). As for Yinka Folawiyo, it is one of the largest and most diversified conglomerates in Nigeria, with business ventures in construction, energy, shipping, agricultural products, fishing and financial services.

Friday, February 20, 2004

Fridayblog: blogging for change in Africa 

I haven't been much involved into debates this week, being very busy with my own research and working on the evolution of African Oil Politics. But I must report two interesting initiatives that indicate a likely path for bringing change to the continent through digital technology and communication skills.

The first initiative takes place in Nigeria: antigraft.org is a website built by guys from the Anti corruption Internet Database (ACID) with the aim of creating a tool that "informs, educates and keeps data about corruption in Nigeria and other parts of the world". And it delivers, believe me. Of particular interest is the corruption news feed that updates every 6 hours, with lots of stories "on corruption, fraud, money laundering, and related issues". Now, I can pretty well how blogging could impact such a site: a group of dedicated citizen journalists would report not stories they have read in the press, but fished with those who have witnessed first hand cases of corruption and bribery. Imagine that you can connect to the antigraft hotline with your cellphone, send short messages (sms) that would be then published after proper editing. That's what I call a one-stop corruption boutique, with early warning functions!

The second initiative is a follow-up to my discussion with Akwe and Ethan about bringing "High profile bloggers" online. Akwe reported that K.Y. Amoako, the head of the UN's Economic Commission for Africa, has just launched his own blog. That's a remarkable achievement, given the fact that African officials are usually techno-shy and resist accountability. As a matter of fact, our discussion is about how blogging can be "a potentially powerful tool of accountability and change". Akwe argues that when "setting out to reflect on things in public, bloggers agree to be held to account for what they say"; her conclusion is that the "decision to be open" is what makes the difference. I agree, but I don't think that blogging by itself constitutes a strong commitment to openness and change. In the future, when blogging becomes more widespread among African leaders, the ultimate test for assessing accountability will lie in the ability of a "high profile blogger" to allow his visitors to feedback and comment upon his posts. It's easy putting a blog online; it's more difficult to accept being challenged by laypersons. Walking the talk, I then visited Amoako's blog - which is not only good, but better designed and written than Jimmy Carter's one. Once there, I decided to challenge the openness: I sent two short thought-provoking comments of my own. I hope he will pick on this and accept discussing his views. But I must admit that the guy is smart and sounds cool. I'll tell how it turns out. Hey, I found a new job: digital challenger of "high profile bloggers".

World Bank: from rhetoric to arrogance 

The World Bank is under attack for the way it's handling the conclusions of the Extractive Industries Review process it had initiated. Caspar Henderson's latest post on OpenDemocracy offers a balanced analysis of of the debate. His conclusion represents a good contribution to the debate about (digital) democracy and civil society participation to economic decision making:

Innovative NGOs and disruptive social entrepreneurs ... together with new forms of regulation, are likely to be necessary to constraint corporate power. That means a new politics, all the more needed as the World Bank’s rhetoric, and action, to redress inequality is ever less in accord with the concerns of the United States administration.

Thursday, February 19, 2004

Who owns Nigerian crude? 

Nigerians are currently busy thinking about the problems that oil and gas brought to the country. Ugochukwu Ejinkeonye writes an op-ed article in Vanguard that's worth reading because it reflects the views of part of Nigerian intellectuals:

It has indeed become too evident that the greatest obstacle to Nigeria's economic and political and even social survival today is, perhaps, the oil which this country has in abundance. This is most painful because, God who blessed us with abundant oil intended it to be a great blessing to us as a nation. But unfortunately, due to gross failure of leadership and character, we have most willingly turned it into our collective undoing... Oil has polluted our politics. When you see politicians killing each other to gain political power, they are all being motivated by the lure and charm of oilâ-oethe commodity that rewards idle men at the expense of the hard working ones. Nigeria is the only place where the sole job of the President is just to give out money. Every month, states and local governments file up to receive their share. So long as oil is flowing, no matter how bad it is, all the 'elected' people will remain confident that their salaries and 'allowances' are intact.

This moral as well as religious view on the local politics of oil is matched by the hope of other writers who think otherwise: they believe that the monitoring body set up by Obasanjo, the National Stakeholders’ Working Group, might actually help correct the oil curse. The stated goal of the monitoring group is "to deter bribery and graft within a sector which is reputedly rife with illegal commissions on contracts, large-scale theft and lax environmental controls".

Olusegun Adeniyi, the only member of the new body who is a journalist, as written a personal account of his involvement in the initiative that his grounded in a clear view of what is at stake: "This initiative is rather important given the fact that majority of Nigerians are agreed today that only a small percentage of the population enjoy the proceeds of our oil while many more still believe we are being shortchanged by the multinational oil companies and their local collaborators. There have indeed been series of evidence to back these perceptions." He then goes on to outlines petroleum revenue transparency issues such as bonuses, royalties, profit taxes, or production shares. The op-ed, which starts on a rather sceptical vision ends on an upbeat tone:

At least with the NSWG in place, we now have an idea of who actually owns Nigerian Crude hence no fat cat in NNPC will ever again have the gut to run a N245 million hotel bills in NICON-Hilton. That era is gone and, to adopt the words of President George Bush on Saddam Hussein's Iraq....it will not be coming back!

Time will tell... But I'm personally grateful to the author for giving the URL of a Nigerian digital transparency initiative called antigraft. I think I'll get in touch with these guys and let you know what's up down there.

New peace prospects in Sudan 

The United States made important steps in the last three weeks that are likely to influence favorably the peace process in Sudan. First, Colin Powell cut a deal with French FM Dominique de Villepin: the State Department would reverse its opposition to sending some 6,000 United Nations peacekeepers to Ivory Coast if France backs the U.S. plan to send a UN peacekeeping force to Sudan.

The deal allowed John Negroponte to announce that the Bush administration had asked Congress to authorise the move after opposing it on budgetary grounds:"The US pays 27% of the UN's peacekeeping budget and correspondents say the force is likely to be approved on 27 February, when the mandate of the current UN team and the French and African peacekeepers expires." The U.S. U-turn on the Ivoirian case is behind the current Villepin's diplomatic intervention in the Darfur crisis. Visiting Chadian President Deby today and Sudanese leader Bachir tomorrow, Villepin will add French (waning) influence in the region to the (growing) pressure of the United States on his new clients:

Call off your troops and militias in the west, or expect no peace dividend for an agreement with the south. US State Department sources say this was the message carried to Khartoum last week by a high-level American delegation headed by Charles Snyder, acting assistant secretary of state for African affairs. Snyder reportedly warned Khartoum that the US would not lift sanctions against Sudan, and the “troika” mediating the north-south talks ­ the US, Britain and Norway ­ would not fund a new era of peace with the SPLA as long as the war in Darfur rages unabated. If confirmed, and if translated into meaningful pressure at the north-south talks that resumed in the Kenyan town of Naivasha on Tuesday, the new tough line with Khartoum may mark the end of a year in which the US administration turned a blind eye to the war in Darfur in its eagerness to score a foreign policy success in the south.

All these developments show how important the Sudan peace process is for Bush. In fact, the Lybian drama and the Sudanese peace process are his biggest hopes for showing a breakthrough on the international front. After Angola and Liberia, a complete peace in Sudan and a tamed Lybia would constitute key victories for the U.S. administration. The African front would prove that Bush is really the (oil) war (on terror) President.

US-E.Guinea: unreported deals 

Vicky Bailey, the current U.S. Assistant Secretary for Policy and International Affairs at the Department of Energy, was last week in Malabo (Equatorial Guinea). During her visit (February 8-11), she met the Guinean minister of energy, Cristobal Menana Ela, and the strongman of the country, President Teodoro Obian Nguema. The United States and Equatorial Guinea signed three bilateral cooperation deals focusing on energy activities (oil and gas), technology transfer and human resources (training).

George Staples, U.S. ambassador to Cameroon and Equatorial accompanied the American delegation. Equatorial Guinea is the third biggest sub-saharan oil producing country, after Nigeria and Angola. Almost two thirds of its hydrocarbon production is sold to the United States. The biggest oil firms operating in the country as American companies: ExxonMobil, Chevron-Texaco or Triton-Hamerada. Equatorial Guinea is so important for the United States and the growth of US private investment in the country so rapid since 1996, that the United States re-opened an embassy in Malabo less than five months ago, in October 2003.

Given the profile of such a country (known now as “the Kuwait of Africa”), not to mention the roles of Vicky Bailey and George Staples, I wonder why American media failed to report this visit that was announced (at least) in France, Spain and China. Is it because the visit took place during a dangerous political crisis in Equatorial Guinea, a country caught in a “murky power struggle” since December 2003? Is it because the power struggle is leading to “mysterious army movements”? Or is it because of the paranoia of the President, who asked his followers to be vigilant, to lookout for possible danger, and “monitor everybody, locals as well as foreigners, and report all movements, all activities designed to destabilize the country”?

I guess the goal of this information blackout (of an important African oil policy issue) is to avoid giving mixed signals to the U.S. public opinion in an election year – both in the United States and Equatorial Guinea.

The hearts & minds of darkness 

The more I work on this blog, the more I tend to think that the basic rationale behind the growing U.S. engagement in every corner of Africa has a kind of philosophical meaning to it: when compared to the absolute lack of security of African populations, the U.S. quest for absolute security, summarized in code words like "energy security" and "war on terror", bears the grinning face of arrogance.

The Africans' absolute lack of security is made even worse by the fact that globalization helps give absolute power to those who are the most to blame for the current situation of African populations: private corporations, private networks of special interests (lobbies) linked to local autocratic rulers (so-called leaders) whose vision of "governance" has nothing to do with democracy (government of the people, by the people, for the people) and everything to do with tyranny: African elites share the same un-democractic values that are the hallmark of the current U.S., French or Russian regimes. Their dream of unchecked, unaccountable and non-transparent power is the complete anti-thesis of what people living in the internet age should be about.

The pathological quest for security, power and profit is what tie together western elites, African rulers and private transnational corporations. They share the same world-view and "personality": they are irresponsible because they put everything at risk in the attempt to satisfy their goal of absolute security, power and profit. They usually "refuse to accept responsibility for their own actions and are unable to feel remorse". Those who care for the evolution of the world as we know it and for the future of Africa have a lot to learn from the people who are running what I call the "oil war on terror": "This is a dynasty bringing in all the old retainers and the people who represent various interest groups and geopolitical commitments."

Corruption is the word that best describes the confusion between pubic authority and private interest: the lack of democracy in Africa goes hand in hand with the lack of social corporate responsibilty. African populations are already used to that state of things: Americans are slowly discovering where the current corruption of their admnistration lead them. Having an Halliburton-State is no better than an Elf-State or a Shell-State. U.S. administration is going the way of the French in Africa. Corruption always comes home to rest! The Middle East legacy is the added bonus of their coming late to the game : welcome in the heart of darkness.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

US-China: the next oil war? 

After Chinese leader Hu Jintao visited three oil exporting African countries (Gabon, Algeria, Egypt), analysts described the energy relations between China and Africa as an illustration of the coming US-China resource war. The visit was seen as a threat to the United States’ oil interests because China “imported more than 100 million tonnes of oil last year, over 30 per cent higher than it did in 2002”. Such views are not new, but their main interest lies in the hidden assumptions they carry about Africa and the superpowers' battle to grab it. Africa is viewed as an object - not an actor of its own history: it's a piece of real estate that is “up for grab”, up for sale. This view, that hold true for the behaviour of African leaders such as Bongo, Bouteflika and Mubarak, ignores those like Ken Saro-Wiwa who struggle(d) and resist(ed) the corporate takeover of the continent. Beside, in order to show how morally superior Americans are, US sensitiveness to human rights violations and corporate social responsibility are over-highlighted. The reality is of course less rosy: Equatorial Guinea’s appalling human rights record has not been an obstacle when the United States decided to re-establish an embassy there few months ago, in October 2003.

More intersting are analysts like Gal Luft who stretch the US-China resource war thesis quite far. So far that he has to come up with a solution to avoid an all out oil-war. According to him, the United States should initiate a new dialogue with the Chinese authorities, in order to:

With 1.3 billion people and an economy growing at a phenomenal 8 percent to 10 percent a year, China, already a net oil importer, is growing increasingly dependent on imported oil... Without a comprehensive strategy designed to prevent China from becoming an oil consumer on a par with the United States, a superpower collision is in the cards. The good news is that we are still in a position to halt China's slide into total dependency. Unlike the United States, China's energy infrastructure is largely underdeveloped and primarily coal-based. It has not yet invested in a multibillion-dollar oil infrastructure. China is therefore in a better position than the United States to bypass oil in favor of next-generation fuels. The United States should embark on a frank dialogue with China, conveying to the Chinese the mutual benefits of circumventing oil and offering any assistance required to curb China's growing appetite for it. A shift from oil into other sources of transportation energy -- such as bio-fuels or coal-based fuels, hydrogen and natural gas -- could prevent future conflict and foster unprecedented Sino-American cooperation with significant economic benefits for both countries.

While a bit over-optimistic, Gal Luft's idea is not uninteresting. The main problem on the road ahead that he maps is that such a partnership already exists:

The International Partnership for the Hydrogen Economy (IPHE) creates a mechanism to organize and implement effective, efficient, and focused research, and to develop and deploy activities that advance hydrogen and fuel cell programs. The coordination instituted through the IPHE will leverage limited resources and bring together the worlds best intellects and talents to solve difficult challenges to making the hydrogen economy a reality. The IPHE will foster the implementation of cooperative efforts to advance research, development, demonstration and commercial use of hydrogen production, storage, transport and distribution. The IPHE will also enhance collaboration on fuel cell technologies, common codes and standards for hydrogen fuel utilization, and help to coordinate international efforts to develop a global hydrogen economy.

IPHE involves The U.S., EU, China, India, Japan and so on. Whereas the partnership has somehow become a reality, Hu Jintao's recent trip to Africa is an indication that "a superpower collision" over african oil remains in the cards.

Pan Sahel Intiative: U.S. trains Mali troops 

Last month, I reported how the United States is expanding anti terror efforts to the remote reaches of West Africa's Sahara borders in Mauritania, Mali, Niger and Chad. The small team of experts that arrived in Mauritania has been followed by other units and private defense contractors who are now operating in Mali.

U.S. military experts have beguntraining soldiers in Mali to tighten border controls on the fringes of the Sahara desert, where Washington fears Islamic militants could be moving along ancient trade routes. Three U.S. teams aretraining units in the capital Bamako, the eastern town of Gao and the desert city of Timbuktu to combat arms trafficking and banditry in the north, Mali's chief military spokesman, Abdoulaye Coulibaly, said on Tuesday. "We've selected three units -- one at Timbuktu, one at Gao and one based in Bamako, each one with around 100 members," he said. Around 10 U.S. experts are training each unit. The support, which includes around 40 off-road vehicles and communications equipment, is part of a U.S. scheme to help four nations on the southern edge of the Sahara -- Mali, Mauritania, Niger and Chad -- combat security threats.... But some diplomats say there is no firm evidence of al Qaeda penetration in the region and critics argue some West African leaders deliberately play up the threat to get their hands on Western cash and military know-how.

Al Qaeda's presence may be a fiction; but this useful fiction will help the low-profile spread of U.S. security initiatives away from U.S. european bases and NATO deployments at east Africa's Horn of Africa. With Mali and Niger, Mauritania makes up a triangle of countries whose border with Algeria has been used in the past by Touareg rebels fighting the regime in Bamako, by Algerian islamists, looters, kidnappers and bandit groups mixed with Islamic extremists.

Providing 60 days of military training within the four nations, the underfunded Pan-Sahel Initiative is coaching host countries' troops in everything from desert navigation to small-unit infantry tactical skills. The initiative also provided Toyota Land Cruisers, radios, and uniforms for the border efforts in these largely poor countries. U.S. troops are to do the work in Mauritania and Mali; contractors of Los Angeles-based Pacific Architects & Engineers in Chad and Niger. As usual, the presence of these contractors has been underreported. A quick research in my database allows me to give you some background details about the private company that has been subscontracting logistical as well as training operations to the U.S. army in West Africa in the 1990's and today:

In addition to providing logistical support to deployed African forces, contractors are also starting to play significant roles in supporting, or providing logistical support to deployed U.S. forces, particularly in the context of U.S. forces preparing African soldiers for deployment to PKO missions elsewhere. An example of that is Operation Focused Relief, which took place in three different countries, Senegal, Ghana, and Nigeria. All three training operations were supported by PAE contractors. PAE provided commercially available military and commercial equipment, including vehicles, communications gear, uniforms, soldier equipment, medical supplies, again, ground power, fuel, water, and trailers. They also assisted in the shipment of weapons and ammunition for the training to include both individual and crew served weapons. They arranged for commercial shipping, they built base camps and provided complete logistical support to the deployed U.S. trainers. So in the Operation Focus Relief case, the contractor was supporting both U.S. trainers, and the African troops that we were training.

More recently, the same company operated in Liberia: the US hired Pacific Architects and Engineers to provide logistics for the Nigerian security force in charge of peacekeeping after the departure of President Charles Taylor. This improves their knowledge of the region, which improves their chances for getting a new deal and pretty much soon, you've got a well trained private army that can be useful to any West African autocrat who has good oily relations with Washington.

The Horn of Africa: a containment lab 

In order to fight the new war on terror, the U.S. is experimenting new models in the Horn of Africa - a region that covers the total airspace and land areas of Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, Eritrea, Djibouti, Yemen and Ethiopia as well as the coastal waters of the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean. The requirements of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa, whose Headquarters are located at Camp Lemonier (Djibouti) represents a challenge for the troops as well as for the African allies of the United States. The role of the troops is to win "hearts and minds" through humanitarian projects:

U.S. troops moved into the [Djibouti] post in summer 2002 to stem any terrorist flow out of Afghanistan. “I think our goal has gone from protecting the flank and catching the bad guys from Afghanistan to assisting the states in the region to fight the terrorist threat that’s already existing,” said Marine Lt. Col. Walter Lundin, head of the task force’s plans division.... “We don’t want to change their culture, we just want to make them less susceptible for terrorist cells to operate among them, increase their quality of life so they’ll say, ‘No, we like the Americans,’ ” said Capt. Jeremy Rose, 29, a civil affairs team leader from Dayton, Ohio. “We’re spreading a pro-U.S. sentiment by increasing our area of influence.”

As for the allies, Americans ask them to share intelligence, cooperate with their neighbours - who sometimes happen to be their longtime enemies:

U.S. Central Command chief General John Abizaid urged East Africa on Monday to share intelligence information to defeat any attempts by militants to operate in the region. Abizaid was speaking after meeting Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi and top defence officials in the Horn of Africa country, which Washington views as a key ally in its war on terrorism. "The level of cooperation in the region must be strengthened," Abizaid, U.S. forces' Middle East Commander, told a news conference in the capital Addis Ababa at the end of his one-day visit."It does not do any good to have only bilateral relations, such as Kenya-U.S., Ethiopia-U.S., Djibouti-U.S. In this region it is very important that we share important information from a regional perspective and in as collective a manner as we can. The terror threat knows no boundary."

The centrality of culture is one of the major challenge America is discovering, both inside the troops and the host countries. All these people are cogs in a wheel nobody seems to really manage.

US military: new realignment, new containment  

Thomas Barnett’s book will be released in April. It will be highly debated and commented. Trying to stay true to this blog’s mission (forward-looking views on oil politics and energy security issues), I advise you to start reading some of the articles he published in the last three years on his website. I won’t elaborate now on his ideas; we’ll have plenty of time to discuss them later. The only question that matters today is that one: why is Thomas Barnett relevant to African oil politics? Simply put, because he’s one the rare thinkers and strategists who really understands what thinking globally means – taking a multi-disciplinary approach to the issues of the day. I certainly don’t share all his views – that’s beyond the point. But he’s more stimulating that a lot of people I agree with if they weren’t so mono-dimensional. His perspective is already being felt on American foreign policy (yes, you’re coming closer baby). The right time to read him in NOW, because an event of historic magnitude will occur in the coming weeks:

The United States will present its first specific plans in the coming weeks on its historic shift of troops... "By the end of March, we will have a fairly complete picture"... Air Force Major General Jeffrey Kohler, EUCOM’s chief liaison for the realignment of US troops, said the information would include a list of countries where the United States would like to establish facilities... "We may start some implementation this summer," he said... The US... has already established a forward operating location in Gao, Mali ... described as a ‘concrete and metal lean-to’ that could be built in as little as three weeks at minimal cost. Air Force General Charles Wald, deputy commander of EUCOM, said he hoped European allies in NATO would also make use of the new facilities to respond to threats in ‘an arc of instability’ ranging from the Caucasus through the Middle East to the Gulf of Guinea in West Africa.

What does THIS mean for Africa http://www.axisoflogic.com/artman/publish/article_5165.shtml? Those who regularly visit this blog probably have an idea by now: you’ll see American bases at least in four African regions:

- The Horn of Africa to fight Middle East terror and restore peace in the region (Djibouti, Somalia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan);
- The Sahel to protect porous borders from North African terror (Mauritania, Algeria), secure refuelling base to the air force (Mali, Uganda) and oversee security in unstable new oil producing countries (Niger, Sudan, Chad);
- North Africa to protect transit chokepoints in the Med (Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia) as well as oil and gas reserves (Algeria, Libya)
- West Africa to protect oil & gas reserves and secure Atlantic traffic against piracy and terrorism (Nigeria, Sao Tome, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Liberia, Senegal).

Simply put, the goal is to “contain” the arc of instability; and Africa is in the eye of the vortex.

EUCOM vision of West Africa: oil & terror 

While African security officers were being lectured on anti-terrorism at the Africa Center for Security Studies in Washington D.C., U.S. ambassadors operating in 15 West African countries were being taught other lessons in Stuttgart (Germany), at the U.S. European Command: the week-long seminar was about EUCOM and how it can best work with U.S. ambassadors in West Africa on peacekeeping operations. The EUCOM officer in charge of the seminar, Navy Capt. Stephen Ross, Africa division chief for EUCOM plans and policy directorate, has been straight-forward about U.S. engagement in the region:

Ross said that, in general, the ECOWAS nations are rich in natural resources and that the U.S. reliance on their resources will be growing in the next decade. He said that until the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, Africa and many other regions had been forgotten. They are now getting more attention as terrorist cells have been rooted out in the Middle East and have moved to parts of Africa.

These various coordination plans and initiatives are unmistakable signs of things to come: the U.S. engagement in Africa will be driven by security issues – enegery security and war on terror. Americans want to protect their oil-based civilisation and their lives from the dangers coming from the “arc of instability”. In so doing, they tend to import their own problems to a continent that has its own share of unresolved problems: oil politics is the place where key issues and dynamics (economy, diplomacy, security, demography, resource scarcity) come together. Given the complexity of such a landscape, I’m often amazed by the linearity of some solutions Americans come up with. I’m a bit shocked that the “attention” the continent is getting looks so clearly power-political - selfish. A situation that offers so much opportunity for a win-win (African development and U.S. national security) is getting biased in favour of one player, partly because African leaders who work for their people are few. It’s too easy blaming Americans: at least, they are open about their intentions and objectives. Thank you, Capt. Ross.

Anti-terror 101: US security pundits lecture African officials 

During the Africa Center for Strategic Studies’ latest Senior Leader Seminar, American security pundits have been lecturing 120 senior African security officers about the war on terrorism. American speakers basically sang their anti-terror mantra, trying the best they can to present it as an African problem: "Africa has been, is now, and will be into the foreseeable future ripe for terrorists and acts of terrorism," Department of Defense official Vincent Kern declared. I guess that’s DoD’s way to beat the freak fearful Africans out: Al Qaeda will come after you, boooo... How scary! If all this sounds a bit patronizing to you, don’t take it personally; at least, not before you read this:

While equipment and training are an important part of U.S./African security partnerships, Kern told his audience: "We need to continue to listen to Africans as we develop initiatives and responses" to the threat of international terrorism. "I think we have done a good job so far, but we need to guard carefully against trying to dictate to our friends and allies in Africa."

That wise declaration was followed by an overview of U.S. Africa-focused anti-terror initiatives that I already wrote about here: the Combined Joint Task Force for the Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) and The Pan-Sahel Initiative (PSI). If Kern’s gospel wasn’t enough – after all, he’s “only” a special assistant to the deputy assistant secretary of Defense for stability operations - a bigger fish stepped on the microphone to hammer the same message.

Carl Fulford, who is now ACSS director said, "It is a declaration of our commander in chief [President Bush] that [terrorism] is of top importance." Therefore, he said, "pushing anti-terrorism as an element of security strategy" has become an important part of the ACSS training syllabus.

OK, thank you Carl. I'm glad to see you know White House Africa policy. Maybe a bigger fish will come up with a new tune. What about Paul Wolfowitz? Cool, except he’s more a Middle East pundit than an Africa specialist. Sure, but he’s the Pentagon Number two. I guess he knows DoD's Africa Policy. What do you have to say Paul?

"I'm told there's an African proverb...it says, ‘One hand alone cannot tie a bundle.' Let the United States and the nations of Africa work together to find solutions to the problems we face," especially terrorism, the official said.

Hmmmm... Yes. I’m down with you, brother Paul. African proverbs come really handy when one has nothing substantial to say. Do you have a message I can bring back home in dusty Africa?

"Africa has already been drastically hurt by terrorism. We remember not only the bombings in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi in 1998, but more recently in Mombasa and in Casablanca. The global war on terrorism, in other words, is not only an American concern or a concern of the developed world; it is a growing African concern as well. We are working closely with many of our partners in Africa to combat terrorism. The Pan-Sahel Initiative and the East Africa Counter-terrorism Initiative are a key part of our efforts in that regard on the African continent.... Our goal as much as possible is to increase the capacity of our friends to provide for their own security. But we do believe that the militaries of African countries can and must attain a higher degree of professionalism, one that is better suited to the challenges of the 21st century."

I’m afraid I’ve already heard that track. Maybe it’s a special remix. Or maybe the lectures are not the main treat here: As the U.S. Dept. of Defense's most visible program in Africa, the Africa Center’s main goal is to offer networking opportunities to the US-Africa securocraty. That at least is clear. The Senior Leader Seminar will end this week. The next Africa Center event, the Central Africa Sub-Regional Seminar, will take place in May 2004.


Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Seif al-Islam: the package-deal maker  

Most analysts who try to make sense of the Libyan change of policy usually get it wrong because they focus their attention on the Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi. In so doing, they are trapped in a difficult choice: they either credit the Bush administration preventive war policy – which doesn’t hold – or they have to admit that Gaddafi’s move was a shrewd tactical shift with a perfect timing and so on. Problem : this is not coherent with the image the media built of the man; someone whose personality is described as “mercurial” – meaning “quick and changeable in temperament” - doesn’t easily stick to tactical moves. A bigger problem lies ahead: all commentators agree that this is not a new tactical shift, but a strategic one that Libya will stick to. As you can see, these explanations don’t fly much and those who took that path know it: they tend to blend their views with pseudo-psychological hypotheses that don’t go anywhere.

The logical solution to the Libyan puzzle is elsewhere: instead of focusing attention on “the Leader”, analysts are better off when they chose the other Gaddafi - Seif Al-Islam, the second son of Muammar. He’s been my main lead when I started to analyse Libyan policy shift. My January 22 post was based on Seif’s declarations: it allowed me to announce incredible things like the Blair’s visit to Gaddafi (days before it was confirmed by mainstream media networks) and US/UK military cooperation with Lybia. Three days later, the Scotland on Sunday’s diplomatic correspondent Ian Mather published an excellent article that established the big picture: As dramatic shifts are taking place in Libyan policies... it is Gaddafi’s second son, Seif al-Islam, who appears to be in charge. Mather then develops the idea through key episodes where Seif al-Islam played the number one role: the compensation campaigns (Lockerbie), the WMD coming-out, the first US congressmen’s visit, the appointment of American-trained Lybian economist Shukri Ghanem as prime minister in charge of privatisation and discussion with WTO, as well as direct talks with Israel. To this already impressive list, you can add the Jolo island hostage crisis in which “Libyan negotiators brokered the release of eight European and two South African hostages in late August and early September [2000].”

Libyan negotiators played a key role in the negotiations, and will apparently be footing the bill for ransoming the hostages. ... Seif al-Islam, the son of Libyan leader Moammar Qaddafi sent an emissary to Manila to try for a deal... Jeremy Binnie, a North Africa expert for the Jane's group of defense and analysis publications [said about Gaddafi that], “He’s trying to end Libya's isolation,” adding, “Whether he’s done a complete about-face is doubtful.”

That story took place a year before 9/11. Months later, when he sent a plane to Pakistan to repatriate 44 Arab fighters detained in Afghanistan and said it was for “humanitarian reasons”, it became obvious that the Gaddafi Foundation that he heads was being used as a diplomatic channel, whose true role was to “project a new and positive image of Libya”. It was pure soft-power politics:

We may have been surrounded by symbols of the Libyan state, fashioned according to Colonel Gaddafi's ideas, but Seif al-Islam insisted that his agenda is separate from that of the [Lybian governmental officials]. "I run a non-governmental organisation, I have my own agenda, I have my own mission, they have their own mission. Sometimes we agree and sometimes not," he said.

In a way, Seif al-Islam used the Gaddafi Foundation (a.k.a Gaddafi International Association for Charitable Organisations) as a policy spin-off that went from the startup phase (hostages episodes) to early development (compensation talks), then expansion (economic liberalisation program) and international joint-venture (WMD drama and military cooperation). Along this trajectory, the difference between Seif’s agenda and that of the Lybian regime blurred. It’s a perfect case of gradual take-over. The recent diplomatic successes of Prime Minister Ghanem (in Davos) and Foreign Minister Shalgam (in London) have been prepared by Seif al-Islam who now informally controls the governmental body.

Perhaps the person who deserves the most credit in bringing about these drastic changes in Libya is Seif al-Islam, Col. Gadhafi's son, and some say his political heir. The leader's second son heads the Gadhafi Foundation, a charity that tries hard to project a positive image of Libya.

Seif al-Islam’s influence at home and abroad have been growing since Y2K and will continue to do so as more analysts understand who really is in charge in Lybia. At home, the policy shifts decided by Seif and his father will meet the expectations of a new generation of citizens who will back him:

Libya has produced a new crop of citizens ... [trained] in the West and who has embraced private enterprise. These "New Libyans" have guided Col. Gaddafi to embrace globalisation, ... market economy, membership in the WTO. They do not want to see Libya remains a pariah state.... Gaddafi's son Seif quipped, "Now, finally we are catching up with the times." Seif Gaddafi is a pragmatic young man who is a doctoral student in global governance at the prestigious LSE in Britain. Even though Mr. Seif Gaddafi has no official role, nonetheless he represents the newer generation of Libyans who want to see the oil-rich nation embark onto modernisation a la western style.

Abroad, his latest diplomatic initiative (the WMD drama) is welcome for Bush and Blair alike. None of them could dream of a better timing:

In a recent interview given to Carla Anne Robbins of WSJ in Tripoli Seif Gaddafi said, "It's a package deal. They have to reward us in order to make us an example." What he meant by this is Libya can play a role model for the radical transformation of a rogue nation to become a law-abiding country in the comity of nations.... His timing was just absolutely right. In an election year, Mr. Bush may use Gaddafi's transformation from being a rogue ruler to a law-abiding citizen of the world far too many times. ... All indications are that the bilateral relationship between the U.S. and Libya is going to improve in the coming days.

In my next Lybian post, I will speak more specifically about the US plan to lift sanctions.

Sao Tome: US funds feasibility study 

Yesterday, we reported that ExxonMobil got 40 percent of an exploration block in Sao Tome. Today, we add that the United States will fund a study for Sao Tome airport and port facilities. That’s how fast things can go in oily West Africa:

The United States willfinance a feasibility study on the expansion of the international airport in Africa's smallest nation, in the hopes of furthering oil exploration there. The study, which is estimated to cost $800,000, will investigate airport expansion and modernization, as well the creation of a deepwater port in Sao Tome and Principe.... According to ExxonMobil spokesman Russ Roberts, West Africa is attractive not only for its oil potential, but also because it is less turbulent than the Middle East. "There is a lot out there now that says West Africa is the next frontier for oil. Much in the Middle East has been found, and then when you get into West Africa there are huge reservoirs that are being discovered," he said.

Sao Tome has been talked about for two years now as a possible base for US military operations in the Gulf of Guinea.

US-Tunisia: discussing reform with an allied dictator 

The United States expressed concern about the lack of political reform and media freedoms in Tunisia Tuesday as President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali prepared to meet President Bush... Secretary of State Colin Powell met for an hour with Ben Ali, who came to power in 1987, won his last election with 99.44 percent of the vote and if re-elected could serve until 2014 under Tunisia's constitution. Powell praised Tunisia's economic reforms and stressed the friendly U.S.-Tunisian relationship but made clear he wanted to see greater reform in the North African country. "I also mentioned to the president (Ben Ali) that we had some continuing concerns with respect to political reform, with respect to media access and other similar issues where I think Tunisia could do more," Powell told reporters. "It will be a matter for discussion with the president tomorrow," he added.... Tunisia reflects the dilemma Washington faces in the Middle East as a whole -- whether to judge governments on their human rights and democratic credentials or to give priority to cooperation against religious militancy.

It's good to see that Powell is able to talk like that, not only to Russia, but also to a man who will host the Middle East Partnership Initiative - a US program designed to promote democracy and political reform in the Middle East and Africa. The appalling human rights record of Ben Ali didn't give Powell much choice. This will allow Bush to talk about more important matters, like the economic as well as security cooperation between both countries.

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