At War in Africa

Just in case you thought colonialism had come to an end in Africa, think again, it has simply changed its name. In a sense the leopard has changed its spots. Instead of being ruled by the former colonial powers Africa is now effectively owned and controlled by the Transnational corporations; in much the same way that the Dutch East India company once owned and controlled a large part of the British Empires dominion in India.

A few years ago South Africa’s Anglo American corporation owned or effectively controlled over 80% of the companies on the Jo’burg stock exchange. Even before the transition to majority rule Anglo American played a key role in South Africa’s affairs. Today its role is even more pronounced. South Africa’s premier Thabo Mbeki may be black and talk about ‘his people’ but underneath it all he is very much an Anglo American man. During my time in South Africa he was a frequent visitor to Anglo’s operations head Bobby Godsell’s residence in Hyde Park, Jo’burg. The two would often go off on fishing trips together; in effect Mbeki was being groomed for his current position. Mandela on the other hand was simply a puppet figure. I knew an Indian there who in turn knew two of Mandela’s senior advisor’s; according to him they described Mandela as a ‘dom kop’, literally a thick head who could be easily manipulated and beguiled. He was simply used to pave the way for someone who would obediently do the Transnationals bidding, a company man, like Thabo Mbeki.

Elsewhere in Africa the fundamentals are the same even though the names, personalities and circumstances may differ somewhat, outwardly at least. Effectively the Transnationals rule through corrupt despots, brutal but easily beguiled tyrants or through the discrete manipulation of humanitarian tragedy’s and conflicts.

One such is the ongoing humanitarian tragedy in Angola. The current crisis has its origins over thirty years ago when Angola was still a Portuguese colony. At the forefront of the fight to rid Angola of its colonial rulers were two movements, UNITA and the MPLA. Whilst Jonas Savimbi’s UNITA was backed by Western powers the MPLA was armed and equipped by the former Soviet Union; although both were fighting the Portuguese colonials they remained at odds with each other. Thirty years on and nothing has changed. UNITA and the MPLA government are still at odds and currently engaged in their third civil war in as many decades. Hundreds of thousands have been forced to flee their homes; as of December 1998 there were an estimated 600,000 internally displaced people in Angola and at the last count that figure had swollen to 1.7 million.

Indeed the figures themselves make extremely sombre reading; 1/3 of all children in Angola die before the age of 5.Every day around 200 people die of starvation. Angola now has the lowest life expectancy in the world at around 42.

There is however one critical difference to the situation, with the demise of the former Soviet Union there is no longer any super power involvement. Instead the Transnationals have stepped into the fray. In spite of the ongoing horrors and humanitarian tragedy Angola itself is phenomenally rich in mineral deposits, particularly oil and diamonds. And it is this that largely accounts for the involvement of the Transnational corporations. On the one hand UNITA supplies diamonds to De Beers, which in turn controls over 80% of the world’s diamond market. Of course De Beers says it will not buy any diamonds from UNITA but on the diamond market there is no way that De Beers would know where the diamonds it buys come from with any certainty. In turn UNITA uses the money from its diamond sales for weapons purchases and such like.

On the other hand Angola has substantial oil reserves, particularly offshore and in the northern Cabinda province, both of which are firmly in the hands of the ruling MPLA. Security around the oil installations is further boosted by the oil companies themselves which employ the likes of London based Sandline Security as ‘security consultants’, in plain language hired guns. Mobil, Elf, Shell, Texaco and Chevron are amongst a few of the major oil companies actively engaged in operations in Angola; in effect they are helping to finance the MPLA’s war efforts.

“We always take losses, then recover,” one Angolan General told the BBC last year.. “If we lose a tank we pick up the phone and order another one.”

Elsewhere in Africa a similar situation prevails. Earlier last year oil companies in Niger delta were accused of turning a blind eye to human rights abuses. “The oil companies can’t pretend they don’t know what is happening around them,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, an international monitoring group based in New York. In one particular incident in January 1999, soldiers using Chevron boats and Chevron helicopters attacked villages in two small communities in Delta State, killing villagers and burning most of the villages to the ground. A Human Rights Watch report describes numerous such incidents where Nigerian security forces have beaten, detained or even killed those involved in protests over oil company activity or called for compensation for environmental damage.

So just remember that when you next fill up at your local petrol station; the petrol you are buying has already been paid for, literally with ‘blood money.’

However it is not simply the Transnational Corporations that have embarked on policies that are little short of imperialistic. Zimbabwe, for example, now has around 11,000 troops stationed in the Democratic Republic of Congo. According to John Makumbe, a political scientist at the University of Zimbabwe and a fierce critic of the government, “Zimbabwe seems intent on raiding the Congo and making it an economic colony.”

“It won’t be Zimbabwe as a nation that benefits,” says Makumbe. “Instead a number of individuals in the political elite will enrich themselves.”

Indeed Zimbabwe’s army has now embarked on a joint business venture with the Congalese army to buy and sell diamonds and gold. However Zimbabwe’s involvement in the war in the Congo is deeply unpopular at home, not least because of mounting domestic problems; inflation stands at 70%, health services are in chaos and thousands of Zimbabweans are dying every month from AIDS.

Finally, it should be noted that Ian Smith, one time premier of the rebel state Rhodesia, recently addressed students at the University of Zimbabwe. Significantly perhaps, he was removed from power in a deal arranged by Illuminati front men Lord Carrington and Henry Kissinger. Now in his eighties and a little frail he received a standing ovation from a packed hall of largely black students. As journalist Russell Miller pointed out it is now not unusual to hear what would have once been unthinkable from many blacks in Zimbabwe: namely that life was actually better under Ian Smith than Zimbabwe’s present rulers.