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For as long as we remember, Africa has been in turmoil, one way or the other. Depending on where one situates oneself, Africa’s incessant travails cover the whole spectrum,
varying from the trivial to the crucial. To many, including ourselves, Africa’s vast resources remain the major underlying cause of the ongoing continental conflicts. The weaknesses of the states (collective or otherwise) in protecting their own resource from those bent on having it for a whistle, compliment of the built-in unequal exchanges, adds to the complication. Obviously when we talk of Africa, we are talking about a very large geographical area. In contrast, its human base remains as fractured as a shattered glass. African societies are not organized enough (at least not purposely and meaningfully) to mount credible counter offensives against the extreme exploitation of the all too powerful empire, the optimism of the unifiers notwithstanding. Parochial, fragmented and largely corrupt polity cannot even speak in one voice, let alone mobilize the constituent states in defense of the continent’s interests. Consequently, Africans of the future will most likely face a life of depravation so that traditional masters can keep their old habit of over indulgence!
Let us segregate (ideally) the whole conflict problematic into three categories. We will start with those that predominately arise from within. These are/were clashes between neighboring tribes, or even closely related clans over the traditional basics; such as cattle wrestling, fighting over grazing land, water, etc. In places where the level of societal organization was elaborate and hierarchical, conflicts tended to be more deadly. Highland Abyssinia amply exhibited this tendency in its not so short history. Such conflicts were not so uncommon between the Arabs (North) the Zulus, (South) the Ashanti, (West) etc, and their respective neighbors. The ongoing problem in Somalia is probably the only one that can remotely trace its beginning to this traditional logic of clannish affection. But that was then, today even this conflict has morphed into a major international crisis. Going forward, the rush to secure Africa’s resources can only intensify amongst global contenders, which include, besides the old ones in the West, also of the rising East, Japan et al.
The second category is where we place those unadulterated aggressions historically unleashed on Africa from the outside. Such blatant invasions in the raw are now passé. The repeated Italian aggression on Ethiopia belongs to this category. King Leopold’s (the second) annexation of the whole of the Congo as his private fiefdom is another historical monstrosity that still defies imagination. Incidentally there is a ‘Leopold Hotel’ in town; we hope it is not named after the old butcher of the Congo! (‘King Leopold’s Ghost’, by Adam Hochschild, ‘Britain’s Gulag’, by Caroline Elkins, etc…) In other words, the second category is what used to be called outright colonialism. The whole idea of bringing this scenario back to the future and assigning it a category of its own is to build-up to the critical third, which (of necessity) is a much more sophisticated off shoot. The most perniciously prevailing scenario is, the situation where the internal and external confluence in a deadly mix!
This is where (by and large) most of Africa’s ongoing turmoil is located! Domestic conflicts are systematically intensified to the nth degree by those who have been cannily waiting to pounce on Africa’s rare resources. See Pilger’s article next column. The going-ons in Libya, Egypt, Congo, Mali, in both Sudans, etc all essentially fall in this category. Western powers are so keen in securing Africa’s resources they are more than willing to engage militarily (directly/indirectly) across the continent. In the past decades leading to now all sorts of scenarios/plans were concocted as potential future pretexts for massive intervention (militarily or otherwise). We are now observing the fruit of thy (empire’s) labor. See Van Auken’s article on page 50. .
Given the protracted economic/social crisis the rich countries are facing, it will not be easy for Africa/Africans to have their way when it comes to their very own resources. The most that can be hoped for, given the developing scenario, is a fair deal for the sale of their non-renewable resources. From the look of things however, even such mild propositions might not be tenable. For example what is one to make of the literal confiscation of a third of a trillion dollars (US) of Libyan state’s assets deposited (all liquid) in western institution?
In our current complex world, unintended consequences are becoming common and intractable; for instance, change in our global climate is one, change in human values is another, etc. As a result, we cannot completely rule out boomerang effects that might end up directly affecting the global status quo, which is run by the global 1%. In the last pages of his book, Nemesis, the writer warns the American people: “To maintain our empire abroad requires resources and commitments that will inevitably undercut our domestic democracy and in the end produce a military dictatorship or its civilian equivalent…if we choose to keep our empire…we will certainly lose our democracy and grimly await the eventual blowback that imperialism generates.” Chalmers Johnson. Good Day!