Jul 20, 2009
On July 11, Barack Obama gave a speech on the relations between Africa and the U.S. during his visit to Cape Coast, Ghana, the fort where slaves were held before being shipped to the U.S., a symbol of the 18th century slave trade. “I have the blood of Africa within me,” he said. Maybe so – but it’s as the chief of state of the main imperialist power that he addressed Africans!
Evoking the past, Obama conceded that a “colonial map that made little sense bred conflict, and the West has often approached Africa as a patron, rather than a partner.” But he immediately added that Africa is in part responsible for its misfortune. He even dared to say that “for far too many Africans, conflict is a part of life, as constant as the sun! There are wars over land and wars over resources. And it is still far too easy for those without conscience to manipulate whole communities into fighting among faiths and tribes.”
What cynicism, coming from one of the main representatives of imperialism and its predatory corporations. The pillage of Africa and the exploitation of its population wasn’t limited to colonial times. Dictatorship, misery, disease and wars continue today – products of the trusts whose order rules Africa today.
The personal fortunes of certain African dictators rightly shocks public opinion, but their fortunes are only a tiny part of the immense profits reaped by U.S. and European corporations. In 2008, for example, copper exports from Zambia brought the copper companies almost 3.2 billion dollars. The Zambian government got only 280 million dollars in taxes.
Through debt repayments, the African countries pay back more money to Western countries than they receive in aid. Banks even take a cut in the money Africans working outside their country send home to their families.
The U.S. has very definite interests in Africa. Fifteen% of U.S. imports from Africa come from Ghana alone, and this could rise to 25% by 2020. In Liberia, the Firestone Tire Company has held hundreds of thousands of acres in rubber plantations ever since the 1920s.
The civil wars ravaging Africa today result less from old ethnic rivalries than from the colonial past and the current rivalries of Western corporations. These companies continue to make use of clans and ethnic rivalries to divide people against each other. In Liberia, the French corporation Bolloré bought up a plantation of 60,000 acres of rubber trees controlled by Charles Taylor, thus contributing to finance the civil war.
Obama pretended to be indignant about the recent massacres in Somalia, where war between government troops and Islamist militias has continued since 1991. But the arrival of U.S. troops in 1992, with a U.N. mandate, is what exacerbated the civil war – turning the country over to warlords who have ravaged the country ever since.
Obama’s speech was as scandalous as it was cynical.