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In Somalia, It’s The Blood Money, Stupid! by Amina Mire

Another valuable and urgent piece on Somalia with thanks to Amina Mire for sending it. She writes about the underexamined role of China’s scramble for Africa’s natural resources, in addition to African Union (AU) troops in Somalia serving as a mercenary army in service to foreign forces determined to “gain ownership over Somalia’s unexplored natural resources and install a puppet US friendly regime”.

“A Prayer of Shame:” In Somalia, It’s The Blood Money, Stupid!


Africa’s Leaders Are Shoulder to Shoulder and Hips on Hands with Meles Zinawi..1

If the above image of Meles Zinawi, shoulder to shoulder with two other African leaders, seeks to project an image of a statesman, below is another image of Zinawi. The image in the next caption was on display on 30 June 2007 demonstration in front of the office of the new British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown at #10 Downing Street. The image is a caricature, a work of art and not an actual photo of Zinawi.2 Thus its meaning is symbolic and therefore more powerful. This is important because the caricature of Zinawi in this image expresses the true sentiment of the Somali people in that demo in response to the unmitigated death and destruction of Zinawi’s Tigre army which has been wrecking in Somalia.


In today’s Africa, and in the shadows of Julius Nyerere and Kwame Nkrumah, we have murderous thugs such as Meles Zinawi, Abdullahi Yusuf, Ali Mohamed Gedi, et al, who are murdering, maiming, looting and displacing the people of Somalia as they collect rewards of their crimes against humanity in the form of blood money and the false praises as payments of service rendered on behest of foreign imperialistic forces.3 The image also makes other references such as to the UK, Italy, Sweden, Norway, Egypt, Algeria and Tanzania: these countries are part of an ad hoc committee known as The Contact Group for Somalia. They, too, have been complicit in Zinawi’s crime of genocide against the people of Somalia.

Sadly, as a political union, comprising of independent African nations, the AU is dead. This is not to suggest that the ideal of Pan-Africanism is dead. Far from it: as long as African people and people of African descent continue to struggle for economic, political and social justice and the restoration of their human dignity, Pan-Africanism will remain relevant. But, as a political organization, the African Union [AU] is dead. On the specific issue of AU peacekeeping mission in Somalia, the current AU troops in Somalia are a mercenary army who are on Somali soil to serve foreign forces determined to gain a total ownership over Somalia’s unexplored natural resources and install a puppet US friendly regime.4

Somalis have no choice but to struggle for the liberation of their nation from the menacing grip of the unholy trinity of Zinawi’s Tirge army, US special forces and thuggish warlords of TFG. The AU has been collaborating with the forces currently menacing the people of Somalia. The Somali people are under the illegal occupation of the Tigre army of Meles Zinawi. It is the right and duty of all Somalis to struggle against the colonial takeover of their country. China has played a role in the project of death and destruction against the people of Somalia. Whilst the critics of western imperialism in Africa often point the accusing finger at the US’s meddling of the internal affairs of Africa, China’s meddling of the internal affairs of Africa has not received a comparable scrutiny.

As a result, China has been able to quietly cultivate a network of dubious relationships with some of the must ruthless regimes in Africa, including Ethiopia’s dictator, Meles Zinawi, and the regime in Sudan. Second, whilst the US gives a cynical lip service to “the need to protect the human rights” of the local populations, China does not bother with such false pretenses. As a result, in Africa, China has been able to receive lucrative oil concessions and sweet deals from regimes in Africa with well documented gross human rights record such as Ethiopia and Sudan. In the specific case China’s oil drillings in Ogaden, China is implicated in Zinawi’s program of genocide against the people of Ogaden. This is because Zinawi’ program of death and destruction against the people of Ogaden, makes Ogaden “safe” for China to exploit the oil and natural gas in Ogaden. Thus, exploitation of natural resources of Ogaden and Zinawi’s program of the systematic liquidation of the people of Ogaden are linked.5

China had been able to keep quite about its increasing penetration deep into Ogaden and or by masking it in the name of “bring development to Africa”. China’s dubious collusion with Zinawi’ gross human rights violation in Ogaden might have remained hidden from the international community for a long time. No more. The international community knows more about the plight of the people of Ogaden due to, in large measure, a recent attack by Ogaden Liberation Front [ONLF] against Zinawi’s Tigre army killing scores of Ethiopian soldiers and nine Chinese oil workers.6

onlfa.jpg It is pertinent to point out that while Ogaden is one of the most underdeveloped areas under Ethiopia’s control, China brought to Ogaden its own workforce to work in Ogaden’s oil fields rather than hiring the local people. Thus, while China seeks to promulgate its colonizing designs on Africa’s natural resources through the rhetoric of “bring development to Africa,” in reality, China is systemically undercutting Africa’s workforce by bring Chinese workforce to Africa rather than hiring local workers.7

[ONLF]A Rebels With A Cause.8

It is equally pertinent to point out that whilst Zinawi’s chosen tactic in dealing with the Bush administration, is the need to fight “Islamic terror,” in order to ally himself and his tribal based Tigre regime with the US’s war against global terror, with China, Zinawi does not need to hide his ruthless human rights violations against the people of Ogaden and other Ethiopian citizens. As a result, China and Zinawi have developed a cozy relationship predicated on genocide, murder and exploitation of the people of Ogaden. Consequently, China might be exporting economic “development” to other parts of Africa but in Ethiopia’s occupied Ogaden, China brought in as well as has exacerbated Zinawi’ culture of gross human rights violations. It is in this specific context that China’s collusion with Meles Zinawi’s program of genocide against people in Ogedan must be critically examined, understood and contested.

It is on the basis of China’s collusion with Zinawi’s gross human rights violations against the people of Ogaden that I took a keen interest after reading about China’s donation of $600,000 to help the African Union’s peacekeeping effort in Somalia. This is relatively a small donation.9 However, I wanted to know what is the real motivation behind this pathetic gesture of goodwill, for as one of the five permanent members of the security council, China has endorsed the US sponsorship of Ethiopia’s illegal invasion of Somalia. Put differently, China has contributed the current death and destruction Zinawi’ Tigre army is wrecking against the people of Somalia. Second, the African Union has also endorsed Ethiopia’s illegal invasion of Somalia. Thus, by endorsing Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia, the African Union (AU) and UN Charters are in clear violation of Security Council resolutions 1724, 1725 and 1744.10

The naked AU partisanship in favor of Ethiopia and against Somalia is particularly insulting to ordinary patriotic Somalis. This is particularly so for Ethiopia’s illegal invasion of Somalia violates Somalia’s national sovereignty and territorial integrity. Absurdly, the AU has defended its backing up Ethiopia’s illegal invasion of Somalia as a way of restoring and “protecting” Ethiopia’s national sovereignty.11 To add more insult to Somalia’s collative injury, at present, the AU is using the destruction of Somalia to collect “blood money” in name of “peacekeeping” duties in Somalia. This is clearly a clever way of creating employment opportunities for soldiers from some AU nations working in Somalia or might come at a later day, as part of an AU mercenary army occupying Somalia. Hence, the AU forces currently in Somalia are part of Zinawi’ Tigre mercenary occupation army which is currently killing, maiming, looting and raping the people of Somalia with impunity.

I have argued elsewhere reasons why the Bush administration may preference an AU “peacekeeping” force in Somalia over UN peacekeepers, for the former are willing to engage violent actions designed to subdue the Somali population in order to enhance the successful installation into the political power a group of thuggish warlords as a US puppet regime of TFG.12 In that work, I have also argued that, the US will try to seek the support of European Union (EU) member nations to finance the bulk of AU peacekeeping force in Somalia.13 This option is still open. However, faced with gross human rights violations by the US backed Transitional Federal government and the Ethiopia’s occupation forces, EU member nations might be reluctant to give a full financial backing to the warlord regime of Yusuf and Gedi.

Some European nations, such as Italy, have openly expressed their opposition to Ethiopia’s continued occupation of Somalia.14 Italy has also pushed for more inclusive Somali reconciliation process, which includes members of the defeated Islamists. It is not clear how this is going to happen since Islamists consider themselves a non-clanist organization and that the transition government has refused members of UIC a seat on the negotiating table unless appointed by their clans. The clan based structuring of Somali political process is being frowned upon not only by the Islamists; increasingly, ordinary Somalis are expressing their opposition to what they see as Zinawi’s designs on the systemic dismantling of Somalia’s national identity as a nation state with clearly marked territorial borders, social, cultural institutions and legal a system.

It is in this context that, increasingly, the Islamists in Somalia are being seen as a genuine nationalist force against US/Ethiopian foreign occupiers and TFG as a stooge serving the interests of its foreign masters rather than those of ordinary Somalis. Italy has also pledged financial support to AU peacekeeping force in Somalia. However, Italy wants Ethiopian forces to completely withdraw from Somalia before African Union peacekeepers can take their place. This is significant for Italy is trying separate between occupation army of Ethiopia and peacekeeping force from other AU nations.15

Whilst Italy has been demanding a complete Ethiopian troop pull out of Somalia, as the two main players currently contesting over the control of Africa’s natural resources, including oil and natural gas explorations and exploitations in the Horn of Africa, neither China nor the US have made similar demands of Ethiopia troop withdrawal out of Somalia. The US is the main player which is currently footing the bill for Ethiopia’s occupation of Somalia. With this small gesture, and probably more money to follow, China is now making an open investment to Ethiopia’s occupation of Somalia. China’s eagerness to publicize its meager contribution to peacekeeping force in Somalia aims, primarily, at two main players: Ethiopia’s strong man, Meles Zinawi and his boss George W. Bush. Towards Zinawi, China is rewarding him for Zinawi’s ruthless suppression of the people of Ogaden so the China can safely exploit and appropriate oil resources from Ogaden. So this is China’s quid pro quo designed to appease Zinawi ruthless occupation of Somalia.

Towards the Bush administration, by contributing or seeming to be financially contributing to AU peacekeeping effort in Somalia, China is aiming to struck another quid pro quo deal with the U.S so that, rather than fighting over it, China and the U.S might come to a mutually satisfactory agreement over the remaining oil and gas resources in Africa, so that the US might drop charges of human rights abuses against the regime in Sudan [i.e. Darfur]. The US might go along with China’s scheme for China can also use its own proxy agents who can bring charges of human rights abuses against the US’s backing of criminal warlords in Somalia or even against Zinawi’s Tigre army’s gross human rights record in Somalia. In the current scramble for Africa’s natural resources, human rights, war against “Islamic terror”, “development” and “democracy” are interchangeable metaphors which are capriciously deployed to advance imperialistic agendas

[left image: see 16. The right image: see 17]

Somalia Conoco Connection

The majority of Africans are willing to deny or minimize the extent to which African tribes may have participated in the greatest genocide against humanity: The Transatlantic Slave Trade. Today, we cannot deny that African leaders are standing shoulder to shoulder with Meles Zinawi as his Tigre troops continue to commit war crimes and crimes of genocide against humanity against the Somali people inside Ethiopia’s occupied Ogaden and in Ethiopia’s occupied Somalia. Today, leading African nations are either openly or by their tacit conspicuous silences, supporting the Tigre colonization of Somalia. For the people of Somalia, the message is clear. The Somali people must and will struggle to liberate their country and victory shall be theirs.

Amina Mire, Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Carleton University, Ottawa, Canada. Email: [email protected]

[1] AU summit debates unity. 2 July 2007.

[2] For cartoon caricature, please see

[3] Ibid.

[4] The Conoco-Somalia Declassification Project. College of DuPage-Geography Department-Prof. Keith Yearman.


[6] Scores die in Ethiopia oil attack. 27 April 2007. BBC.


[8] Jeffrey Gettleman travels with the Ogaden National Liberation Front, a separatist rebel movement in eastern Ethiopia. Monday, July 2, 2007. Yew York Times.

[9] China to donate 600,000 dollars to AU. Shabelle. Net.

[10] Sophia Tesfamariam. Ethiopian Air Strikes in Somalia: Violation of the Geneva Conventions. 10 January 2007. American Chronicle.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Amina Mire. Menacing Somalia: Unholy Trinity of U.S Global Militarism, Meles’s Ethiopia and Thuggish Warlords. Trinicenter. 13 June. 2007

[14] Italian deputy foreign minister meets Somalia officials in Mogadishu. 19 May 2007. Shabelle.

[15] Ibid.

[16] See reproduction of The Makings a Second Darfur in Ogaden.


18 comments on “In Somalia, It’s The Blood Money, Stupid! by Amina Mire

  1. Amina Mire
    8 July, 2007

    Thank you Ann for posting it.

    Here is a part of a letter I sent to some EU officials. There is widespread killing, raping, looting, displacing and menacing of the people of Somalia in the hands of Zinawi Tigre army at this very moment. Since your communiqués condemning gross human rights violations inside Ethiopia by Zinawi, the US state department has started raising similar concerns. In fact, the US state department has rebuffed a recent request by Zinawi that Ogaden National liberation Front be labeled a terrorists group. Thus, there is a clear policy shift in the part of the US. So why from the European standpoint, Zinawi has been allowed to continue with his reign of terror against the people of Somalia?
    How can I teach about the history of colonialism, imperialism, and anti-colonial struggle in a Canadian university when my 75 years old mother is hiding in the bushing in Somalia as a displaced person because her town is being occupied by 5000 strong Tigre army of Meles Zinawi? Could this action make Europe and the west safer? How can Europe be silent in the face of Zinawi’s program of genocide against the people of Somalia?
    Very truly yours,

    Amina Mire

  2. peoplesgeography
    9 July, 2007

    Thank you, Amina, and my thoughts are with you. Please do pass on any response, and I’ll be following the news.

  3. Amina Mire
    9 July, 2007

    Thank you Ann. will do.

  4. Pingback: In Somalia, It’s The Blood Money, Stupid! at Ijtema

  5. Graeme
    9 July, 2007

    Of course, no one in the US media is paying attention to this at all.

  6. Amina Mire
    9 July, 2007

    Hi Graeme!

    Great to see here, please spread theword! I think Ann has been right all along: we Must reclaim space!

  7. peoplesgeography
    9 July, 2007

    And good to learn of this link, Amina, by way of Ben’s:

    Sirdoon: seeker of secrets

    Fellow seeker, we join with you in solidarity.

    Readers interested in more can find a 31 pp article by Amina at Sirdoon here:

    Click to access AminaMie.pdf

  8. Amina Mire
    9 July, 2007

    Thank you Ann! You are dedicated and kind.
    “” is an important blog where we collect our collective response to the genocide against our people.
    I and other also post are work to respond the U.S’s naked and very crude attempt to impose on the people of Somalia the rule of the rule of thuggish group of warlords, as US friendy puppet regime. we know that the US will fail in it is at breaking the will and the humanity of the people of Somalia as they did fail in doing so against the people of Iraq. Bush and necons, it seems, never learn the lessons of their failed policies. They keep on repeating them!

    Here is today’s Guardian leader, your readers might want to read,,,2121664,00.html

  9. Amina Mire
    11 July, 2007

    More more evidence is emerging which shows to the degree that African Union is truly a corrupt organization.
    Here is why.

    MEPs query ‘missing’ Darfur aid
    Members of the European Parliament are investigating why millions of dollars of EU funding for African peacekeepers in Darfur is not reaching the soldiers.
    The leader of a recent delegation to the troubled western Sudanese region, Josep Borrell, said African Union troops had not been paid for months.

    Since the force deployed in 2004, the EU has contributed 282m euros ($386m). Mr Borell also described the ethnic conflict, in which some 200,000 people have died, as a “devil’s brew”. The Spanish MEP also said the AU troops were “ineffectual” in stopping attacks on the civilian population.

    ‘Very embarrassing’

    The European Union devotes a sixth of its humanitarian aid budget – around 55m euros ($75m) per year – to Darfur.
    But Mr Borell said his delegation had discovered that the money set aside to pay soldiers in the AU peacekeeping force was not getting through. We’re in a situation which is very embarrassing Josep Borrell
    Spanish MEP “We’re in a situation which is very embarrassing,” he said. “For months they have not received their pay. Some have not received any pay at all.”

    Mr Borell said EU officials would travel to the AU headquarters in Ethiopia and also speak to the force’s commanders in Nigeria to find out why. He described the 7,000-strong AU force as “ineffectual”, because they have no mandate to act when there are attacks on the civilian population.

    “They find themselves obliged to stay back at their bases,” he explained. The AU force is due to be replaced at the end of next year by a new combined peacekeeping force of African and UN troops. However, MEPs have said it will be too late and have called on the EU to put more pressure on Sudan to allow a speedier deployment.

    Story from BBC NEWS:

    Published: 2007/07/10 17:56:16 GMT


  10. Ann El Khoury
    11 July, 2007


    Thanks for this piece. The AU is indeed susceptible to corruption, just as the Arab League, which weakens pan- African strength and capacity to tackle regional issues. It will be a great day when they can break free from being quisling organisations.

  11. Amina Mire
    11 July, 2007

    This is another layer I wish to add to the current recolonizing attempt of Somalia by the US by proxy via Ethiapia’s strong man Meles Zinawi. US Mercenary corporation are already in Somalia to grab their of the loot of the Blood money from Uncle Sam and from China!
    US: DynCorp Hired for Somalia Peacekeeping

    by Chris Tomlinson, Forbes
    March 7th, 2007

    The State Department has hired a major military contractor to help equip and provide logistical support to international peacekeepers in Somalia, giving the United States a significant role in the critical mission without assigning combat forces.

    DynCorp International (nyse: NCP – news – people ), which also has U.S. contracts in Iraq, Bosnia, Afghanistan and Iraq, will be paid $10 million to help the first peacekeeping mission in Somalia in more than 10 years.

    It’s a potentially dangerous assignment. When the first 1,500 Ugandans peacekeepers arrived in Somalia’s capital Tuesday, they were greeted with a mortar attack and a major firefight. And on Wednesday, attackers ambushed the peacekeepers in Mogadishu, setting off another gunfight.

    The support for the Ugandans is part of a larger goal to improve African forces across the continent and promote peace and stability in a region that’s often lawless and a haven for terrorists, including some tied to al-Qaida. The U.S. has also begun to depend more on African nations for oil and minerals, and wants to expand its influence.

    The State Department has committed $14 million for the African Union peacekeeping mission to Somalia and has asked Congress for $40 million more. DynCorp’s work force includes many former U.S. troops who frequently work in hostile areas.

    The Virginia-based firm had been contracted until April to help with the “moving of supplies and people” engaged in the Somalia mission, including supplying tents, vehicles and generators, said DynCorp spokesman Greg Lagana.

    “We have an overall contract for African peacekeeping, this is a specific task order for Somalia,” he said. “But we are also present in Liberia and southern Sudan.”

    The Somalia contract allocates $8 million for equipment and $2 million for transportation, according to a the State Department official who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized as a media spokesman.

    DynCorp, whose services range from equipment maintenance to paramilitary security forces to training police, provided logistics for the U.N. peacekeeping mission in Somalia from 1992-95. It was not immediately clear if DynCorp employees would work inside Somalia under the new contract, signed three weeks ago.

    Other company operations in Africa include a program to disarm and rehabilitate former soldiers in Liberia, while advising the government on the reconstitution of the army. The company also supports peacekeepers in southern Sudan, and is working with the U.S. Embassy in Ethiopia to help the African Union create a standby military force to respond to emergencies, according to the company Web site.

    DynCorp, with annual revenues of over $2 billion, has held an umbrella State Department contract since 2004 for “peacekeeping, capacity enhancement and surveillance efforts” in Africa. The contract is valued at between $20 million $100 million, depending on the number of assignments.

    The company is on standby to provide services anywhere on the continent to include “support of peacekeeping missions by training specific countries’ armed services to enhance their ability to deploy through air and sea, provide logistics supports to mission and work with regional organization to prevent and resolve conflict,” according to bid documents.

    Dyncorp is not the only U.S. security company working in Africa. Northrop Grumman Corp. (nyse: NOC – news – people ) has a similar contract, worth up to $75 million, to support the African Contingency Operations Training and Assistance program, which aims to train 40,000 African peacekeepers over five years.

    KBR Inc., a subsidiary of Halliburton Co. (nyse: HAL – news – people ), provides services to at least three bases in Djibouti, Kenya and Ethiopia used by the U.S. Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa.

    The contracts come at a time when the Pentagon wants to develop closer relationships and provide greater military assistance to Africa.

    A small number of U.S. Special Forces troops fought alongside Ethiopian troops in Somalia in December when they drove out a Somali extremist group that the U.S. has linked to al-Qaida, according to a U.S. official who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the classified nature of the mission.

    In January, U.S. Special Operations aircraft staged two airstrikes against suspected al-Qaida forces hiding inside Somalia, the official added.

    The United States is not the only country seeking to provide private military services in Africa.

    In 2005 the Somali government signed a $50 million contract with New York-based TopCat Marine Security to help create a coast guard to protect its coast and shipping from pirates. The State Department blocked TopCat from deploying because of a U.N. arms embargo, Hassan Abshir Farah, Somalia’s marine resources minister said. Farah said his government was now discussing a deal with the Chinese government and Chinese marine security firms.

  12. Amina Mire
    11 July, 2007

    As I try to struggle to write about the suffering of the people of Somalia, the US sponsorship of Ethiopia’s invasion of Somalia, the disocurse on Bush’a war on terror and China’ new deep penetration deep into Ogaden, Zinawi’s genocide against the Somali people of Ogaden, I continue to uncover new evidence which show that Prayer of Shame has touched only the very tip of a massive iceberg of interloackings of crude corporte greed, colonialism and racism. Here is another long but very pertinent piece I came across researchering for Prayer of Shame that readers may want to read.


    Titans make Africa their stomping ground
    By Bright B Simons, Evans Lartey and Franklin Cudjoe

    Asia Times via Dust Eye

    ACCRA, Ghana – Last month, the administration of US President George W Bush gave itself about 18 months to establish a unified military command for the entire African continent save for those parts of North Africa, notably Egypt, vital to America’s strategic Middle East goals.

    The US diplomatic machine in Africa was thus revved up to ensure a successful rollout of the plan. Recent events, not helped by former ambassador John Bolton’s antics at the United Nations, may cause some to dismiss the efficacy of US diplomacy to achieve anything beyond elite acquiescence. But those who think so would do well to recall America’s long-standing ability to ingratiate itself with supposed “inferiors” when the geopolitics is right.

    As everyone knows, having been served with daily reminders for many months now, China too is on a diplomatic offensive across Africa. A crucial component of that diplomacy has to do with military cooperation.

    So assuming that these campaigns are no blips on the radar and that both superpowers are equipped to be successful in the diplomatic struggle, what will follow from that in terms of actual practical results on the ground?

    How will Beijing react to the United States’ sudden enthusiasm in expanding its military presence in Africa? Will Chinese rulers take the word of America’s pro-administration theorists for it, that this has nothing to do with China per se but is entirely the result of growing US reliance on West Africa’s cleaner (both chemically and politically) petroleum and its security concerns in the Horn of Africa?

    Or will China see it as nothing but another manifestation of US paranoia about the implications of China’s rise? Will Beijing read this to mean that the US intends to put another bolt into its speculated framework of “containment”?

    It is easy to let the imagination run amok. Imagine a confrontation over Taiwan in 2015. Let’s say that by this time the US has obtained 25% of its oil (the current figure is 15%) from the massive offshore fields in the Gulf of Guinea off the coast of West Africa, while China has obtained 32.5% (the current figure is 25%) mainly from Sudan, Chad and Angola.

    This is an easy extrapolation to make given current developments on the ground. Strategically speaking, Africa will thus be split into two spheres of influence – an American west and a Chinese east. However, it is not this simple, as the US maintains the bulk of its security infrastructure in the east, and China’s recent investments in Nigeria mean it will have significant interests in the west regardless how such zones of influence map out in actuality. But for argument’s sake, let’s stick to a simplistic demarcation of Africa into two geopolitical hemispheres.

    Two metaphors immediately spring to mind. The first is the partitioning of Africa by the great European powers before World War I. This is clearly nonsense, as that partitioning had the effect of eliminating competition – at least overtly – among the contending rivals.

    The second and seemingly more appropriate analogy must be the Cold War. But what the Cold War teaches us about zones of influence seems dated in the presence of contemporary global politics. Thus were the US to collide with China over Taiwan, North Korea or Central Asia in the coming years, it is unlikely that proxy wars, after the fashion of Angola and Mozambique, would feature in the African context.

    It is more likely, as hinted already, that petropolitics by that stage will unfurl a wider, more 21st-century spectrum of rivalry across Africa involving multiple players: multinationals, resource nationalists, ethnic factionalists, private armies and warlords, and international mercenaries, in no clear order of emphasis.

    Prudence will suggest that we be immensely cautious, therefore, in making clean-cut projections of likely scenarios as to the nature of the evolving Sino-American competition over African oil. The situation is characterized by various murky security interests, is in constant flux, and is by no means even the cardinal feature in the landscape of Africa’s growing oil importance. We would dismiss the Taiwan simulation, then.

    We should be similarly restrained in our bid to piece together disparate trends to obtain a comprehensive picture of how oil relates to global rather than local security concerns for the world powers under discussion. Often oil has been equated to power, but not technology, infrastructure or industrial diversification, although these are equally significant in strategic terms.

    For instance, Chinese oil firms’ request to have Beijing station troops in Sudan may have been impelled by calculations that this approach is more cost-effective and reliable than engaging Western private security firms to protect oil installations. It also underlines the fact that just as there are no world-class Chinese accountancy, business-strategy, auditing, management, project-design or legal firms, there are also no Chinese world-class private security companies.

    Thus operations in Africa, rather than simply feeding energy consumption, may be important to Chinese firms for defining desirable competencies in the services sector of the world economy using oil – a pleasingly complex industry – as a springboard.

    The point being made, therefore, is that while the immediate concern of this article is to delineate the oil interests of China and the US in Africa at present and to anticipate, albeit in broad outline, how the trajectories of such interests may in the future intersect, perhaps violently, it refuses to buy into the cliche that oil equates with naked power and, hence, that Sino-American competition over African oil is merely another tedious instance of crude realpolitik.

    The above point deserves underlining, as the trigger of this article is the US decision to consolidate its forces in Africa under a unified command – Africom. The leap therefore from “the US is readying to do battle to safeguard its oil supply in Africa” to “China may stand in the way so a clash is inevitable” seems decently plausible.

    It is true that for six years the United States has designated West African oil supplies as constituting a national strategic interest. During this period several US Army Special Forces bases have been erected across deltas, coasts and mangrove swamps in several parts of the African continent, not only in West Africa.

    In fact, as the recent spectacle in Somalia reveals, US forces in Africa are concentrated in the Horn of Africa, guided by a nerve center in Djibouti. But their presence in West Africa is growing rapidly. There are now launch-pads in Ghana, Mali and Senegal. Further afield, but in the same vicinity, mini-bases have been situated in Gabon and early-stage maritime control patrol commands anchored off the coast of Nigeria.

    The US is already in the advanced stages of establishing a major naval base in the twin-island Republic of Sao Tome and Principe, itself a nascent oil-producer state.

    Meanwhile, under the cover of the Trans-Sahara Counter-Terrorism Initiative, US forces are penetrating further inland than ever before. The predominantly Muslim landlocked countries of the Sahel now constitute a strategic matrix around which are knotted a number of vital oil pipelines and could serve as a bridge between resource-rich West Africa and strategically vital North Africa (remember: Libya still has the largest proven petroleum reserves, despite Nigeria’s production pre-eminence).

    It is also quite true that all these cannot be said to be unrelated to the fact that Nigeria, West Africa’s oil powerhouse, which produces three-quarters of the continent’s oil, is already the fifth-largest oil exporter to the US. Indeed, the overall amount and quality of West African crude surpasses Saudi Arabia’s. Nor can it be unrelated that US companies had held almost complete sway over Equatorial Guinea’s oil industry until China arrived on the scene last year with a five-year production-sharing agreement with the country’s government for access to a major offshore block.

    But as has already been said, proxy warfare is not the most efficient model for the kind of petro-diplomatic competition unfolding across Africa between the US and China. There are many, far more interesting and enlightening sub-narratives contending for our attention, which may prompt us to hesitate in immediately linking Africom to US energy security by a direct invocation of the competition between US and Chinese firms for rights to exploit new oil finds in Africa.

    It is easily conceded that safeguarding the physical supply lines in times of emergency is another matter entirely. But the military component of supply-chain management for geostrategic commodities has often featured less in practice than usually predicted by armchair pundits.

    And so while Africom clearly symbolizes the open acknowledgement by the US establishment of Africa’s growing strategic importance, it is reasonable to conclude that it does not alter the dynamic on the ground in any significant way, and China need not exaggerate its impact. In fact, a focus on technology, risk management and how both relate to capital in the oil industry goes further in any analysis of the unfolding situation.

    Among the recommendations made by America’s energy-security experts with regards to Africa are the privatization of resource-bearing real estate and the promotion of regional gas grids. The latter can find expression in recent projects such as the West Africa gas pipeline (first broached in the early 1980s), a project that over the 20-year initial phase of its lifetime is expected to “transform the electricity market of West Africa” by conveying abundant Nigerian gas in the turbulent Niger River Delta to consumers in Togo, Benin and Ghana on the West African coast.

    The project may, according to its proponents, also stem Nigeria’s wasteful gas-flaring, in which for want of technical capacity natural gas is not separated from liquid crude but simply combusted. Capping of gas-flaring is another recommendation made by American experts with an interest in how US oil policy on the continent evolves. Their concern is of course not solely from care for the environment, but perhaps more about efficiency – to the benefit, naturally, of America’s oil majors. The US firm ChevronTexaco is the leader of the consortium constructing the pipeline, to be partly financed by the World Bank.

    Clearly, the US sees its present technical superiority over China as an advantage in the battle for concessions, whether in Africa or elsewhere. This is perhaps why China does not balk at paying billions of dollars for less-than-controlling stakes in giant oilfields, as it recently did in Nigeria when the China National Offshore Oil Corp (CNOOC) paid US$2.3 billion for a stake in offshore blocks.

    While it is perhaps true, as many analysts suspect, that in this case President Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria may have taken several political considerations into account, not the least his displeasure over America’s overt opposition to his bid for a third term in office, in deciding to sideline several Western majors in favor of CNOOC, China cannot continue to rely on expensive political diplomacy (it also agreed to fund a railway project with dubious financial viability around the same time).

    More and more, field-leading technology in three-dimensional seismic, satellite-sonar conjunctive techniques, horizontal drilling, and advanced offshore deepwater simulation framing will be vital to demonstrating advantage over rivals, particularly in places like Africa where oil resources are diffuse and likely to be more so in the mid-term future. There is no indication that China isn’t aware of this. Chinese oil firms are investing heavily in research and development, and their technology subsidiaries, such as Sinopec’s Research Institute for Petroleum Processing, are beginning to earn the respect of the community.

    What better approach to adopt in expanding capacity in both downstream and upstream processes than to acquire stakes in massive projects that require marked technical sophistication? And given the cutthroat competition in the Middle East and increasingly in Latin America, doesn’t Africa, designated a “swing production region” by experts, offer sound alternative prospects in global capacity deepening for one’s ambitious budding oil multinationals?

    But it is exactly this point that renders the notion of a bitter, bare-knuckles fight between the US and China untenable. The globalization of China’s oil industry is ultimately what has sent such companies as CNOOC into Africa. That globalization entails, compels and expresses recognition of the international capital system. Regardless, the sound and fury of geopolitics and international capital will always band together.

    If African leaders believe that the most sophisticated energy-development policy they can deliver is to play China against the West (read: the US), then they are sorely mistaken. In the same way that rivalry between Britain and France translated only into healthy competition between Elf and British Petroleum (before their respective mergers even further complicated matters), the current field of multinationals from China and the US, even if it is not so obvious now, are likely to view the situation in Africa as presenting a common/mutual risk-challenge, and therefore to seek areas of collaboration even as they indulge in rigorous competition.

    Lest we forget, it is barely three decades ago that Western Europe was consuming 80% of African oil while the United States made do with 20% and China, a net exporter, bought 0%; the global commodities scene changes at remarkable speed.

    Take the events of last April for instance. Nigeria’s best-organized and public-relations-savviest Niger Delta-based militant group warned China that by investing in “stolen” resources it was placing its citizens in the “line of fire”. Clearly, it will be foolhardy for Chinese operators such as CNOOC to assume that this is an idle threat just because China is supposedly the current flavor of the month in the presidential palace at Abuja.

    The more prudent course of action for them will be to envisage a collective security shield around the delta for all multinationals. In this, and in several prospective scenarios, China’s energy interests will converge with the West sooner than most analysts anticipate. Unless, of course, China retreats from global capitalism, there is little doubt that anything significantly different from the competition that exists within the Western energy-capital complex will emerge between Chinese and Western (read: US) African oil interests.

    To that extent, short-term incidents like China’s decision to assist Angola in thwarting the Western agenda of the International Monetary Fund/World Bank for concessionary access to Angola’s oil resources (which have overtaken Saudi Arabia’s as a source of raw material for Chinese refineries) are just that: short-term. In the long term, Angola will have to pay its debts, and Chinese investors will need a good return on their investments, otherwise they will switch to the next hot thing, maybe Canadian or Australian oil shale.

    Simply put, Africa’s concern should be about how it builds internal capacity to understand international capital, political risk management and industrial technology, as they relate to the oil industry, so as to leverage all its advantages comprehensively in the global energy markets.

    For obvious reasons, it is good that African policymakers spend time divining the implications of Africom, counter-responsive Chinese equivalents, and how these intersect with the energy security of China and the US. But if the intention is to use the resulting knowledge to play China against the US, or vice versa, rather than to maximize Africa’s opportunities to develop a modern, highly efficient energy-security system of its own, then the exercise, like the continent’s active participation in the Cold War of yesteryear, will leave Africa once more swindled out of hope.

    With everybody else laughing all the way to the bank.

    Bright B Simons is an adjunct fellow at the Center for Humane Education (Imani). Evans Lartey is director of development at Imani, which is a think-tank based in Accra, dedicated to researching economic trends to glean practical public-policy insights for the benefit of government, business and civil society in Ghana. Franklin Cudjoe is the executive director of Imani.

    (Copyright 2007 Asia Times Online Ltd. All rights reserved. Please contact us about sales, syndication and republishing.)

    See also Le Monde diplomatique article: United States: the new scramble for Africa

    Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing ever happened.
    –Sir Winston Churchill

    … the 20th century has been characterized by three developments of great political importance: The growth of democracy, the growth of corporate power, and the growth of corporate propaganda as a means of protecting corporate power against democracy.
    –Alex Carey, Australian social scientist

  13. Ann El Khoury
    11 July, 2007

    Iceberg indeed! I’ve also inserted the link to the Le Monde article.. I’d altogther missed this March 13 Asia Times article, what a valuable read. Africom would seem central to this petro-politics and securing supply lines within nascent petro-state producers.

    We’ve come back to oil, Amina! The authors seem to argue that there will be a coalescence of great power (China and US) energy market interests in Africa derimental to the region’s interests:

    “If African leaders believe that the most sophisticated energy-development policy they can deliver is to play China against the West (read: the US), then they are sorely mistaken. In the same way that rivalry between Britain and France translated only into healthy competition between Elf and British Petroleum (before their respective mergers even further complicated matters), the current field of multinationals from China and the US, even if it is not so obvious now, are likely to view the situation in Africa as presenting a common/mutual risk-challenge, and therefore to seek areas of collaboration even as they indulge in rigorous competition.”

  14. Amina Mire
    11 July, 2007

    Yes, Ann, indeed, we are! And where there is oil there seems to be lot of blood and suffering as well.

  15. Amina Mire
    14 July, 2007

    Since the publication of Prayer of Shame at this blog, additional information has emerged which corroborates China’s support of a Triangle program of Genocide in Darfur, Ogaden [Inside Ethiopia] and now in Somalia: all in the name of oil. In Somalia, it is clear that China is working closely working with Zinawi and a group of criminal warlords to gain fraudulent oils exploration concessions. These warlords and Zinawi’s occupation army are currently wrecking death and destruction in Somalia. The warlords do not have the legal mandate to sign away Somalia’s natural resources. However, they are openly looting local businesses therefore signing oil exploration deal with China works with their current looting practice against the people of Somalia. What emerges is a clear converging and collusion between the US and China in the scramble for Africa’s natural resources.

    Here is a link to a recent bogus oil exploration deal between China and the criminal warlords currently menacing the Somali people.

  16. Amina Mire
    19 July, 2008

    Hello Ann,

    here is my response to the latest comment on my blog

    Hello progressive friends of the People’s Geography!

    Since 2007, when I wrote my piece posted here, many more things, too sad and to complex for a single message, has taken place in Somalia.

    I will mention a few. The 2006 US sponsored invasion of Somalia is now but a full blown genocide and there has been very little diplomatic progress to end the bloodshed but few brave journalists have done remarkable work on the crime against humanity taking place in Somalia, war crime financed ,primarily, by the United States and Europe and which has the backing of the United Nation under the leadership of Ban Ki-Moon. Ban Ki-Moon’s role in the destruction of Somalia is important because South Korea is one of the chief countries which have been illegally fishing off the Coast of Somalia and North Korea is the main supplier of weapons to the Ethiopian army menacing the people of Somalia. Hence, it can be argued that Ban Ki-Moon has vested interests in the indefinite continuation of Somalia as a failed and occupied state.

    Reflecting the crisis in Somalia is made urgent now not only because of the human tragedy unfolding in front of TV screens, or computer screens or by the graphic documentaries, such as Warlords Next Door, which is circulating the internet in YouTube videos, but also by the possibility of change of US policies with respect to the broader trajectory of US. This potential change depends on the outcome of expected changing of the guard in the of leadership in the White House and because of mounting evidence showing gross human Rights violations, including the use of famine as a political weapon by the Ethiopian regime of Meles Zinawi. Ethiopia’s ruthless dictator, Meles Zinawi and the Somalia warlords backed by the US regime of GWB, are fighting for their lives[literally] and the sole source of their income[money given to them by western donors]. So, they are fighting with everything they have got within their power. They are killing and maiming civilians, community elders inside Somalia.

    But Meles Zinawi is step ahead of the game. He has some heavyweight lobbyists with links to both the Republican and the Democratic Party working on his behalf. That means no matter who wins the Presidency of the United States in Nov4, Barack Obama or John McCain, Meles Zinawi will continue to receive millions of dollars of US tax payers money in the name of US war on terror. In fact, contrary to what some believe, Meles Zinawi may do much better of Barack Obaam wins than if John McCain wins the presidency in Nov4, 2008. In fact, evidence show that in the summer of 2006, few months before the ordering of the US sponsored Ethiopian invasion of Somalia, Barack Obama visited the Kenya, Ethiopia and the US troops stationed in D’Jabuti.

    It is more than likely that Barack Obama knew that the US was planning to sponsor the Ethiopia’s illegal invasion of Somalia.

    Many people are familiar with Obama’s 2006 trip to Africa, unfortunately for the wrong reasons. Many of us have seen photos of Barack Obama wearing a Somalia traditional garb and not a Muslim turban as has been wrongly reported in the western media. But more pertinent question for me is not Obama’s religion. He is Christian and not Muslim. But What Obama knew US plans to sponsor the invasion of Somalia in 2006.

    Bipartisan Duo of Ex-Congressional Heavyweights Blocking Action Against Ethiopia

    Canada is also getting involved in making deal with the Somali warlords, two months ago one of the criminal warlords featured in the Channel4 documentary “Warlords Next Door” was a guest of a member of the ruling Conservative Party of Canada in the Canadian Parliament. A day later, it has been reported a new oil exploration deal between a Canadian company and Somali warlords!§ion=0&article=104950§ionid=351020501

    URL links to additional pieces Amina Mire wrote about the crisis in Somalia since 2006.

  17. Pingback: Valg i Somaliland i september: Vil et demokratisk valg føre til uavhengighet? « Blikk – Nyheter for aktivister

  18. Pingback: Ökt militarisme i Afrika « Blikk – Nyheter for aktivister

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Timely Reminders

"Those who crusade, not for God in themselves, but against the devil in others, never succeed in making the world better, but leave it either as it was, or sometimes perceptibly worse than what it was, before the crusade began. By thinking primarily of evil we tend, however excellent our intentions, to create occasions for evil to manifest itself."
-- Aldous Huxley

"The only war that matters is the war against the imagination. All others are subsumed by it."
-- Diane DiPrima, "Rant", from Pieces of a Song.

"It is difficult
to get the news from poems
yet men die miserably every day
for lack
of what is found there"
-- William Carlos Williams, "Asphodel, That Greeny Flower"