Monday, December 20, 2010

What Tha? SMH - Sell Soul and Africa Away! All for $$$

The US, the AU and the new scramble for Africa


Jason Hickel

Jason Hickel attends a speech delivered by US ambassador to the AU Michael Battle and discovers a disturbing new rhetoric about Africa

The past few years have seen a dramatic up-tick in American diplomatic efforts in Africa, which has coincided with a decisive shift in political rhetoric about the continent. At first glance this might seem like a positive development, reflecting a more progressive attitude toward what has long been considered an unimportant global backwater. But a closer look reveals that American diplomacy in Africa is less about serving the good of African people than it is about securing the interests of private American capital. Nowhere has this been more flagrantly clear than on the lips of Michael Battle, the US ambassador to the AU.

First, a bit about Battle. He received a Masters degree in Divinity at Trinity College and a Ph.D in Ministry at Howard University, and served at the Interdenominational Theological Centre in Atlanta until he was nominated to his current post by President Obama in 2009.

Battle’s position at the AU is new and little known outside diplomatic circles. The US only established a dedicated ambassadorship to the AU during the Bush administration in 2006. This mission - known as USAU - is the first of its kind among non-African states, and is designed to facilitate US operations in Africa as a more ‘efficient’ and ‘effective’ alternative to bilateral relationships with individual African states.

This month I had the opportunity to attend a speech delivered by Battle during his visit to the Miller Centre of Public Affairs at the University of Virginia. I noticed a new diplomatic rhetoric right at the outset of his presentation. First, he referred to Africa as a continent of ‘great riches’ and ‘abundance’, flagging a notable departure from earlier, longstanding representations of Africa as ‘desolate’ and ‘impoverished’. Paralleling this point, Battle spoke at length about shifting US policy in Africa toward corporate ‘investment’ and ‘partnership’ and away from public ‘aid’ and ‘assistance’.

On the face of it this seemed like good news to me, but the rest of Battle’s speech disabused me of any rosy assumptions about his intentions, as the two primary objectives of the USAU rose quickly to the surface: security and trade.  

Seal of the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM)In terms of security, Battle confirmed America’s dedication to working with the AU and the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) to militarise the continent’s coastlines. While he claimed that the goals of this mission include responding to increased maritime piracy and breaking cartels that traffic illegally in drugs and humans, he made it clear that the primary military objective is to protect US oil interests in the Gulf of Guinea, suppress local resistance movements like MEND in Nigeria, and secure a favourable climate for returns on investment for American corporations. When pressed, Battle justified his call for militarisation by invoking the vague and poorly substantiated spectre of ‘terrorism’.


 In terms of trade, Battle spoke excitedly about the partnership between the US, the AU, and the Corporate Council on Africa (CCA) to integrate and liberalise the continent’s national economies. Battle’s explicit vision is to facilitate the efforts of US corporations such as Chevron, Delta, and GE (which he mentioned explicitly by name) to expand investments across multiple African nations by ‘harmonizing trade rules’ and ‘simplifying regulations’. 

RATHER DISTURBING....Wasn't Africa a bastard of the World, a place of degradation, violence, poverty?  Now all of a sudden, Africa is the Great Hope! And Glorious Opportunities...WE CANNOT LET THIS GO ON!  View original article here



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