[dehai-news] Globalresearch.ca: Obama And U.S. Policy Towards Africa

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From: Berhane Habtemariam (Berhane.Habtemariam@gmx.de)
Date: Tue Jan 20 2009 - 11:06:35 EST

Obama And U.S. Policy Towards Africa


by Horace Campbell


 <http://www.globalresearch.ca> Global Research, January 20, 2009

As Obama takes over the presidency of the United States, Horace Campbell
contextualizes an Obama presidency in the realities of Africa and the
ongoing global finance crisis. He argues that "capitalism should not be
reconstituted and rebuilt on the backs and bodies of Africans." For
Campbell, the crisis is not simply a cyclical crisis of capitalism; it is a
fundamental shift in the global political and economic order. In light of
this fast changing world, Campbell is also interested in the possibilities
and our responsibilities in bringing about change in and for Africa.

Writing at the end of September 2008, the chief policy adviser to the
candidate Senator Barack Obama spelt out the foreign policy goals as they
related to Africa in this way:

"Barack Obama understands Africa, and understands its importance to the
United States. Today, in this new century, he understands that to strengthen
our common security, we must invest in our common humanity and, in this way,
restore American leadership in the world.

"As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he has engaged on
many African issues. He has worked to end genocide in Darfur, to pass
legislation to promote stability and the holding of elections in the
Democratic Republic of the Congo, to bring a war criminal to justice in
Liberia and to develop a coherent strategy for stabilizing Somalia."

>From this broad outline the adviser (who had been trained in one of the
elite African Studies Centers in the United States) went on to outline three
goals of the candidate:

* One is to accelerate Africa's integration into the global economy.

* A second is to enhance the peace and security of African states.

* And a third is to strengthen relationships with those governments,
institutions and civil society organizations committed to deepening
democracy, accountability and reducing poverty in Africa.


The contradictions between the goals and the stated strategic objective of
"investing in a shared humanity" brings to the fore the tensions and
contradictions between the campaign of Senator Obama and the mindset of the
thinking behind achieving goals for the United States and for the peoples of
Africa. Between the time of the statement of this adviser in September and
the elections in November, the realities of the global capitalist crisis had
become very clear for the citizens of the United States. Citizens of Africa
were always aware of the exploitation, hunger and death that came with
capitalist relations of production. When Julius Nyerere had called for a
revolution embedded in the African values of Ujamaa and self reliance, there
was a political and ideological war against the peoples of Tanzania and any
society in Africa that dared to be independent. Nationalization of the
people's wealth to ensure equal opportunities was rubbished by US

Yet, in ten weeks between September and November 2008, the US government
moved to nationalize banks, insurance companies and to invest billions of
dollars (to bail out) the automobile industry. When the campaign ended and
Senator Obama became President-elect Obama, it became clearer that
neo-liberalism was dead or was dying. Neo-conservatives and the gurus of
market fundamentalism were on the retreat, but in the Obama transition,
there was no real break from the old mindset of US policymakers in relation
to Africa. From the names and institutions that appeared in the transition
process it was clear that the transition to an Obama Presidency will not, in
the short term, reflect the kind of change that was promised in the election
campaign. Instead of a future of sustainable peace and transformation, one
saw a re-emergence and recycling of the same militarists such as Susan Rice
emerging as a top official of the US foreign policy establishment. Lawrence
Summers, who wrote the memo that it was more economical to dump toxic waste
in Third World Countries, emerged as a major economic adviser.

A clear reading of five subject areas with international relations
components in the transition team process indicates that Africa in general
is likely to be a minor area of focus in their research process. These areas

1. State Department and Foreign Policy

2. International Economic Policy (USAID, World Bank, IMF, Treasury,
Commerce, US Trade, OPIC, Ex-IM Bank, Agriculture)

3. Health/Human Services (HIV-AIDS)

4. National Security (DoD, AFRICOM and War on terror)

5. Energy (African oil)

In terms of operation, the team took its findings from each department and
developed the Obama's administration's first internal white papers for each
branch of government. Outside groups and entities with long-term interest in
African resources were also submitting white papers on individual subjects
into the transition team process. Hence, the final papers of the transition
represented a product of both internal research and external contributions.


>From the website of the transition process and the public relations web page
of the Obama, one can see that the individuals and organizations that have
been involved in the formulation of foreign and domestic policies were the
same ones complicit in the think tanks, corporations, governmental agencies
and Universities that devalued the lives of Africa. Of the eight major teams
for the transition, this author zeroed in on the five areas of the
transition that were directly related to the formulation of US policy under

The same lack of confidence that there will be a changed relationship with
Africa emerges from the Cabinet choices that have been made by Barack Obama
subsequent to the clarification of the road from transition to assuming
power. Not even the African Americans who are touted to be the internal
brains trust inspire confidence that there will be a change. The New York
Time has reported that three persons- Valerie Jarrett, Martin Nesbitt and
Dr. Eric Whitaker- are the closest advisers of Barack Obama.

While transition team operatives maintained that US policy towards Africa
was at present a low priority (insofar as the US is preoccupied with the
crisis of the economy and the questions of war and peace in Iraq and
Afghanistan) there is no let up on the ground in Africa in the promotion of
US 'national interests' through the State Department, the Department of
Defense, the Treasury Department, the Department of Energy and a multitude
of groups who are supporting AID projects. The day-to-day operations of the
US bureaucrats continue to promote the neo-conservative and neo-liberal
policies of the western imperial ideation system.

Examples of where these policies are being pursued include: The full speed
attempt to militarize Africa under the guise of the so called war on terror.
This is manifest in the transition pledge to continue the establishment of
the US Africa Command and a US led international naval force off the coast
of Somalia.

The second area where this is clear is that despite the fact that
neo-liberalism and the market fundamentalism has been discredited in the
USA, these policies are still being promoted by the IMF, the World bank and
the host of US agencies that are now operating in Africa. In September 2008,
when this global capitalist crisis was becoming evident to the world, Alan
Greenspan testified before Congress. He said, "I have found a flaw. I don't
know how significant or permanent it is. But I have been very distressed by
that fact."

What Greenspan was politely saying was that the thinking behind the
neoconservative oriented economic policies that had been promoted in the
United States and overseas is wrong. During the hearing, Rep. Henry Waxman
(D-CA), was not satisfied by the use of the word 'flaw.' Waxman wanted a
stronger term. He then asked Greenspan to clarify his words:

"In other words, you found that your view of the world, your ideology, was
not right, it was not working," Waxman said.

"Absolutely, precisely," Greenspan replied. "You know, that's precisely the
reason I was shocked, because I have been going for 40 years or more with
very considerable evidence that it was working exceptionally well."

This admission that for forty years the underlying assumptions, rationales
and thinking which served as the foundation of the economic policies of the
United States in the USA and overseas was wrong, must be discussed at every
level in Africa. Will African governments be comfortable with accepting this
statement that they were being bullied into adopting wrong policies? Or will
African intellectuals, trade unionists, policy makers and ordinary citizens
redouble the efforts to end the domination of the International Financial
Institutions over the lives of the people?

Obama's policy towards Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) particularly
regarding medicines will be important. Already, Democrats in the Congress
led by Charles Rangel have said that the USG should not put the interests of
IPR holders in US trade agreements, over the human health interests in poor

Will Obama push that position further or will he fight against it?

It now devolves to the oppressed in Africa to join forces with others in the
Global South to push for the dismantling of the International Monetary Fund
and the World Bank. The dollar as the currency of World Trade is coming to
the end of an inglorious period. It is not in the interests of the people of
Africa for the Euro and for the European Union to be the beneficiary of the
collapse of US capitalism. It is the task of Africans to work for the
overthrow of capitalism in Africa and beyond. Capitalism should not be
reconstituted and rebuilt on the backs and bodies of Africans. This crisis
is not simply a cyclical crisis of capitalism; it is a fundamental shift in
the global political and economic order.

While progressive African peoples at home and abroad were excited about the
election of Barack Obama, it was clear that the alternatives to US
government policies for Africa had to emerge from the combined efforts of
the social forces within Africa who had a vested interest in making a break
with the plunder and looting of Africa. From the actions and activities of
the dominant groups in the United States that interact with the elites of
Africa, the emphasis is on the 'strategic' resources of Africa, without a
real consideration for the quality of lives of the people. Walter Rodney had
identified this class of Africans who were allies of imperialism in the
book, How Europe Underdeveloped Africa. Since the era of neo-liberalism and
IMF structural adjustment, the conception of 'underdevelopment' and
'exploitation' has been replaced by the language of 'donor agencies'
partners for development and 'democratic governance.' The brightest from the
institutions of higher learning were seduced into the multi billion dollar
aid sector called the 'humanitarian' and 'non-governmental organization'
sector. Many of these international NGO workers in Africa are now caught at
a crossroads where there is fear that 'donor funds' will be drying up
because of the global capitalist crisis.

It is urgent that the progressives on both sides of the Atlantic call for a
full exposure of the 'other flawed' policies of the United States such as
the Africa Growth and Opportunity Act and the Millennium Challenge
Corporation. Under the Bush administration the apartheid health policies
associated with the conservative ideas about reproductive rights have been
trumpeted as a success in Africa. So tenacious has been the propaganda about
the health policies of the Bush administration in Africa that even within
the Obama transition there is an acceptance that the PEPFAR of Bush has been
beneficial for Africa. For those who want to continue to accept propaganda
that "the U.S. President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), holds a
unique place in the history of public health for its size and scope," I
would only want to urge a read of the book, Medical Apartheid: The Dark
History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to
the Present.

Health and peace are inextricably linked in all parts of the world, The
African traditional healers, cultural workers and caregivers are joining the
mass of 6 billion citizens of the planet earth who are calling for
investment in caring, not killing. It is a major contradiction to trumpet
the support for the recovery of health delivery services in Africa while
supporting the remilitarization of Africa.

Will progressives accept that the US policies were' flawed' or symbolic of
the structural relations of US imperialism in Africa? One of the by-products
of the neo-liberal discourse was the reality that the understanding of
imperial exploitation and plunder had been replaced by the new 'humanitarian
imperialism' that was presented behind the international non-governmental
infrastructure. Can the Obama administration justify an Economic Recovery
program for the United States of over US $700 billion while advocating the
use of 'market forces' to shelter the plunder of African resources?


If the economic and diplomatic policies of the USA prior to Barack Obama had
been 'flawed', then one needs an appropriate formulation to properly
describe the US security policies towards Africa. In December 2008, Larry
Devlin joined the ancestors. Before he departed this land, Devlin wrote a
book entitled, Chief of Station, Congo: A Memoir 1960-1967. This was a book
celebrating the role played by Devlin while he was the Chief of the Station
of the Central Intelligence Agency in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
There was no remorse in this book about the role of the United States in the
destabilization of the Congo subsequent to the assassination of Patrice
Lumumba and the support for Mobutu for thirty five years. If anything,
Devlin was celebrating the work of the US military and economic agencies. In
his logic, everything that the US did during the Cold War was justified in
the name of fighting communism.

This logic of Devlin is the same logic of the intellectual institutions of
the United States. Peace and conflict resolution centers abound in order to
promote the distorted logic of Larry Devlin or other writers who then
complain about state failure in Africa. Progressive African Intellectuals
must begin to document the criminal actions that perpetuated war and
instability in every region of Africa. Not only did the USA support
destruction and apartheid under this logic, but today there is support for
private military contractors who are operating to protect the oil companies
that are polluting Africa's rivers and communities.

Today the peoples of the Democratic Republic of the Congo are reaping the
full harvest of the long term investment in militarism and destruction. Yet,
instead of a full retreat from the history of military engagement, the
members of the US foreign policy establishment continue to call for the
establishment of the US Africa Command. It would appear from the public
statements of those around the Obama team that the question of change does
not apply to Africa and Africans.


This is not to suggest that there are no forces within the United States
working to dismantle the plans for the US Africa Command. There is such a
force within the broad alliance of activists who are pledged to ensure that
the Obama administration abandon the plans for the Africa Command. Thus far,
the Resist Africom forces in the United States have not been able to achieve
their objective of scrapping the Africa command, but the work to end
militarism in Africa is tied up with the domestic opposition to militarism
and the prison industrial complex in America.

It should be repeated that the foreign policy of a state is a reflection of
the domestic political structures of the state. Up to the present, the
domestic policy of the United States has been to oppress and exploit
Africans and peoples of color. It then stands to reason that one could not
expect the foreign policy of the United States toward Africa to be different
from the domestic policy of institutionalized racism.

>From the period of the transatlantic slave trade, the leaders of the United
States have viewed Africa as a treasure trove to be plundered. In this
enterprise of looting and plunder, the US experts on Africa thus far had an
alliance with the rulers in Africa. This intervention is to link with those
forces in Africa who want to turn the global capitalist crisis into an
opportunity for strengthening the social classes in Africa with a vested
interest in making a break with the traditions of looting. Every region of
the world now sees Africa as the place where there are real resources. Hence
China, India, the European Union, Brazil and the United States have all
embarked on new ventures to "accelerate Africa's integration into the global


The irony is that each of these societies seeks to embark on larger
economies of scale while working to undermine efforts at continental unity
among the peoples of Africa. The leaders of the European Union have been the
most active in their plans to intensify the exploitation of Africa. From
North Africa, France promises to further weaken and divide Africa with a
planned Mediterranean Union. Libya opposes this plan by France and, in order
to compete with France, the USA is strengthening its ties with Libya.
Progressives in the Pan-African world must oppose the French plan, but they
must also oppose the opportunism and cynicism of the US foreign policy
'forward planners.' Cooperation and competition between the USA and Europe
is intended to weaken the African Union. In the past, US policy makers have
identified client states such as South Africa, Egypt, Nigeria, Kenya and
Uganda as partners. It is in the interest of the peoples of Africa and the
peoples of the United States that a government that wants to move beyond the
imperial past engage with the continent as a whole and strengthen the
progressive forces who arre working for the establishment of the African

In the past year, there have been open editorial campaigns for the US and
the EU to form an alliance against China in Africa. Centers for strategic
studies in the USA continue to blow hot and cold as to whether the USA
should cooperate with China in Africa or confront China in Africa.

It is well known that capitalist competition leads to war. In the present
crisis of global capitalism, there are policymakers in both the United
States and Europe who are overtly calling for a military confrontation in
Africa. The frontline for this proposed war against China is in the
Democratic Republic of the Congo. In this enterprise of seeking a pretext
for war, the western imperialists have willing allies in Eastern Africa in
both Rwanda and Uganda. Thus far, the drumbeat for this confrontation is
being hidden under the call for the expansion of the United Nations
monitoring forces in the DRC.

Sustainable peace in Africa and a transformation of the militarized
institutions that have been established in Africa since the colonial era
requires a break with the old US security policies. This author has joined
in the forces of peace who are working to build a new Pan Africa peace
infrastructure for Africans and peace loving peoples all over the world.
Such an infrastructure project must break with the pre-occupation with
strategic minerals and energy that is based on the extraction of petroleum
resources. Peace and transformation in Africa is inseparable from a break
with environmental destruction in Africa. Just as how there is now an
understanding in the USA that the society needs an Economic Recovery program
that is based on the 'Green collar economy', there is also an understanding
in Africa that African economic transformation must be built around the
provision of food, clothing, shelter and health care for the peoples of


It is on the question of reparations and the building of a strong Union of
the peoples of Africa where the progressive forces in the United States will
have to pressure the new Obama administration to support reparations and
sustainable peace in Africa. Already, Bishop Desmond Tutu has called on
Obama to apologize on behalf of the American state to the peoples of Iraq
for the invasion and destruction caused by the neo-conservatives of the past
Bush administration. This author wants to support that call for reparations
along with calling on representatives such as John Conyers to revive the
legislation for reparations and reparative justice. On the website of one of
the most senior lawmakers in the USA there is the declaration that:

In January of 1989, Mr. Conyers first introduced the bill H.R. 40, the
Commission to Study Reparation Proposals for African Americans Act. He has
reintroduced H.R. 40 every Congress since 1989, and will continue to do so
until it's passed into law.

This author is calling on all progressives to join in the call to extend
this assertion by Conyers so that, in the short run, the government of the
United States re-engages with the process of the World Conference against
Racism, when it convenes in Geneva in April 2009.


It is now clear from the transition team of Obama that there is no new
thinking on Africa. On the web site of the Obama election campaign, the
adviser on Africa boasted that Obama:

"As a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, he has engaged on
many African issues. He has worked to end genocide in Darfur, to pass
legislation to promote stability and the holding of elections in the
Democratic Republic of the Congo, to bring a war criminal to justice in
Liberia and to develop a coherent strategy for stabilizing Somalia."

Who will be able to educate the Obama Presidency that the road to peace in
Darfur and in the DRC is linked to demilitarization globally? Obama cannot
continue the duplicity of the Bush administration that continues to have
security and intelligence sharing with the government of the Sudan while
maintaining that it is working to end the genocide in Darfur. Peace in
Africa and demilitarization in the United States are two sides of the same

Barack Obama is the son of a Kenyan immigrant. His father met an early
demise from the deformed politics of division and manipulation in Kenya.
Obama is going into the White House with a keen sense of the realities of
the impoverishment of the people of Africa. It is the same Obama who
understands that change can only come through organization. After all it was
Senator Obama who campaigned on a pledge:

"I don't want to just end the war," he said early this year. "I want to end
the mindset that got us into war."

Africans at home and abroad must inspire a new mindset so that all of the
differing agencies, foundations and academic institutions in the USA can
move to a new vision of relating to Africans as full human beings. By every
measure, the victory of Obama is historic. Obama will either be a great
President moving the society beyond the traditions of militarism and support
for dictators or be another imperial President who happens to have a father
from Kenya. The choice is not up to Obama. The choice is dependent on the
extent to which the progressive forces use the opening provided by the
election of Obama to bring about the change we want.

Horace Campbell, is professor of African American studies at Syracuse
University, and author of Rasta and Resistance, from Marcus Garvey to Walter
Rodney, and Reclaiming Zimbabwe: The Exhaustion of the Patriarchal Model of


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