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Year 2005 No. 76, June 9, 2005 ARCHIVE HOME JBBOOKS SUBSCRIBE

The British Government’s Conscience and African Poverty

Workers' Daily Internet Edition: Article Index :

The British Government’s Conscience and African Poverty

How African Aid Can Be the New Imperialism
Broken Promises Leave Three Million Children to Die in Africa
The Real Cause of Zimbabwe’s Food Crisis
Sahel-Sahara Summit Pushes for Integration
The Darfur Question at a Time of Increasing US-China Competition
Africa No Longer Accepts To Be Marginal Player in World Affairs

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The British Government’s Conscience and African Poverty

In recent weeks there have been numerous media reports about the government’s plans for Africa, ahead of next month’s summit meeting of the G8 countries, which this year is being held at Gleneagles in Scotland, and the meeting of G8 finance ministers, which is taking place in London on June 10-11. The Prime Minister has repeatedly declared that Africa will be a major priority during Britain’s presidency of the G8 and the EU this year and following the report issued by his Commission for Africa. Africa has now also become the focus of the Live 8 music events and the Make Poverty History campaign, with the government even expressing support for protests that are planned to coincide with the Gleneagles summit.

            According to media reports, the government, headed by Blair and Brown, is taking the lead in calling for a “modern Marshall Plan for Africa”, and is proposing a plan to double European aid to Africa by 2010, to bring about 100% debt relief, as well as an end to many trade subsidies in the richest countries. Britain is one of six European countries that have now pledged to increase their aid target to 0.7% of GDP by that year, a figure agreed by world leaders 35 years ago, which only five countries have managed to reach so far. Gordon Brown has also again proposed an “International Finance Facility”, a way of privatising aid by issuing bonds on the international money markets for the benefit of the financial institutions, but presented to the world as the best means to fund immunisation and other health programmes in Africa. The media is suggesting that the EU is generally united behind the British government’s plans and that the main stumbling block to international agreement has been the intransigence of the US. Even Blair’s summit with Bush this week has been presented by the media in this context, with praise for Blair’s efforts and criticism of the US.

            There now appears to be an unprecedented alliance between government, media, NGOs and others in Britain concerning Africa’s poverty and indebtedness, with the declared aim of demanding that the other big powers, especially the US, adopt the measures promoted by the British government. But what are the aims of the British government in Africa and why is Africa is so impoverished in the first place? The causes of Africa’s impoverishment, in which successive British governments have played a leading role – the legacy of colonialism and neo-colonialism, the dictatorship of the big monopolies, the policies of the IMF and World Bank and the disastrous consequences of neo-liberalism – are seldom discussed.   What cannot be denied is the fact that the big powers wish to continue to intervene in Africa affairs, to dominate the continent and to shape it according to their values and needs. At the joint press conference in Washington DC this week, for example, both Blair and Bush were adamant that any additional “aid” for Africa would be conditional on African governments continuing to open up their economies and following the prescriptions of the big powers in regard to “good governance”, “democracy” and the “rule of law”. These are the big-power prescriptions for submitting to the model of “representative democracy” which allows the global elite to maintain power over the continent, for this same elite to demand obedience to its neo-liberal dictate economically and politically, and to give them the right to intervene on humanitarian and other pretexts should they so desire under the guise of the norms of international law. It can be seen how hypocritical and self-serving these prescriptions are. At the same time, the big powers have different approaches regarding how they can continue to dominate Africa’s economies, with the US for example, proposing a bigger role for IMF monitoring and domination of poorer countries than that currently favoured by Britain.

            However it attempts to present itself as the saviour of Africa, the British government remains part of the problem not part of the solution. It continues to champion globalisation, neo-liberalism, privatisation of utilities and social programmes and the dictatorship of the monopolies in Africa. It continues to tie “debt relief” to various enslaving conditions and to present “aid” that benefits the big monopolies, rather than Africa, as part of the solution to the continent’s problems. In the service of its programme for the enslavement of Africa and its peoples, it refuses to openly admit that the crimes that have been committed and are still committed in Africa by Britain and the other big powers must cease and that adequate reparation must be made. There can therefore be no illusions that the government is the “conscience of humanity” in regard to Africa. How come the G8 can give themselves the prerogative to have a “plan for Africa”?

            In the growing movement among the people against neo-liberal globalisation and exploitation, the working class and people looking this reality in the eye cannot agree that the condition for “making poverty history” is the provision of more imperialist aid, as though Africa were simply short of material resources. The conditions that caused Africa’s problems cannot now be presented as the solutions. The “conscience” which Tony Blair is wearing on his sleeve is nothing but the old conscience of colonialism. To “make poverty history” the people must intensify their struggles so as to end the relations of exploitation, oppression and domination, standing as one with the peoples of Africa in these same struggles.

Article Index

How African Aid Can Be the New Imperialism

FRASER NELSON, The Scotsman , June 8, 2005

Two men wanting to change the world met in the White House yesterday. They discussed their agendas, and did not quite agree. But this was always going to be the case when there are conflicting visions of a global empire.

            The "imperialist" charge against George W Bush is clear: his plans to spread democracy around the world amount to an American empire in all but name. He is intent on exporting American political values to the furthest corners of the globe.

            Tony Blair has avoided similar charges – yet the agenda for Africa that he will bring before the G8 leaders is no less ambitious. Like America, Britain also believes it has a moral duty to change the world – and is about to embark on a mission to do so.

            The idea of the new American empire has been powerfully explained by Niall Ferguson, the Glasgow-born historian. Washington, he argues, is the new Rome as it maintains a new global world order, at great expense.

            But while America is playing the role of policeman for the free world, Britain is angling for the role as the conscience of the West.

            Unlike America, Britain has been here before. Our empire started off as a device for exploration and plunder, expropriating the natural resources of colonies and growing rich quick. But midway through the 19th century, things changed dramatically. The role of the British empire then became to establish the rule of law and better the lives of its subjects. It was not enough for Britain to rule the world: it wanted to redeem it – through civilisation, law and Victorian values

            One main political export was the form of government. Britain believed it had perfected parliamentary democracy, and knew how to build roads and civilise nations. Missionaries and civil engineers were the foot-soldiers of this new empire.

            History has swung full circle. Britain once again believes it has the answers for good government: and, under the auspices of the "world community", will start improving countries without the need of removing their governments.

            By far the most important document in the Africa debate is the report by Tony Blair's Commission for Africa. Now in bookshops as a paperback, it is a fact-packed and powerful summary of Britain's new ambitions for the former colonies.

            Parts of it urge caution. Those who ignore African culture, it warns, are doomed to failure: condoms are not much use fighting AIDS when the disease can be spread by ancient initiation-rites, blood-brother practices and widespread polygamy.

            But other parts read like a Labour manifesto for the planet. It is laden in five- and ten-year plans, focused on schools and hospitals, and constantly judges success in terms of spending targets. Its recommendations are eerily recognisable.

            No school class size should be above 40. Health spending should be at least 15 per cent of the government budget. Africa must double the area of arable land under irrigation by 2015. Where Victorians once brought Bibles, Britain now brings targets. Just as Britain covered India in railways, so should Africa have its new infrastructure. There should be "no prestige projects" (we have, it seems, learnt from the Millennium Dome), but instead, "irrigation of small plots of land".

            Africa should also adopt the Private Finance Initiative (PFI): all major projects should be "built and delivered in conjunction with the private sector". Means-testing should be introduced, to ensure free healthcare for the poorest.

            Just as England has city academies, so will Africa have specialist schools. There should be £1.6 billion over ten years to "develop centres of excellence in science and technology, including African institutes of technology".

            There is not a God – but there is the western gospel of gender equality. Africans should do something about the "routine exclusion of women" from "decision-making bodies". To sell this to Africa's tribesmen would require a cultural revolution.

            We are not talking about simply debt relief, nor a few more food projects. This is the agenda for Britain's new, benign colonialism – an ambitious blueprint stamped with Gordon Brown's assumptions and methods. President Bush is more concerned with good governance – arguing that political stability brings its own harvest. Emphasis on central planning, and spending a certain amount of cash by a certain deadline, is a British idea.

            Hence the split on Africa. Contrary to the caricature, President Bush is not simply refusing to pay up – indeed, he has pledged more to fight AIDS in Africa than the rest of the G8 countries put together. Britain's agenda for Africa simply clashes with America's.

            The Commission for Africa report would not look out of place in the Foreign and Colonial Office of 1870. Indeed, it has many parallels with America's plan for postwar reconstruction in Iraq. All are projecting a form of empire.

            Then and now, morality is a common theme. The crusading zeal of the Victorians is more than echoed by Mr Brown when he speaks about "the moral arc of the universe". The Africa Commission says "we are in one moral universe".

            Christianity is by no means absent this time around. The Chancellor is, famously, a son of the manse whose political opinions were formed by his father's sermons in Kirkcaldy. His most powerful speeches all have something of the pulpit about them. And, of course, Mr Blair is the most religious occupant of 10 Downing Street since Gladstone. This is a man who takes his Bible with him on overseas trips: he and his Chancellor are united in seeing in Africa a moral mission.

            British churches are firmly backing the Make Poverty History campaign, whose literature is stacked in church halls across Britain. It is a campaign our Victorian forefathers would certainly recognise.

            But "empire" is now a dirty word. Its political dimension – exploitation and oppression – has obscured the fact that it was seen by millions of Victorians as a moral device for bettering the lives of millions, physically and spiritually.

            Now, it is a mission without the missionaries – but Victorians would easily recognise their own ideals in today's crusade to Make Poverty History.

            Mr Brown's model is the Marshall Plan, where the US government injected the equivalent of £50 billion into a war-torn Europe, helped it rebuild infrastructure and was rewarded by a staunch Cold War ally.

            To Niall Ferguson, the Marshall Plan was a tool of the new imperialism – because it extended America's power, assured its values were enacted over a part of the world to which it had no claim. The same is true for Mr Brown.

            He has spent seven years calling for a Marshall Plan for Africa – an idea that has been met with deep suspicion on the other side of the pond, where it is argued that decades of aid can be reversed in a stroke by dictators such as Robert Mugabe.

            Mr Brown is no less ambitious than Mr Bush. The pivotal difference is that America has the budget to rule the waves: Britain does not. This is why Britain needs global alliances, while America does not. But Gordon Brown has a cunning plan.

            His International Finance Facility would deliver an empire-sized budget long after the days of empire have passed. It is, in effect, a £60 billion mortgage to fund the Africa mission – a 30-year loan, borrowing from future governments.

            Mr Bush is often told that he runs the world like an American empire, and should admit as much. Britain is about to embark on another extraordinary mission, not seen since our own imperial heyday. Such ambition deserves to be called by its name.

Article Index

Broken Promises Leave Three Million Children to Die in Africa

Larry Elliott and Patrick Wintour in Washington, June 8, 2005, Guardian

Three million children will die in the poorest countries of sub-Saharan Africa as a result of the failure of the global community to meet its promise of slashing the death rates of the under-fives by 2015, the UN will reveal tomorrow.

            The grim figure emerged as George Bush paved the way for a landmark deal on lifting the huge debt burden on Africa's poorest countries when he announced that the US will stump up extra cash that in the long term will cancel $15bn (about £8.2bn) of accumulated debt.

            Following talks with Tony Blair in Washington, he also said he would do more on aid, but did not set out a specific figure. The UK is looking for an initial $25bn boost from across the G8 industrialised nations and the EU.

            A study by the UN development programme, timed to put pressure on G8 leaders ahead of the summit at Gleneagles next month, showed that on current trends, the global community will miss by a wide margin the targets it set for poverty, infant mortality and education in the millennium development goals agreed by the UN in 2000.

            "These numbers should serve as a wake-up call for G8 leaders," said Kevin Watkins, director of the UN's human development report office. "Africa cannot afford to see the world's richest countries sleepwalk their way to a heavily signposted human development disaster."

            In 2000 the UN said that by 2015 it would cut infant mortality by two-thirds, halve the number of people living on less than a dollar a day, and put every child in school.

            On current UNDP projections, there will be 5 million under-five deaths in Africa, compared with 2 million if the goals were achieved; 115 million children deprived of an education; and 219 million extra people living below the poverty line.

            President Bush's officials said that following the talks they believed he would provide more aid, possibly targeted at specific projects such as girls' education, water sanitation, malaria and peacekeeping.

            The outline deal on debt requires further consultation with the Germans and some other EU finance ministers and it was accepted by British officials that most of the progress had been made on the cancellation of multilateral debt to the World Bank, rather than the International Monetary Fund.

            President Bush disappointed environmentalists at the press conference by implying he did not see the scientific case of manmade climate change as being unanswerable. Mr Blair wants to make climate change alongside Africa the big theme of his G8 summit.

            President Bush said of climate change: "We need to know more about it. It is easier to solve a problem when you know a lot about it."

            But the Washington trip will be remembered for the progress Mr Blair made on debt cancellation and the assertion by President Bush that lifting Africa from poverty "is a central goal of my administration".

            On debt cancellation the Americans promised not merely 100% cancellation, but also additional funding to ensure that the World Bank does not lose out over cancelled interest payments.

            America had been insisting the World Bank was recompensed through cuts in aid programmes to Africa. Now it will provide additional cash.

            President Bush told a White House press conference: "We agree that highly indebted developing countries that are on the path to reform should not be burdened by mountains of debt. Our countries are developing a proposal for the G8 that will eliminate 100% of that debt and that by providing additional resources will preserve the financial integrity of the World Bank and the Africa Development Bank."

            He omitted any mention of the debt owed to the IMF since America is opposing the British proposal of funding the cancellation by the revaluation of IMF gold reserves.

            Mr Bush insisted he would not lift aid to a fixed formula but said he had already tripled aid.

            He added: "We have got a fantastic opportunity presuming the countries in Africa make the right decisions. Nobody wants to give money to a country that's corrupt, where leaders take money and put it in their pocket. We expect there to be reciprocation."

            Mr Blair also stressed the proposed $25bn extra aid was not a figure taken out of the air. He said, in comments designed to attract the president, that over the coming weeks the cash could be allocated "on the basis of an analysis of what Africa needs".

            He listed areas such as malaria, Aids, peace enforcement and education. It is possible the American extra aid cash will not go through multilateral institutions but through funds set up in Washington along the lines of their existing anti-Aids programme.

            Mr Blair also stressed, like President Bush, that the aid was not unconditional. He said: "We require the African leadership to be prepared to make a commitment on governance against corruption in favour of democracy.

            "What we're not going to do is waste our country's money."

            President Bush bridled at suggestions that America would not provide any extra aid cash. He said: "We've got a lot of big talkers. What I'd like to say is my administration actually does what we say we're going to do."

Article Index

The Real Cause of Zimbabwe’s Food Crisis

By Stephen Gowans, June 2, 2005, http://gowans.blogspot.com/

It’s dangerous to comment on events that are distant in space or close in time. And Zimbabwe’s food crisis is both these things – distant and recent and therefore ambiguous.

            But there are some things that are less ambiguous than others.

            Take the claim that agricultural production in this southern African country has shrunk. That’s beyond dispute.

            So too is the claim that, without outside assistance, many Zimbabweans will go hungry.

            What is, however, a matter of disagreement – or should be – is why.

            To the Western press, Zimbabwe’s food crisis is the inevitable outcome of Harare’s challenge to decades of imperialist exploitation.

            Of course, it’s not put that way. Harare hasn’t challenged imperialism. It has seized white-owned farms. Robert Mugabe, the country’s president and leader of its national liberation struggle, is a power-hungry, anti-democratic, thug. He wants to reward his lackeys with stolen farmland, using a progressive land reform programme as cover. Only a fool would fall for this.

            Anti-imperialist struggles, seen through the lens of the Western press, are always dark, sordid and corrupt affairs, Zimbabwe’s no less than any other. And those who challenge these campaigns of vilification, are no less vilified, than the main targets.

            A recent Washington Post (June 2, 2005) account is emblematic of the Western media’s dark, tendentious take on Zimbabwe’s troubles.

            “Once known as the breadbasket of southern Africa for it bounteous exports of corn and other staples, Zimbabwe has failed to produce enough food for its own population since the often violent land seizures began in 2000.”

            Lay aside the reality that the arable land of the former colonies of Western imperialist countries have, as a legacy of their previous colonial status, been largely given over to the production of a few cash crops for export, on land often owned by absentee landlords, not production of food by indigenous owners for internal consumption.

            This, the Washington Post notes (Zimbabwe, “once known for it bounteous exports”) but assumes that an export-based cash crop economy can, in a pinch, be converted to “production of food for internal consumption”.

            Ignoring that point, and reading the analysis in the strictest literal way, there’s nothing to dispute.

            Harare did abandon the unworkable willing seller, willing buyer policy favoured by its former colonial master, to pursue a land redistribution programme to reverse the effects of imperialist exploitation. A food crisis did follow.

            The cock crows; the sun rises. But does the cock cause the sun to rise?

            Read the analysis again, but not in a strict, literalist, way, and the insinuation is that the roots of Zimbabwe’s depressed agricultural production can be found in Harare’s land redistribution campaign, and not surrounding – and vastly more significant – events.

            “Drought,” the Post article acknowledges – though at a point sufficiently removed from the critical pairing of the food shortage with farm seizures to make the calamity appear to be an interesting side note, but nothing more – “has cut food production in several (neighbouring) nations.”

            Indeed, drought, sufficient to lower food production in neighbouring countries, should go a long way toward explaining why Zimbabwe can’t produce enough.

            But if drought isn’t enough, add punitive sanctions imposed by Western countries in reaction to Zimbabwe’s anti-imperialist challenge (a point the Washington Post either misses or ignores.)

            Surely, both these things are significant.

            The sanctions, as intended, have been crippling. Fuel – vital to the operation of farm machinery – is in short supply. The economy is in a shambles.

            And it’s not only Zimbabwe whose agricultural production is drought-ravaged and depressed. That of surrounding countries, whose governments haven’t launched meaningful land reform programmes, is too.

            Only a miracle worker could produce a bounteous crop under drought conditions, in the midst of an economic war, whose objective is to force the government to cry uncle, and leave the legacy of past imperialist exploitation in place.

            Accordingly, an honest account of the direct causes of Zimbabwe’s agricultural troubles would dwell less on land redistribution, and more on drought and Western punishment for Harare’s land reform programmes.

            The Washington Post, were it other than a mouthpiece for advancing the interests of US investors, financiers and shareholders, may have put it this way:

            Once known as the breadbasket of southern Africa for it bounteous exports of corn and other staples, Zimbabwe has failed to produce enough since drought began to ravage southern Africa and Western countries undertook a campaign of economic warfare to cripple the impoverished country’s economy, including its agriculture sector.

            Don’t expect letters to the editor, complaints to the newspaper’s ombudsman, or the pressure of liberal media watchdogs to change this. (Indeed, expect no pressure at all; Zimbabwe has few friends in the West, including among nominally anti-imperialist groups.) The Washington Post, its sister publications, and the West’s mass media, are not neutral. They never can be, anymore than a lion can live on grass.

            The hunger of the poor of Zimbabwe is, as it has been for over a century, not the consequence of the backwardness of Zimbabweans, or the corruption of its national liberation leaders, but the consequence of Western exploitation.

            And the iron heel brought down on any who challenge it.

Article Index

Sahel-Sahara Summit Pushes for Integration

People's Daily Online – June 02, 2005

Leaders from the Community of Sahel and Sahara states gathered for their seventh summit on June 1 in Ouagadougou, capital of Burkina Faso, to seek concrete progress toward African integration.

            In a keynote speech, Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore called on his colleagues to inject new vitality to the organisation to ensure greater economic, political, social and cultural compatibility among these countries.

            He asked to strengthen cooperation and consolidation so as to foster an Africa with political stability and capability of sustainable economic development.

            Citing the threat posed by globalisation, Compaore tried to solicit a commitment for real integration from the leaders attending the meeting, while calling on them to strike out an integration framework in the spirit of solidarity and dialogue, and lay out a series of economic and social policies accordingly.

            "(This globalisation) plunges millions of urban and rural workers into despair – it is the responsibility of this grouping to pull them out, for ourselves and for the emancipation of our own countries," said Compaore.

            Countries grouped under the Community of Sahel and Sahara are among the world's poorest, with paltry infrastructure, few economic assets and populations chronically threatened by hunger, diseases and, more importantly, civil conflict that compounds both.

            Compaore also paid tribute to Libyan leader Muammar al-Qathafi, the highest coordinator of the organisation, for his efforts in seeking solutions to conflicts among member states.

            Mali's President Amadou Toumany Toure, who has just served his term as executive chairman of the organisation, called on the countries to appoint their representatives in an economic, social and cultural council of the organisation. The council will be in place before the end of the year.

            Toure said leaders at the summit will also deal with the issues of famine and locusts that threaten many of the already unstable nations.

            The hunger crisis in countries stretching across the bottom of the Sahel is particularly acute this year, following last year's devastating locust invasion, the worst in more than a decade.

            The two-day summit gathered leaders from Libya, Burkina Faso, Mali, Sudan, Chad, Niger, Eritrea, the Central African Republic, Senegal, Gambia, Djibouti, Nigeria, Tunisia, Morocco, Somalia, Togo, Benin, Egypt, Guinea-Bissau, Cote d'Ivoire and Liberia.

Source: Xinhua

Article Index

The Darfur Question at a Time of Increasing US-China Competition

Drafted By Federico Bordonaro, 2 June 2005, http://www.pinr.com

In the last two months, Sudan has once again graced the pages of international news due to intense political and academic debate over the Darfur question. Darfur is the south-western Sudanese region where Khartoum's troops are still in conflict with "rebels", causing a "humanitarian crisis" frequently described as genocide. On April 27, the African Union (AU) officially asked NATO for logistic help in Darfur, although on December 31, 2004, Sudan's central government and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) signed a permanent cease-fire agreement.

            Two days later, on April 29, Los Angeles Times reporter Ken Silverstein published a controversial article in which he reported that the Bush administration and the C.I.A. are forging closer ties with Lieutenant General Omar Hassan Ahmed Bashir, the head of Sudan's government, who is accused of being responsible for genocide. The Darfur question is thoroughly comprehensible only from a power and interest perspective, taking into consideration the broader context of China's rise and US goals in the "Greater Middle East".

US Relationship with Sudan and Recent Allegations of New Intelligence Ties
            Khartoum has often been considered part of an informal anti-American "axis", extending from Tripoli to Tehran, and passing through Khartoum, Sana'a and, until 2003, Baghdad. Washington has explicitly accused Sudan of harbouring international terrorists and members of the al-Qaida network. After the August 7, 1998, bombings of the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, former US President Bill Clinton ordered a retaliatory strike against Sudan's El Shifa Pharmaceutical Industries factory – which US officials said was housing chemical weapons.

            On October 21, 2002, President George W. Bush signed into law HR 5531, the "Sudan Peace Act", which should "facilitate a comprehensive solution to the war in Sudan" by calling for "multilateralisation of economic and diplomatic tools to compel Sudan to enter into a good faith peace process", while supporting "democratic development" of regions out of the central government's control and condemning human rights violations.

            In the background of post-9/11 "war on terrorism" policies, Washington's choice in coping with Sudan's geopolitical stakes has in fact been geared toward "multilateralism" from the start, opening the way for the planned NATO engagement in Darfur. What is important for the Sudanese question is that one of the Iraq intervention's consequences has been the reshaping of the geopolitical landscape in the area extending from Sudan to Central Asia – with a geographical pivot in Iraq, and whose label is the "Greater Middle East". This is a strategic and energetic key area for all powers involved in the struggle for influence in the Eurasian continent: the US, the main powers of the EU, Russia, and China.

            For instance, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi has stepped toward a less hostile, more co-operative stance with Washington and its allies, while other important political developments are taking place in Egypt, Syria and Lebanon. Not all of them are favourable to US geopolitical goals, though. Hezbollah's political role in Beirut is growing stronger, and the anti-US guerrilla campaign by Iraqi insurgents has not weakened.

            However, in a changing regional political environment, Khartoum's turn toward more friendly ties with Washington, caused by augmented US pressure, should not be ignored. The problem for the Bush administration is that increased intelligence cooperation with one of the world's more detested regimes would inevitably clash (when known by the public) with neoconservative claims of a US crusade against evil and against all dictatorships on the globe. It would also make matters worse for the public opinion's support of a NATO mission in Darfur.

Why Darfur and Sudan Matter
            The Sudanese territory (the widest of all African countries) connects four different geopolitical sub-systems: those of the Red Sea, the Maghreb, the Central African region and the African Horn. It also is, from Egypt's perspective, the natural continuation of Cairo's push towards the Nile's southern sources. Its Arabisation began in the 16th century at the expense of some Christian kingdoms. An almost permanent geopolitical struggle has existed for the past 30 years between the northern regions and the south – as the latter maintains some pre-Islamic characteristics.

            The south, however, has always served as a tool for foreign powers aiming at destabilising Sudan: in the 1970s and 80s, for example, Ethiopian pro-Soviet leaders exploited the conflict to weaken Khartoum's pro-Western stance. Since 1989, the new Ethiopian post-communist elites acted similarly, by supporting southern rebels to weaken Sudan's Islamic turn. This fact is of outmost importance for a genuinely realist interpretation based on power and interest.

            Today's American and Western attention for the Darfur question has much to do with Khartoum's new commercial and political ties with Iran and – especially – China. Beijing's attempt to gain influence in Africa is in fact one of our age's geopolitical novelties. Its main goal is to acquire African oil and gas at favourable conditions, in regions where Western oil majors must still compete for total control. Beijing's new African policy has been focused on Gabon, Nigeria and Sudan. It must be said, for the sake of accuracy, that Sino-Sudanese relations are not entirely new, for the arms trade between the two countries has been in place since the late sixties.

            Control over oil reserves is at the top of China's wishes – and Sudanese diffidence for the US seems to be a good set up for Chinese penetration as a powerbroker. In 2003, China's National Petroleum Corp. planned to invest one billion dollars to create Sudan's largest oil refinery. Moreover, as recent declarations from Sudanese Minister of Energy and Mining Awad Ahmed Al-Jazz confirmed, a newly-discovered oil field expected to produce 500,000 barrels per day of crude oil is located in the Darfur region. This latter is also the way to Chad, a country well-known for its natural gas reserves.

            At a time of growing strategic partnership between US geopolitical adversaries such as Iran and China, Sudan's importance is understandable in light of its energy assets and strategic position to securitise the "Greater Middle East".

NATO's Role in Sudan and Alleged French Hesitations
            This framework is made even more complex by the European countries' different perceptions of US Middle East policies and China's rise as a great power. As NATO is a transatlantic organisation, a lack of a common geopolitical concept, shared by its major components, would be immediately reflected in political terms. After the 2003 dramatic rift in transatlantic and intra-European relations concerning the Iraq war, many have continuously called for a new US-EU common security policy. The Darfur crisis and the African Union official request for help seemed to be an opportunity to extend the tight security cooperation between Washington and the EU's main powers via NATO.

            However, some analysts correctly remarked how the EU and NATO seemed to have both become involved in the Sudanese theatre of operations without a clear definition of their mutual relations in the mission. The dilemma is that either the EU relies on NATO's assets to project its power out of the European region, thus accepting the Atlantic political lead, or the two organisations enter into competition – which is to be read as another chapter of the Franco-American conflict for influence over the European Security and Defence Policy (ESDP).

            The French daily newspaper Le Figaro reported on April 27 that NATO's intervention in Darfur was a "historical event" in that for the first time the transatlantic organisation was planning a humanitarian mission in Africa. However, sources of French diplomacy, quoted by the press in February, said that Paris was opposed to NATO's mission in Sudan because it would reduce the ESDP's role and visibility in a geopolitical area considered vital for European interests.

            Another constant in the transatlantic relationship appears here: it is Paris that more vigorously insists for a greater European weight in security policy, for France's goal is to transform the transatlantic relationship in such a way that it becomes a partnership much more than American control over Europe. At present, this evolution appears unlikely for two reasons. The first reason is that US foreign policy – perceived not only by Paris as unilateral and hegemonic – is more often than not considered a threat to great and medium powers' geopolitical goals, although not directly in military terms. The second reason is that Germany seems to pursue a more independent agenda than it has in the past.

            The geopolitical framework of NATO's and the EU's interventions in Sudan is a fairly complex one. However, events seem to be running in the direction of these organisations' actual involvement. Washington's enthusiasm toward a direct intervention in the Darfur crisis appears to have been cooled down by Khartoum's new role in intelligence sharing with the US. This fact could clear the way for a stronger EU, rather than NATO, political role in supporting the AU's peacekeeping mission. At the same time, in the light of rising Chinese ambitions in the African political and economic landscape, it will also make things more puzzling for the future stabilisation of an increasingly delicate region.

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Africa No Longer Accepts To Be Marginal Player in World Affairs

People's Daily Online – April 20, 2005

Nigerian President Olusegun Obsajano on April 19 expressed Africa's willingness to assume its due position in the world, saying Africa will no longer accept to be a marginal player.

            Obsajano, whose country holds the current African Union (AU) chairmanship, made the remarks at a news conference at the end of the one-day summit of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD).

            He told the reporters that the summiteers discussed a report on Africa's agenda for the upcoming G-8 summit of the world's major industrialised countries.

            "We are looking forward to creating a new Africa that is much better than the old one, and to fight corruption and shun conflicts and muster all our efforts towards development and towards moulding a better future for ourselves," he said.

            On the just-concluded NEPAD summit, Obsajano noted that African leaders at the meeting listened to a report on progress achieved on the continent since last month's African meeting in Abuja, adding a report to be issued will speak clearly about everything undertaken and discussed by the summiteers.

            He praised "all work to make this summit a success" and to enable the summiteers to endorse a realistic and feasible programme of action.

            Great efforts have been exerted by many countries to overcome all problems facing the summit, he commended, adding an agreement has been reached on holding another African gathering prior to NEPAD’s July meeting.

            Obsajano also called on the NEPAD executive committee to start implementing the summit's programme of action and projects, particularly those aiming at serving the infrastructure development of African countries.

            The 13th summit of the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) was held with the participation of 29 African heads of state and government.

            NEPAD was launched in July 2001 at the 37th summit of the Organisation of African Unity, which was replaced by the African Union in July 2002, to address the current challenges facing the African continent, such as poverty, underdevelopment and the continued marginalisation.

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