Analysis on Obama’s 2013 Visit to Africa

President Barack Obama with President Macky Sall of Senegal
President Barack Obama with President Macky Sall of Senegal

I would like to share the following article on Pambazuka by Antoine Roger Lokongo, summarizing and identifying key questions for Obama’s last visit in Africa.  Like he points out so well, Obama’s visit was a tour to counter China’s influence in Africa.  Make up your own opinions, and please think: what should be the future of African relations with the United States, Europe, China, and others? What will be fair for African countries? How do Africans impose themselves at the bargaining table?

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[…]  There is a Chinese proverb which says that, ‘When the water subsides the rocks emerge’. Now that the ‘Obama fever’ has evaporated, all that remains is a stark reality that we are faced with: Barack Obama is the President of the United States of America who went to Africa to defend and promote America’s strategic interests, perceived as being threatened by China’s strong presence in the continent. Obama’s African tour was about countering China’s influence in Africa. Despite his charm offensive to woo Africa, depicting it as a ‘hopeful continent on the rise and with which America can partner and do business on an equal footing and ‘win-win’ basis’, perhaps taking a leaf from the Chinese ‘win-win’ international relations lexicon, Africans should treat him as such: A US president who went to Africa to build strategic military and business ties with Africa in the face of China’s surge in the continent.

President Obama in South Africa
President Obama in South Africa

[…] In his speech at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, President Obama rebuffed the criticism often coming out of Africa according to which democracy and transparency, those values which America holds dearly, are somehow Western exports and that it is intrusive and meddlesome of America to impose them on Africa. … he pointed out that ‘those in power in Africa who make those arguments are usually trying to distract people from their own abuses. Sometimes, they are the same people who behind closed doors are willing to sell out their own country’s resource to foreign interests, just so long as they get a cut’. It is hard to argue against that. The question, however, is, what if those foreign interests are American?

It is hard to believe that America does not tell African people who their leaders should be, but stand up with those who support the principles that lead to a better life. The list of African leaders who were assassinated by the CIA because they put the interests of their people first and refused to blindly serve American interests is very long. The list of leaders (living and dead) who were hoisted to power to serve America’s strategic interests and heaped with praises they do not deserve from the White House is also very long. In Congo, Patrice Lumumba was assassinated and Mobutu Sese Seko was hoisted to power. As far as we know, there are no strong institutions, such as independent judiciaries that can enforce the rule of law; honest police forces that can protect the peoples’ interests instead of their own; an open government that can bring transparency and accountability in Rwanda and Uganda today. But there are two strongmen who are supported and protected by Britain and America so long as they serve as proxy forces in Congo. They are presidents Yoweri Museveni and Paul Kagame!

China's presence in Africa
China’s presence in Africa

In fact, today, apart from the Chinese mining contracts in which the Congolese state (DRC) retains at least 32% of stakes, the stakes of the Congolese state in all other mining contracts the government has signed with Western mining companies do not go beyond 20%! So, Western powers still enjoy the lion’s share in Congo. In Zimbabwe, the government retains 51% stakes in each mining contract, not like in the DRC. That is what should be emulated by all other countries throughout Africa. The Chinese respect our laws and rules of the game and are massively investing in Zimbabwe under those rules, but Western countries see a problem with that policy in Zimbabwe where the economy is recovering without Western financial help and despite Western sanctions (so Mugabe is not pocketing all the money). Without African countries drawing their own rules and laying them on the table for their external partners to follow and not the other way round, African independence will remain meaningless and Africa will totally be owned by the outside world, in other words, by people who come and loot Africa’s wealth through predatory wars and then return to Africa as investors! Continue reading “Analysis on Obama’s 2013 Visit to Africa”

28 Nov. 2011: Presidential Elections in DRC

Map of the Democratic Republic of Congo
Map of the Democratic Republic of Congo

Today is election day in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). I would like to share with you this article by Antoine Roger Lokongo which I found quite interesting and deep, about the third presidential elections in the DRC after 51 years of independence, with a brief history of DRC since independence.  I have included some snippets from the article which I liked. You can read the full article on Panafrican Vision; it is entitled: D.R. Congo Democracy at crossroads – One election, two sources of legitimacy.

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‘Countries do not have permanent friends or allies, they have only permanent interests’

… when Joseph Kabila turned to the Western powers for assistance after the 2006 elections, they said they had other priorities.  Perhaps this was a wake-up call for Joseph Kabila.  This is how, in an interview given to Gettleman of the New York Times, Joseph Kabila himself explained why he turned to the Chinese for help after being disappointed with the West’s empty promises:
‘We said we had five priorities: infrastructure; health; education; water and electricity; and housing.  Now, how do we deal with these priorities?  We need money, a lot of money.  Not a 100 million U.S. dollars from the World Bank or 300 from the IMF [International Monetary Fund].  No, a lot of money, and especially that we’re still servicing a debt of close to 12 billion dollars, and it’s 50 to 60 million U.S. dollars per month, which is huge.  You give me 50 million dollars each month for the social sector and we move forward.  Anyway, that’s another chapter.  But we said: so, we have these priorities, and we talked to everybody.  Americans, do you have the money?  No!  Not for now!  The European Union, do you have three or four billion for these priorities?  No!  We have our own priorities.  Then we said: ‘why not talk to other people, the Chinese?’  So we said, [Chinese] do you have the money? And they [the Chinese] said, well, we can discuss.  So we discussed’.

Joseph Kabila, President of DRC
Joseph Kabila, President of DRC

This interview suggests that Joseph Kabila turned to the Chinese only after seeking help from Western powers.  That is exactly the dilemma Patrice Lumumba faced. Increasingly desperate, Patrice Lumumba went on an international trip to enlist Western support (including to Washington, London, Brussels…) to have Belgian troops who had orchestrated the secession of Katanga to leave immediately.  He did not get the support he expected and turned to the Russians for help.  He was immediately accused of being a communist and eventually assassinated.
Congolese leaders turn to other partners other than the ‘traditional Western partners’ because they are in need; and a friend in need is a friend indeed!  They do not mean necessarily to play of the West against the East and so on.  When Joseph Kabila turned to the West, the DRC was almost on the verge of bankruptcy. …

The question we want to deal with now therefore is: ‘What happened after Joseph Kabila turned to the Chinese in his country’s hours of needs?’ Continue reading “28 Nov. 2011: Presidential Elections in DRC”