A New Scramble for Africa

A New Scramble for Africa
  • PublishedMarch 19, 2013

The current interventions by Western powers in Africa are neither humanitarian nor necessarily security-driven. Methinks it is about securing vast mineral and energy resources.

A Guardian newspaper article of 11 July 2011 by Nicholas Watt, headlined David Cameron joins the new Scramble for Africa – catching up with China, suggested it was a hurried catch-up trip that saw the UK prime minister visit South Africa and Nigeria last summer. German Chancellor Angela Merkel had, the previous week, been to several African countries backed by a large business entourage. Cameron also took along a party of 25.

According to Watt, the issue was not a new European Scramble per se, but a counter to China’s growing influence. Fast-forward to 2 February 2013, and an article by Tony Parsons in the Daily Mirror, which asks: “Why is Cameron swanning around Africa like some Primark Churchill, playing the hard man? Because he dreams of his own Falklands War.” Parsons argued that Cameron’s recent trip to the region was deceitfully hyped as essential against the so-called “global war on terror”. As if to pinch the soft-Anglo-French rivalry, Parsons reeled in history: “What happens in Mali does not threaten British interests and Britain has no links to Algeria – it is the French who brutally turned the place into a colony, savagely repressed the people for 130 years and are up to their berets in the blood of the local people.”

He added: “If Cameron wants to confront war on terror, he would be better off winning the hearts and changing the minds at home, convincing disaffected Muslim youths that they are better off as loyal British subjects, and not the murderous stooges of al-Qaeda.”

Cameron had stated his “absolute iron resolve” to deal with the “terrorist threat” in Mali and North Africa, “even if it takes decades”. Indeed, while America provides “intelligence” and aircrafts, their frontal detectors are now spread across the continent under the AFRICOM initiative. But while Britain has been presented as if playing second fiddle in Mali and elsewhere in Africa, France has been more assertive of late. First, they led in Libya in the war against Muammar Al Gathafi’s rule. And on 11 January, French President François Hollande told his nation: “Our action will last however long is necessary… France will always be ready to defend the rights of a people who wish to live in freedom and democracy…”

But the French are not like the Cubans, who were invited into Angola, which was under threat from the US-backed Jonas Sivimbi’s UNITA and apartheid South Africa. With a clear but limited objective, Cuba and Angolan forces, in what came to be known as the “Battle of Cuanavale”, decisively beat off the foreign-backed forces of apartheid and UNITA. The result was a free Angola, an independent Namibia and a negotiated settlement in South Africa leading to the demise of apartheid. According to the former Cuban President Fidel Castro, had they chosen, Cuban troops could have overrun South African forces and reached Cape Town with ease – unless of course the Boer allies in NATO intervened.

The current interventions by Western powers in Africa are neither humanitarian nor necessarily security driven. At their core is the securing of vast mineral and energy resources including gold, uranium and lots of oil, in Mali, the Sahel and the West African environs. But with the regional grouping ECOWAS currently headed by the Ivorian President Alassane Quattara – a man who owes his own job to French Special Forces – who will question those who trained, financed, and equipped the Malian rebels? While, in the exploitation of East, Central and the Horn of Africa, the West found willing and ready regional bidders (conveniently baptised “a new breed of African leaders”), Mali is experiencing subtle French-led proxies. Africa remains a global political play centre. And the loser in this geopolitical game, once again, is… Africa.

Written By
Joseph Ochieno

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