‘Disaster Capitalism’ What Does it Mean to Africa?
July 21, 2013
By NWAKANMA CHIKA
How does the bombing of a church in northern Nigeria by some illiterate Boko Haram suicide bomber relate to the intrigues over
the control of crude oil in Port Harcourt? Or how does the interplay of western and Chinese economic interests filter through political violent eruptions in Nigeria, the two Sudan(s); or the likelihood that Mali’s current misadventure could impact seriously and negatively against much stable Ghana? How does it all connect into disaster capitalism?
Picture Boko Haram and the rising violence in Nigeria; Islamists and the increasing stratification in Somalia and Mali; Ethnic cleansing and full scale wars between the two Sudan (s); Wars and terrorist attacks in Kenya, Uganda and the Congo. Picture Africa as no more than a chess game in the economic battle for supremacy between the west and newly emerging powers in the east, China particularly. Just how should or would Africa navigate out of the emerging scenario is the concern of many true lovers of the continent. But with the insidious tendency of practitioners of disaster capitalism, Africa has little chance of escape, excerpt of course; it allows people-centred leaders to emerge at the centre of power. That looks unlikely for now, in many countries.
Disaster capitalism is a vicious economic system: A predatory economic mode that preys on smaller economies and businesses. One may argue that this is a basic feature of capitalism: bigger economies/businesses absorbing smaller ones. However, disaster capitalism is the socio-economic mode of conflicts, wars and strifes, or as Canadian author Naomi Klien describes it, “it is about making money from misery”. In her book, The shock doctrine: The rise of disaster capitalism, Naomi illustrated how man-made crises (such as wars, diseases) are created with the sole intent of making profit, pushing reforms or getting economic and political gains.
Most of Africa’s wars are proxy wars which are fueled by disaster capitalism. The continent is the coliseum that entertains and hosts the grievances of world powers battling for supremacy. Proxy wars are wars between countries who do not engage themselves directly, but assert their aggression through surrogate states. The sponsor supplies the surrogate state with weapons, mercenaries, and logistics to engage another state or opponent in military aggression to achieve its own objectives.
The Sudan crisis, Ethiopian-Eritrean war, Kenya and Ethiopian invasion of Somalia, Rwandan genocide, Libyan war, Boko Haram menace in Nigeria and Liberian war are cases of proxy wars on African soil. The loot of such warfare is not for national or
racial pride, neither is it for the emancipation of the oppressed. The resources of the state are the crux of the warfare. The current economic crises have increased the desperation of the west and its allies to maintain influence in the global sphere, particularly in Africa where it gets substantial part of its resources. This desperation has been heightened with the increasing presence of China. Unlike the cold war, access to strategic resources rather than ideology is at the heart of the US-Sino competition. China is the threat to western hegemony; as such proxy wars are bound to be the likely occurrence. The Sudanese scenario is a clear illustration of such.
In Sudan, the Chinese are major trading partners in Sudanese oil. China owns 40 percent of the Greater Nile Oil production company, a major Sudanese oil company, and has stationed 4,000 military personnel in Sudan to protect its interests in energy and mineral
investments. The United States also has its eyes on Sudanese oil. It began its subtle moves by promoting the legitimate separation of the North and South on humanitarian grounds, and pushed forward the referendum that separated the two countries.
Sudan’s oil lies at the border between the north and south protected by Chinese companies. This is the area where much of the fighting is taking place. By instigating a series of ethnic blood baths, the United States has provided the perfect cover for the destruction of Abeye Oil fields and the very vulnerable Abeye-port Sudan pipeline. This would put pressure on not only the Chinese to leave, but also on President Al-Bashir, because it would be difficult to maintain the standard of living with depleted oil revenues. Just recently, the country is witnessing an uprising against President Al-Bashir because of austerity measures taken by the country.
In his article ‘The US plans to destabilize Sudan’, Thomas C. Mortar hinted that the US pays the salaries of the Sudan People’s Liberation Army -SPLA- the national army of South Sudan. According to him, over $100 million was spent in 2011 alone. This puts a question on the sovereignty of South Sudan, especially if its proximity to Sudan and the Chinese controlled oil fields is taken into consideration.
The Boko Haram in Nigeria is another exemplification of how proxy wars are used to pave the way for western interference in African
states. The recent spate of bomb blasts in the country, and government’s sheer insensitivity and somewhat lack of will to curb this anomie is being capitalized on by the United States. The group which claims it is against western education is targeting Christians and security (police) forces and installations, to further split the country along religious and tribal lines. The US has already named the core leaders of the group as international terrorists paving the way for the organisation to be fully tagged an international terror group. The implications are far reaching. Such condition allows America to invade the country under the guise of a ‘global war on terror’.
Already, activities in the country show that the US is gearing up for this. Earlier this year, the Nigerian government received a US
warship under the African Partnership Station Programme, an international maritime security initiative facilitated by the US. Similar operations are going on in Cameroun, Togo, Morocco, Senegal, Tanzania, Angola, Djibouti, Namibia and Ghana among others. The programme aims at ‘training’ African Naval personnel on counter-terrorism and maintaining security. It also aims to protect American interests in Africa’s creeks.
In Libya, the Chinese were the major partners in Libyan oil under ousted leader Colonel Mummar Gadaffi. Presently, France owns 40
percent of Libyan oil for the support it gave the rebels during the uprising. American and British companies are snapping up reconstruction contracts. Libya is an African example of Iraq. If the war in Libya was perpetuated under humanitarian grounds, how come the key players in its oil industry changed overnight?
The horn of Africa is the region most susceptible to disaster capitalism vis-a-vis proxy wars. Kenya, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Uganda,
Congo, Rwanda and Somalia have been caught in the web of proxy wars. In an article ‘Obama’s African rifles- partners/surrogates/proxies’ featured on crossedcrocodiles.com, states such as South Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Congo and Central African Republic were branded ‘client-states’ for the US, focused on destabilizing northern Sudan and China’s operations there.
In the 2006 invasion of Somalia, the Ethiopians were closely working with the US special forces, right down to company level. In 1991, the US backed and trained the Ugandan invasion of Rwanda, which put Paul Kagame in power in 1994. The civil war in Rwanda was a brutal struggle for political power between the Hutu-led Habyarimana government supported by France, and Tutsi Rwandan Patriotic Front backed financially and militarily by Washington. Wayne Madsen, author of ‘Genocide and covert operations in Africa: 1993-1999’, asserts that Kagame and the RPA orchestrated the April 6, 1994 assassination of the Rwandan and Burundian presidents, shooting down their jet as it approached Kigali airport. This degenerated into the Rwandan civil war and set the stage for the participation for the Ugandan and Rwandan RPA in the Congolese civil war.
Kenya under the guise of hunting down Al-Shabab militants is paving the way for its western masters to have access to Somali oil. Earlier this year, Kenyan airplanes crossed the border and launched airstrikes against the terrorists in Mogadishu.
Proxy wars are catalyzed by disaster capitalism, a term used to describe profiteering from wars, conflicts and misery. Though as old as warfare itself in human relations, it has assumed scientific dimensions. Studies are undertaken to espouse how best to instigate a war and benefit from it. The west has been pioneers of this predatory economic mode, instigating wars, ethnic blood baths and conflicts for commercial and geo-political objectives. By making use of surrogate nations, the sponsors make such nations (surrogate) indebted to them. Sometimes, these sponsors offer assistance to quash an uprising or rebellion in exchange for monetary or political gains.
Such conflicts also create jobs as companies from the sponsor nations would be involved in the rebuilding process of the nations. This scenario is been played out in Libya and Iraq, where American and British companies together with their NATO allies jostled for construction and oil contracts. In Africa, the build- up of the Ugandan external debt under President Yoweri Museveni coincided chronologically with the Rwandan and Congolese civil wars. With the ascension of Museveni to the presidency in 1986, Ugandan external debt stood at $1.3bn. With the gush of fresh money, the external debt spiraled overnight increasing triple-fold to $3.7bn by 1997.
Arms supplied by western powers and Russia to various groups in the continent are of inestimable value. It is on record that the
Nigeria-Biafra war had the largest number of small arms in circulation than those used in the 2nd World War. Perhaps the gravity of the situation would be given due cognizance if we consider the recommendations of Mark Yesley seriously. In the presentation of his paper “Bipolarity, proxy wars and the rise of China”, at the Strategic Studies Quarterly, Yesley enunciates that “if the United States is to secure its resource needs from Africa in the future, it must be prepared to employ all elements of hard and soft power to meet the demands of future proxy conflicts on the continent”.
Proxy wars are most successful in states with weak democratic structures. Such states have huge resources but weak regimes which
make them susceptible to manipulation. All states which have engaged in proxy wars have no semblance of democracy. Uganda, Ethiopia, Sudan, Eritrea and Somalia are either run by rebels, military regimes or crippling democratic structures. Those with fledgling democracies or a semblance of such are much more difficult to recruit as client-states, or at least as puppet armies. The passage below provides a classic example of why Nigeria has not falling in line with the US expectation of having a surrogate in the west African region. It is an excerpt from the article ‘Obama’s African rifles-partners/surrogates/proxies’.
The surge in US security assistance to Nigeria from 2000 to 2003 was closely tied to the United States government’s expectation of Nigeria as a lead contributor to sub-regional and regional peace support operations. However, in what the United States describes
as ‘shrinking’, Nigeria declined from sending troops to intervene in Liberia in 2003, and Somalia in 2006. By ‘shrinking’, Nigeria
did not do what it was contracted to do. Nigeria’s lack of enthusiasm for the mission stemmed in part from the inculcation of democratic practices. Democracy is likely to discourage military surrogacy, where the people have a say and must demand a reason to participate in such endeavor. This is unlike the case in Uganda and Rwanda being only nominal democracies.
As is the case with most of Africa’s problems, the absence of strong social institutions, credible leadership and political will
has fostered disaster capitalism and proxy wars. African states are now puppet armies of the west, carrying out the objectives of their masters at the expense of the wellbeing of her citizens. Africa’s conflicts are not steeped in ideological purpose, or for the quest of liberation, but are driven by greed. For how long shall Africa be directed by the strings of the west?
Nigeria’s lack of enthusiasm for the mission stemmed in part from the inculcation of democratic practices. Democracy is likely to
discourage military surrogacy This is unlike the case in Uganda and Rwanda being only nominal democracies.
In Libya, the Chinese were the major partners in Libyan oil under ousted leader Colonel Mummar Gadaffi. Presently, France owns 40
percent of Libyan oil for the support it gave the rebels during the uprising.
The US has already named the core leaders of the group as international terrorists paving the way for the organisation to be fully tagged an international terror group. Such condition allows America to invade the country under the guise of a ‘global war on terror’.
Sudan’s oil lies at the border between the north and south protected by Chinese companies. This is the area where much of the fighting is taking place.
By instigating a series of ethnic blood baths, the United States has provided the perfect cover for the destruction of Abeye Oil fields and the very vulnerable Abeye-port Sudan pipeline. This would put pressure on not only the Chinese to leave, but also on President Al-Bashir.