Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Obama’s Africa policy – an expanding military footprint to grab resources Ethiopia is a CenterPoint




Obama's Africa policy — an expanding military footprint to grab resources

Wednesday, August 24, 2016
United States President Barack Obama has carried out classically colonial, imperialistic policies towards Africa during his time in office.
John Feffer, from the Washington-based Institute for Policy Studies, said in a Common Dreams article: “Strip away all the modern PR and prettified palaver and it's an ugly scramble for oil, minerals, and markets for U.S. goods.”
Ethiopia, a lynchpin in the East African region that is playing an increasing role in the African Union, is a classic example.
Major international players, such as the US, are giving Ethiopia and East Africa more attention and are establishing cooperative relations with that country.
Ethiopia
But Ethiopia, and East Africa generally, has always been strategically important to great powers. When Ethiopia was governed by a Communist-allied regime (1974-91), it was always regarded as a strategically important ally for the former Eastern bloc countries.
It maintained extensive trading, cultural and political relations with the other socialist countries. The United States, Britain and other imperialist powers viewed Ethiopia as a battleground — indeed, Africa was in the midst of the Cold War fought between the allies of the rival superpowers.
The US sponsored various ethnic-based militias in secessionist wars to topple the socialist regime in Addis Ababa. The US was interested in opening up Ethiopia to its economic imperatives. Using the disguise of humanitarian intervention, it funneled arms and support for the ethnic-separatist groups, gathered together in the Maoist-oriented Ethiopian People's Revolutionary Democratic Front (EPRDF).
This formation, having acquired power in 1991 after the disbanding of the Eastern bloc and removal of the socialist regime, has hung onto power ever since through dictatorial measures.
The EPRDF quickly abandoned any pretence of commitment to Maoist-style socialism and became an enthusiastic Western ally. It has implemented International Monetary Fund economic programs. Corruption and mismanagement have become endemic. Human rights violations are normalised.
Agricultural products make up the largest part of Ethiopia's exports, despite chronic food shortages in the country.
Ina Counterpunch article, Graham Peebles said: “More than half the population live on less than [US]$1 a day; over 80% of the population live in rural areas (where birth-rates are highest), and work in agriculture, the majority being smallholder farmers who rely on the crops they grow to feed themselves and their families.
“The people of Ethiopia have suffered chronic food insecurity for generations: the major reason, as is the case throughout the world, is poverty. Other causes are complex; some due to climate change, others result from the ruling regime's policies ...
“International organisations encourage Ethiopia to produce cash crops to export, which reduces the land available for growing domestic crops — yes, Ethiopia — where millions rely on food aid every year — exports food.”
Ethiopia experienced drought and famine during the 1980s, drawing attention from the international community. The reaction of the imperialist powers was to exploit the suffering of the Ethiopians for Cold War political purposes — food became a political football. Media outlets broadcast heart-rending images of the famine's victims, and concerts were organised to raise money for food aid.
Western governments promoted the Eurocentric view that Africans — and in particular, socialist-oriented Africans — cannot feed and govern themselves. Any suggestions that there were natural causes contributing to the famine were dismissed and the blame was placed squarely on the shoulders of the regime.
Now Ethiopia again faces famine and food insecurity. By late last year, the number of people requiring food aid doubled to 8.2 million. Schools, hospitals and facilities have been forced to close down due to water and food shortages.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) released startling figures that place the number of food-insecure people in Ethiopia at just over 10 million. The OCHA points to the connection between natural and human-made causes, stating: “More than 80 per cent of the population live in rural areas and rely on rain-fed agriculture for their livelihood.
“Their vulnerability is frequently exacerbated by natural and man-made hazards, including drought, flooding, disease outbreaks, intercommunal conflict and refugee influxes from neighbouring states.
“Drought and flooding increase the risk of water-related disease outbreaks, particularly Acute Watery Diarrhoea, malaria and measles and especially among children under age 5.
“Access to clean water and basic health care, including life-saving maternal and neonatal services, remains low.”
The Ethiopian government has responded by denying the severity of the crisis. The regime has jailed opponents, suppressed journalists and carried out repressive measures against Muslim and ethnic minorities, particularly in the Ogaden region in the south-east.
These are the same crimes of which the former socialist regime was accused and condemned. In an article headlined “Ogaden: Ethiopia's hidden shame”, Peebles said: “The ethnic Somali population of the Ogaden, in the southeast part of the country, has been the victim of extreme government brutality since 1992.
“It's a familiar story of a region with a strong identity seeking autonomy from central government, and the regime denying them that democratic right.”
However, the Addis Ababa regime has avoided outright international condemnation because it is a valued US proxy. In July last year, Obama visited Ethiopia and celebrated its role as a solid ally in the “war on terror”.
Obama praised Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn's regime and expressed appreciation for the Ethiopian military's role in US-supported wars in Somalia.
Military bases
In a series of TomDispatch.com articles, investigative journalist Nick Turse revealed how the US has secretly built an enormous and extensive network of military bases, outposts and spying facilities across Africa.
In an article “America's empire of African bases spreads”, Turse documented his ongoing battle with the US military to uncover exactly how many, and how geographically extensive, the archipelago of US military bases is in Africa.
Turse wrote: “So how many U.S. military bases are there in Africa? It's a simple question with a simple answer.
“For years, U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) gave a stock response: one. Camp Lemonnier in the tiny, sun-bleached nation of Djibouti was America's only acknowledged 'base' on the continent. It wasn't true, of course, because there were camps, compounds, installations, and facilities elsewhere, but the military leaned hard on semantics.”
The US military prefers to use a new euphemism — cooperative security locations (CSLs) — to describe its military outposts in Africa. When taking into account all the other military facilities, spying locations, drone bases and considerable military settlements the US has, the number is astounding.
Turse describes it as an AFRICOM base bonanza: “Indeed, U.S. staging areas, cooperative security locations, forward operating locations (FOLs), and other outposts — many of them involved in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance activities and Special Operations missions — have been built (or built up) in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Senegal, the Seychelles, Somalia, South Sudan, and Uganda.”
The US military footprint, initiated by George W Bush, has escalated under Obama. The first African American president has overseen a huge rise in the US military presence in Africa.
In 2012, a US Socialist Worker article said: “It is no exaggeration to say that the U.S. is at war in Africa. The continent is awash with American military bases, covert operations and thousands of Western-funded troops, and responsibility for this escalation must be laid squarely on Obama's doorstep.
“Key to the Obama administration global strategy in the post-Iraq era is a shift from 'boots on the ground' towards 'alliance-building.' The idea is to cement American 'indispensability' to African political stability in geo-strategically critical areas — from the Horn of Africa, with its proximity to the Suez Canal and Middle East, to West African nations, with billions of barrels of oil.”
Obama has deployed an insidious policy of proxy-building; acquiring reliable allies, such as Ethiopia, who can perform the bulk of the actual fighting. Meanwhile, US special forces, military experts and foreign policy planners provide backup where needed.
China
Socialist Worker pointed out the context: “During the past decade, the U.S. has engaged in a fierce battle with China for worldwide economic and military preeminence. The aim has been to encircle and contain China's growing reach.
The Economist reported a Department of Defense announcement that by 2020, 60 percent of American warships would be stationed in Asia, along with 'a range of other “investments” to ensure that despite China's fast-growing military might, America would still be able to 'rapidly project military power if needed to meet our security commitments.”'
“Intensified competition with China, and other powers such as Russia, is fueling the higher levels of U.S. military involvement in Africa and a new scramble for resources. This scramble is mainly about oil, in which Africa plays a critical supply role for both China and the U.S., but also about increased overall investment in resources — from diamonds and gold to land for agricultural investment.”
Beijing is of course looking out for its own interests. China has dealings with repressive states in Africa, such as Sudan, which receives military equipment and arms in return for oil.
Beijing has successfully acquired the oil markets of the new nation of South Sudan, importing 77% of its country's oil. This is galling for the US, because the birth of South Sudan was nurtured by the US, who provided arms for its secessionist ambitions.
The Chinese are building infrastructure in sub-Saharan Africa, providing billions in every sector of the economy, from roads to telecommunications to health. China's volume of trade with Africa reached $222 billion last year.
The US views China's “soft power” approach with anxiety. This underpins the US militarisation of the continent.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Face of Defense: Airman Deploys to Ethiopia > U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE > Article View

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By Air Force Staff Sgt. Robert Hicks621st Contingency Response Wing Public Affairs
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July 26, 2016 — Two years ago, when Air Force Airman 1st Class Dylan Wisuri joined the Air Force, he never imagined that he would be waking up surrounded by a rain forest preparing to close down a joint task force port opening.


Airman 1st Class Dylan Wisuri, 921st Contingency Response Squadron, poses for a photo at Travis Air Force Base, Calif., July 14, 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo Master Sgt. Joseph Swafford)



Airman 1st Class Dylan Wisuri, 921st Contingency Response Squadron, poses for a photo at Travis Air Force Base, Calif., July 14, 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo Master Sgt. Joseph Swafford)
A JTF-PO is a robust combination of the Air Force's swift airbase opening capability and the Army's critical overland cargo movement, tracking and distribution capabilities.
Additionally, JTF-PO integrates a Defense Logistics Agency Deployment Support Team to provide expeditionary contracting, warehousing and sustainment equipment and services for U.S. and coalition forces.
The 921st Contingency Response Squadron spent more than a month closing down a JTF-PO in Ethiopia after their sister squadron, the 821st CRS, opened it months earlier.
“Since joining the 621st Contingency Response Wing, I have had the opportunity to travel all over and participate in real-world missions as well as exercises,” Wisuri said. “[Out of] all of the places I have been, I really enjoyed Ethiopia the most.”
Experiencing Local Culture
“Going to Ethiopia and really experiencing their culture and seeing how they live was definitely a different experience for me,” he said. “Also, the people in the local community were really nice and accommodating to us all.”
The community wasn’t the only thing Wisuri said he enjoyed while he was in Ethiopia.
“Waking up every morning to the beautiful backdrop of the area was nothing short of amazing,” he said. “The landscape was nice and green, to go along with their nice views; it was a real cool experience.
Though the trip was a great experience for Wisuri, he said he took more pride in helping his comrades.
“Coming to close the JTF-PO meant a lot,” the airman said. “I played a part in getting airmen back home to their families and loved ones. I felt like I was serving a bigger mission than just closing down the base.”
Contingency response airmen attend all types of exercises to ensure they are properly trained and stay proficient, Wisuri explained, adding that the training exercises prepared him for his trip to Ethiopia.
“Exercises I have attended helped a lot,” he said. “During the exercise you are able to really get an idea of how things work, so when it’s the real deal you’re able to pay attention to those small details and know everything you are doing is meaningful to the mission.”
Coming out of technical school, Wisuri swapped assignments with a classmate that sent him here, and he’s been performing the contingency response mission ever since.
“Growing up, when you think of the military it’s not usually humanitarian aid, but warfare,” he said. “But in the [contingency response wing] we are performing that humanitarian aid mission set as well as doing everything that we can for our country and doing a swell job at it.”
Since his first day in the contingency response wing, Wisuri hit the ground running and it hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“Dylan has been a go-getter since arriving in the [contingency response wing],” Said 1st Lt. Denver Barrows, 921st Aerial Port Flight commander. “Airmen entering directly from technical training must balance the traditional upgrade requirements as an aerial transporter and begin to execute the [contingency response] mission worldwide.
“Dylan is part of a strong cohort of young airmen who have done just that,” Barrows continued. “When selected for a tasking, we know what we are getting: a top-notch transporter who has demonstrated superb maturity and judgment.”
Contingency response units are self-sufficient and can deploy with all the personnel, equipment and supplies they need to execute their mission, officials said. As an Air Force Global Reach Laydown force, the 621st CRW bridges the gap between seizure forces and follow-on sustainment forces. The CRW is prepared to execute their mission for up to 45 days, and once redeployed home, are reconstituted within 72 hours and ready to once again answer the nation’s call.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

China's Response to the South China Sea Arbitration Ruling

Netanyahu's Africa Trip Draws Israel and Egypt Closer,


 

The Egyptian foreign minister’s visit to Jerusalem marks cooperation on issues from the peace process with the Palestinians to Ethiopia’s controversial Nile dam project.


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L), flanked by Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta (2nd L) and military officials, during his visit to State House in Nairobi on July 5, 2016.Simon Maina, AFP
In visiting Israel, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry doesn’t only break the nine-year stretch of no Egyptian foreign minister coming to Israel. It’s also important that the foreign minister, not the intelligence minister, was sent by President Abdel Fattah al-Sissi.
Ex-President Hosni Mubarak would send Intelligence Minister Omar Suleiman or the latter’s aides to discuss military and intelligence cooperation and the peace process with the Palestinians, or to consult over policy vis-a-vis Hamas.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem, July 10, 2016.AP / Dan Balilty
The decision to send the foreign minister shows a new level of ties closer to political normalization. At the press conference, Shoukry, a seasoned diplomat who was Egypt’s ambassador to the United States from 2008 to 2012, focused on the peace process and reiterated that a two-state solution was attainable.
But it was what he didn’t say that was interesting. Shoukry didn’t offer a peace initiative, parameters for relaunching negotiations, or a timetable. He didn’t even present Egypt as an official mediator; he simply mentioned his June 29 meetings with the Palestinian leaders and Egypt’s intentions to complete the Ramallah talks with the Israeli side.
Sissi has apparently decided to open a public political channel with Israel that could eventually result in a presidential invitation to the prime minister to visit Cairo. Egypt and Israel have common interests only some of which are security related. Security and intelligence cooperation doesn’t require discussions at the foreign-minister level.
Israel has already agreed for Egypt to break the Camp David Accords by bringing ground troops and air support into Sinai. Israel has also agreed to Egypt’s transfer of sovereignty over the Sanafir and Tiran islands to the Saudis, with the kingdom pledging to uphold an agreement to which it’s not a signatory. All these agreements were concluded by emissaries in secret talks with no fanfare.
An Egyptian farmer squats on cracked soil of a farm previously irrigated by the Nile river, June 5, 2013.Reuters
But for Egypt there are key issues that require it to go public with Israel. One is its concern about the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which Ethiopia is building on the Nile. The first part of the dam is expected to be completed next year, and Egypt says it stands to lose between 11 billion and 19 billion cubic meters of water annually.
That will reduce Egypt’s electricity output by some 25 to 40 percent. The dam is considered such a threat that deposed President Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood had threatened to destroy it.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (C) walks alongside Rwandan President Paul Kagame as he inspects a guard of honor upon arriving at the airport in Kigali, Rwanda, July 6, 2016.Stringer, Reuters
Egypt believes, quite rightly, that Israel has leverage in Ethiopia, and if it can’t prevent the building of the dam, it can at least persuade Ethiopia to coordinate water-sharing with Cairo so Egypt’s economy doesn’t suffer.
That might be the reason for the timing of Shoukry’s visit, right after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s return from Africa, to hear whether he had any good news for the Egyptians. Egypt needs this information to prepare for the conference of Nile Valley foreign ministers on Thursday in Uganda. Egypt also needs Israel’s support to counter any American intention to take the international peacekeepers out of Sinai, a step Egypt regards as surrendering to terror.
Cairo is also very interested in the renewed ties between Turkey and Israel, mainly in the clause that lets Turkey be a major supplier of consumer goods and construction materials to Gaza. Turkey’s entrance puts Egypt in an uncomfortable position at best, in which it, with Israel, continues to impose a formal closure on Gaza while Turkey becomes an ally of Hamas, this time with an Israeli “permit.”
To change this equation, Egypt will have to coordinate its civilian policy on Gaza with Israel and promote a reconciliation agreement soon between Hamas and Fatah so it can open the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt.
These are all weighty matters that a lightning visit to Israel by an Egyptian foreign minister can’t resolve. But the widening of the Israeli-Egyptian map of political interests, with an economic bonus in the background in the realm of natural gas, is a key development. It requires flexible and wise Israeli policy, with confidence-building measures toward the Palestinians that, this time, have strategic value in ties with Egypt and other Arab countries.