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Britain joins the new ‘scramble for Africa’

Tony Blair flew to Ethiopia last week amid much talk of ‘rescuing’ Africa. Charlie Kimber and Makola Mayambika are skeptical

Issue No. 1923

THE MAIN proposal to come out of Blair’s trip was not debt relief or money to combat famine and AIDS.

Instead it was for a new European Union “rapid reaction force” which could pour troops into Africa at short notice.

The force, to be set up by 2005, would involve around 1,500 troops, building on the deployment of EU troops in the Democratic Republic of Congo last year.

But in June this year the rebel group headed by Laurent Nkunda was able to reoccupy the eastern region of the country, with EU and UN troops unable or unwilling to prevent it.

In the capital, Kinshasa, mass protests followed outside the UN office, leaving two people dead.

Britain is the second biggest exporter of weapons to Africa—selling arms to all sides in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Africa has many problems, but intervention is not the solution.

Blair’s plan is all about increasing the global reach of British forces, cloaked in an EU mandate.

He is working to the same agenda as George Bush. US armed forces are taking seriously the task of pulling as much of Africa as possible into the Pentagon’s orbit.

In March this year the top military chiefs of Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Senegal and Tunisia took part, for the first time, in a meeting at the headquarters of the US army’s European command in Stuttgart, Germany.

The meeting’s proceedings have remained secret, but it is known to have discussed “military cooperation in the war on terror”.

Its focus was to build up a swathe of states backing the US in the area around the Sahara desert—a buffer zone between the oil fields of the north and those of the Gulf of Guinea.

As Pierre Abramovici showed recently in an important article in Le Monde Diplomatique, “The US’s military commitment in Africa has clearly been intensified after being at a standstill during the post Cold War era.

“Washington has realised that it is dependent on raw materials from Africa: manganese (for steel production), cobalt and chrome vital for alloys (particularly in aeronautics), vanadium, gold, antimony, fluorspar and germanium—and for industrial diamonds.

“US thirst for oil will boost the importance of countries such as Angola and Nigeria.”

The US has already set up an African Crisis Response Initiative (ACRI) which will work alongside the one unveiled by Blair last week.

Abramovici’s article looks at who heads such forces: “Although ACRI claims to have humanitarian objectives, its programme coordinator is Colonel Nestor Pino-Marina, a former US officer with an impressive record.

“He is a Cuban exile who took part in the 1961 failed US landing in the Bay of Pigs. He is also a former special forces officer who served in Vietnam and Laos.

“During the Reagan era he belonged to the Inter-American Defence Board and, in the 1990s, he took part in clandestine operations against the Sandinistas in Nicaragua, alongside the Contras.

“He was accused of having been involved in drug trafficking to fund arms sent to Central America.”

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Wed 13 Oct 2004, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1923
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