President Obama recently sent a letter to the United States Congress informing it of his administration’s dispatch of 100 US troops to central Africa, “to help battle the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA).” This action represents a sudden and intriguing interest to engage in a guerilla warfare that has lasted almost three decades and whose popularity has waned considerably in recent times.
At the twilight of Central Africa’s warfare against the LRA, the United States has been jolted to reality. After years of killing, maiming, raping and looting of villages, LRA forces have been seriously weakened - in operation and capacity - by a coalition of African governments. A November 2010 report by the anti-genocide group the Enough Project, noted that there are only between 200 to 400 LRA members left, and that Joseph Kony has lost “complete and direct command and control” over the organization.
Apart from providing one brief and shallow training session to the African coalition force in 2008, The US has for over two decades displayed clear apathy towards the bloody killings attributed to the LRA in Central Africa. Last week, however, the country roused from inertia to commit troops to “end the siege on Central Africa,” suddenly realizing that LRA leader Joseph Kony, has been committing numerous atrocities against innocent civilians. Even to the disinterested observer, the United States’ action appears suspect.
Considering its never-ending domestic economic recession and exasperating debt portfolio, the United States is understandably desperate in its search for wealth from overseas territories. With real and rising threats to its supply of crude from the Middle East, and the daily and drastic decline in its unipolar ambitions owing to the increasing dilution of its influence by the EU and China, the global capitalist leader is frantic in its effort to – forcefully, if need be - extract submission from as many weak and viable countries as possible.
According to White House reports, the troops will arrive first in Uganda, and more troops will be mobilized and deployed to South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Central African Republic. In Uganda, Chinese state run China National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC) recently paid $2.9 billion for stakes in oil assets in the country’s estimated 2.5 billion barrels of reserves. As it stands, CNOOC owns 33.3 out of every 100 shares or rights in the areas under exploration, with the rest held by British Tullow oil. Although a strong ally of the United States, a country that has maintained him in power for the past 25 years, President Museveni is besotted with the Chinese and their promise to “help build an oil refinery and to help turn oil into Ugandan-produced plastics and fertilizer.” In 2010 CNOOC was further granted the sole rights to explore Lake Albert Basin, known as “the epicenter of the emerging new oil zone,” with an estimated reserve of 4 billion barrels. Unless something drastic is done, the United States and its multinationals have all but lost out in this latest scramble for Uganda’s oil wealth.
In South Sudan, the United States has been jittery about the strong influence of China over the country’s crude reserves. Soon after the establishment of the state of South of Sudan in July 2011, US special envoy to Sudan, Princeton Lyman expressed grave concern that the “United States is trailing China in the race for business in the new nation of South Sudan.” The first meeting held between President Obama and South Sudan President was dominated by discussions on “South Sudan’s oil market and U.S companies’ conspicuous absence from the marketplace.” South Sudan possesses huge oil reserves and is home to 85% of the oil wells that made the former unified Sudan the third in the list of oil producing countries in sub-Saharan Africa. There are several unexplored areas in South Sudan with strong possibility of holding substantial reserves. Several exploration agreements have been signed between China and South Sudan. China is presently South Sudan largest trading partner.
In the case of the Democratic Republic of Congo, perhaps, owing to global outcry over the despicable role it played in the assassination of Patrice Lumumba, the United States has maintained a guarded interest in the mineral dense country. China has no such inhibitions. The terms of the several bilateral agreements that exist between China and DRC are steeped in secrecy. The vague 2009 infrastructure and mining agreement is the most recent and most widely publicized, with actual figures fluctuating between 6 to 13billion. Under the 2009 agreement, it is generally known that Congo has committed to supplying Chinese state firms no less than 10 million tons of copper, and several hundred thousand tons of cobalt (Congo has the world’s largest reserve of cobalt, the main ingredients in the manufacturing of cell phones). In return, China has generally pledged to embark on several infrastructural projects, including “roads, railways, hydroelectric power stations, universities and health centers.” President Laurent Kabila from every indication is following closely behind President Robert Mugabe in the latter’s famous statement that “we have turned East, where the sun rises, and given our back to the West, where the sun sets.”
Clearly, The United States is a latecomer in the central African wealth scramble; mere economic maneuverings and diplomatic persuasions are insufficient to grant it a slice of the cake commensurate with its appetite.
Joseph Kony is a despicable human being, who should be hunted down like the hound he has presented himself to the world as. However, bringing Joseph Kony to justice must not be at the expense of the stability of Central Africa and the risk of even more civilian deaths. For more than two decades, the United States watched unconcerned as thousands of children, women and innocent civilians were slaughtered by Joseph Kony and his pack of wolves in Central Africa. It was not then in the US’ national interest to act decisively; China was not reaping heavy economic benefits from the region, oil was not yet discovered in Uganda; there was relative stability in the Middle East, so Sudanese oil reserves and DRC’s minerals did not amount to life and death for the American economy.
Now the stakes are extremely high, the United States must send “special forces,” a catch-all term for spies, hit squads, intelligence officers and other destabilizing forces, to Central Africa to “catch Joseph Kony.” In the Letter to the Congress, President Obama stated that the deployment “furthers U.S. national security interests and foreign policy…” That is correct, the invasion clearly furthers the ailing national economic interests of the United States at a time of grave insecurity.
The United States’ recent action is a strong policy statement, and both a covert and overt operation aimed at controlling Central Africa. China is being warned of the arrival of its global rival - in style - as a competitor, backed by military might. Governments of East and Central Africa are subtly, if clearly, being told that the United States is now fully involved in their affairs; they must learn to behave. In truth, unless there is another ‘ wikileakage’ in the future, the extent of the espionage activities of the deployment in Central Africa might never come to light.
From every indication, it appears that Central Africa is being tilled for a second wave of externally induced conflict. The first wave of conflict was in the form of proxy wars, fought between the United States and the USSR, during the Cold War. There appears to be a repetition of history about to unfold in less than a generation. Unless immediate action is taken by the African Union, this singular United States’ action in Central Africa might evolve into a warm or boiling-point war between the United States and China in that region.
Dr. Ezeanya blogs at www.chikaforafrica.wordpress.com