Submitted by Steve Brown…
The Secret War in Africa (part 1) covered the overall strategic predominance of US military/ NATO bases – some secret – in Africa, and the expansion by private military contractors (PMC) there in aid of corporate and national interests according to the major powers.
In Part 2 we examine the geopolitical associations in Africa which vary by nation, where major powers have a vested interest in a particular resource causing that major power to assume an aggressive posture to ‘protect’ its national interest by dominating or subverting the African state, in possession of that resource.
Typically those resources include natural gas, oil, gold, diamonds, silver, uranium, coal, rare earth elements and minerals, etc. Thus the major powers have their ‘client states’ in pursuance of the extraction of those resources, where that extraction may result in corruption, confrontation, armed aggression, and even support for terrorist organizations in those states.
In this post-Colonial era the extraction of resources by the major powers in a region where the indigenous people are exhorted to have their own right to self-determination is a significant challenge to global corporations, and former colonial occupiers in Africa like Britain, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, etc.
When corporate interests either collide or collude with state interests the local insurrection may be severe as mining giant Rio Tinto discovered in Bougainville. Other examples include coal and natural gas in Mozambique; uranium and gold in Niger and Mali; oil in Sudan; diamonds in the Central African Republic, and so on.
France in Africa
Perhaps the most notable component for NATO – specifically for France – is the uranium needed to run its nuclear operations. Most of that uranium originates in Africa even though France has reduced its capacity for nuclear power. Even so, France still receives in excess of two-thirds of its electricity from nuclear power via the former Areva Corporation, now called Framatome.
The uranium mined for Framatome’s nuclear reactors is commonly found in the Sahel region of Africa where most of France’s uranium comes from, primarily northern Niger and Mali. Chad** and Mauritania also possess enormous reserves of the dangerous material. Mali is the fourth-largest supplier of gold too, and with falling registered gold reserves and the already accomplished confiscation of gold by the west from its failed states Mali makes an especially attractive target… particularly for the EU’s struggling banks.
After the indigenous people of the Sahel suffered serious illness from the effect of uranium mining – where drinking water is frequently contaminated – activist leader Almoustapha Alhacen and NGO Aghirin cooperated to oppose France’s corrupt mining giant Areva in Niger and Mali after 2001.
By 2006-2009 the protests and strikes in Agadez and Mali became effective versus Areva. And by 2011 – surprisingly coincident with Hillary Clinton’s “Arab Spring” – mysterious new terror cells appeared in the Sahel subsequent to the NATO destruction of Gaddafi’s government, including:
- Movement for Oneness Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) funded by France/Morocco Intel
- Ansar Dine funded by France/Morocco Intelligence Services
- Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) funded by the United States of America CIA
Prior to 2011, a Tuareg rebellion led by the Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) had some success versus the Malian government and versus Areva. The MNLA is a legitimate secular rebel group and is not funded by any western intelligence service. MNLA’s success eventually led to air and ground assaults by France in Mali in Operation Serval (with bases in Bamako and N’Djamena) by 2014.
Under the guise of striking al Qaeda and ISIL in Africa – a continent where those groups did not exist prior to 2010 – France invoked air strikes and ground assaults versus the indigenous people who have been most effective in their resistance to Areva.
France’s military uses Bamako airport in Mali (which hosts the MINUSMA mission) and N’Djamena in Chad where these facilities certainly do not provide ideal bases for striking the rebellious indigenous population of the region. * Unfortunately for Macron’s ultra-high-tech world order, Bomako and N’Djamena air strips are ill-equipped for modern military aircraft.
Now, with the commissioning of the US Niger Air Base 201 as of November 1st, 2019, the question arises as to whether Macron will be allowed to use this base to bomb Tuareg protestors. That’s because NATO and the US military will not reveal whether Niger Base 201 may be jointly used, where all such communications appear to be classified. However, Base 201 may be considered a defacto ‘secret’ NATO air base.
Note that the United States imports less than 3% of its uranium from Niger whereas France imports more than ten times that much (in percentage terms). While the United States imports very little oil from Africa, France by contrast imports large amounts. France imports oil from Nigeria, from Angola, Libya and Algeria — comprising one-quarter of France’s oil imports overall.
These ‘divergent goals’ and the rift between the United States and France has recently come to light. France’s position in Africa has been modified by the ascendance of Donald Trump because under the Obama regime the United States and France had been marching in goose-step… or, lockstep.. but not anymore — at least for now.
The United States has asked France and all other NATO nations to contribute more funding to the construction and operation of bases – including Air Base 201 and other NATO bases. But even if France does have the use of Niger Base 201 it is clear that Macron prefers to see such a base owned and controlled by the European Union. Overall, the foregoing may lend some insight about Macron’s drastic words ie that NATO is ‘brain dead’.
France is evidently wheeling for a predominant position in the EU as a major power which has escaped France so far and (perhaps) resulted in NATO keeping quiet about its bases in Africa. At present all such NATO bases in Africa are used secretly or covertly by NATO because NATO does not fund any US military base.
United States Bases in Africa
The United States has its own agenda of course for the thirty-four military bases it operates in Africa (with many more under construction). One can only surmise about the rapid growth of bases there since 2016. It appears that this rapid growth is not based on a particular goal to cull resources in Africa at present; instead the US intends to maintain its role as global hegemon, to manage its Empire by Terror in the region, and to resist any nascent exploitation of African resources or expansion by Russia or China.
The United States is of course forward-looking in its role as unilateral global hegemonic and understands that it will not always be self-sufficient in oil. At some point shale and fracking will be done where Oilprice touts that shale is already in trouble with fracking to follow by 2024.
In that event — and since the United States has already destroyed most of the Middle East — Africa will become important to the US as a source for oil going forward. Meanwhile US plans to expand its designs on natural gas from Mozambique and elsewhere in Africa continue apace.
In summary US bases in Africa serve these purposes:
- Beheading anyone by drone as seen fit
- A gateway to African resources if and when they are needed (generally corporate)
- To prevent and discourage Russia and China from exploiting resources in Africa
- Use of bases by NATO should that interest coincide with US interest
- Reinforcement of the US global hegemonic
Russian Base in Eritrea
Russia has only one base in Africa. Russia’s Eritrea Logistics Centre is a recent development and the intended purpose for this site is presently unclear and it may not be a military base. However the Russian leadership has publicly expressed its interest in developing resources in Africa especially to provide safe nuclear power on the continent, and this site may bear some relation.
As covered in part 1 , private military contractors from Russia have been active providing security in the following African states:
- Central African Republic, Resources: gold, timber, diamonds
- Libya: Oil, natural gas, iron ore
- Mozambique: Russian giant Gazprom was in competition with US Exxon for a large natural gas contract in a lawless region of Mozambique which was awarded to Exxon
- Angola: iron ore, diamonds, petroleum, bauxite, uranium, feldspar and petroleum
- Uganda: copper, cobalt, gold, platinum
- Cameroon: oil, timber, hydroelectric power, rubber, palm oil, natural gas, cobalt, nickel
The relevant resources are listed because PMC contractors are generally hired to protect these resources on behalf of their private clients — no Russian Federation bases in Africa or Russian governmental ambitions are involved. PMC contractors support either Russian corporate interests or the local interests of their hosts and clients in Africa.
Regardless, the presence of private military contractors in Africa with connections to any Russian private business bears no relation – not even a remote comparison — to the massive and bloated US military presence in Africa.
China’s PLA Military Support Base in Djibouti
China’s military base in Djibouti was established in 2017 perhaps to counter the growing threat of US unilateralism. Since the base opened, a number of alarming reports have appeared in the US major media including the idea that the US could ‘lose its only base in Africa’ due to China’s presence when in fact Washington supports a vast number of bases in Africa.
China states that its purpose in Djibouti is to maintain peace in the region and to support humanitarian operations in Africa. That China appreciates African resources and their potential for development is just as relevant as saying that all other major powers appreciate the same.
China has a specific vested interest in patrolling the Gulf of Aden to ensure that piracy versus its shipping is kept in check.
There is a trite saying that the last frontier is space, but for those of us on earth it’s clear that Africa is the last frontier. Africa is a continent of resources and promise that could be responsibly developed and thrive if there were only any will in the world to do so.
Climate change and a declining world order make the prospect for Africa look bleak, as well as the resurgence in western colonial thought which sees Africa not as a treasure chest for promise, but for greed.
There are tiny rays of hope for Africa in the form of Algeria, Tunisia, and even Eritrea… but the colliding world disorder of west versus east and ever-deepening corruption in the ever-decaying west may not spare Africa. The ‘secret war’ in Africa is just that – secret, and shall remain so, so long as the new world disorder — primarily engendered by the west – continues in its apparent death spiral.
*While this may seem an extreme statement, recall the Hegelian Dialectic only as a tool for western imperialism as discussed in Empire by Terror, Afghanistan to Syria: Brzezinksi’s al Qaeda Doctrine . There is no doubt that the US/NATO destruction of Libya and the creation of the failed state there contributed to a plethora of weaponry in the Sahel region but not all unrest there may be directly attributed to takfiri Jihadi terrorists.
**In Chad, France experienced major problems especially during the Chadian civil war. Recall that as the former colonial power France exports much to Chad, Mali, and Niger. In Chad, France accounts for 30% of all Chadian imports. The Sudan threat to Chad was countered by France.
Steve Brown is the author of “Iraq: the Road to War” (Sourcewatch) editor of “Bush Administration War Crimes in Iraq” (Sourcewatch) “Trump’s Limited Hangout” and “Federal Reserve: Out-sourcing the Monetary System to the Money Trust Oligarchs Since 1913”; Steve is an antiwar activist, a published scholar on the US monetary system, and has appeared as guest contributor to The Duran, Fort Russ News, Herland Report, Lew Rockwell Report, The Ron Paul Institute, and Strategika51.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The Duran.