AFRICOM heads for the Gulf of Guinea

The US Africa Command, AFRICOM is reportedly on it’s way to the Gulf of Guinea. I am beginning to feel as if we’ve been projected back in a time machine to the day the Portuguese emissary, Diego de Azambuja landed in what was to become El Mina with the intention of building a “a storehouse” for all the gold and slaves they hoped to acquire in the name of the King of Portugal . The place which would become known as El Mina and which was later to become the infamous slave dungeon witnessed an event some* describe as “The Beginning” of slavery and it’s afterlife which continues today. On that day, January 19th, 1482, Diego de Azambuja landed with six hundred men on the shores of present day Ghana to meet King Caramansa. The Akan King was not happy about the idea of a permanent Portuguese presence but somehow he was persuaded. However it is not difficult to imagine what would have happened if he had refused and thus the trade in slaves began, a few hundreds at first and eventually thousands passed through Elmina.

And so 500 years later, another emissary from the West lands on the Gulf of Guinea ready to stake out their claim to the waters and lands of Africa in the name of the King of America and oil. Although Nigeria’s President, Yar’adua has given his support to AFRICOM he is now playing both sides by saying yes he supports it but not in his back yard. Well sorry Mr President, it doesn’t work like that and do not expect us to believe that you are so naive to think you can have your cake and eat it at the same time.

President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, during his visit to US President George W. Bush, late last year, said that the Federal Government was in support of AFRICOM.
The Special Assistant to the President (Communications), Mr. Segun Adeniyi, had clarified the President’s statement, which had generated controversy.
He had explained that President Yar’Adua’s statement negated what people thought he meant, adding that his support for AFRICOM did not mean that he wanted its headquarters sited in the country.

If as This Day reports, Africa is united in it’s rejection of AFRICOM then we need to ask why the US Navy about to set anchor off the Guinea coast (covering the waters of two oil producing nations – Gabon and Nigeria, whilst they and the rest of the continent’s leaders are doing nothing? Either because they are weak and simply lackey’s of the United States or they are liars and in fact have made the deal with the US and the rest is a pretence. As I reported a few days ago, part of the brief of AFRICOM is to integrate the environment and other development issues and human security” in other words ARICOM will become a means to the militarisation of development and environmental issues from “natural” disasters to managing opposition to environmental destruction such as gas flaring in the Niger Delta. Despite the huge fan fare around Nigeria’s announcement that gas flaring would end in 2007 and any company not complying would be shut down. Nigeria shut down Shell and Exxon? Not surprisingly the multinationals have arrogantly ignored the ruling and the deadline has now been extended by a further 12 months to December 2008. Unless you have seen a gas flare especially those on the ground it is difficult to imagine the force, the intensity and heat emanating from flared gas and the soot and smoke that spreads far and wide over agricultural land, fishing creeks and villages.

It is no coincidence that AFRICOM’s naval forces are sailing towards the Bright of Bonny and the waters off both Gabon and the Niger Delta after all it is here to protect the multinationals and their interest and I do not for one minute believe that this is being done without the full cooperation of President Yar’adua. The militants are getting stronger and are more well armed that two years ago – we wait and watch as the end game begins.

It is also timely that Ike Okonta’s long awaited book “When Citizens Revolt: Nigerian Elites, Big Oil and the Ogoni Struggle for Self-Determination” has just been published.

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Okonta examines the Ogoni struggle for Self-Determination, which has since been replicated by other nationalities in the Niger Delta. The book considers the “origins and implications of the emergence and persistence of ethnic identities and the communal politics they engender in postcolonial Africa.”

* Saidiya Harman “Lose Your Mother: A Journey Along the Atlantic Slave Route

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