Tag Archives: Land Grab

US Expansionism by stealth: Militarism from Africa to the Pacific Islands

From Guernica – The Pivot to Africa.  The US [AFRICOM] claims it has a limited military presence in Africa with just one military base in Djibouti however when each small ‘footprints’ is counted, we see the whole is alarmingly expansive.

The proof is in the details—a seemingly ceaseless string of projects, operations, and engagements. Each mission, as AFRICOM insists, may be relatively limited and each footprint might be “small” on its own, but taken as a whole, U.S. military operations are sweeping and expansive. Evidence of an American pivot to Africa is almost everywhere on the continent. Few, however, have paid much notice.

The U.S. Military’s Pivot to Africa, 2012-2013 (key below article) ©2013 TomDispatch ©Google
The U.S. Military’s Pivot to Africa, 2012-2013 (key below article) ©2013 TomDispatch ©Google

If the proverbial picture is worth a thousand words, then what’s a map worth? Take, for instance, the one created by TomDispatch that documents U.S. military outposts, construction, security cooperation, and deployments in Africa. It looks like a field of mushrooms after a monsoon. U.S. Africa Command recognizes 54 countries on the continent, but refuses to say in which ones (or even in how many) it now conducts operations. An investigation by TomDispatch has found recent U.S. military involvement with no fewer than 49 African nations.

In some, the U.S. maintains bases, even if under other names. In others, it trains local partners and proxies to battle militants ranging from Somalia’s al-Shabab and Nigeria’s Boko Haram to members of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. Elsewhere, it is building facilities for its allies or infrastructure for locals. Many African nations are home to multiple U.S. military projects. Despite what AFRICOM officials say, a careful reading of internal briefings, contracts, and other official documents, as well as open source information, including the command’s own press releases and news items, reveals that military operations in Africa are already vast and will be expanding for the foreseeable future.

The US strategy has been to open small units or bases which initially appear small scale and then expand their usage so for example the military base in Niger was initially set up to deploy one predator drone. Now it is being used to deploy larger multiple drones on a daily basis.  Another example is the military base at Entebbe, Uganda which in 2009 was just a ‘barebones compound’ with a few aircraft. Now it is a much larger complex with fleets of helicopters and aircraft.

AFRICOM also provides a  massive role for private military contractors such Berry Aviation who provide “Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance” services…

In July, Berry Aviation, a Texas-based longtime Pentagon contractor, was awarded a nearly $50 million contract to provide aircraft and personnel for “Trans-Sahara Short Take-Off and Landing services.” Under the terms of the deal, Berry will “perform casualty evacuation, personnel airlift, cargo airlift, as well as personnel and cargo aerial delivery services throughout the Trans-Sahara of Africa,” according to a statement from the company. Contracting documents indicate that Algeria, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Libya, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, and Tunisia are the “most likely locations for missions.”

At present the US has agreements to use 29 international airports in Africa for refueling which technically at least can be interpreted as the US having a foothold in each of these countries in addition to all other bases and or training facilities.

When the US presence in  Africa is placed side by side with the expansion  in the Pacific – the Pacific Pivot, and the Middle East we begin to see the true picture of US globalized militarization which includes bases in all four corners of the world.   The frame now is no longer that of  outreach policeman,  but of grand patriarch and protector of the  homeland – of the women and the children, a horrible heteronationalism led by a black saviour astride a white horse.

It’s not hard to imagine why the U.S. military wants to maintain that “small footprint” fiction. On occasion, military commanders couldn’t have been clearer on the subject. “A direct and overt presence of U.S. forces on the African continent can cause consternation… with our own partners who take great pride in their post-colonial abilities to independently secure themselves,” wrote Lieutenant Colonel Guillaume Beaurpere earlier this year in the military trade publication Special Warfare. Special Operations Forces, he added, “must train to operate discreetly within these constraints and the cultural norms of the host nation.”

On a visit to the Pentagon earlier this summer, AFRICOM’s Rodriguez echoed the same point in candid comments to Voice of America: “The history of the African nations, the colonialism, all those things are what point to the reasons why we should… just use a small footprint.”

And yet, however useful that imagery may be to the Pentagon, the U.S. military no longer has a small footprint in Africa. Even the repeated claims that U.S. troops conduct only short-term. intermittent missions there has been officially contradicted. This July, at a change of command ceremony for Naval Special Warfare Unit 10, a spokesman noted the creation and implementation of “a five-year engagement strategy that encompassed the transition from episodic training events to regionally-focused and persistent engagements in five Special Operations Command Africa priority countries.”

Though Nick Turse’s article doesn’t comment on land and water grab, mineral resources, oil etc, it seems to me that it is important to at least ask how US militarism in Africa and the Pacific facilitates corporate America’s involvement with all of these issues and ultimately what is the purpose of the massive presence in these regions if not to protect these  interests?

Read  The Pivot to Africa: On the startling size, scope, and growth of U.S. military operations on the African continent.” in full on Guernica.       


Key to the Map of the U.S. Military’s Pivot to Africa, 2012-2013
Green markers: U.S. military training, advising, or tactical deployments during 2013
Yellow markers: U.S. military training, advising, or tactical deployments during 2012
Purple marker: U.S. “security cooperation”
Red markers: Army National Guard partnerships
Blue markers: U.S. bases, forward operating sites (FOSes), contingency security locations (CSLs), contingency locations (CLs), airports with fueling agreements, and various shared facilities
Green push pins: U.S. military training/advising of indigenous troops carried out in a third country during 2013
Yellow push pins: U.S. military training/advising of indigenous troops carried out in a third country during 2012

Interactive Land Matrix – Resource in documenting land grab across Africa

Over the past five years there has been a staggering increase in land for investment deals across Africa by foreign governments and private investors. The Oakland Institute has been researching and documenting land grab investments..

While only fractions of arable land in developing regions are being used for agriculture, demand for strategic swats next to irrigation and shipping sites is growing with greater investment. These areas and other lands are frequently in use even though occupants’ have no legal rights to the land or access to legal institutions. As demand for land assets increases and governments and multilateral institutions promote investment in national lands, displacement and affected livelihoods are becoming serious sources of international concern.

The interactive land matrix is an online database that allows anyone to contribute to information and data on land deals. The video below explains how this works and for more information see their website Land Portal

Via Tactical Tech Collective

Africa Open for Business & the Great Agro Giveaway

From Z Magazine -  The great agro giveaway is traced through  it’s historical roots to the present and what to with future grabs:  - transport systems, infrastructure, and credit systems!

Colonial-style empire-building is making a huge comeback, and most of the colonialists are latecomers, elbowing their way past the established European and U.S. predators.

Backed by their governments and bankrolled with huge trade and investment profits and budget surpluses, the newly emerging neo-colonial economic powers are seizing control of vast tracts of fertile lands from poor countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America through the intermediation of local, corrupt, free-market regimes. Millions of acres of land have been granted–in most cases free of charge–to those who, at most, promise to invest in infrastructure to facilitate the transfer of their plundered agricultural products to their own home markets and to pay the going wage of less than $1 dollar a day to the destitute local peasants. Projects and agreements are in the works to expand imperial land takeovers to cover additional tens of millions of hectares of farmland in the very near future. The great land sell-off/transfer takes place at a time and in places where landless peasants are growing in number, and small farmers are being forcibly displaced by the neo-colonial state and bankrupted through debt and lack of affordable credit. At the same time, millions of organized landless peasants and rural workers struggling for cultivatable land are criminalized, repressed, assassinated, or jailed and their families are driven into disease-ridden urban slums. The historic context bears similarities and differences with the old-style empire building of past centuries.

Old and New Style Agro-Imperial Exploitation

During the previous five centuries of imperial domination, the exploitation and export of agricultural products and minerals played a central role in the enrichment of Euro-North American empires. Up to the 19th century, large-scale plantations and latifundios, organized around staple crops, relied on forced labor–slaves, indentured servants, semi-serfs, tenant farmers, migrant seasonal workers, and a host of other forms (including prisoners)–to accumulate wealth and profits for colonial settlers, home country investors, and imperial state treasuries.

The agricultural empires were secured through conquest of indigenous peoples, importation of slaves and indentured workers, and the forcible seizure and dispossession of communal lands. In many cases, the colonial rulers incorporated local elites as administrators and recruited the impoverished, dispossessed natives to serve as colonial soldiers led by white Euro-American officers.

Colonial-style agro-imperialism came under attack by mass-based national liberation movements throughout the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries, culminating in the establishment of independent national regimes throughout Africa, Asia, and Latin America. From the very beginning of their reign, the newly independent states pursued diverse policies toward colonial-era land ownership and exploitation. A few of the radical, socialist, and nationalist regimes eventually expropriated, either partially or entirely, foreign landowners, as was the case in China, Cuba, Indochina, Zimbabwe, Guyana, Angola, India, and others. Many of these expropriations led to land transfers into the hands of a newly emerging post-colonial bourgeoisie, leaving the mass of the rural labor force without land or confined to communal land. In most cases, the transition from colonial to post-colonial regimes was underwritten by a political pact ensuring the continuation of colonial patterns of land ownership, cultivation, marketing, and labor relations (described as a neo-colonial agro-export system). With few exceptions most of these governments failed to change their dependence on export crops, diversify export markets, develop food self-sufficiency, or finance the settlement of rural poor onto fertile uncultivated public lands.

Where land distribution did take place, the regimes failed to invest sufficiently in the new forms of rural organization (family farms, co-ops, or communal ejidos) or imposed centrally controlled large-scale state enterprises which were inefficiently run, failed to provide adequate incentives for the direct producers, and were exploited to finance urban-industrial development. As a result, many state farms and cooperatives were eventually dismantled. In most countries, great masses of the rural poor continued to be landless and subject to the demands of local tax collectors, military recruiters, and usurious money lenders and were often evicted.

Neo-liberalism and the Rise of Agro-Imperialism

Emblematic of the new style agro-imperialism is the South Korean takeover of half (1.3 million hectares) of Madagascar’s total arable land under a 70-90 year lease in which the Daewoo Logistics Corporation of South Korea expects to pay nothing for a contract to cultivate maize and palm oil for export. In Cambodia, several emerging agro-imperial Asian and Middle Eastern countries are “negotiating” (with hefty bribes and offers of lucrative local “partnerships” to local politicians) the takeover of millions of hectares of fertile land. The scope and depth of the newly emerging agro-imperial expansion into the impoverished countryside in Asia, Africa, and Latin America far surpasses that of the earlier colonial empire before the 20th century. (A detailed account of the new agro-imperialist countries and their neo-colonial colonies has recently been compiled on the website of GRAIN.)

The driving forces behind contemporary agro-imperialist conquest and land grabbing can be divided into three blocs:

  • The rich Arab oil regimes, mostly among the Gulf States (in part, through their sovereign wealth funds)
  • The emerging imperial countries of Asia (China, India, South Korea, and Japan) and Israel
  • The earlier imperial countries (U.S. and Europe), the World Bank, Wall Street investment banks, and other assorted imperial speculator-financial companies

Continued on Z Magazine. 


Oakland Institute - excellent site for in depth report on land investment and acquisitions in Africa and other parts of the global south.


Food for thought


High Level Conference on Food Security took place in Madrid recently. All the main players in the global production and distribution of food met to discuss the ‘Global Action for Food’ and the future of ‘food for all’. Sounds very noble, but the reality is far removed from the needs of ordinary people and the inclusion of local farmers.

As usual in these high level gatherings, discussions were dominated by the World Bank /IMF and the multinational giants such as Monsanto, with very little time being given to small farmers. The former focus on production for profit – which includes the use of genetically modified (GM) seeds; agribusiness takes no real account of local food needs or farming practices. As food and water shortages increase it is clear that the policies of these international institutions are not working. Rather than seek alternative solutions, they continue to push the same old policies, and in particular the production of GM foods in Africa and elsewhere.
Whilst European consumers are increasingly refusing to eat GM food, international aid policies and the giant biotech multinationals have tried to force other countries to accept GM food aid such as grains and seeds. An article on opendemocracy.net explains:

‘Those with power, particularly the United States, have used hunger as justification for trade supremacy and the promotion of proprietary genetically-modified (GM) crops owned by northern multinational corporations – much to the delight of pro-GM advocates. Countries and their peoples who legitimately resist the consumption of GM grain and seed are under intense diplomatic threat of denial of food aid in times of crisis. United Nations agencies and US private voluntary organizations are complicit in this process, as is attested in these minutes of a May 2002 meeting between US Private Voluntary Organisations and the US Department of Agriculture.’
So what alternatives are there? Food Sovereignty suggests a peasant agricultural and artisan fisheries model which prioritizes local markets and sustainable production methods as well as removing the profit motive behind the sale of agrochemicals andGM seeds.
* Small farmers and social movements from all over the world promote a model based on food sovereignty and orientated towards peasant-based agriculture and artisan fisheries, prioritizing local markets and sustainable production methods. This model is based on the right to food and to the rights of peoples to define their own agricultural policies.
* The food crisis should not be an opportunity to make more money through the sale of fertilizers, agrochemicals and genetically modified seeds. Agribusinesses cannot be allowed to attempt to profit from the desperation of over a billion people. They must be excluded from dealing with the food crisis – agribusiness and international financial and trade agencies cannot be relied upon to solve a problem they themselves have caused.

African activists are not silent on these issues. Despite the Nigerian Government’s willingness to sell the country’s future to big agribusinesses, some 30 Nigerian environmental groups are calling for an end to GM cassava trials, which they say will lead to food colonization under the ‘guise of agricultural biotechnology’. Nnimmo Bassey of Environmental Rights Action (FOE Nigeria) writes:

‘Nigerians have used different fora to voice outright rejection of GM crops and public opinion is massively against the commercialization of our stomachs. This cannot be done through the backdoor and we have made it clear that the solution to our food needs is with our local farmers and not with Danforth Centre, Monsanto and their local allies.’

In other cases, such as Zambia, governments have themselves rejected aid in the form ofGM foods. In another positive move against GM foods in Africa, a recent report from the Oakland Institution – Voices of Africa directly challenges the Gates Foundation’s Alliance for a New Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).

‘Despite the Gates Foundation’s rhetoric of inclusion and the claim that their investment in agricultural development benefits the growing majority of the world’s poor who rely on agriculture, a leaked Gates Foundation confidential report on their Agricultural Development Strategy for 2008-2011 actually emphasizes moving people out of the agricultural sector.’

The multinational agribuisnesses have no room for local farmers and fishing artisans who make up the majority of Africa’s population especially women. The result is not just inappropriate food for local consumption but loss of livelihoods and land and therefore increased poverty for both rural and urban populations.