THE AFRICAN DILEMMA
By Alan Caruba
Liberia was founded in 1822 and became a republic in 1847. In this regard, it preceded most formerly colonized African nations, which did not achieve independence until the 1960s. In the past fourteen years, estimates of 150,000 dead in Liberia have resulted from a civil war that has included support for an insurgency in neighboring Sierra Leone. The United Nations, now famous for its inability to do anything substantive, imposed sanctions in 2001. The killings in the streets of Monrovia are testament to the UN's impotence.
Those nations that achieved independence have now had four decades in which to establish constitutional democratic governments. Ordinary Africans hoped for the benefits of constitutional democracy and the rule of law. But, with few exceptions, Africans have demonstrated a genius for electing men famed for plundering their nations in the midst of social problems of such magnitude they defy comprehension.
Peter Brookes, a senior fellow for national security affairs at The Heritage Foundation, did his best to provide some insights. In a recent commentary, he noted that "Africa's challenges are monumental. Today, 40 million Africans are at risk of starvation. Another 30 million have AIDS. Forty-two million children are not even enrolled in school. And civil war and ethnic violence rock the Democratic Republic of Congo (3 million dead) and Liberia (200,000 killed), among others."
The same United Nations that did not want the United States to invade Iraq, argua- bly in the control of one of the great monsters of modern times, Saddam Hussein, is now clamoring for U.S. military intervention in Liberia. What was once a prosperous nation has spawned what Reuter's reporter, Matthew Tostevin, calls "a generation of ruthless drugged-up killers" that has "spread chaos to neighboring countries."
Last year, I met Dr. Emma S. Etuk, Ph.D., the author of "Listen Africans: Freedom Is Under Fire" ($19.95, Emida International Publishers, PO Box 50317, Washington, D.C., and Uyo, Nigeria). Following the end of colonial rule, wrote Dr. Etuk, "What emerged after independence was neo-colonialism bolstered by the new task masters in dark skins. Tyranny, despotism, dictatorship, oppression, state-sponsored terror- ism, and barbarism have become part and parcel of the post-colonial experience." Born in Nigeria, he knows Africa.
There are fifty-three nations in Africa today. From North to South Africa, much of its current problems can be directly traced to its earliest colonialists, the Muslims, who invaded from Saudi Arabia. From the seventh century to the fifteenth century, when the Europeans arrived, the Arabs were Africa's masters. It was Muslims who pio- neered the slave trade, buying and selling African slaves during their 800 years of domination. It has continued to this day. The poverty and oppression that exists throughout much of Africa, combined with its large Muslim population, makes that continent a rich breeding ground for the terrorism being waged by fundamentalist Muslims.
Suffice it to say, colonialism taught the modern generation of African despots every- thing they needed to know about the use of coercion, economic exploitation, and every other ill that afflicts most African nations. Since the colonial powers gave way to independence, African nations have spawned, in Dr. Etuk's words, "cannibals like Idi Amin of Uganda and brutes like Francisco Nquema of Equatorial Guinea." To that list, he can add the thugocracy of Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe and a dozen others. Since independence, there have been wars in Rwanda, Burundi, Liberia, Si- erra Leone, Angola, Namibia, Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, and Eritrea. From 1967 to 1970, in Nigeria alone, war claimed nearly a million lives.
Modern geopolitics, however, has insured that the United States can no longer be- nignly ignore Africa. Terrorism, showing up in places as diverse as Morocco and Tanzania, is a major reason. Oil is the other. In order to undermine Saudi Arabia, the greatest financier of terrorism around the world, America needs greater access to Africa's vast reserves of oil. Nigeria, Angola, and Gabon number among the top fifteen U.S. crude oil providers. Other African nations that provide oil include Alge- ria, Congo, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, and Chad. The U.S. Energy Department estimates that U.S.-owned oil firms will invest $10 billion this year in Africa. The British and French are there as well.
The U.S.A. must, perforce, deal with oil-rich African nations, often controlled by evil men. Nigeria has received more than $300 billion in oil revenues over the last twen- ty-five years and, yet, its citizens have a per-capita income of less than $1 a day! In Angola, the International Monetary Fund discovered that anywhere from $1 to $5 billion in state oil revenue goes missing every year. By itself, the U.S.A. cannot do much about these abuses.
No doubt, events in both Afghanistan and Iraq have made President Bush wary of sending U.S. troops into yet another nation, no matter how urgent the need to es- tablish some stability. Americans have not forgotten that the last time the U.S.A. sent troops on a peacekeeping mission in Africa, a mission to restore order in So- malia and feed starving Somalis, Africans killed eighteen of our soldiers. We sensi- bly packed up and went home. If the UN cannot demonstrate the ability to organize some kind of peace force in Liberia, that may prove to be yet another nail in the UN's well-earned coffin.
One last thought. I marveled that, when President Bush visited several African na- tions, the only thing the American press wanted to ask him about was a single ref- erence to an Iraqi effort to purchase uranium. The U.S. media made no effort to inform Americans about today's Africa in their frenzy to portray the President as a liar. Too bad, because you better learn as much as you can about it in the years to come. In important ways, America's future will depend on events there.
Alan Caruba is a veteran business and science writer, a Public Relations Counselor, Communications Director of the American Policy Center, and Founder of the National Anxiety Center, a clearinghouse for information about media-driven scare campaigns. Caruba writes a weekly column, "Warning Signs," posted on the Inter- net website of the National Anxiety Center (www.anxietycenter.com). A compilation of his past columns, entitled Warning Signs, is published by Merril Press. In addi- tion to Warning Signs, Caruba is the author of A Pocket Guide to Militant Islam and The United Nations vs. the United States, both of which are available from the Na- tional Anxiety Center, 9 Brookside Road, Maplewood, New Jersey, 07040.
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