Imperialist's drive for economic domination fuels continental
by Abayomi Azikiwe, Editor
Pan-African News Wire
Note: The following article is taken from a talk delivered at a Workers
World public meeting on African affairs in Detroit on December 13, 2008.
When the U.S. corporate media reports on the contemporary affairs on the
African continent, the content and direction of the stories never
highlight the role of the multi-national corporations and the
military-industrial-complex in initiating underdevelopment and fostering
political instability. The claim that the United States was not involved
in the colonization of the African continent is misleading to the say
the least and objectively false.
In fact it was the involvement of the European ruling class within the
North American continent in the Atlantic Slave Trade that dramatically
altered the global balance of political and economic forces. The
British, French and Spanish all had colonies inside the area which
became known as the United States. The expansion of the nation-state
after the independence of the European settler-class created the
conditions for the country to become dominant among other colonial and
African slavery reaped tremendous profits for both the planters and the
burgeoning industrialists in the United States. The contradictions
between the two competing economic systems of slavery and industrial
capitalism lead to the civil war between 1861-65. After 1865,
industrialization grew rapidly particularly in the north and the
northeast of the country.
The economic and political status of the U.S. grew with the rapid
industrialization after the mid-19th century. At the conclusion of the
so-called Spanish-American war at the turn of the 19th and 20th century,
the ruling class was able to effectively challenge any attempt by other
western European states to gain a base inside the western hemisphere as
well as the Philippines.
With the advent of the automotive and steel industries, the growth in
individual wealth reached levels never previously achieved. Then came
World War I, when millions died in the scramble for the colonial
territories where the mining industries would further impoverish the
During the 1920s there was widespread immigration and migration in the
United States. Industrial development and banking became even stronger
than the period of the early 20th century. However, the great crash of
1929 brought the system to a screeching halt.
The New Deal, which is often referred to during the current period of
economic downturn, did not bring the United States out of the Great
Depression. It was only the beginning of war production after 1940 and
the draft, that created full-employment. After the War, with Europe and
Asia devastated by conventional combat, the United States became the
most dominant and influential nation in the world.
Nonetheless, the Soviet Union, the anti-fascist forces and the
anti-colonial movements served as the real challenge to U.S. hegemony. A
watseful "cold war" continued from 1945 to 1990, where military
expenditures grew by leaps and bounds. It was the imperialists countries
in the continued quest for world domination that drove the struggle
between world capitalism on the one hand, and socialism and the
anti-imperialist and anti-colonial movements, on the other.
The Imperialists Undermine Congo Independence
After the independence of the Congo in June of 1960, the former colonial
power of Belgium and other imperialist states, with a leading role being
played by the United States, set out to undermine the country's
Lumumba was placed under house arrest by the United Nations forces in
August of 1960. Eventually he fled Leopoldville and traveled to the east
of the country where his support was strong. The pro-Lumumbaist forces
had established a base in Orientale Province at the capital of
Stanleyville, where the Prime Minister and his family were heading when
they were intercepted by the Congolese National Army (ANC) soldiers who
were loyal to Mobutu.
The Congolese military had split along similar lines as the political
class within the country during the post-independence crisis. The base
of operations in Orientale Province held out until it was forcefully
suppressed in 1964, with the widespread assistance of the American
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) under the-then President Lyndon B.
Johnson and the racist colonial governments of Rhodesia, South Africa,
Portugal, France, Britain and Belgium.
Even though the secession of Katanga was eventually reversed by the
United Nations in late 1961, the damage caused by the coup d'etat
against the MNC-Lumumba and its allies were to have deep repercussions
for the nation's future.
Mobutu's coup in 1965 against Kasabuvu and the-then recently displaced
Moise Tshombe, who had been appointed Prime Minister of Congo in 1964 in
a bid to create a supposed "unity government", continued the process of
the exploitation of the national wealth of the country by foreign
After the changing of the country's name to Zaire in 1971, Mobutu
maintained the large scale presence of mining conglomerates inside the
country whose activities never benefited the workers and peasants of
Several attempts were made during the late 1970s and mid-1980s to
initiate a broad-based guerrilla insurgency aimed at toppling the regime
of Mobutu Sese Seko. During 1977-78, the Zairian regime was supported
by the active military units of France and European mercenary groups to
put down a revolt in the mineral rich Shaba province.
Although these campaigns during the 1970s and 1980s only gained limited
results and were eventually halted, they illustrated the degree of
discontent still prevalent within the country.
Active political groups such as the Front for the Liberation of Congo
(FLNC), the MNC-Lumumba and the Movement of Workers and Peasants (MOPP)
continued to organize underground for the overthrow of the
western-backed Mobutu regime. The government had contnued its alliance
with settler-colonialism in Southern Africa and supported
"pseudo-liberation movements" such as UNITA, FLNA, and FLEC in Angola
during the 1970s, 80s and 90s.
With the overthrow of the Apartheid system in 1994, the UNITA
organization continued to rely on Mobutu in its campaign aimed at the
destabilization of Angola. Prior to this period, UNITA was heavily
financed and politically assisted by the apartheid regime in South
Africa and the United States Government.
The Rwandan Factor
In Rwanda, the former military regime of Juvenal Habyarimana, which
suppressed democracy and national political pluralism, enjoyed firm
support within the Mobutu government. Consequently, when President
Habyarimana was killed in a plane crash on April 6, 1994, the subsequent
Rwandan Hutu based leadership and its 1.5 million supporters, who had
carried out the genocidal murders of 500,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu
civilians, were given asylum in Zaire, creating one of the largest
refugee crises in the history of post-colonial Africa.
Ironically it was the political fallout associated with the presence of
the Hutu refugee camps in eastern Congo that precipitated the widespread
uprising against the Mobutu regime. Having become alienated within
Africa and the international community, Mobutu enjoyed very limited
support when violence erupted in the eastern provinces during the latter
portion of 1996.
The ADFL Revolt and Africa's World War
World attention became focused on the situation in eastern Congo, when
in October of 1996, there was an outbreak of fighting between the
Banyamulenge Tutsi and Zairian soldiers around Uvira. Clashes also
erupted between the Interhamwe Hutu militia elements from the Rwandan
refugee camps and the Banyamulenge, who are indigenous to Congo and are
related to the Tutsi nationalities in Rwanda and Burundi.
As a result of the renewed fighting, some 250,000 refugees abandoned
their camps in Uvira and headed towards Bakavu. By the time of their
arrival at Bakavu, the situation in the area was complicated by the
escalation of oppression against the Tutsi nationality by the Zairian
regime. Africans of this nationality origin were unjustly stripped of
their citizenship rights and ordered to leave the country for Rwanda.
However, the Zairian military and the Interhamwe militias were proven to
be no match for the Banyamulenge guerrilla fighters, who eventually
seized control of Nyangezi, south of Bakavu, on October 24, 1996. The
following day, the rebel's leadership announced that the goal of their
movement was to topple the Mobutu regime and establish a new government
in the country.
At the same time they named Laurent Kabila as their leader and delcared
themselves the Alliance of Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Congo
(ADFL). In subsequent days, the political and military momentum of the
uprising accelerated when the Alliance took control of Bakavu on October
As a result of these advances of guerrilla forces who took control over
eastern Congo, 250,000 refugees from Rwanda left their camps at Bakavu
and headed towards Goma. In the midst of the intensive military
offensives launched by the ADFL, the Zairian military rapidly crumbled,
fleeing and hiding from the battle lines determined by the guerrilla
International involvement in the guerrilla offensive launched by the
ADFL had been widely reported in the corporate media. In addition to
logistical and political support from Rwanda, the Ugandan military was
accused of intervening and temporarily seizing control of the Congolese
towns of Masabwa, Kasindi, Manda and Mutanga, in order to weaken the
Zairian military and to retaliate against a purported cross-border
violation of Ugandan territory.
Also the Republic of Angola began to supply air support and
transportation to the ADFL forces. In contrast, the
counter-revolutionary UNITA organization of Angola sent several units of
its military to fight alongside Mobutu, a longtime patron of this
apartheid and U.S.-backed group headed by Jonas Savimbi.
During the concluding phase of the war, it was reported that the most
formidable Zairian resistance to the capturing of the town of Kenge,
near the capital of Kinshasha, was actually carried out by the UNITA
forces fighting against the advances of the ADFL.
When Kabila's ADFL soldiers marched into Kinshasha largely unopposed on
May 17, 1997, it represented a culmination of political struggle against
neo-colonialism in Africa spanning a thirty-seven year period.
Nonetheless, the alliance that brought about the second liberation of
Congo was soon burst assunder. The Rwandan and Ugandan governments, at
the aegis of the U.S. administration of Bill Clinton, sought to dictate
the political policies of the renamed Democratic Republic of Congo
(DRC). When Kabila ordered the removal of Rwandan and Ugandan military
forces from the eastern region of the country, both of these U.S.-backed
regimes declared war on Kinshasha and sought to replace Kabila.
The Congolese Democratic Rally (RCD) was formed as a front for Uganda
and Rwanda. However, the progressive governments of Angola, Zimbabwe and
Namibia, under the auspices of the Southern African Development
Community (SADC) came to the defense of the DRC government and beat back
the intervention. This war lasted between 1998-2003 and resulted in the
deaths of millions of Congolese.
When a negotiated settlement was reached, a government of national unity
was formed. This agreement broke down after elections were held in
2006. Laurent Kabila was assassinated in 2001 leaving the reigns of
government to his son Joseph. Joseph Kabila won the elections of 2006.
Unfortunately, two other guerrilla groups were formed in the north and
in the east. Laurent Nkunda's CNDP has launched attacks against civilian
areas in North Kivu since August of 2008. This new situation has set the
stage for the intervention of the European Union, which is still
contemplating a military invasion and occupation of the mineral rich
eastern region of the DRC.
The U.S. Role in the Background to the Somalian Crisis
It is not an oversimplification to state that the problems that have
occured since the formation of the Republic of Somalia in 1960, must be
viewed within the context of the overall post-colonial crisis of the
nation-state in Africa. A brief cursory overview of the degree and
character of political stabiliy and economic stagnation so prevalent in
strucutral deficiencies cannot merely be analyzed in a case by case
fashion, but must be approached from the standpoint of regional and
continental patterns of development.
In looking at the situations of three neigboring countries to Somalia:
Sudan, Ethiopia and Kenya, we can see that the similarities of
agricultural deficits, micro-nationality and border conflicts, foreign
debts and the exigencies of political democratization has created
internal tensions and dislocations which requires a histtorical
materialist model of analysis.
The historical materialist model of analysis acknowledges the particular
characteristics of development within the various Africans states.
However, it recognizes that the history of the impact of slavery,
colonialism and imperialism and neo-colonialism has created a broad
spectrum of structural problems that are present and recurrent within
all African countries in the contemporary neo-colonial period.
In viewing modern-day Somalia, the legacy of colonial rule that was
imposed in the nineteenth century must be considered in any evaluation
of the country's performance as a post-independence state since 1960.
The fact that the Somali people, composed of a myriad of clans and
sub-clans, were divided by four colonial states and one feudel state,
illustrates the total disregard by the imperialists of the national
character of indigenous peoples.
Complicating the Somali question is also the role of feudal Ethiopia
which continued to expand its influence along with the European powers
in the region during the latter 19th century. However, being encircled
by European imperialism eventually lead to an Italian fascist invasion
of Ethiopia in 1936 under Mussolini.
During the colonial period, even after the defeat of fascist Italy in
1941, Somalia was designated as a protectorate by the United Nations of
this former dictatorial regime. By the 1950s, the entire East African
coast from Somalia to Mozambique was the center of intense oil
In the northern part of Somalia, which was colonized by the British, the
Standard-Vacuum Oil and Conorado companies were involved in this
extended search for oil. In the Italian controlled section of Somalia,
the companies engaged in the exploration during the pre-independence
period of the 1950s, were Conorado and Sinclair, who controlled an equal
share of a 57 million acre concession.
As a result of the independence struggle against the colonialism of
Britain and the United Nations imposed protectorate status under Italy
during the 1950s, the country gained its independence in 1960, joining
both the Italian and British controlled sections of the Somali
The leading organization in the independence movement during the
post-World War II period was the Somali Youth League (SYL), which was
based in the southern region of the country then under the Italian
protectorate regime. When the SYL won the overwhelming majority of
seats in the March 1959 elections for the legislative assembly, they
worked toward the formation of a coalition government with the British
controlled region of the north. With the establishment of the
independent Somali Republic on July 1, 1960, the British and Italian
colonies were merged under the leadership of Prime Minister Dr.
Abdirashid Ali Shirmake.
After the national elections of 1964, serious splits developed within
the ranks of the SYL and its allies in the coalition government. After
the removal of the first Prime Minister, Dr. Shirmake, by Abdirazak Haji
Hussein in 1964, Shirmake ran again in 1967 and was elected president,
forming a new government with Mohammed Haji Ibrahim Egal, a northern
based politician from the Isaq clan as prime minister.
By 1969, the divisiveness of the political class became quite intense
leading to a splintering of forces in that year's elections. However,
Egal maintained his position after the elections amid allegations of
manipulating the voting and selection process. Later in October,
Shirmarke was assassinated in a factional dispute, leading to the
military coup d'etat under the leadership of Mohammed Siad Barre.
Declaring itself the Somali Democratic Republic, the regime of Barre
moved to institute its own brand of scientific socialism. Large scale
nationalization of industries took place along with diplomatic overtures
to the Soviet Union and other socialist-oriented states.
The former British military bases at Berbera in the north were the scene
of intense training of Somali military forces by Soviet technicians.
However, this era of friendship and cooperation with the USSR did not
last long, particularly after the Ethiopian Revolution of 1974 and the
subsequent events leading to the consolidation of power by the military
officer, Colonel Mengistu Haile Mariam in 1977.
Having never given up on the idea of a "Greater Somalia", encompassing
not only the present borders of the country but including the population
groups of this nationality that were scattered throughout Ethiopia,
Kenya and Djibouti, the regime of Siad Barre backed a military
secessionist movement in the Ogaden region of Ethiopia in 1977-78.
Later on with the withdrawal of the U.S. military presence in Ethiopia,
the USSR moved swiftly to fill in the vacuum left by the American
expulsion. When the Soviets were asked to vacate their 6,000 technicians
from Somalia, full scale war erupted in the Ogaden region of Ethiopia,
prompting the evacuation of Ethiopian military forces from the area.
However, with the assistance of the Soviet Union's military advisors and
direct Cuban troops involvement in the fighting, the Western Somali
Liberation Front (WSLF) insurgents were quickly defeated and forced to
retreat into Somalia proper. This conflict largely resulted from the
strategic miscalculations of Siad Barre, who believed the US promises of
military assistance for the Ogaden war in order to counter Soviet and
Cuban influence in the Horn of Africa.
What Barre did not understand was the phenomena of the post-Vietnam
syndrome in the American political psyche after 1975. Jimmy Carter's
presidency was not willing to risk direct U.S. military involvement in
Ethiopia where American combat troops would be deployed and possibly
face large-scale casualties.
The conflict in the Ogaden region marked the beginning of increased
instability in Somalia. Famine became widespread during the early
1980s, which prompted relief efforts and an increased U.S. media focus
on the enormous problems created by the dislocation of civilians
resulting from political unrest and monumental food deficits. At the
same time, the level of American military assistance to the country
increased, bringing about the material basis for a highly regimented and
By the late 1980s, various regions of the country became highly
disaffected from the central government. The intensification of
military activities in the north by the Somali National Movement (SNM)
against the Barre regime between 1988-1991 created a serious crisis for
In 1990, the three major opposition groups the SNM, the United Somali
Congress (USC) and the Somali Patriotic Movement (SPM), announced that
they would coordinate their activities designed to overthrow the Barre
government. In January of 1991, Barre fled the country in the face of
military advances by the USC and others in the capital Mogadishu as well
as other regions of the country.
The Challenge of National Unity in Somalia
Even after the overthrow of Siad Barre in 1991, the question of national
reconciliation and unity in Somalia has remained elusive. The total
collapse of the state under Barre and the failure to stabilize a
coalition government in Mogadishu during 1991-1992, lead to widespread
factional fighting in various regions of the country.
This internecine conflict created the conditions for famine in the
country, which provided the United States with a rationale for a
large-scale military invasion in December of 1992, under the guise of a
United Nations sponsored relief effort.
This "relief effort", called "Operation Restore Hope", which was
initially greeted with some degree of acceptance by various political
organizations in Somalia, soon degenerated into a large-scale occupation
reminiscent of the colonial period in the nation's history. Somali youth
were randomly beaten and murdered by U.S., Italian, Pakistani and
Canadian military forces.
Under the leadership of the Somali National Alliance (SNA), headed by
Mohammed Farrah Aided, the people resisted the US-UN occupation
vigorously, resulting in thousands of casualties on the Somali side, and
several hundred among the occupying forces.
A major clash on October 3, 1993, resulted in 18 officially reported
deaths of U.S. soldiers and the capturing of an American helicopter
pilot. This then lead to mass opposition to the Clinton policy of
continued occupation. In response to increasing protest activity around
the U.S. and the world, Clinton announced an impending withdrawal from
Somalia, which occured in 1994.
However, despite the defeat of American occupationist aims in the region
in 1993, and the withdrawal of the UN troops in 1994-95, the country has
failed to overcome the factionalism of political parties and the
seccesion of the northern area, which was formerly colonized by the
United Kingdom. At least three different factions have declared
themselves as legitimate governments in Somalia, including Somaliland
and Puntland, despite the fact that no entity in the international
community has officially recognized any of these self-proclaimed
Even though the United States was defeated in Somalia during the early
1990s, in the aftermath of the attacks on September 11, 2001, the
atmosphere created by the Bush administration and the corporate media,
attempted to justify covert operations against the country. During
2006, the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) began to consolidate its base of
power in various regions of Somalia. The fact that these efforts took
place independent of U.S. influence and direction, the Bush
administration sought to undermine the UIC.
Initially, the US imperialists attempted to coordinate various political
and social elements in the country to attack the UIC. When this did not
prove effective, the Bush administration encouraged, financed and
coordinated an Ethiopian military invasion and occupation of the country
beginning in December of 2006.
Nonetheless, this U.S.-backed occupation was met with fierce resistance.
Two years later, by the end of 2008, the Ethiopians had already
withdrawn 10,000 out of 12,000 of its troops. Al-Shabab, the youth wing
of the UIC, had launched systematic attacks against the occupationists
in various regions of the country. This was coupled with the continued
hijacking of commercial vessels in the Gulf of Aden by Somalis.
Reviewing aspects of the historical development of both the Democratic
Republic of Congo and Somalia provides concrete examples of how
imperialism has prevented African states from achieving genuine
independence. During the colonial era, the US was never a champion of
the legitimate national liberation movements on the continent.
As anti-imperialists it is necessary to provide political support to all
social and political forces struggling against U.S. and other western
efforts aimed at the continued exploitation and oppression of the
peoples of Africa. In both the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and
Somalia, the United States administration is very much involved in
campaigns to control the political developments inside these countries
and to preserve the economic interests of the ruling class.
Abayomi Azikiwe is the editor of the Pan-African News Wire.