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Imperialism destabilizing Africa

Andre Vltchek is a novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He has covered wars and conflicts in dozens of countries.

Published time: October 06, 2013 17:24
French military exercises over former colony Senegal (Photo by Andre Vltchek)

Recent outbursts of violence in Kenya and Nigeria shocked the world, but with the influx of guns from destabilized countries, and instability, which is a direct result of Western neo-colonialism, the situation could get much worst.

The African continent is being ravished as it was in the darkest days of direct colonialism.

There are no exact statistics available, but at least 6 million people have died in war-ravaged DR Congo since 1995. But some say that 10 million is a much more precise figure. There, Rwanda and Uganda, two staunch allies of the West, are plundering with absolute impunity, and with total disregard for human lives. Gang rapes are routine, as are the most savage forms of mass murder… So are child soldiers… And so are religious freaks turning into militia commanders. Some of the most horrible warlords in the DRC have actually been from religious groups, including Pentecostal pastors, such as General Laurent Nkunda, who used religious fervor and gospel songs to lead his troops to kill, rape, and mutilate.

The DRC is unimaginably rich in natural resources, from Coltan, to Uranium and Diamonds. And that is its curse, its nightmare.

The weapons used in Central Africa are often imported from destabilized countries in Northern Africa and elsewhere on the continent, undermined mainly by Western geopolitical interests. These weapons are killing both humans and animals. As reported by Reuters on May 20, 2013:

Armed groups in central Africa are using powerful weapons, some of which may be left over from the civil war in Libya, to kill elephants for their ivory, the United Nations said on Monday.

Weapons were sized by Libyan civilians during the mutiny against Muammar Gaddafi, and then smuggled to Egypt and to all corners of Africa, including Nigeria and DR Congo.

In Egypt, it is now easy to purchase grenade launchers, mortar rounds, surface-to-surface missiles, and automatic weapons; most of it comes from conflict-torn African nations.

Mohammad, a police officer in Nasr City near Cairo, explained to me when I was covering the bomb blast that was aimed at killing the Minister of Interior, in September 2013:

“The security is now totally compromised. Many police officers never returned to their duty after Mubarak had been brought down… But that is not all. Many of us are now afraid. We are lightly armed, but we have to face combat, battlefield weapons, that are leaking into Egypt from abroad. Crime in Egypt is now totally out of control.”

Egypt — weapons against the weapons (Photo by Andre Vltchek)

The other destabilized country on the African continent, Somalia, is awash with weapons, from traditional knifes and machetes, to heavy military equipment used in real combat situations.

Working in two Nairobi slums, Mathare and Kibera, earlier this year, I was told by several local gangsters, who were my guides, something that is frightening even the hardened Nairobi underworld:

“Bila… It comes from Somalia. They are made for killing. The way they are shaped and look; you lose so much blood and you die. Here we call them wambe, which in Swahili means razorblade. But no matter how sharp it is, it’s still a knife.”

“What about guns?” I ask.

“They are all over the place. They are very cheap. Guns come with the refugees, and the refugees arrive from Somalia and Ethiopia.”

Just over a week ago, on 21 September 2013, the Somali Muslim militia undertook a desperate terrorist action, taking over a luxury mall, The Westgate. They killed some 130 people and turned the expat and upper class Nairobi neighborhood of Westlands into a real battleground.

Kenya — at the Westgate (Photo by Andre Vltchek)

But the West has used Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda to tear once proud Somalia to pieces, for many years and decades.

At the recent solidarity action with ‘The Cuban 5’ - Cuban patriots accused and imprisoned in Miami for espionage - Kenyan opposition leader and head of the Social Democratic Party, Mwandawiro Mghanga, declared:

“We are talking about terrorism here in Kenya, and it is terrorism what happened at The Westgate… But what the United States and other Western courtiers are doing all over this continent and all over the world, is a much greater terrorism and it triggers terrible consequences.”

Weapons are spreading all over Africa, and so are the angry, frustrated men and women coming from the nations converted into combat zones: from Mali to Niger, DR Congo to Somalia.

A Ugandan progressive, a businessman who comes from a prominent political family, Arthur Tewungwa summarizes the problem:

“There are many Somali refugees in Kenya and Uganda. They have been in these two countries for many years, decades, and have integrated themselves. The businesses they have a large presence in are money transfers, currency exchanges and all aspects of the transport business, passengers and freight. This is a dangerous cocktail when put in the context of the lawlessness that is Somalia. This is a country that has borne the brunt of American meddling and now those countries that sought to assist the Americans in their efforts are bearing the brunt. The country is awash with guns and ammo. The strong position that the Somali community holds in the above-named commercial activities gives it an advantage when it comes to the movement of illegal arms. They have the money, the ability to move it, and the capacity to transfer the arms they have bought. Kenya and Uganda are in peril. Their neo-liberal economies suffer from the cancer of corruption brought about by policies that exacerbate poverty and hence breed corruption. A security guard on $30 a month, or a policeman/customs officer on $60/month is not going to turn down $100 to turn a blind eye!”

DRC, Goma, Congo, Street (Photo by Andre Vltchek)

Uganda has been a target of punitive attacks by Al-Shabaab, and so has Kenya. Demands and threats have always been the same: ‘leave our country at once, or face the consequences.”

In a recently published book, discussion between a leading public intellectual, Noam Chomsky and myself (“On Western Terrorism: From Hiroshima To Drone Warfare”, Pluto Press, 2013), Chomsky pointed out:

“Actually Europe is helping… by dumping toxic waste into the ocean off the coast of Somalia, killing off the fishing grounds and then complaining that the people turned to piracy.”

At the other geographical extreme of the continent, Nigeria is suffering from repeated attacks and massacres conducted by the brutal Muslim organization, Boko Haram. Recently, several towns in Northern Nigeria were attacked and civilians massacred. Carnage at a college dormitory shocked the entire continent and the world.

But right after this terrible event, several Nigerian publications and news portals, including ‘Abusidiqu’, reported on Wikileaks information:

In December 2011 an Algerian based CIA wing gave out $40 million naira as a planned long-term partnership with Boko Haram with a PLEDGE TO DO MORE

Disregarding advice from experts, the US armed Saudi Arabia who in turn armed the Libyan rebels, that in turn armed Malian rebels and Boko Haram, a chain tacitly predicted by the CIA…

Africa, a victim of the most excessive forms of colonialism, including slavery and genocides performed by European powers and Christian religious fundamentalists, is still losing millions of its sons and daughters.

It is not only because of the direct attacks or actions committed by European powers and the United States. Distant conflicts on the continent fueled by Western interests can easily send millions of desperate people to all corners of Africa. And with them come weapons and ammunition, as well as men, women and even children, ready to join any cause and any gang, just to belong and survive.

Andre Vltchek is a novelist, filmmaker and investigative journalist. He can be reached through his website or his Twitter.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

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