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The Second Scramble for Africa
Rudolf Ogoo Okonkwo

  While you were sleeping, Africa, your Africa, passed through what
will tomorrow be yet another major change in its characteristic.

Laurent Kabila is dead. And with that, comes to an end, the beginning
of a new era in Africa. Congo, in more ways than one, is the most
wonderful country in Africa. No other country typifies the travails
of a continent as Congo does. King Leopold II of Belgium, in 1876
invited explorers to Brussels to discuss Africa. He had his eyes on
Congo. He told the explorers that "to open to civilization the only
part of the globe which it has not yet penetrated, to pierce the
darkness which hangs over entire peoples, is, I dare say, a crusade
worthy of this century of progress." In 1884, at the Berlin West
African Conference where European powers shared Africa, in what is
now known as the Scramble for Africa, King Leopold II claimed Congo
as his personal property.

The landmass of Congo will swallow all the countries of Western
Europe- Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Belgium
etc. It is 76 times the size of Belgium. It has the bulk of cobalt of
the world. It is the main source of the world's uranium and 80% of
the world's tantalum are found therein. If managed well, the tropical
rain forest of Congo is so fertile it could easily feed the whole of
Africa. Yet, aside from Congo music, this country has not made any
remarkable impact on the lives of Africans.

In the political arena, Congo has not fared any better either. Its
history followed the pattern of most African countries. It had its
independence, fought a war, had a coup and became corrupt. Aside from
that, it produced Patrice Lumumba. Lumumba represented that
generation of Africans who not only fought for independence but also
had a vision of where they wanted to take Africa. He however fell out
of favor with the West when he pitched tent with the socialist world.
He was murdered in one of the first Cold War cross fires in Africa.
Lumumba died and so was peace.

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The rise and fall of Mobutu Sese Seko mirrored the story of the Cold
War politics the West played in Africa. Mobutu's role as an ally of
the West during that era excused him from establishing genuine
democracy. It also provided him with the license to be corrupt.
Kenya, Malawi, and Cameroon were some of the African countries that
enjoyed the same model of development and privileges. At the end of
the Cold War, the West abandoned the old policy of appeasing depots
in Africa for a new one.

The old policy of supporting and maintaining kleptocrats like Zaire's
Mobutu Sese Seko was abandoned for a demand for democracy and
transparency. The West, in a politically correct way, succeeded in
convincing both African intelligentsia at home and in the Diaspora
that African emerging democracies cannot yet run their own affairs.
As a result, the West, through the World Bank and IMF prescribed
liberalization of the economy. This policy, in theory, entails the
devolution of economic control from the government to the private
sector. In reality, it has led to the second scramble for Africa.

In 1873, David Livingtone died a heroic death. The missionary-
explorer had exposed the horrors of the slave trade and had called on
the `civilized' world to redeem Africa through the three "Cs"-
commerce, Christianity and civilization. His call attracted
journalist-explorers like Henry Stanley, sailor-explorers like Pierre
de Brazza and gold and diamond tycoons like Cecil Rhodes. Soon, a
fourth C- conquest, was added. In a span of 20 years, 10 million
square miles (two and half times the size of Europe) had been taken
over by seven European powers as colonies and protectorates.

The end of the Cold War had brought about old habits of the Western
world. During the Cold War era, Western powers suppressed their
rivalries as they battled a common enemy- communism. In the post-Cold
War era, the US and European powers have embarked on a struggle to
assert their economic and political interest in Africa. The shadow
behind the present crises in most of Africa came about as a result of
this new reality.

In the last four years, the wars in Congo, Angola and Sierra Leone
have manifested this new dimension in Western involvement in Africa.
The vacuum created by the end of superpower rivalry has led to
corrupt governments, arms traffickers and local warlords teaming up
with Western governments in search of new adventures in Africa. For
the outlawed group, it is diamonds and for the Bretton Woods dollar
lords, it is a large piece of Africa state and resources. In Sierra
Leone, Britain unilaterally sent in troops in a colonial- style
adventure aimed at protecting her economic and political interests.
At stake were foreign investments in the West African country and the
millions of dollars diamond business. At one point, Britain
unsuccessfully used the mercenary outfit, Sandline International to
breach UN embargo.

In Congo, a Cayman Island registered mining company, Oryx, entered
into agreement with countries participating in the conflict. For
being on the side of Laurent Kabila's Congo and the Zimbabwean
government, the company got a $ 1 billion dollars diamond concession
in the Kasai region. In the Katanga province, mining giant, Iscor
signed a multimillion-dollar deal to rehabilitate copper and cobalt
mine. Also, a white Zimbabwean businessman, Billy Rautenbach secured
the largest mining concession ever awarded by Congo around the
industrial town of Likasi. Industry experts called this deal a "give
away of the century". These companies seek to influence not only the
government of the day, but also became entangled in the conflicts
around the business. Kabila's erratic nature of making and breaking
deals is suspected to be a potential factor in his assassination.

While the underground scramble for Africa's mineral wealth is going
on, the white collar scramble for Africa's state own outfits are
taking place concurrently. As African nations gagged up by external
debt seek debt forgiveness and aid packages, the IMF and World Bank
apply pressure on these governments to privatize government companies
with Western `strategic partner" at the helm. These strategic
partners would provide the locally lacking technical, managerial and
financial resources required to turn around these failed government
agencies. This requirement has led to an alarming sell out of vital
sectors of African economies to foreign interests at bargain basement

In a concerted effort, the US launched an ambitious project of stumping into Africa and taking its own share of the continent. In
1996, Ron Brown, the then Commerce Secretary, told business groups in Ghana that, "from now on, the US is not going to give way on African
markets to the old colonial powers." The Commerce department described Africa as the "last frontier for American businesses." The
rush to Africa is not unconnected to what Callisto Madavo, the World bank's Vice President for Africa described as Africa's favorable investment returns rate. According to Madavo, while the worldwide rate of investment returns stood at 16-18%, Africa provided 25-30%.

Nigeria: Chilling at home

Not even South Africa, Africa's only acting imperialist power is
spared from the foreign invasion. Telkom, South Africa's state owned
Phone Company recently sold 30% of its stake to Texas-based SBC
Communications Inc. and Telekom Malaysia Berhad. The deal was worth
$1.26 billion. In a 1998 bid for African satellite project, out of
the 12 bidders, four were from the US- Intelsat, Hughes Space and
Communications Intl., African Continental Telecommunications Ltd. and
Comsat RSI. The rest were European, Asian companies and a South
African company.

Madeleine Albright described the US policy towards Africa as that
of "promoting self-help through capitalism". In Clinton's
administration's Africa Growth and Development Bill, African
countries were granted duty-free access to US market on the condition
that African governments drop restrictions to US imports and private
investments. It also required a drastic reduction on government
involvement in economic activities and the total dismantling of the
state own economic structure. The usually dismissed results of this
policy are social services cuts, ecological damage and the
destruction of local industrials. They are usually dismissed as short-
term pain. The so-called long-term goals have nothing to do with
humans as economic indicators soon become the measure of society's

In Nigeria, the poor performance of the multinational oil companies
in the Niger delta area presents a clear picture of the trend to
come. While in East Africa, the mining companies are instigating
Congo's neighbors to plunge into Congo war, in Nigeria, the oil
companies are providing equipment and tactical support for Nigerian
forces occupying the Niger Delta. These forces and their
collaborators use terror to crush people's resistance as we witnessed
in the hanging of Ken Saro Wiwa. The constant flow of oil is more
important than human rights, human capital and human development.
Nothing would make the West reconsider their search for profit as
against the dignity of man. Not even the advent of Sani Abacha and
his lack of political ethics could persuade the West to remember the
very foundation under which their own society was built on.

To many Africans, these policy initiatives and foreign investments
are obviously noble goals geared toward lifting Africa from squalor.
It does not matter if all that is happening is the creating of an
environment where the West can buy from Africa at cheaper rates and
sell to Africa manufactured goods and services as costlier rates.
Many would argue that going by the track record of African countries
in corrupt practices and conflict precipitation, no stringent measure
would be too much for the leaders to bear. In some instances, when
the World Bank and IMF had insisted in having their expert in the
Finance Ministries and Central banks of African nations as conditions
for loans and debt rescheduling, African elite hailed such moves as
desirable if not indispensable.

Africa has no strategic response to the storm of globalization. Even
though, like El Nino, globalization, while causing rain in those
parts of the Western world that are favored by trade, financial flow,
exchange of technology and movement of people, in Africa, it is
causing severe drought. The World Bank promises for unparalleled
opportunity, high living standard, greater growth and an integrated
world market are not happening. What is happening is the
marginalization and exploitation of Africa in the new world economy.
The worldview that has taken hold seems to suggest the end of
ideology, the end of nationalism, the end of thought and the end of
history. But that is far from the truth.

Currently, more than half of Africa's 500 million people live on less
than $1 dollar a day. African governments are forced to cut back
budgetary allocation in Health, Education and services in order to
service high external debts. According to Jubilee 200, an
international Debt-relief crusader, Africa's debt stands at $230
billion. It cost the continent $15.2 to service this debt each year.
Meanwhile, none of the countries that have adopted and followed the
IMF/World bank formula has succeeded in cutting their poverty level
in any significant way. This lack of dividend in democracy and
economic liberalization leads to political disenchantment, which
ultimately leads to failure. In the meantime, globalization marches
on with great rapidity. Just like the speed with which Africa was
shared in 1880s. African values and systems crumble as the dominant
American worldview of MTV, Macintosh and McDonnell's take control.

It is apparent that Africa is once again returning to the world of
Joseph Conrad's "Heart of Darkness". The West is once more assuming
that "by the simple exercise of our will we can exert a power and
good practically unbounded." Just as it happened in the 1880s, when
the idea of bringing civilization to the "Dark Continent" went
unchallenged; the current ideal of bringing prosperity and
development to the "Hopeless Continent" through globalization is
proceeding unchallenged too. Nobody talks about the risk involved or
dared to think of an alternative. Anybody who dares is labeled a
socialist still lost in the world of command economics. And so like
sheep, Africans line up and head to the slaughter. In the Berlin
Conference of 1884-1885, Otto von Bismarck did not consult the
Africans. But in this second scramble for Africa, the Africans have
tactically endorsed Poet Rudyard Kipling view that they are "The
White Man's burden."

The first outside invasion of Africa occurred during slavery. It took
away millions of Africans and caused grave economic, socio-political
and psychological effect on Africa. It was followed by the first
scramble for Africa that led to colonization. This was the era when
economic exploitation, environmental decay and cultural and social
dependency took root. A new circle has just begun. It started with
the neo-colonialism that followed independence and has accumulated
now into a full-blown globalization. These are the days when the
globe is seen as one village ran by private enterprises that are
profit driven and have no allegiance to nations or peoples except to
promote the values of its originators.

While you were sleeping, some white men and women under the umbrella
of Jubilee 2000, withstand tear-gas and batons, in Atlanta, in
Prague, in Boston, in Zurich, in Seattle, in London, and in anywhere
the World bank and IMF meet just to make the point that something
about this globalization is enslaving the Third World. While you were
sleeping, the second scramble for Africa began. It may take a hundred
years for the African to realize what is going on today. That is when
the cry against second colonization will ensure.

And as Rudyard Kipling would say: 

"Take up the White Man's burden-
Send forth the best ye breed-
Go bind your sons to exile
To serve your captives' need;
To wait in heavy harness,
On fluttered folk and wild-
Your new- caught, sullen peoples,
Half- devil and half- child."