Girls forced to engage in sex to survive near-famine

Women and girls in Turkana County, northern Kenya, are being exploited in exchange for money to buy food, the International Rescue Committee said today. The IRC is seeing an increase in gender-based violence, early and forced marriage, and women and girls engaging in transactional sex as a direct consequence of food insecurity caused by drought in the region. 2.6 million people are food insecure, and the area has seen a 5-fold increase in food prices, conflict around watering points, loss of livestock, and an increase in malnutrition and infectious diseases.

As a result of the drought, girls as young as 12 years old are moving from rural to urban areas to engage in transactional sex. Mostly being solicited in nightclubs, they receive as little as 50 shillings (US$0.50) in exchange for sex. Many of these young girls report being the head of their household with younger siblings or even children of their own who depend on them for food.

— source rescue.org

America’s War-Fighting Footprint in Africa

General Thomas Waldhauser sounded a little uneasy. “I would just say, they are on the ground. They are trying to influence the action,” commented the chief of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) at a Pentagon press briefing in March, when asked about Russian military personnel operating in North Africa. “We watch what they do with great concern.”

And Russians aren’t the only foreigners on Waldhauser’s mind. He’s also wary of a Chinese “military base” being built not far from Camp Lemonnier, a large U.S. facility in the tiny, sun-blasted nation of Djibouti. “They’ve never had an overseas base, and we’ve never had a base of… a peer competitor as close as this one happens to be,” he said. “There are some very significant… operational security concerns.”

At that press conference, Waldhauser mentioned still another base, an American one exposed by the Washington Post last October in an article titled, “U.S. has secretly expanded its global network of drone bases to North Africa.” Five months later, the AFRICOM commander still sounded aggrieved. “The Washington Post story that said ‘flying from a secret base in Tunisia.’ It’s not a secret base and it’s not our base… We have no intention of establishing a base there.”

Waldhauser’s insistence that the U.S. had no base in Tunisia relied on a technicality, since that foreign airfield clearly functions as an American outpost. For years, AFRICOM has peddled the fiction that Djibouti is the site of its only “base” in Africa. “We continue to maintain one forward operating site on the continent, Camp Lemonnier,” reads the command’s 2017 posture statement. Spokespeople for the command regularly maintain that any other U.S. outposts are few and transitory — “expeditionary” in military parlance.

While the U.S. maintains a vast empire of military installations around the world, with huge — and hard to miss — complexes throughout Europe and Asia, bases in Africa have been far better hidden. And if you listened only to AFRICOM officials, you might even assume that the U.S. military’s footprint in Africa will soon be eclipsed by that of the Chinese or the Russians.

Highly classified internal AFRICOM files offer a radically different picture. A set of previously secret documents, obtained by TomDispatch via the Freedom of Information Act, offers clear evidence of a remarkable, far-ranging, and expanding network of outposts strung across the continent. In official plans for operations in 2015 that were drafted and issued the year before, Africa Command lists 36 U.S. outposts scattered across 24 African countries. These include low-profile locations — from Kenya to South Sudan to a shadowy Libyan airfield — that have never previously been mentioned in published reports. Today, according to an AFRICOM spokesperson, the number of these sites has actually swelled to 46, including “15 enduring locations.” The newly disclosed numbers and redacted documents contradict more than a decade’s worth of dissembling by U.S. Africa Command and shed new light on a constellation of bases integral to expanding U.S. military operations on the African continent and in the Middle East.


A map of U.S. military bases — forward operating sites, cooperative security locations, and contingency locations — across the African continent in 2014 from declassified AFRICOM planning documents (Nick Turse/TomDispatch).

A Constellation of Bases

AFRICOM failed to respond to repeated requests for further information about the 46 bases, outposts, and staging areas currently dotting the continent. Nonetheless, the newly disclosed 2015 plans offer unique insights into the wide-ranging network of outposts, a constellation of bases that already provided the U.S. military with unprecedented continental reach.

Those documents divide U.S. bases into three categories: forward operating sites (FOSes), cooperative security locations (CSLs), and contingency locations (CLs). “In total, [the fiscal year 20]15 proposed posture will be 2 FOSes, 10 CSLs, and 22 CLs” state the documents. By spring 2015, the number of CSLs had already increased to 11, according to then-AFRICOM chief General David Rodriguez, in order to allow U.S. crisis-response forces to reach potential hot spots in West Africa. An appendix to the plan, also obtained by TomDispatch, actually lists 23 CLs, not 22. Another appendix mentions one additional contingency location.

These outposts — of which forward operating sites are the most permanent and contingency locations the least so — form the backbone of U.S. military operations on the continent and have been expanding at a rapid rate, particularly since the September 2012 attack on the U.S. Mission in Benghazi, Libya, that killed U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans. The plans also indicate that the U.S. military regularly juggles locations, shuttering sites and opening others, while upgrading contingency locations to cooperative security locations in response to changing conditions like, according to the documents, “increased threats emanating from the East, North-West, and Central regions” of the continent.

AFRICOM’s 2017 posture statement notes, for example, a recent round of changes to the command’s inventory of posts. The document explains that the U.S. military “closed five contingency locations and designated seven new contingency locations on the continent due to shifting requirements and identified gaps in our ability to counter threats and support ongoing operations.” Today, according to AFRICOM spokesman Chuck Prichard, the total number of sites has jumped from the 36 cited in the 2015 plans to 46 — a network now consisting of two forward operating sites, 13 cooperative security locations, and 31 contingency locations.

Location, Location, Location

AFRICOM’s sprawling network of bases is crucial to its continent-wide strategy of training the militaries of African proxies and allies and conducting a multi-front campaign aimed at combating a disparate and spreading collection of terror groups. The command’s major areas of effort involve: a shadow war against the militant group al-Shabaab in Somalia (a long-term campaign, ratcheting up in the Trump era, with no end in sight); attempts to contain the endless fallout from the 2011 U.S. and allied military intervention that ousted Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi (a long-term effort with no end in sight); the neutralizing of “violent extremist organizations” across northwest Africa, the lands of the Sahel and Maghreb (a long-term effort with no end in sight); the degradation of the Islamist militant group Boko Haram in the Lake Chad Basin nations of Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon, and Chad (a long-term effort — to the tune of $156 million last year alone in support of regional proxies there — with no end in sight); countering piracy in the Gulf of Guinea (a long-term effort with no end in sight), and winding down the wildly expensive effort to eliminate Joseph Kony and his murderous Lord’s Resistance Army in Central Africa (both live on, despite a long-term U.S. effort).

The U.S. military’s multiplying outposts are also likely to prove vital to the Trump administration’s expanding wars in the Middle East. African bases have long been essential, for instance, to Washington’s ongoing shadow war in Yemen, which has seen a significant increase in drone strikes under the Trump administration. They have also been integral to operations against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, where a substantial (and deadly) uptick in U.S. airpower (and civilian casualties) has been evident in recent months.

In 2015, AFRICOM spokesman Anthony Falvo noted that the command’s “strategic posture and presence are premised on the concept of a tailored, flexible, light footprint that leverages and supports the posture and presence of partners and is supported by expeditionary infrastructure.” The declassified secret documents explicitly state that America’s network of African bases is neither insignificant nor provisional. “USAFRICOM’s posture requires a network of enduring and non-enduring locations across the continent,” say the 2015 plans. “A developed network of FOSes, CSLs, and non-enduring CLs in key countries… is necessary to support the command’s operations and engagements.”

According to the files, AFRICOM’s two forward operating sites are Djibouti’s Camp Lemonnier and a base on the United Kingdom’s Ascension Island off the west coast of Africa. Described as “enduring locations” with a sustained troop presence and “U.S.-owned real property,” they serve as hubs for staging missions across the continent and for supplying the growing network of outposts there.

Lemonnier, the crown jewel of America’s African bases, has expanded from 88 acres to about 600 acres since 2002, and in those years, the number of personnel there has increased exponentially as well. “Camp Lemonnier serves as a hub for multiple operations and security cooperation activities,” reads AFRICOM’s 2017 posture statement. “This base is essential to U.S. efforts in East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.” Indeed, the formerly secret documents note that the base supports “U.S operations in Somalia CT [counterterrorism], Yemen CT, Gulf of Aden (counter-piracy), and a wide range of Security Assistance activities and programs throughout the region.”

In 2015, when he announced the increase in cooperative security locations, then-AFRICOM chief David Rodriguez mentioned Senegal, Ghana, and Gabon as staging areas for the command’s rapid reaction forces. Last June, outgoing U.S. Army Africa commander Major General Darryl Williams drew attention to a CSL in Uganda and one being set up in Botswana, adding, “We have very austere, lean, lily pads, if you will, all over Africa now.”

CSL Entebbe in Uganda has, for example, long been an important air base for American forces in Africa, serving as a hub for surveillance aircraft. It also proved integral to Operation Oaken Steel, the July 2016 rapid deployment of troops to the U.S. Embassy in Juba, South Sudan, as that failed state (and failed U.S. nation-building effort) sank into yet more violence.

Libreville, Gabon, is listed in the documents as a “proposed CSL,” but was actually used in 2014 and 2015 as a key base for Operation Echo Casemate, the joint U.S.-French-African military response to unrest in the Central African Republic.

AFRICOM’s 2015 plan also lists cooperative security locations in Accra, Ghana; Gaborone, Botswana; Dakar, Senegal; Douala, Cameroon; Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso; and Mombasa, Kenya. While officially defined by the military as temporary locales capable of being scaled up for larger operations, any of these CSLs in Africa “may also function as a major logistics hub,” according to the documents.

Contingency Plans

The formerly secret AFRICOM files note that the command has designated five contingency locations as “semi-permanent,” 13 as “temporary,” and four as “initial.” These include a number of sites that have never previously been disclosed, including outposts in several countries that were actually at war when the documents were created. Listed among the CLs, for instance, is one in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, already in the midst of an ongoing civil war in 2014; one in Bangui, the capital of the periodically unstable Central African Republic; and another in Al-Wigh, a Saharan airfield in southern Libya located near that country’s borders with Niger, Chad, and Algeria.

Officially classified as “non-enduring” locations, CLs are nonetheless among the most integral sites for U.S. operations on the continent. Today, according to AFRICOM’s Prichard, the 31 contingency locations provide “access to support partners, counter threats, and protect U.S. interests in East, North, and West Africa.”

AFRICOM did not provide the specific locations of the current crop of CLs, stating only that they “strive to increase access in crucial areas.” The 2015 plans, however, provide ample detail on the areas that were most important to the command at that time. One such site is Camp Simba in Manda Bay, Kenya, also mentioned in a 2013 internal Pentagon study on secret drone operations in Somalia and Yemen. At least two manned surveillance aircraft were based there at the time.

Chabelley Airfield in Djibouti is also mentioned in AFRICOM’s 2015 plan. Once a spartan French Foreign Legion post, it has undergone substantial expansion in recent years as U.S. drone operations in that country were moved from Camp Lemonnier to this more remote location. It soon became a regional hub for unmanned aircraft not just for Africa but also for the Middle East. By the beginning of October 2015, for example, drones flown from Chabelley had already logged more than 24,000 hours of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions and were also, according to the Air Force, “responsible for the neutralization of 69 enemy fighters, including five high-valued individuals” in the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

AFRICOM’s inventory of CLs also includes sites in Nzara, South Sudan; Arlit, Niger; both Bamako and Gao, Mali; Kasenyi, Uganda; Victoria, the capital of the Seychelles; Monrovia, Liberia; Ouassa and Nema, Mauritania; Faya Largeau, Chad; Bujumbura, Burundi; Lakipia, the site of a Kenyan Air Force base; and another Kenyan airfield at Wajir that was upgraded and expanded by the U.S. Navy earlier in this decade, as well as an outpost in Arba Minch, Ethiopia, that was reportedly shuttered in 2015 after nearly five years of operation.

A longtime contingency location in Niamey, the capital of Niger, has seen marked growth in recent years as has a more remote location, a Nigerien military base at Agadez, listed among the “proposed” CSLs in the AFRICOM documents. The U.S. is, in fact, pouring $100 million into building up the base, according to a 2016 investigation by the Intercept. N’Djamena, Chad, the site of yet another “proposed CSL,” has actually been used by the U.S. military for years. Troops and a drone were dispatched there in 2014 to aid in operations against Boko Haram and “base camp facilities” were constructed there, too.

The list of proposed CLs also includes sites in Berbera, a town in the self-declared Republic of Somaliland, and in Mogadishu, the capital of neighboring Somalia (another locale used by American troops for years), as well as the towns of Baidoa and Bosaso. These or other outposts are likely to play increasingly important roles as the Trump administration ramps up its military activities in Somalia, the long-failed state that saw 18 U.S. personnel killed in the disastrous “Black Hawk Down” mission of 1993. Last month, for instance, President Trump relaxed rules aimed at preventing civilian casualties when the U.S. conducts drone strikes and commando raids in that country and so laid the foundation for a future escalation of the war against al-Shabaab there. This month, AFRICOM confirmed that dozens of soldiers from the Army’s 101st Airborne Division, a storied light infantry unit, would be deployed to that same country in order to train local forces to, as a spokesperson put it, “better fight” al-Shabaab.

Many other sites previously identified as U.S. outposts or staging areas are not listed in AFRICOM’s 2015 plans, such as bases in Djema, Sam Ouandja, and Obo in the Central African Republic that were revealed, in recent years, by the Washington Post. Also missing is a newer drone base in Garoua, Cameroon, not to mention that Tunisian air base where the U.S. has been flying drones, according to AFRICOM’s Waldhauser, “for quite some time.”

Some bases may have been shuttered, while others may not yet have been put in service when the documents were produced. Ultimately, the reasons that these and many other previously identified bases are not included in the redacted secret files are unclear due to AFRICOM’s refusal to offer comment, clarification, or additional information on the locations of its bases.

Base Desires

“Just as the U.S. pursues strategic interests in Africa, international competitors, including China and Russia, are doing the same,” laments AFRICOM in its 2017 posture statement. “We continue to see international competitors engage with African partners in a manner contrary to the international norms of transparency.”

Since it was established as an independent command in 2008, however, AFRICOM itself has been anything but transparent about its activities on the continent. The command’s physical footprint may, in fact, have been its most jealously guarded secret. Today, thanks to AFRICOM’s own internal documents, that secret is out and with AFRICOM’s admission that it currently maintains “15 enduring locations,” the long-peddled fiction of a combatant command with just one base in its area of operations has been laid to rest.

“Because of the size of Africa, because of the time and space and the distances, when it comes to special crisis-response-type activities, we need access in various places on the continent,” said AFRICOM chief Waldhauser during his March press conference. These “various places” have also been integral to escalating American shadow wars, including a full-scale air campaign against the Islamic State in Libya, dubbed Operation Odyssey Lightning, which ended late last year, and ongoing intelligence-gathering missions and a continued U.S. troop presence in that country; drone assassinations and increased troop deployments in Somalia to counter al-Shabaab; and increasing engagement in a proxy war against Boko Haram militants in the Lake Chad region of Central Africa. For these and many more barely noticed U.S. military missions, America’s sprawling, ever-expanding network of bases provides the crucial infrastructure for cross-continental combat by U.S. and allied forces, a low-profile support system for war-making in Africa and beyond.

Without its wide-ranging constellation of bases, it would be nearly impossible for the U.S. to carry out ceaseless low-profile military activities across the continent. As a result, AFRICOM continues to prefer shadows to sunlight. While the command provided figures on the total number of U.S. military bases, outposts, and staging areas in Africa, its spokespeople failed to respond to repeated requests to provide locations for any of the 46 current sites. While the whereabouts of the new outposts may still be secret, there’s little doubt as to the trajectory of America’s African footprint, which has increased by 10 locations — a 28% jump — in just over two years.

America’s “enduring” African bases “give the United States options in the event of crisis and enable partner capacity building,” according to AFRICOM’s Chuck Prichard. They have also played a vital role in conflicts from Yemen to Iraq, Nigeria to Somalia. With the Trump administration escalating its wars in Africa and the Middle East, and the potential for more crises — from catastrophic famines to spreading wars — on the horizon, there’s every reason to believe the U.S. military’s footprint on the continent will continue to evolve, expand, and enlarge in the years ahead, outpost by outpost and base by base.

— source tomdispatch.com by Nick Turse

Corruption in Africa

Misleading index and bribery by foreign companies

Internationally, African countries are considered to be particularly corrupt. This reputation amounts to an immense oversimplification of a much bigger problem and partly results from questionable methods of measurement. Tax avoidance by international corporations costs African governments far more money than the corruption of politicians and civil servants.

The best-known instrument for measuring corruption is Transparency International’s (TI) Corruption Perceptions Index (see article, p. 7). The index does not measure corruption directly, but rather compiles people’s perception of corruption within a country. The index is problematic in two ways:

It defines corruption as the bribability of public officials and politicians, thus neglecting corrupt practices within the private sector.
It does not rely on a survey of a country’s people, but basically uses information provided by business people and so-called country experts.

The people surveyed share views and information among one another, however, and they tend to adopt the perceptions of their peers. This is especially so if they have little personal experience of the country in question. Such feed-back loops can boost the perception of corruption in unjustified ways. Moreover, media coverage of corruption can similarly inflate the perception of corruption in African countries or Brazil for example. The index is, therefore, a topic of debate within TI itself.

It matters that the international dimension of corruption does not get adequate attention, even though corruption is often driven by western structures. The implications of the corrupt behaviour of international corporations must not be underestimated. African states lose more money due to tax avoidance by international corporations than they receive as development aid.

The UN Economic Commission for Africa estimates that illegal financial flows cost Africa around $ 50 billion per year. If one takes OECD estimates as a basis, more than $ 30 billion (or two thirds) stems from “commercial transactions”, including tax avoidance and tax evasion. Only an estimated 2 to 3 billion dollars result from corruption in the sense of officials’ bribability, as assessed in TI’s Corruption Perceptions Index.

Tax havens facilitate the large outflow of potential tax revenues, and they are by no means limited to the Caribbean and Switzerland. According to the Tax Justice Network’s Financial Secrecy Index, the USA ranks third, Germany eighth, Japan 12th and Britain 15th. A global network of “safe havens” has evolved for the capital of international corporations and corrupt politicians.

Bribery by foreign companies

A recent UN report sheds light on cases of cross-border corruption in Africa. In 99.5% the cases involved non-African firms. This means that African companies active in neighbouring countries are not the main culprits who pay bribes to “host” governments. Mostly multinational corporations do so. It is true, however, that the report only examined cross-border corruption, making no assertions concerning domestically paid bribes.

Nonetheless, the report does expose another deficiency of the TI Index. It does not include the predominantly international financial actors that pay bribes, but only focuses on the public officials and politicians who accept them. This one-sidedness makes “the Africans” appear more corrupt than multinational corporations even though the corporate money is what drives corruption in the first place.

— source zebralogs.wordpress.com by Nico Beckert

US-backed South Sudanese regime organizing genocidal crimes

The South Sudan civil war, which erupted in December 2013, is assuming an increasingly genocidal character, according to the United Nations Commission on Human Rights (UNCHR). In the course of the war, both the US-backed government led by the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) and President Salva Kiir, and SPLA opposition faction led by Vice President Riek Machar, have carried out atrocities against civilians.

On February 7, UN experts officially began registering “warning signs for ethnic cleansing” and “indicators for genocide.” The situation is characterized by “massive insecurity” and “large-scale polarization of communities,” the UN found.

The SPLA regime has organized a “scorched earth” campaign and is carrying out “population engineering” through forced relocation of ethnic minorities. Kiir and other top SPLA officials have directly ordered mass killing and property seizures against civilian communities. SPLA members frequently abuse civilians at military checkpoints and during warrantless searches of residential areas.

Barely six years after its secession from the Sudan, a development hailed by Western bourgeois public opinion as a victory for “democracy” and “the self-determination of nations,” South Sudan is experiencing levels of chaos and social breakdown which bring to mind the worst catastrophes of the 20th century.

Three years of civil war have produced widespread famine and a massive refugee crisis. Some 1.5 million South Sudanese have already become refugees, and 2 million have been displaced internally as a result of the war. Some 700,000 are in refugee camps across the border in Uganda. One million South Sudanese are at risk of starving in the coming year.

The crisis in South Sudan is an advanced manifestation of the unviability and breakdown of the nation-state system across Africa and worldwide. The pressure of world imperialism against the oppressed countries finds its sharpest expression in the weakest nations.

South Sudan’s political structure, controlled by a coalition of generals and aspiring dictators cobbled together with US cash and weapons, ruled for only two years before breaking in two. Between 2012-2013, the Kiir leadership pursued policies aimed at driving the Machar faction out of the government. In an effort to tighten his grip over the South Sudanese government, President Kiir ordered the firing of hundreds of military and political officials and reorganized the top committees of the state so as to entrench his own supporters in power. In December 2013, gunfire broke out during meetings of the SPLM’s National Liberation Council amid circumstances that remain unclear. President Kiir seized on the clashes to accuse Machar of planning a coup, and expel him and his supporters from the government.

The state of war between the SPLA factions has since served, to a large extent, as a pretext for the expropriation and murder of ethnic minorities and civilians generally. The UN found that: “Civilians have been deliberately and systematically targeted on the basis of their ethnicity by armed forces and groups, including SPLA and SPLM/A in Opposition, and also by groups aligned with them. Individuals have been targeted for killing, arbitrary arrest and detention, sexual violence, sexual slavery and forced marriage. Communities have been subjected to scorched-earth policies that result in the destruction of their homes and means of livelihood. Many of the attacks have been carried out by SPLA soldiers and the militias affiliated with them. Armed groups attack villages, burn homes, kill and rape.”

“Tens of thousands of civilians have been killed in horrific attacks, often targeted on the basis of their ethnicity or perceived allegiances,” the UN found.

For all this savagery, the SPLA is merely a local enforcer of the policies and economic interests of the American ruling class. The men organizing the killing from Juba were placed in power as part of a geopolitical operation aimed at opening Sudan’s oil resources to exploitation by American firms. Washington has sought for decades to exploit long-standing conflicts between the Sudan’s northern and southern elites as a means of projecting power against the central Sudanese government in Khartoum, whose ties to China and the Soviet Union threatened to block American companies from accessing Sudan’s oil fields.

Founded in 1983, the SPLA became a favored proxy army of US imperialism, developing close ties with the US political elite and rising, during the 2005-2011 transition process, to assume control of the newly-formed South Sudanese state. The signature black cowboy hat of President Salva Kiir, without which he never appears in public, was a gift from none other than US President George W. Bush, given to Kiir at the White House in July 2006.

While in power, the Kiir and the SPLA have employed ethno-nationalism as an ideological cover for its self-serving collaboration with imperialism. Advertising themselves as leaders of a “liberation” movement, the SPLA’s cadres could be more accurately described as networks of US-backed warlords. They view the South Sudanese state as nothing more than a means of expanding their property and privileges. Despite being expelled from the Juba government, Machar’s opposition forces continue to manage significant business interests and maintain ties to foreign government and corporations. Machar’s militias remain armed and continue to occupy territory and move about the country largely at will. In a telling detail reported by the Sentry, the families of Kiir and Machar, who pose as mortal enemies in public view, live just miles apart in luxurious mansions near Nairobi.

New Kiirs and Machars are being cultivated by American imperialism in countless countries. The historic processes that pushed the United States to support the break-up of the Sudan are active on every continent. They are essentially the same tendencies of development that have defined world politics for 100 years: the domination of finance capital and the economic rivalry between the major nations produces an endless chain of regional wars, military dictators and ethnic slaughters.

The removal of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) from the geopolitical landscape has, since 1991, cleared the way for 25 years of relentless economic and military warfare against the former colonial countries. A quarter century of unobstructed capitalist world-rule has produced nothing less then the liquidation of entire sections of world society. Tens of millions are living as homeless refugees, with no social or political rights, as a consequences of the wars and counterrevolutionary economic policies of the world’s capitalist governments.

Last Friday, UN humanitarian leader Stephen O’Brien described the international humanitarian situation as “worse then any time since 1945.” Spreading famine and disease are threatening the lives of 20 million people living in Yemen, South Sudan, Somalia and Nigeria, O’Brien said.

More South Sudans are being prepared. In every part of the world, the economic and political objectives of the US ruling elite demand not peaceful development and the raising of living standards, but ever greater levels of destruction and robbery. During the epoch of imperialism, as Leon Trotsky wrote, the capitalist organization of world economy becomes its opposite, that is, “barbarous disorganization and chaos.” In lines that could easily have been written yesterday, as an explanation of the broader historical process that has led to the catastrophe in South Sudan, Trotsky wrote:

“The future development of world economy on the capitalistic basis means a ceaseless struggle for new and ever new fields of capitalist exploitation, which must be obtained from one and the same source, the earth. The economic rivalry under the banner of militarism is accompanied by robbery and destruction which violate the elementary principles of human economy.”

The fate of South Sudan, like that of Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia, shows the future that capitalism and imperialist war have in store for humanity unless stopped by the mobilization of the African and international working class in revolutionary struggle.

— source wsws.org by Thomas Gaist

US has provided $315m in financing to supplier of mines accused of slave labor

An obscure US government agency has provided $315m in taxpayer-supported financing over the past decade to a company that has supplied equipment to African mines accused of slave labor, human rights violations and environmental destruction.

Between 2007 and 2015, the US Export-Import Bank provided 48 insurance policies to the New Jersey-headquartered Connell Company to pursue deals with at least 17 mining companies in seven sub-Saharan countries. These included a $20,000 policy to supply equipment to the Bisha copper mine in Eritrea, which is being investigated by a Canadian court amid accusations of slavery, according to an investigation of the bank by the Guardian and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism’s Energy and Environment Reporting Project.

The bank provides US exporters with financing – in the form of loans, guarantees and insurance policies – to sell goods and services overseas. Bank officials say they create US jobs and fill a financing gap by allowing companies to access funding when private lenders will not.
Obama’s dirty secret: the fossil fuel projects the US littered around the world
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But Nevsun Resources, the Canadian mining company that controls Bisha, faces a lawsuit in which 30 plaintiffs allege that the mine engaged two Eritrean state-run contractors and the army to force hundreds of military conscripts to work there under abhorrent conditions.

“The financing that Connell is getting is quite significant,” said Doug Norlen, director of economic policy for Friends of the Earth US. “Whether it’s loans or insurance, the same obligations exist to carry out human rights due diligence. Some of these projects are associated with some pretty serious human rights abuses.”

The bank also insured export deals between Connell and seven mining companies in the Katanga region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, where the proximity of mines to villages means thousands of people are exposed to fumes, dust, noise and effluent water, says the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations.

“This happens across the board in the region. It’s very hard to prove whether this or that mine is to blame for the environmental damages. The tests are complicated and expensive and it’s hard to prove environmental damage in connection with a specific mine,” said Esther de Haan, a senior researcher with the Dutch center.

The group says that addressing Katanga’s human rights and environmental violations requires the engagement of all actors in the mineral supply chain, including mining equipment providers and financiers – such as Connell and the US Export-Import Bank.

The Connell Company, an opaque business conglomerate founded in 1926 and managed by four generations of the Connell family, is one the top 40 recipients of the bank’s insurance policies. Commercial banks, such as Wells Fargo and JP Morgan, are the largest recipients – receiving more than $30bn of the more than $50bn the bank authorized in insurance policies between 2007 and 2016.

The government-backed insurance policies protected Connell against buyer non-payment, in effect transferring the risk of doing business in these troubled countries to US taxpayers.

Caroline Scullin, the bank’s senior vice-president for communications, said that short-term insurance deals – like those it provided Connell – were not subject to environmental and social due diligence procedures.

“Short-term insurance does not cover projects per se; rather, it generally covers goods that are not capital in nature or destined for new projects,” she said.

But to critics of the bank, this lack of oversight means the US is potentially financing corrupt and dangerous projects across the globe.

“In the case of a mine, the mining equipment is the most central thing that enables a project to move forward,” said Norlen.

He said the bank’s lack of due diligence violated the UN’s Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, which stipulate that export credit agencies are responsible for investigating projects that could involve human rights abuses before financing.

The bank, instead, follows guidance from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, which Norlen says is weaker than the UN’s rules.

The Connell Company, which is privately owned, does not release financial information to the public, but its website describes it as “one of the largest diversified” companies in the United States.

Connell did not respond to repeated requests for comment.
Allegations of forced labor in a repressive country

The bank has supplied a safety net of insurance policies for Connell in mineral-rich sub-Saharan countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Eritrea and Mauritania, which have been associated with corruption, political violence and internal instability in recent years, according to organizations such as Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

For instance, in 2010, the bank approved an insurance deal between Connell and Eritrea’s Bisha mine, which is at the center of a slave labor lawsuit brought by 29 men and one woman who say they were forced to work at the mine.

In affidavits, claimants say they were abducted from their villages and forced to work shifts of over 12 hours, with barely any food or water. These abuses allegedly began in 2003 and continued after 2010.

“The case alleges that military intelligence forces actually operated inside the mine and detained and disappeared people working at Bisha, and that several conscripted laborers were tortured,” said Matt Eisenbrandt, who works as legal director for the Canadian Center for International Justice, and who is part of the legal team representing the claimants.

Nevsun issued a statement in October saying it was considering appealing against the supreme court of British Columbia’s decision to proceed with the case, and that the company complies with “international standards of governance, workplace conditions, health, safety and human rights”.

The company referred all reporters’ questions to the statement.

“Beyond just the issue of forced labor, the bigger picture is that Eritrea is an incredibly repressive country. Any company that is providing funding, or equipment or insurance, has to go in there with its eyes open and do its due diligence,” adds Eisenbrandt.
An ore deposit five times the size of Central Park

Another Connell client in the region that has received scrutiny is Ambatovy, a cobalt and nickel mine in Madagascar operated by the Toronto-based Sherritt International Corporation. Between 2010 and 2012, Connell was provided with about $500,000 worth of insurance policies to supply goods to the mine. The Ambatovy development includes an ore deposit that covers 1,600 hectares (almost 4,000 acres, or a space roughly five times the size of New York’s Central Park), a 220km (137-mile) pipeline (equal to the distance between Los Angeles to San Diego) and a processing plant the size of 250 football fields.

Although Ambatovy has an environmental management program, biologists say this gigantic project has scarred an ecologically unique country whose lush forests are home to hundreds of native animals, including about 100 species of lemurs, as well as the cat-like fossa.

“The Ambatovy mine has destroyed a lot of primary rainforest habitat in Madagascar,” said Chris Raxworthy, a curator-in-charge at the American Museum of Natural History, who has studied reptiles and amphibians in the African island country since 1985. “At the moment, it is not clear what positive offsets the mine development has provided for Madagascar’s biodiversity.”

According to the Center for Responsive Politics, the Connell Company donated almost $5.8m to politicians from 1990 to 2016. The company’s founder and CEO, Grover Connell, has contributed almost $800,000 over the past 20 years, mainly to the Democratic party, which has long supported the bank on the grounds that it helps export-oriented companies create jobs.

While regulatory loopholes allow the bank to skip due diligence procedures for many of Connell’s deals, their 40-year relationship was celebrated in 2014, when the company was honored with the bank’s sub-Saharan Africa Exporter of the Year award.

The partnership between the bank and Connell “is bringing new economic opportunity to sub-Saharan Africa, while creating jobs at home”, read a statement released by the bank about the award. “It’s a win-win.”

— source theguardian.com by Eduardo Garcia

Local Official Says US-Built Apache Helicopter Behind Massacre of Refugees

At least 31 Somali refugees are dead after the boat they were traveling in from Yemen to Sudan was attacked by what might have been a U.S.-made Apache helicopter. International Organization for Migration (IOM) confirmed “dozens of deaths and many dozens of survivors brought to hospitals.” A local coastguard officer told Reuters that “the refugees, carrying official [United Nations Refugee Agency] documents, were on their way from Yemen to Sudan when they were attacked by an Apache helicopter near the Bab al-Mandeb strait.”

— source commondreams.org