Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Africa : the other side of the coin A comparison of Africa’s structured

By Udo W. Froese

ERITREA is a small African country to the north of its occupier, Ethiopia.
The people of Eritrea say, “Under the Italians (referring to the fascist Italian occupation before and during WW2), you could eat, but you could not speak.
“Under the British (describing the British colonial takeover immediately after the Italians had lost their colonies), you could speak, but not eat. Under the Ethiopians (when Emperor Haile Selassie, the Lion of Judah, from Ethiopia occupied its neighbour with 3 000 troops), you can neither speak, nor eat.”
To date, Eritrea remains under UN/US sanctions.
Namibia has a similar history. First, the Germans conquered what it then called, German South West Africa. Germany lost its colonies in 1915 during WW1 to Britain, which then indirectly governed Namibia through the Union of South Africa, later, the Republic of South Africa. The indigenous African Namibians could not eat, could not speak and were killed, if they did.
Today, Namibia is a souvereign, independent country with a democratically elected government. After World War II, the opportunity presented itself – British-occupied Eritrea had become geo-strategically important to Washington DC.
Its neighbour, Ethiopia, too had wakened the interest of the Western Superpower. It was decided then, that the Horn of Africa had become of geo-strategic interest, as Washington was convinced that it was important to the East. This exposed the Horn of Africa to decades of superpower interference.
Namibia, Angola and South Africa too became pawns in that exercise of that so-called “Cold War”. Under the cloak of the “Cold War”, colonial-apartheid South Africa developed its vicious racial laws and judiciary as well as its formidable armed forces. Its security cluster enforced colonial-apartheid. A new economic development of “disinvestment” was enforced. Cartels were formed, and the economy became exclusive to the majority of the population.
Colonial-apartheid blossomed and its architects became the super-rich. In return, they transferred every Cent to the City of London and also to Tel Aviv, Antwerpen, New York and Perth. They formed an exclusive nucleus of oligarchs, funding research and development in order to improve their grip on the national and regional economy, as they were and remain interdependent, but owned by the same owners through cross-shareholding.
A new breed of well-connected indigenous black South Africans and Namibians were networked into the sophisticated political-socio-economic strategy of structured poverty. They had to sing for their lunch and hum for their supper, allowing themselves to be used for a few Rand more to function as the new gatekeepers for the oligarchs.
A new brand of ‘neo-liberal’ opportunism, masquerading as ‘democracy’ was accepted to protect an over-compromised political elite and the ‘architects of apartheid’.
Ethiopia grew to become a useful geo-strategic tool for the new superpower, the United States of America. Author and journalist, Michela Wrong, writes in her book on Eritrea’s situation and the Horn of Africa, “I didn’t do it for you – How the World used and abused a small African Nation”, “(Ethiopia’s Emperor) Haile Selassie had succeeded in establishing the principle of Ethiopia’s usefulness.”
Wrong explains, “Under the 1953 base rights agreement, in which Washington was granted near-souvereign rights over the various ‘tracts’, the US agreed to build up Ethiopia’s army (which has since become a major force in the Horn of Africa), providing training and equipment for three divisions of 6 000 men – a deal worth US$5million (then). But this, in the Emperor’s eyes, only marked the beginning. He was aiming for an army of 40 000 – a force, American military experts judged, totally out of proportion for a country facing at this stage of its history no significant external challenges.”
The US’s point of view made sense, but Haile Selassie soldiered on regardless. Michela Wrong comments on the Ethiopian Emperor’s astuteness, “Having seen off both, Mussolini and Churchill, Haile Selassie knew that persistence could be the politician’s most formidable weapon.”
Since then, Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, became the headquarters of the African Union (AU). It has also become an effective joint US-Ethiopian military base from which the Horn of Africa is kept in check. Over-compromised and ruthless political leaders made this possible.
But, the nation of Ethiopia remains terribly poor. One of its industries, coffee, provides hunger for its producers. But the international coffee cartel buys Ethiopian coffee for a song, while its café society enjoys a high-quality cup at globally agreed high prices.
 Addis Ababa was well rewarded, while its poor little neighbour, Asmara (capital of Eritrea), remains under its control.
Windhoek and its powerful southern neighbour, Pretoria, have a souvereign democracy and peace and stability in common. However, they also share the same oligarchs and their hostile economy.
Those are bad experiences for Africa and should not be intellectualised. They are the evil realities, which should be worked out of this continent.
• Udo Froese is an independent political and socio-economic analyst and columnist, based in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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