Oil, minerals and the militarisation of globalisation
By JULIUS BARIGABA (email the author)
Posted Monday, March 22 2010 at 00:00
A new study has linked conflicts in Africa with the continent's oil and mineral resources that Western powers are fighting to control through the militarised foreign policy of the United States in Africa, and geopolitical wars.
The study, Globalisation in Africa: Commercial Wars and State Failure in Uganda is a University of Malaya PhD thesis by Ugandan scholar Yunus Lubega Butanaziba.
Released in October 2009, it says the West's “imperial” interest in Africa's wealth first led to conquest and more recently the creation of a centralised military force, the US African Command (Africom) to police these resources, including Uganda's oil.
This interest has shaped global geopolitics from pre-World War II through the Cold War to the present in Congo, Darfur, Somalia, Sudan, Angola, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Uganda.
No wonder these countries are among the world's conflict flashpoints of the post-Cold War era.
The study also postulates that commercial and resource wars are a US agenda with its allied Western powers — all members of the Bretton Woods institutions since 1944 that seeks to weaken internal political systems and take control of resources.
This casts a very grim picture on the fortunes of Uganda that struck oil only a few years ago but has since been on the brink of slipping back into conflict.
When Uganda discovered oil in 2006, the two-decade long war in the north was on the ebb, but since then, there have been flashes of violence — last year's Banyoro-Bakiga tribal clashes and the clash between Congo and Uganda armies — which could point to eruption of conflict, this time in the oil fields of western Uganda.
However, it is the creation of the Djibouti-based Africom, based on theories of American political scientist Samuel Huntington that explain why more resource wars are set to unfold in oil and mineral rich countries.
Huntington had taken the global strategy theory to another level in his “Next pattern of conflict” essay that Butanaziba says guided Washington's model of globalised security, which others have called the militarisation of globalisation.
This model saw the creation of four strategic military commands to keep close watch on resources.
Other commands are Eucom (Europe), Centcom (Africa/Asia), Pacom (Pacific) and Southcom (South America).
This stage had been arrived at following years of implementing the global strategy to control world resources that the US political strategists Halford Mackinder and Nicholas Spykman had laid ground for earlier.
It would guide imperial interests in Africa through the colonial, Cold War and post-Cold War periods.
Mackinder argued that whoever rules East Europe commands the Heartland, and eventually, the world and its resources.
Spykman took the argument to taking control of the World Island (Africa and Eurasia) by seizing Eurasia's coastal lands, also known as the Rimland, while in the post-Cold War era, Huntington saw the use of the military to control continents as the perfect way to control global resources.
Batanaziba says events that have unfolded since the creation of Africom confirm that in creating this force, Washington was clearly executing Huntington's post-Cold War theory.
“In the thinking of Pentagon and White House officials, the world today is too dangerous a place not to be policed by Washington. The establishment of Africom… is being driven by two main strategic concerns: First, the growing demand for African oil and gas...”
Africom has the force of law to intervene in African security because African states have agreed to it.
American geopolitics analyst William Engdahl wrote in November 2008 that the birth of Africom had more to do with a fight for resources than mere security concerns.
Indeed, in a matter of weeks after President George W. Bush assented to the creation of Africom, a new wave of conflict erupted in mineral-rich eastern Congo to pre-empt the major agenda of the incoming Barack Obama presidency.
To focus the US's military and other resources on dealing with the Congo, the oil rich Gulf of Guinea and oil rich Darfur, as well as the increasing Somali pirate threat in the Red Sea and Indian Ocean waters.
“The legitimate question is whether it is mere coincidence that Africa appears to just at this time become a new geopolitical 'hotspot' or whether it has a direct link to the formal creation of Africom,” wrote Mr Engdahl.
This position had been stated by Washington adviser Dr Peter Pham in unequivocal terms in 2007, while justifying Africom's creation before Congress, saying its purpose was to protect “access to hydrocarbons and other strategic resources which Africa has in abundance... a task which includes ensuring against the vulnerability of those natural riches and ensuring that no other interested third parties, such as India, China, Japan or Russia obtain monopolies or preferential treatment.”
The irony of it is that these countries have enormous resources but they are also saddled with raging poverty hence the dreaded resource curse.
In the thesis, Mr Butanaziba clearly alludes to this failure stated in Uganda's Oil and Gas Policy 2008.
“The reports of the National Oil and Gas Policy of Uganda indicated that oil and gas are non-renewable extractive resources which in addition to having potentially immense benefits to the country, also pose the challenge of insecurity to the country.”
Clearly, the military option that the west preaches is no panacea for Africa: it has bred havoc in Sudan, left Somalia split along clan lines and reduced Liberia to shambles.
It has not tamed several midlevel powers like France, Libya and Israel that enjoy impunity in their swash buckling exploits in Africa.