Imperialist manoeuvers behind Chadian unrest

Publié le par hort

 By: Anne Gamboni
Wednesday, 13 February 2008



French imperialists seek to prop up ally

In early February, an alliance of rebel groups attacked the Chadian capital of N’Djamena to overthrow President Idriss Déby, a close ally of French imperialism. The rebels besieged Déby in his presidential palace; then pulled back from the capital after heavy fighting. Aid workers estimate at least 160 people were killed and up to 850 more injured. Déby claims the rebels were beaten back; the rebel united front says they withdrew temporarily to regroup and to allow foreigners to leave. The rebel forces claim they control the center of the landlocked country and will hold on to their position to lure government forces into open battle in the desert.

The assault is the latest development in a two-year struggle to remove Déby from power. Anti-government forces, led by Mahamat Nouri and Timan Ermini, accuse Déby of being corrupt, ruling like a dictator and stealing oil revenues. Chad remains one of the poorest countries in Africa, despite its oil reserves.

Nouri is a former defense minister and leader of the Union of Forces for Democracy and Development, the largest group of Chadian rebel forces opposed to Déby. Ermini is a relative of Déby and his former chief of staff. Ermini heads up the Rally of Forces for Change.The UFDD and RFD claim the French government is propping up Déby through military intervention. France helped Déby fight off a previous rebel attack in April 2006.

Déby a proxy for French interests

French presence in Chad is still strong today, despite almost fifty years passing since Chad declared formal independence. France has supplied Déby with warplanes and has now added 300 troops to the 1,200 already stationed in Chad, where it keeps a military base. While reaffirming their support for the Déby government, French leaders have also offered to help him leave the country—an offer that Déby has rejected so far.

French troops have played a major role in Chad’s civil wars. Over the years, France has provided the Chadian army with intelligence, logistics and medical units. Under Jacques Chirac, French president from 1995 to 2007, France’s policy toward Chad was one of military assistance to help Déby squash opposition.

Déby knows that the French government’s friendship is tactical, and fears that the French could step aside and allow a rival to seize power as they almost did at the outset of the latest crisis. The French government calculated that its regional interests will be better protected with Déby in power, so it backed him up militarily. Aware of his predicament, Déby is courting the French government for support in not-so-subtle ways. In late 2007, Chadian courts convicted six French "humanitarian" workers for attempting to kidnap 103 Chadian children and transport them to adopted homes in France. The scandal sparked such public outrage that the possibility of a pardon would have been unthinkable—until now. Déby recently said he would consider pardoning the aid workers at the request of the French government.

The ‘Sudan connection’

French intervention in Chad goes beyond ensuring the continuity and stability of its economic interests in the country. For the past two years, the French government has participated in a U.S.-led demonization campaign against Sudan’s government, joining calls for an international peacekeeping force in the Darfur region. "Peacekeeping" is a euphemism for the imperialist occupation of the oil-rich African country.

Chad is acting as an imperialist proxy against Sudan and a potential launching pad for military action against its neighbor. Chad shares a long border with Darfur and has been supporting anti-government armed groups in the region, namely the Sudanese Liberation Army and the Justice and Equality Movement. It has defended its actions by accusing the Sudanese government of assisting rebels trying to overthrow Déby, which Khartoum has denied.The N’Djamena battle has successfully stalled a planned deployment of a European Union force in Eastern Chad and the Central African Republic. The force has been promoted primarily by French officials—damning proof of the imperialist character of France’s intervention in the region.

France wishes not only to protect its economic interests in Chad, but also to secure its share of the pie should the U.S. and British imperialists succeed in their campaign to carve up Sudan. If France cannot go in the front door, it figures, it will go in the back But it is not clear that France will achieve its objectives. Déby faces a stiff challenge; fighting may continue. The UFDD said in a statement that it now "considers itself to be in a state of war against the French army, or against any other foreign forces in the national territory."Self-determination without imperialist intervention is a pre-condition for the people of Chad and Sudan to lift themselves from underdevelopment and poverty, the legacy of centuries of colonial plunder.
 
 
 
The new American imperialism in Africa
 
by Michael Schmidt,
 Johannesburg

AMERICA MUSCLES INTO "FRENCH TERRITORY"

Former colonial power France maintained the largest foreign military  presence in Africa since most countries attained sovereignty in the  1950s and 1960s. But France reduced its armed presence on the  continent by two thirds at the end of the last century, though it  continues to intervene in a muscular and controversial fashion. For  example, under a 1961 "mutual defence" pact, French forces were  allowed to be permanently stationed in Ivory Coast: the 500-strong  43rd Marine Infantry Battalion is based at Port Bouet next to the Abidjan airport.

When the civil war erupted there in September 2002, France added  a "stabilisation force", now numbering some 4,000 under Operation  Licorne, which was augmented in 2003 by 1,500 Economic Community of  West African States (ECOWAS) "peacekeepers" drawn from Senegal,  Ghana, Benin, Togo and Nigeria. In January this year, the United  Nations extended the mandate of Operation Licorne until December.But piggybacking off the French military presence in Africa are a  series of new foreign military and policing initiatives by the  United States and the European Union. It appears the US has devised  a new Monroe Doctrine for Africa (the term has become a synonym for the doctrine of US interventions in what it saw as its Latin  American "back yard").

Under the George W Bush regime's "War on Terror" doctrine, the US  has designated a swathe of territory that curves across the globe  from Colombia and Venezuela in South America, through Africa's  Maghreb, Sahara and Sahel regions into the Middle East and Central  Asia as the "arc of instability" where both real and supposed  terrorists may find refuge and training.

In Africa, which falls under the US military's European Command  (EUCOM), the US has struck agreements with France to share its  military bases. For example: there is now a US Marine Corps base in  Djibouti at the French base of Camp Lemonier with more than 1,800 Marines stationed there, allegedly for "counter-terrorism"  operations in the horn of Africa, the Middle East and East Africa -  as well as controlling the Red Sea shipping lanes.But the US presence involves more than piggybacking off French  bases. In 2003, US intelligence operatives began training spies for  four unnamed North African countries - believed to be Morocco and  Egypt and perhaps also Algeria and Tunisia.

It is also conducting training of the armed forces of countries such  as Chad and in September last year [2005], Bush told the United  Nations Security Council that the US would, over the next five  years, train 40,000 "African peace-keepers" to "preserve justice and order in Africa". The US Embassy in Pretoria said at the time that  the US had already trained 20,000 "peace-keepers" in 12 African  countries in the use of "non-lethal equipment".And now, while the US is downscaling and dismantling military bases  in Germany and South Korea, it is relocating these military  resources to Africa and the Middle East in order to  “ombat  terrorism" and "protect oil resources".

In Africa, new US bases are being built in Djibouti, Uganda,  Senegal, and São Tomé & Príncipe. These "jumping-off points" will  station small permanent forces, but with the ability to launch major  regional military adventures, according to the US-based Associated Press. An existing US base at Entebbe, Uganda, under the one-party  regime of US ally Yoweri Museveni, already "covers" East Africa and  the Great Lakes region. At Dakar in Senegal, the US is busy  upgrading an airfield.

SOUTH AFRICA SECRETLY JOINS THE "WAR ON TERROR"

Governments with whom the US has concluded military pacts include  Gabon, Mauritania, Rwanda, Guinea and South Africa. The US also has  a "second Guantanamo" in the Indian Ocean where alleged terror  suspects kidnapped in Africa, the Middle East or Asia can be detained and interrogated without trial: a detention camp,  refuelling point and bomber base situated on the British-colonised  Chagos Archipelago island of Diego Garcia, an island from which the  indigenous inhabitants were forcibly removed to Mauritius.

In South Africa's case, while it is unlikely there will ever be US  bases established because the strength of the country's military,  the SANDF, makes that unnecessary, in 2005, the country quietly  signed on to the US's Africa Contingency Operations Training  Assistance (ACOTA) programme which is aimed at integrating African  armed forces into US strategic (read: imperialist) objectives.South Africa, by signing on to ACOTA as its 13th African member,  effectively joined the American "War on Terror". ACOTA started life  as a "humanitarian" programme run by EUCOM out of Stuttgart,  Germany, in 1996. After the 9-11 attacks, the Pentagon reorganised ACOTA and gave it more teeth.

Today, its makeup is more obviously aggressive rather than  defensive. According to Pierre Abromovici, writing in the July 2004  edition of Le Monde Diplomatique about rumours that South Africa was  preparing to sign ACOTA - a full year before it did so - "ACOTA  includes offensive training, particularly for regular infantry units  and small units modelled on special forces... In Washington, the  talk is no longer of non-lethal weapons... the emphasis is  on `offensive' co-operation".

The real nature of ACOTA is perhaps indicated by the career of the  man heading it up, Colonel Nestor Pino-Marina, "a Cuban exile who  took part in the 1961 failed US landing in the Bay of Pigs,"  Abromovici wrote. "He is also a former special forces officer who  served in Vietnam and Laos. During the Reagan era he belonged to the  Inter-American Defence Board, and, in the 1960s, he took part in  clandestine operations against the Sandanistas. He was accused of  involvement in drug-trafficking to fund arms sent to Central  America" to prop up pro-Washington right-wing dictatorships.

Clearly, Pino-Marina is a fervent "anti-communist" - whether that  means opposing rebellious States or popular insurrections. He also  sits on the executive of a strange outfit within the US military  called the Cuban-American Military council, which aims at installing  itself as the government of Cuba should the US ever achieve a  forcible "regime-change" there.

The career of the US ambassador who concluded the ACOTA pact with  South Africa is also an indicator of US intentions. Jendayi Fraser,  now Bush's senior advisor on Africa, had no diplomatic experience.  Instead, she once served as a politico-military planner with the  Joint Chiefs of Staff in the Department of Defence and as senior  director for African affairs at the National Security Council.  According to Fraser's online biography, she "worked on African security issues with the State Department's international military  education training programmes".

IS THERE A MURDEROUS "SCHOOL OF THE AFRICAS"?
Those programmes include the "Next Generation of African Military  Leaders" officers' course run by the shadowy African Centre for  Strategic Studies, based in Washington, which has "chapters" in  various African countries including South Africa. The Centre appears to be a sort of "School of the Africas" similar to the  infamous "School of the Americas" based at Fort Benning in Georgia.  In 2001, it was renamed the Western Hemisphere Institute for  Security Cooperation (WHINSEC).

Founded in 1946 in Panama, the School of the Americas has trained  some 60,000 Latin American soldiers, including notorious neo-Nazi  Bolivian dictator Hugo Banzer, infamous Panamanian dictator and drug  czar Manuel Noriega, Argentine dictators Leopoldo Galtieri and  Roberto Viola whose regime murdered 30,000 people between 1976 and  1983, numerous death-squad killers, right up to Efrain Vasquez and  Ramirez Poveda who staged a failed US-backed coup in Venezuela in
2002.

Over the decades, graduates of the School have murdered and tortured  hundreds of thousands of people across Latin America, specifically  targeting trade union leaders, grassroots  activists, students,  guerrilla units, and political opponents. The murder of Archbishop Oscar Romero of Nicaragua in 1980 and the "El Mozote" massacre of  767 villagers in Guatemala in 1981 were committed by graduates of  the School. And yet the School of the Americas Watch, an  organisation trying to shut WHINSEC down, is on an FBI "anti-terrorism" watch-list.

So Africa should be concerned if the African Centre for Strategic  Studies has similar objectives, even if the School of the Americas  Watch cannot confirm these fears. And there is more: we've all heard  of the "Standby Force" being devised by the African Union (AU), a coalition of Africa's authoritarian neo-liberal regimes. But the AU  has also set up, under the patronage of the Organisation for  Security and Co-operation in Europe (which also covers North  America, Russia and Central Asia), the African Centre for the Study  and Research of Terrorism.

The Centre is based in Algiers, Algeria, at the heart of a murderous  regime that has itself "disappeared" some 3,000 people between 1992  and 2003 (according to Amnesty International: equivalent to the  Pinochet dictatorship in Chile, but ignored by the African left).  The Centre's director, Abdelhamid Boubazine told me that it would  not only be a think-tank and trainer of "anti-terrorism" judges, but  that it would also have teeth, providing training in "specific armed  intervention" in support of the continent's regimes.

Anneli Botha, the senior researcher on terrorism at the Pretoria- based Institute for Security Studies, said, however, that only 10%  of terrorist attacks in Africa were on armed forces, and only 6% on  state figures and institutions, though the latter were "focussed".  She warned that a major cause of African terrorism was "a growing  void between government and security forces on the one hand and  local communities on the other". Caught in the grip of misery and poverty, many people are recruited into rebel armies, even though  few of these offer any sort of real solution.

The Centre in Algiers operates under the AU's Algiers Convention on  Terrorism, which is notoriously vague on what defines terrorism,  opening the door for a wide range of non-governmental, protest,  grassroots, civic, and militant organisations to be targeted for elimination by the new counter-terrorism forces. It would be naïve  to think that bourgeois democracy - which passed South Africa's  equally vaguely-defined Protection of Constitutional Democracy from  Terrorism and Other Related Activities Act into law last year - will  protect the working class, peasantry and poor from state terrorism.
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[This article first appeared in the ZACF journal Zabalaza #7, November 2006]. 
War demands strain US military readiness 
 
By LOLITA C. BALDOR,
Sat Feb 9, 2008
 
A classified Pentagon assessment concludes that long battlefield tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, along with persistent terrorist activity and other threats, have prevented the U.S. military from improving its ability to respond to any new crisis, The Associated Press has learned. Despite security gains in Iraq, there is still a "significant" risk that the strained U.S. military cannot quickly and fully respond to another outbreak elsewhere in the world, according to the report.
 
Last year the Pentagon raised that threat risk from "moderate" to "significant." This year, the report will maintain that "significant" risk level — pointing to the U.S. military's ongoing struggle against a stubborn insurgency in Iraq and its lead role in the NATO-led war in Afghanistan.The Pentagon, however, will say that efforts to increase the size of the military, replace equipment and bolster partnerships overseas will help lower the risk over time, defense officials said Friday. They spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the classified report.
 
Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has completed the risk assessment, and it is expected to be delivered to Capitol Hill this month. Because he has concluded the risk is significant, his report will include a letter from Defense Secretary Robert Gates outlining steps the Pentagon is taking to reduce it. The risk level was raised to significant last year by Mullen's predecessor, Marine Gen. Peter Pace. On Capitol Hill this week, Mullen provided a glimpse into his thinking on the review. And Pentagon officials Friday confirmed that the assessment is finished and acknowledged some of the factors Gates will cite in his letter."The risk has basically stayed consistent, stayed steady," Mullen told the House Armed Services Committee. "It is significant."He said the 15-month tours in Iraq and Afghanistan are too long and must be reduced to 12 months, with longer rest periods at home. "We continue to build risk with respect to that," he said.
 
Other key national security challenges include threats from countries that possess weapons of mass destruction, as well as the need to replace equipment worn out and destroyed during more than six years of war.On a positive note, Mullen pointed to security gains in Iraq, brought on in part by the increase in U.S. forces ordered there by President Bush last year. There, "the threat has receded and al-Qaida ... is on the run," he said. "We've reduced risk there. We've got more stability there as an example."
 
The annual review grades the military's ability to meet the demands of the nation's military strategy — which would include fighting the wars as well as being able to respond to any potential outbreaks in places such as North Korea, Iran, Lebanon or China.The latest review by Mullen covers the military's status during 2007, but the readiness level has seesawed during the Iraq war. For example, the risk for 2004 was assessed as significant, but it improved to moderate in 2005 and 2006.
 
Last year, when Pace increased the risk level, a report from Gates accompanying the assessment warned that while the military is working to improve its warfighting capabilities, it "may take several years to reduce risk to acceptable levels."Gates is expected to tell Congress that while the primary goal is to continue to increase the size of the military, it is also critical to step up efforts to work with other nations — as well as other U.S. agencies — to bolster fragile governments through economic development and other support.And it will reflect his drumbeat for the use of more "soft power" to defeat terrorism, which includes the greater use of civilians in areas such as political development, communications and training.Pentagon leaders argue that nontraditional conflicts — such as the insurgents and terrorists facing coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan — will be the main military battlefields for years to come. And defeating them, they say, will require more than military hardware — or "hard power."
 
Source: Yahoo
 

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