US Troops To Join British in Intervention Into African Civil War

Tony Abdo aabdo at SPAMwebtv.net
Wed Aug 23 21:11:50 MDT 2000


U.S. intervenes in Sierra Leone
WEST SCRAMBLES FOR AFRICA'S DIAMONDS
By Johnnie Stevens

U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Pickering
announced Aug. 9 that the United States will send several hundred
Special Forces troops from Ft. Bragg, N.C., to Nigeria. Their mission is
to train and equip 4,000 Nigerian soldiers to fight against an insurgent
movement in Sierra Leone. The U.S. forces will also train smaller
numbers of troops from Ghana, and possibly from Mali and Senegal.

The U.S. bill will be $20 million. It is the biggest commitment of U.S.
troops to Africa since Pentagon forces were routed from Somalia in 1993.

Then, the United States claimed to be helping Somalia avert a famine.
But the U.S. troops' real role--as an interventionist force--was exposed
and they were finally driven out after fierce resistance in the capital
city of Mogadishu.

Pickering said that Washington has "gone through an agonizing
reappraisal" of its policy toward Sierra Leone. Trying to justify U.S.
military involvement, he reiterated charges that the Revolutionary
United Front, the force fighting the government, had chopped off the
limbs of civilians.

Pickering said nothing about the casualties inflicted by British troops,
who carried out an offensive last month in their former colony. Nor did
he remind world public opinion of the Nigerian naval blockade and aerial
bombardment of the capital, Freetown, in 1997, after the government
favored by Britain and the United States had been overthrown in a
military coup.

For over a century, the imperialist powers have used charges of
atrocities to corral public support for their own bloody,
interventionist schemes.

BRITISH RULE LEFT POVERTY
AMID RICHES
Sierra Leone, a West African nation of 4.8 million people, was an
outright colony of Britain until 1961. The country's natural resources
include bauxite, cocoa, coffee, palm kernel, corn--and, most notably,
diamonds. Yet for all this wealth, 75 percent of the people live in
extreme poverty. The country's gross domestic product averages $159 per
person per year--one of the lowest in the world.
A civil war has raged there since 1991. During that time military
factions have carried out several coups.

In 1998 President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah was returned to power by troops of
the Economic Community of West Africa (Ecowas), a 19-country force led
by Nigeria under United Nations direction.
In July 1999 Kabbah's government signed a peace accord with two rebel
armies, the RUF and the Armed Forces Revolutionary Council. The accord,
signed in Togo, brought RUF and AFRC into a coalition government.

The peace accord broke down after RUF leader Foday Sankoh charged Kabbah
with violating the agreement. A UN "peacekeeping force" of 8,700 troops
from Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana, India, Guinea, Jordan and Zambia was sent in
to replace the Togo Lome coalition government.

The major imperialist powers in Africa--the United States, Britain and
France--supported Kabbah and the UN troops even as they maneuvered to
keep Nigeria from getting too much power.
In April of this year, RUF forces captured 500 UN troops. There was
heavy fighting in northern Sierra Leone, driving 350,000 refugees into
neighboring Guinea.
In May the RUF seized several diamond mines.

Britain, the former colonial power in Sierra Leone, sent several hundred
paratroopers into the capital of Freetown, accompanied by an aircraft
carrier and other ships, supposedly to evacuate British nationals. A
U.S. Navy warship was also sent to the area.

Liberian President Charles Taylor negotiated the release of the UN
troops from the RUF. In May the combined forces of Britain, AFRC and the
United States captured RUF leader Sankoh.

Sankoh is now in a Freetown jail. If U.S. Ambassador to the UN Richard
Holbrooke gets his way, Sankoh will be tried by a UN War Crimes
Tribunal. The U.S.-dominated UN Security Council voted 15 to zero to set
up a war crimes body for Sierra Leone.
Holbrooke, it should be remembered, is the U.S. diplomat who set the
stage for the U.S./NATO war in Kosovo.

In addition, the UN Security Council has voted to ban diamond sales from
Sierra Leone until a certification system is put in place by the
government. Holbrooke charged that the diamonds were fueling the RUF in
the civil war and enriching officials from neighboring Liberia.

U.S. DIAMOND INTERESTS
Holbrooke says not a word about the diamonds having enriched foreign
imperialists for years. One such company is America Mineral
Fields--which used to be based in Bill Clinton's hometown of Hope, Ark.
AMF "has a majority stake in Nord Resources, a major [diamond] mining
house in Sierra Leone," according to the Web site of Africa
Confidential.
Earlier the Security Council voted to "strengthen the peacekeeping
force."

Holbrooke says this gives the UN troops authority to "take down the
RUF."
Gov. George W. Bush and his foreign policy advisor Condoleeza Rice have
given public support to the Clinton- Gore moves to deepen U.S.
intervention in Sierra Leone's civil war.

Many stories have appeared in the Western media alleging atrocities by
the Nigerian troops. When heavily armed British soldiers carried out an
offensive in Sierra Leone last month, however, the wire services said
only that they had "no reports" on casualties.

Nigeria has begun to face problems at home over its multi-
billion-dollar war budget; there are cries to bring the youthful troops
home. Nigeria also faces an external debt of $31 billion, with yearly
debt servicing of $3.5 billion.

Oil-rich Nigeria faces deep poverty. In August, 169 Shell Oil employees
were held hostage by Nigerian youths demanding jobs. All the hostages
were released unharmed.

Ivory Coast, a member of the Nigeria-led military force, was rocked by a
coup in December 1999, staged by soldiers demanding back pay for
fighting in Liberia and Sierra Leone.

The United States owes the UN millions of dollars for these operations.
Nigeria was left holding the bag for the Ecowas campaign, politically
and economically.
It's clear the Nigerian-led campaign in Sierra Leone has failed. The
Ivory Coast coup and the determination of the RUF to keep fighting have
the imperialists worried.

Capitalists at the helm of firms like Shell Oil, De Beers and
Oppenheimer have had many restless nights. De Beers, whose interest is
diamonds, is deeply involved in Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea.

Clinton's visit to Nigeria in September will be another great unequal
exchange. Nigeria will go back to war. The United States will train its
troops. In exchange, Washington will assist in rescheduling about 80
percent of Nigeria's debt, according to InterPress Service.
In Lagos, U.S. Under Secretary of State for Business and Agricultural
Affairs Alan Larson said the United States would like Nigeria to use
"only" $1.5 billion annually for debt service.

This is Clinton's Africa Growth and Opportunity Act in living color. The
U.S. working class should show the African people solidarity by
demanding: U.S. out of Africa and hands off Sierra Leone.

-END -

>From Workers World














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