Oil & Africa

M. Adams galture at yahoo.co.uk
Fri Dec 20 09:18:24 MST 2002


This from Socialist Review.  Nice to see the article
could be published without a standard "The only
solution is for workers all over Africa to unite
against...etc"
====
The new scramble for Africa

The US is eyeing up Africa's oil, as Charlie Kimber
explains

In the middle of last month a group of oil executives,
US government officials and African politicians met in
Houston, Texas, to organise a new carve-up of Africa's
resources. The background is a scramble for oil that
is reshaping western policy towards West Africa. It
could also lay the basis for civil wars, tension
between the US and European powers and future military
intervention.

For years the multinationals and powerful states have
generally regarded Africa as a 'basket case', its
suffering contemptuously ignored. Large parts of the
continent were seen as not worth the risk of
exploiting. But that is now changing. Last month's
conference (registration fee $950) was organised by
the Corporate Council on Africa. The CCA was
established in 1992 and brings together 160 US
companies which control nearly 85 percent of total US
private sector investments in Africa. The conference
programme laid out the prize worth fighting for:
'Africa's Gulf of Guinea region has become vital to
businesses in the US petroleum industry. Production,
new discoveries and exploration are growing at a fast
pace. Currently the region supplies almost 15 percent
of US energy needs, and imports are expected to rise
to nearly 25 percent by 2005.

'This timely forum will focus on oil and gas
production and opportunities for the US petroleum
industry and related investors in African countries.
It is designed for a senior level audience composed of
African petroleum ministries and national petroleum
company representatives to meet with US petroleum
officials and US government personnel administering
African policy.'

In the 19th century the European carve-up of Africa
was carried out without any reference to Africans.
Nothing so crude applies today. The Africans were
allowed to come to Texas to prove their pliability, to
be made aware of the potential for bribery and
bullying and to see the lucrative potential for an
African elite to work alongside the US corporations.
The US cares nothing for the brutality of regimes like
those in Congo, Gabon or Nigeria.

>From Angola came the vice-minister of petroleum, the
national petroleum director and various other top
officials. Nigeria sent the presidential adviser on
petroleum and energy. Cameroon supplied its minister
of mines, water resources and energy. Chad's
delegation included the minister of petroleum. And so
it went on with similar politicians and bureaucrats
from the Congo-Brazzaville, Equatorial Guinea,
Mauritania, S‹o TomŽ and Principe, Ghana and Gabon.
The programme announced, 'This event is sponsored by
ExxonMobil and ChevronTexaco with support from Vanco
Energy, Marathon Oil Company, and PennWell.'

This meeting confirmed a trend that has been
accelerating sharply. In September George W Bush held
meetings with the presidents of 11 African states, all
of them oil producers or allied closely to oil
producers.

The pressure for war on Iraq shows the US wants to
dominate the Middle East. But it is also seeking
alternative oil supplies. In recent years the country
has imported more and more oil from sub-Saharan
Africa. It is relatively easy to ship oil from West
Africa to the US. The key state is Nigeria (whose
output will rise to 4.4 million barrels a day by
2020). As a sign of goodwill, US soldiers have been
sent to train Nigerian forces. Bush's advisers would
not only like to have Nigeria firmly in the US camp.
They also plan that Nigeria could be a regional power
which could discipline the whole of West Africa in US
interests. The other prime target is Angola, which is
at the centre of the oil boom. Its output has
increased from 722,000 barrels a day in 2001 to
930,000 this year and by 2020 it is expected to reach
3.28 million barrels a day.

Elsewhere in the region it was recently announced that
the Chad-Cameroon oil pipeline project would go ahead
with World Bank support. US companies Exxon and
Chevron are major partners in the scheme.

Such investments require military back-up. The US
government is moving to an agreement with S‹o TomŽ and
Principe, the island state off the west coast of
Africa, to establish a naval base there. But the US is
not going to have it all its own way. There is already
competition with rivals, and battles for control. Many
of the countries that US firms are moving into are
former French colonies and French-based TotalFinaElf
has strong (and incredibly corrupt) ties with
governments in Congo and Gabon. TotalFinaElf also owns
the huge Girassol field in block 17 off the waters of
Angola. RoyalDutch/Shell and BP are also pouring money
into West Africa.

European countries are also strengthening their
military intervention in West Africa. The British
government has strong military links in Sierra Leone
and the French government has troops in several key
African oil-producing countries. For a few days in
October there was tension between US and French forces
that were both intervening to 'protect innocent
civilians' during fighting in the Ivory Coast.

Amid all the wheeling and dealing the vast majority of
Africa's people have been entirely forgotten. The past
crimes of the present leaders of the US officials
should certainly make Africans fear for their future.
Defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld was one of the
strongest lobbyists for support for Angola's murderous
Unita movement in the 1970s. Dick Cheney was also a
longtime supporter of Unita. George W Bush received
financial backing from Pierre Falcone, one of the most
notorious international arms dealers who boosted
Angola's war. Falcone sold arms to Angola in breach of
UN sanctions.

Such monsters have helped to create modern day Angola,
a country of oil and diamonds where 1.5 million are
starving, where a third of the population have fled
from their homes because of the civil war, where there
are nearly 100,000 disabled landmine victims and where
a child dies of a preventable disease every three
minutes.

West Africa has become a focus where oil and the US
drive for global domination come together. For all the
wrong reasons, it will no longer be a forgotten
continent.


=====
Mark Adams

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