The Nigerian military announced on Friday that it reached a ceasefire agreement with the Islamist militant movement, Boko Haram, and that the Nigerian schoolgirls who were kidnapped by Boko Haram will be returned to their families.
Air Chief Marshal Badeh first spoke about the truce after a three day meeting between Nigeria and Cameroon. The BBC is reporting that the negotiations were mediated by Chad.
An official with Nigeria’s security forces told Reuters “Commitment among parts of Boko Haram and the military does appear to be genuine … It is worth taking seriously.”
Boko Haram has not made any statement about a truce.
The school girls were abducted from Chibok, a town in the northeastern state of Borno state, six months ago. Through the efforts of Nigerian women activists, the kidnapping of the girls became an international cause and brought Boko Haram onto the world stage. The Nigerian government has been strongly criticized by local as well as international human rights groups for its “lackluster” efforts to retrieve the girls. The release of the girls will be finalized next week in Ndjamena, Chad’s capital.
The Nigerian government spokesperson said that Boko Haram will not be given any land, but that the national government will not say what compromises it has made toward the militant group.
Boko Haram was founded in 2002 and has been fighting with the Nigerians military since 2009. More than 2,000 civilians have been killed this year in this conflict.
On May 23, 2012, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton went to the Special Operations Forces Industry Conference (SOFIC) trade show in Tampa, Florida to share her vision of “smart power” and to explain the State Department’s crucial role in extending the reach and efficacy of America’s growing “international counterterrorism network.”
First, there is such a thing as a “Special Operations Forces Industry Conference trade show.” Without some keen reporting by David Axe of Wired, that peculiar get-together might’ve flown completely under the radar—much like the shadowy “industry” it both supports and feeds off of like a sleek, camouflaged lamprey attached to a taxpayer-fattened shark.
Second, “special operations” have officially metastasized into a full-fledged industry. United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) is located at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa and, therefore, conveniently located near the special operations trade show, which happened again this year at the Tampa Convention Center. The theme was “Strengthening the Global SOF Network” and the 600,000-square-foot facility was filled with targets of opportunity for well-connected and well-heeled defense contractors.
According to the SOFIC website, this year’s conference afforded attendees “the opportunity to engage with USSOCOM Program Executive Officers, Science and Technology Managers, Office of Small Business Programs and Technology & Industry Liaison Office representatives, and other acquisition experts who will identify top priorities, business opportunities, and interests as they relate to USSOCOM acquisition programs.”
Third, Hillary’s widely-ignored speech marked a radical departure from the widely-held perception that the State Department’s diplomatic mission endures as an institutional alternative to the Pentagon’s military planning. Instead, Secretary Clinton celebrated the transformation of Foggy Bottom into a full partner with the Pentagon’s ever-widening efforts around the globe, touting both the role of diplomats in paving the way for shadowy special ops in so-called “hot spots” and the State Department’s “hand-in-glove” coordination with Special Forces in places like Pakistan and Yemen.
Finally, with little fanfare or coverage, America’s lead diplomat stood before the shadow war industry and itemized the integration of the State Department’s planning and personnel with the Pentagon’s global counter-terrorism campaign which, she told the special operations industry, happen “in one form or another in more than 100 countries around the world.”
If this isn’t entirely unexpected, consider the fact that under then-Secretaries of State Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice, the State Department fought attempts by the Pentagon to trump its authority around the globe and, as reported by the Washington Post, “repeatedly blocked Pentagon efforts to send Special Operations forces into countries surreptitiously and without ambassadors’ formal approval.”
But that was before Hillary brought her “fast and flexible” doctrine of “smart power” to Foggy Bottom and, according to her remarks, before she applied lessons learned from her time on the Senate Armed Services Committee to launch the first-ever Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, which she modeled on the Pentagon’s Quadrennial Defense Review. That Pentagon-style review spurred the creation of the Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations to “advance the U.S. government’s foreign policy goals in conflict areas.”
According to a Congressional Research Service analysis, the initial intent of the Conflict Bureau was to replace the ineffectual Office of the Coordinator of Reconstruction and Stabilization, which was created in 2004 to help manage “stabilization” efforts in two nations the U.S. was actively destabilizing—Afghanistan and Iraq.
But the new, improved bureau does more than just react to messes made by unlawful invasions or direct costly remediation efforts in war zones—it also collaborates with “relevant partners” in the Department of Defense and NATO “to harmonize civilian and military plans and operations pertaining to conflict prevention, crisis response, and stabilization.”
This integrated relationship between State and Defense was confirmed by U.S. Special Operations chief Admiral William McRaven shortly after Hillary’s speech. When asked about the “unlikely partnership,” McRaven assured DefenseNews that SOCOM has “an absolutely magnificent relationship with the State Department” and that SOCOM doesn’t “do anything that isn’t absolutely fully coordinated and approved by the U.S. ambassador and the geographic combatant commander.”
As David Axe aptly described it in Wired, “Together, Special Operations Forces and State’s new Conflict Bureau are the twin arms of an expanding institution for waging small, low-intensity shadow wars all over the world.”
In fact, during Hillary’s time as America’s chief diplomat, the State Department embraced the shadowy edge of U.S. foreign policy where decision-makers engage in activities that look like war, sound like war and, if you were to ask civilians in places like Yemen and Pakistan, feel a lot like war, but never quite have to meet the Constitutional requirement of being officially declared as war.
The Whole-of-Government Shift
Once upon a time, “low-intensity shadow wars” were the Congressionally-regulated bailiwick of the Central Intelligence Agency. But 9/11 changed everything. However, the excesses of the Bush Administration led many to hope that Obama could and would change everything back or, at least, relax America’s tense embrace of “the dark side.”
Although the new administration did officially re-brand “The War on Terror” as “Overseas Contingency Operations,” Team Obama employed an increasingly elastic interpretation of the 9/11-inspired Authorization for Use of Military Force and expanded covert ops, special ops, drone strikes and regime change to peoples and places well-beyond the law’s original intent, and certainly beyond the limited scope of CIA covert action.
Obama’s growing counter-terrorism campaign—involving, as Secretary Clinton said, “more than 100 countries”—took flight with a new, ecumenical approach called the “Whole-of-Government” strategy. Advanced by then-Secretary of Defense Bill Gates and quickly adopted by the new administration in early 2009, this strategy catalyzed an institutional shift toward inter-agency cooperation, particularly in the case of “state-building” (a.k.a. “nation building”).
During remarks to the Brookings Institution in 2010, Secretary Clinton explained the shift: “One of our goals coming into the administration was… to begin to make the case that defense, diplomacy and development were not separate entities, either in substance or process, but that indeed they had to be viewed as part of an integrated whole and that the whole of government then had to be enlisted in their pursuit.”
Essentially, the Whole-of-Government approach is a re-branded and expanded version of Pentagon’s doctrine of “Full-Spectrum Dominance.” Coincidentally, that strategy was featured in the Clinton Administration’s final Annual Report to the President and Congress in 2001. It defined “Full-Spectrum Dominance” as “an ability to conduct prompt, sustained, and synchronized operations with forces tailored to specific situations and possessing freedom to operate in all domains—space, sea, land, air, and information.”
In 2001, Full-Spectrum Dominance referred specifically to 20th Century notions of battlefield-style conflicts. But the “dark side” of the War on Terror stretched the idea of the battlefield well-beyond symmetrical military engagements. “Irregular warfare” became the catchphrase du jour, particularly as grinding campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq exposed the reality that the full spectrum still wasn’t enough.
An assessment by the Congressional Research Service identified the primary impetus for the Whole-of-Government “reforms” embraced by Team Obama as the “perceived deficiencies of previous inter-agency missions” during the military campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq. Those missions failed to address a myriad of problems created—culturally, economically and politically—by the wholesale bombing and occupation of those countries. The Full-Spectrum was half-baked. Lesson learned.
But the lesson wasn’t that the U.S. should avoid intervention, regime change or unleashing nascent civil, ethnic or religious conflicts. Instead, the lesson was that the “Whole-of-Government” must be marshaled to fight a worldwide array of Overseas Contingency Operations in “more than 100 countries.”
This Whole-of-Government shift signaled a renewed willingness to engage on variety of new fronts—particularly in Africa—but in a “fast and flexible” way. With other agencies—like the State Department—integrated and, in effect, fronting the counter-terrorism campaign, the military footprint becomes smaller and, therefore, easier to manage locally, domestically and internationally.
In some ways, the Whole-of-Government national security strategy is plausible deniability writ-large through the cover of interagency integration. By merging harder-to-justify military and covert actions into a larger, civilian-themed command structure, the impact of the national security policy overseas is hidden—or at least obfuscated—by the diplomatic “stabilization” efforts run through the State Department—whether it’s the Conflict Bureau working against Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army in Central Africa, “stabilizing” post-Gaddafi Libya or spending $27 million to organize the opposition to Bashar al-Assad’s Syrian regime.
The Pass Key
The cover of diplomacy has traditionally been an effective way to slip covert operators into countries and the State Department’s vast network of embassies and consulates still offers an unparalleled “pass-key” into sovereign nations, emerging hot spots and potential targets for regime change. In 2001, the Annual Report to the President and Congress foresaw the need for more access: “Given the global nature of our interests and obligations, the United States must maintain the ability to rapidly project power worldwide in order to achieve full-spectrum dominance.”
Having the way “pre-paved” is, based on Hillary’s doctrinal shift at State, a key part of the new, fuller-spectrum, Whole-of-Government, mission-integrated version of diplomacy. At the SOFIC’s Special Operations Gala Dinner in 2012, Hillary celebrated the integration of diplomatic personnel and Special Operations military units at the State Department’s recently created Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications—a “nerve center in Washington” that coordinates “military and civilian teams around the world” and serves “as a force multiplier for our embassies’ communications efforts.”
As with most doors in Washington, that relationship swings both ways and mission-integrated embassies have served as an effective force multiplier for the Pentagon’s full spectrum of activities, particularly around Africa.
In his 2011 testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee Subcommittee on Africa, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Don Yamamoto noted that State had “significantly expanded the number of DoD personnel who are integrated into embassies across the continent over the past three years,” and read a surprisingly long laundry list of collaborative efforts between State and the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM), including: “reduction of excess and poorly secured man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS); Defense Sector Reform in Liberia, DRC, and South Sudan; counterpiracy activities off the Somali coast; maritime safety and security capacity building; and civil-military cooperation.”
It seems that “civil-military cooperation” is a primary focus of the State Department in Africa. Most notably, Yamamoto told Congress that “embassies implement Department of State-funded Foreign Military Financing (FMF) and International Military Education and Training (IMET) programs, which further U.S. interests in Africa by helping to professionalize African militaries, while also assisting our African partners to be more equipped and trained to work toward common security goals.”
As the ever-vigilant Nick Turse recently reported, U.S. presence on the continent has only grown since that testimony was given in 2011. On TomDispatch.com, Turse identified the infamous attack on Benghazi on September 11, 2012 as the catalyst for “Operation New Normal”—the continent-wide response to, quite ironically, the political potboiler still simmering around Secretary Clinton. Whether or not Congressional Republicans find anything more than incompetence at the root of Benghazi, the U.S. military certainly finds itself in a “new normal” of increased activity in response to the forces—and the weaponry—unleashed by U.S.-led regime change in Libya. According to Turse, the U.S. is “now conducting operations alongside almost every African military in almost every African country and averaging more than a mission a day.”
Those missions are, of course, integrated with and augmented by the State Department’s Conflict Bureau which has used a variety of state-building programs and its diplomatic “pass key” in places like Libya, Nigeria, Kenya, South Sudan, Somalia, Democratic Republic of the Congo and six other African nations, all to develop a growing roster of “host country partners.”
Establishing “host country partners” is the nexus where the State Department, its Conflict Bureau and the AFRICOM meet—implementing the Whole-of-Government strategy in emerging or current conflict zones to fuse a mounting counter-terrorism campaign with stabilization, modernization and state-building initiatives, particularly in oil and resource-rich areas like the Niger River Delta, Central Africa and around AFRICOM’s military foothold on the Horn of Africa.
As Richard J. Wilhelm, a Senior Vice President with defense and intelligence contracting giant Booz Allen Hamilton, pointed out in a video talk about “mission integration,” AFRICOM’s coordination with the Departments of State and Commerce, USAID is the “most striking example of the Whole-of-Government approach.”
And this is exactly the type of “hand-in-glove” relationship Secretary Clinton fostered throughout her tenure at State, leveraging the resources of the department in a growing list of conflict areas where insurgents, terrorists, al-Qaeda affiliates, suspected militants or uncooperative regimes threaten to run afoul of so-called “U.S. interests”.
Ultimately, it became a hand-in-pocket relationship when Clinton and Defense Secretary Gates developed the Global Security Contingency Fund (GSCF) to “incentivize joint planning and to pool the resources of the Departments of State and Defense, along with the expertise of other departments, to provide security sector assistance for partner countries so they can address emergent challenges and opportunities important to U.S. national security.”
Although he’s been criticized as feckless and deemed less hawkish than Secretary Clinton, President Obama’s newly-proposed Counterterrorism Partnership Fund (CTPF) is the logical extension of the Clinton-Gates Global Security Contingency Fund and epitomizes the Whole-of-Government shift.
The $5 billion Obama wants will dwarf the $250 million pooled into the GSCF and will, the President said at West Point, “give us flexibility to fulfill different missions including training security forces in Yemen who have gone on the offensive against al Qaeda; supporting a multinational force to keep the peace in Somalia; working with European allies to train a functioning security force and border patrol in Libya; and facilitating French operations in Mali.”
That “flexibility” is exactly what Hillary Clinton instituted at State and touted at the SOFIC conference in 2012. It also portends a long-term shift to less invasive forms of regime change like those in Yemen, Libya, Syria and Ukraine, and an increased mission flexibility that will make the Authorization for the Use of Military Force functionally irrelevant.
Normalizing the War on Terror
The ultimate outcome of this shift is, to borrow from Nick Turse, yet another “new normal”—the new normalization of the War on Terror. What the adoption of the Whole-of-Government/mission integration approach has done is to normalize the implementation of the re-branded War on Terror (a.k.a. Overseas Contingency Operations) across key agencies of the government and masked it, for lack of the better term, under the rubric of stabilization, development and democracy building.
It is, in effect, the return of a key Cold War policy of “regime support” for clients and “regime change” for non-client states, particularly in strategically-located areas and resource-rich regions. Regimes—whether or not they actually “reflect American values”—can count on U.S. financial, military and mission-integrated diplomatic support so long as they can claim to be endangered… not by communists, but by terrorists.
And because terrorism is a tactic—not a political system or a regime—the shadowy, State Department-assisted Special Ops industry that fights them will, unlike the sullen enthusiasts of the Cold War, never be bereft of an enemy.
The Pentagon has been secretly backing a U.S. Special Operations program to build elite units to fight “terrorism” in Libya, Niger, Mauritania and Mali, the New York Times revealed Monday.
The program was launched last year and is backed by millions of dollars in classified Pentagon funds. U.S. military trainers, including members of the Green Berets and Delta Force, are working with African “commandos” to “build homegrown African counterterrorism teams,” according to the Times.
According to the reporting, $70 million in Pentagon funds is going towards “training, intelligence-gathering equipment and other support” for commandos in Nigeria and Mauritania. And $16 million is going towards commandos in Libya. In Mauritnaia, $29 million has been allotted for “logistics and surveillance equipment in support of the specialized unit.” According to the Times, the program in Mali “has yet to get off the ground as a new civilian government recovers from a military coup last year.”
The U.S. military has for years been increasing its role across the continent of Africa, including the expansion of AFRICOM, drone attacks in Somalia, air strikes and arms shipments to Libya, and more.
Former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo has reportedly engaged in an effort to broker the release of over 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by the Takfiri Boko Haram militants.
Obasanjo has met with people close to the radical militants in an attempt to negotiate the release of the abducted schoolchildren, AFP reported Tuesday, citing a source close to the talks.
The meeting reportedly took place last weekend at Obasanjo’s farm in Ogun State and involved the relatives of some senior Boko Haram militants as well as mediators, the source added.
“The meeting was focused on how to free the girls through negotiation,” said the anonymous source, referring to the girls who were abducted on April 14 from the remote northeastern town of Chibok in Borno State.
Nigeria’s Chief of Defense Staff Air Chief Marshal Alex Badeh stated Monday that the whereabouts of the girls had been located but cast doubt on the prospect of rescuing them by force. He further noted that the risks of storming the area with troops in a rescue mission were too great and could prove fatal for the young hostages.
According to the source, Obasanjo had voiced concern over Nigeria’s acceptance of foreign military intervention to help rescue the abducted girls.
Obasanjo is reportedly worried that Nigeria’s prestige in Africa as a major continental power had been diminished by President Goodluck Jonathan’s decision to bring in Western military assistance, including by US forces.
Obasanjo, who left office in 2007, has previously sought to negotiate with the Takfiri militants, including in September 2011, after Boko Haram bombed the United Nations headquarters in Abuja.
From the droned villages of Pakistan and Afghanistan–
Bring back our girls!
From Nigeria, and the brothels of the Philippines–
Bring back our girls!
From the ruined cities of Detroit and Newark
And the ravished American Dream–
Bring back our girls!
From “Disaster Capitalism” and twerking jerks–
Bring back our girls!
From the “Occupied Territories” of Palestine
And from Israeli Porn Kings–
Bring back our girls!
From the “royal” slave-holders of Arabia,
And the crapulous monarchs of Britain–
Bring back our girls!
From our culture of destitution and prostitution–
Bring back our girls!
From “entrepreneurs” and exploiters
Of sex and violence and from those who confound and abuse–
Bring back our girls!
Restore them to their birthright dignity:
Co-creators; mothers; sisters; daughters; friends.
Bring back our girls
From the wars that have butchered them
From the silence that has answered their prayers
From the callous hypocrisy
Of scoffed-at dreams and snuffed-out hopes–
Bring back our girls!
A chorus of outraged public opinion demands that the “international community” and the Nigerian military “Do something!” about the abduction by Boko Haram of 280 teenage girls. It is difficult to fault the average U.S. consumer of packaged “news” products for knowing next to nothing about what the Nigerian army has actually been “doing” to suppress the Muslim fundamentalist rebels since, as senior columnist Margaret Kimberley pointed out in these pages, last week, the three U.S. broadcast networks carried “not a single television news story about Boko Haram” in all of 2013. (Nor did the misinformation corporations provide a nanosecond of coverage of the bloodshed in the Central African Republic, where thousands died and a million were made homeless by communal fighting over the past year.) But, that doesn’t mean the Nigerian army hasn’t been bombing, strafing, and indiscriminately slaughtering thousands of, mainly, young men in the country’s mostly Muslim north.
The newly aware U.S. public may or may not be screaming for blood, but rivers of blood have already flowed in the region. Those Americans who read – which, presumably, includes First Lady Michelle Obama, who took her husband’s place on radio last weekend to pledge U.S. help in the hunt for the girls – would have learned in the New York Times of the army’s savage offensive near the Niger border, last May and June. In the town of Bosso, the Nigerian army killed hundreds of young men in traditional Muslim garb “Without Asking Who They Are,” according to the NYT headline. “They don’t ask any questions,” said a witness who later fled for his life, like thousands of others. “When they see young men in traditional robes, they shoot them on the spot,” said a student. “They catch many of the others and take them away, and we don’t hear from them again.”
The Times’ Adam Nossiter interviewed many refugees from the army’s “all-out land and air campaign to crush the Boko Haram insurgency.” He reported:
“All spoke of a climate of terror that had pushed them, in the thousands, to flee for miles through the harsh and baking semi-desert, sometimes on foot, to Niger. A few blamed Boko Haram — a shadowy, rarely glimpsed presence for most residents — for the violence. But the overwhelming majority blamed the military, saying they had fled their country because of it.”
In just one village, 200 people were killed by the military.
In March of this year, fighters who were assumed to be from Boko Haram attacked a barracks and jail in the northern city of Maiduguri. Hundreds of prisoners fled, but 200 youths were rounded up and made to lie on the ground. A witness told the Times: “The soldiers made some calls and a few minutes later they started shooting the people on the ground. I counted 198 people killed at that checkpoint.”
All told, according to Amnesty International, more than 600 people were extra-judicially murdered, “most of them unarmed, escaped detainees, around Maiduguri.” An additional 950 prisoners were killed in the first half of 2013 in detention facilities run by Nigeria’s military Joint Task Force, many at the same barracks in Maiduguri. Amnesty International quotes a senior officer in the Nigerian Army, speaking anonymously: “Hundreds have been killed in detention either by shooting them or by suffocation,” he said. “There are times when people are brought out on a daily basis and killed. About five people, on average, are killed nearly on a daily basis.”
Chibok, where the teenage girls were abducted, is 80 miles from Maiduguri, capital of Borno State.
In 2009, when the Boko Haram had not yet been transformed into a fully armed opposition, the military summarily executed their handcuffed leader and killed at least 1,000 accused members in the states of Borno, Yobe, Kano and Bauchi, many of them apparently simply youths from suspect neighborhoods. A gruesome video shows the military at work. “In the video, a number of unarmed men are seen being made to lie down in the road outside a building before they are shot,” Al Jazeera reports in text accompanying the video. “As one man is brought out to face death, one of the officers can be heard urging his colleague to ‘shoot him in the chest not the head – I want his hat.’”
These are only snapshots of the army’s response to Boko Haram – atrocities that are part of the context of Boko Haram’s ghastly behavior. The military has refused the group’s offer to exchange the kidnapped girls for imprisoned Boko Haram members. (We should not assume that everyone detained as Boko Haram is actually a member – only that all detainees face imminent and arbitrary execution.)
None of the above is meant to tell Boko Haram’s “side” in this grisly story (fundamentalist religious jihadists find no favor at BAR), but to emphasize the Nigerian military’s culpability in the group’s mad trajectory – the same military that many newly-minted “Save Our Girls” activists demand take more decisive action in Borno.
The bush to which the Boko Haram retreated with their captives was already a free-fire zone, where anything that moves is subject to obliteration by government aircraft. Nigerian air forces have now been joined by U.S. surveillance planes operating out of the new U.S. drone base in neighboring Niger, further entrenching AFRICOM/CIA in the continental landscape. Last week it was announced that, for the first time, AFRICOM troops will train a Nigerian ranger battalion in counterinsurgency warfare.
The Chibok abductions have served the same U.S. foreign policy purposes as Joseph Kony sightings in central Africa, which were conjured-up to justify the permanent stationing of U.S Special Forces in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Rwanda, the Central African Republic and South Sudan, in 2011, on humanitarian interventionist grounds. (This past March, the U.S. sent 150 more Special Ops troops to the region, claiming to have again spotted Kony, who is said to be deathly ill, holed up with a small band of followers somewhere in the Central African Republic.) The United States (and France and Britain, plus the rest of NATO, if need be) must maintain a deepening and permanent presence in Africa to defend the continent from… Africans.
When the crowd yells that America “Do something!” somewhere in Africa, the U.S. military is likely to already be there.
Barack Obama certainly needs no encouragement to intervention; his presidency is roughly coterminous with AFRICOM’s founding and explosive expansion. Obama broadened the war against Somalia that was launched by George Bush in partnership with the genocidal Ethiopian regime, in 2006 (an invasion that led directly to what the United Nations called “the worst humanitarian crisis is Africa”). He built on Bill Clinton and George Bush’s legacies in the Congo, where U.S. client states Uganda and Rwanda caused the slaughter of 6 million people since 1996 – the greatest genocide of the post War World II era. He welcomed South Sudan as the world’s newest nation – the culmination of a decades-long project of the U.S., Britain and Israel to dismember Africa’s largest country, but which has now fallen into a bloody chaos, as does everything the U.S. touches, these days.
Most relevant to the plight of Chibok’s young women, Obama led “from behind” NATO’s regime change in Libya, removing the anti-jihadist bulwark Muamar Gaddafi (“We came, we saw, he died,” said Hillary Clinton) and destabilizing the whole Sahelian tier of the continent, all the way down to northern Nigeria. As BAR editor and columnist Ajamu Baraka writes in the current issue, “Boko Haram benefited from the destabilization of various countries across the Sahel following the Libya conflict.” The once-“shadowy” group now sported new weapons and vehicles and was clearly better trained and disciplined. In short, the Boko Haram, like other jihadists, had become more dangerous in a post-Gaddafi Africa – thus justifying a larger military presence for the same Americans and (mainly French) Europeans who had brought these convulsions to the region.
If Obama has his way, it will be a very long war – the better to grow AFRICOM – with some very unsavory allies (from both the Nigerian and American perspectives).
Whatever Obama does to deepen the U.S. presence in Nigeria and the rest of the continent, he can count on the Congressional Black Caucus, including its most “progressive” member, Barbara Lee (D-CA), the only member of the U.S. Congress to vote against the invasion of Afghanistan, in 2001. Lee, along with Reps. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) and fellow Californian Karen Bass, who is the ranking member on the House Subcommittee on African, gave cart blanch to Obama to “Do something!” in Nigeria. “And so our first command and demand is to use all resources to bring the terrorist thugs to justice,” they said.
A year and a half ago, when then UN Ambassador Susan Rice’s prospects for promotion to top U.S. diplomat were being torpedoed by the Benghazi controversy, a dozen Black congresspersons scurried to her defense. “We will not allow a brilliant public servant’s record to be mugged to cut off her consideration to be secretary of state,” said Washington, DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton.
As persons who are presumed to read, Black Caucus members were certainly aware of the messy diplomatic scandal around Rice’s role in suppressing United Nation’s reports on U.S. allies’ Rwanda and Uganda’s genocidal acts against the Congolese people. Of all the high profile politicians from both the corporate parties, Rice – the rabid interventionist – is most intimately implicated in the Congo Holocaust, dating back to the policy’s formulation under Clinton. Apparently, that’s not the part of Rice’s record that counts to Delegate Norton and the rest of the Black Caucus. Genocide against Africans does not move them one bit.
So, why are we to believe that they are really so concerned about the girls of Chibok?
Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.
Nigeria’s President Goodluck Jonathan has accepted an Israeli offer to help search for 223 kidnapped school girls by the extremist Boko Haram group, Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office announced yesterday.
Netanyahu is reported to have told the Nigerian president: “Israel expresses deep shock at the crime against the girls. We are ready to help in finding the girls and fighting the cruel terrorism inflicted on you.”
The statement gave no further details on the nature of assistance provided.
A foreign ministry spokesman said he does not know of any cooperation efforts in the present time.
Israel and Nigeria have a defence agreement whereby Israel supplied Nigeria with drones in September and joined other countries to advise Kenya to confront Islamic militants who attacked a trading centre in Nairobi.
In a statement, the Nigerian president’s office said: “President Jonathan has accepted an Israeli offer by Prime Minister Netanyahu to send a team of Israeli counter-terrorism experts to contribute to the ongoing search operations. Nigeria would be pleased to have Israel’s globally acknowledged anti-terrorism expertise deployed to support its ongoing operations.”
A total of 276 girls were abducted by Boko Haram on April 14 from the northeast of the country, which has a sizeable Christian community. Some 223 are still missing.
- ‘Boko Haram’ doesn’t really mean ‘Western education is a sin’
- How Nigerian police also detained women and children as weapon of war
Three Lebanese were cleared of terrorism charges in Nigeria on Friday.
“The Nigerian authorities released Mustapha Fawaz and Abdallah Thahini, while Talal Ahmad Roda’s trial is still ongoing for possessing weapons,” Lebanese charge d’affaires in Nigeria told FM Adnan Mansour.
Federal High Court Judge Adeniyi Adetokunbo Ademola said Hezbollah “is not an international terrorist organisation in Nigeria” and therefore membership is not criminal.
He said there was “no evidence” that the group was planning an attack or had received “terrorism training” as the prosecution alleged.
Two Lebanese nationals, who are on trial in Nigeria, have told a court that they were subjected to torture by Israeli Mossad agents after being arrested.
Mustapha Fawaz and Abdallah Thahini together with another Lebanese national Talal Ahmad Roda were arrested in May after an arms cache was discovered in a residence in the Nigerian city of Kano.
The three Lebanese men reportedly own a supermarket and an amusement park in Abuja, which have been closed since their arrests.
Fawaz told the court on Monday that after he was arrested in Abuja, a security official told him that some “European friends” wanted to ask him some questions.
“I was taken to an interrogation room where I met three Israeli Mossad agents,” he said.
Fawaz also said the interrogators handcuffed his hands behind his back for days, noting he “lost count because they did not allow me to sleep for several days.”
He went on saying, “During the 14 days of interrogation, I was interrogated by six Israeli Mossad agents and one masked white man.”
“I was interrogated in Arabic. I asked to be interrogated in English, but they refused. Most of them are weak in English. They are not Europeans, but Israelis,” he also said, adding no Nigerian official was present during the interrogations.
Thahini gave similar account to the court, saying he collapsed five days after the interrogators did not allow him to sleep.
- Israel Targets “Hezbollah Cells” in Nigeria (alethonews.wordpress.com)
ADDIS ABABA – European Union lawmakers on Wednesday criticised the African Union (AU) and Nigeria for allowing Sudanese president Omer Al-Bashir to attend a special summit on HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria held in Abuja.
The EU delegation held talks with AU and Ethiopian officials on a number of national and continental concerns, as part of an official visit to Ethiopia.
Barbara Lochbihler, who led the delegation, said the AU’s position towards the International Criminal Court (ICC) and the failure of Nigeria to arrest Bashir undermines the work of the ICC and victims’ fight for justice.
The 54-member continental bloc has called on member states not to cooperate with the ICC arrest warrant for Bashir.
The Sudanese president left for Nigeria on Sunday, but cut short his visit the following day after calls for his arrest intensified.
Nigeria has also come under fire after the government refused to arrest Bashir and surrender him to the ICC.
However, Nigerian officials dismissed criticism, saying the Sudanese president was in Nigeria at the invitation of the AU and not as a guest of the federal government.
“President al-Bashir was in Nigeria under the auspices of the AU, based on the assembly’s decision to convene the special summit in Abuja to deal with three diseases that together constitute a heavy burden on member states”, a statement by the foreign ministry said on Tuesday.
The ICC issued two arrest warrants against Bashir in 2009 and 2010 for alleged war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide committed in Darfur.
In mid-May, Mustafa Fawwaz, a 49-year-old Lebanese living in northern Nigeria, was headed to the Amigo Mall, a property he co-owns with his brother Fawzi. Hours later, police stormed his supermarket and placed him under arrest.
A few days later, 48-year-old Lebanese Ahmad Tahini was arrested at Nigeria’s Kano International Airport before his flight departed to Beirut. On May 26, the police arrested 51-year-old Talal Rawda at his home, in addition to another Lebanese Hussein Noureddine.
The Nigerian police claimed these four men were part of a “Hezbollah cell,” evidence of which was a weapons depot located inside a house in Kano.
After 40 days of detention, Noureddine was released. The court accused the three remaining Lebanese men of committing “terror-related crimes” and “providing direct assistance to a terrorist group.” The indictment stated: “You confessed that you belong to the armed wing of Hezbollah, which is an international terrorist organization. You have therefore committed a crime.”
The main charge that led to the men’s arrest linked them to a questionable weapons cache. But the weapons found by police were old and rusting, having clearly been stored in inappropriate conditions.
A source close to the defendants said that the house where the weapons were found was originally owned by a former army general who was active in the Nigerian civil war – 40 years ago. He denies that the men are linked in any way to the weapons or any armed activity.
The three Lebanese men have been charged with terrorism by virtue of their membership in Hezbollah even though the Nigerian government does not consider the party a terrorist organization. This is the lawyer’s defense for the upcoming July 8 court date when he’ll ask the court to drop all charges.
As usual, Israel is connected to this debacle. An Israeli security official told a Western newspaper, “The security cell that was arrested is part of a Shia terror campaign targeting the West and Israel.” It is interesting that the Israeli official did not limit his accusations to Hezbollah but rather included the entire Shia sect.
Yet perhaps the strongest evidence of Israeli meddling in the investigation came from a source close to the detainees who claimed that a Mossad team was allowed to interrogate and investigate the defendants.
Israel has always paid special attention to Nigeria, having signed several trade and industrial agreements with the African country. Yet since 2006, visits by Israeli presidents and security officials to Nigeria focused on signing security agreements and finalizing weapons deals. Nigeria specialists say that the Mossad’s close relations with Nigerian security agencies is not concealed in any way.
Israel hopes to accomplish several goals with these accusations. It seeks to pressure international, and especially European, public opinion to list Hezbollah, or at least its so-called armed wing, as a terrorist group. Another aim is to create fissures in Hezbollah by falsely accusing Lebanese businessmen and shutting down their businesses.
The US and Israel have different ways of targeting Lebanese in Africa. While the US treasury department accuses Lebanese of supporting terrorist organizations, Israel colludes with African security agencies to fabricate charges.
Adrienne Gnandé sells rice in the bustling Gouro market in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire’s commercial centre. The rice she’s selling comes from the west of the country, where she herself is a farmer. “This is ‘made in Côte d’Ivoire’, cheaper and better tasting,” she tells people walking past her stall.1
Competition with cheap imports means that the margins are thin for Ivorian rice farmers and small traders like Gnandé. Côte d’Ivoire was self-sufficient in rice in the mid 1970s, but under pressure from international donors, the national rice company was privatised, public support for production was dismantled and the market was opened up to imports. Within two decades, two thirds of the rice consumed in the country came from Asia.
These imports generated immense profits for the handful of international grain traders and powerful local businessmen who dominate the market. Yet they’ve been deadly for local production. Only the hard work and ingenuity of the country’s farmers and small traders have kept local rice production alive.
Today the situation is changing. International prices for rice spiked in 2008, and have not come down to previous levels. Local rice now costs 15 percent less than imports, and demand is growing along with production and sales.2 Women rice traders have recently formed several cooperatives and have even created brands for local rice.
This has not escaped the attention of the big rice traders. The same grouping of government, donors and corporations that demolished Côte d’Ivoire’s domestic rice sector is now conspiring to take control of it – from farm to market.
New Alliance for Food Security and Corporate Control
Details of this plan are found in a 2012 agreement between the government of Côte d’Ivoire, the G8 countries represented by the EU, and a grouping of multinational and national companies involved in the rice trade. Known as a Cooperation Framework, the agreement is part of the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition – a partnership between the G8, a number of African governments, transnational corporations and some domestic companies.3
Under its Cooperation Framework, Côte d’Ivoire promises to reform its land laws and make other policy changes to facilitate private investment in agriculture. In exchange, it gets hundreds of millions of dollars in donor assistance and promises from eight foreign companies and their local partners to invest nearly US$ 800 million in the development of massive rice farms (see Table 1).
One of these companies, Groupe Mimran of France, wants an initial 60,000 ha, and plans to eventually expand its holdings to 182,000 ha. Another, the Algerian company Cevital, is reported to be seeking 300,000 ha.4 On January 31, 2013, the CEO of the French grain trader Louis Dreyfus, the biggest importer of rice in Côte d’Ivoire, signed an agreement with the country’s ministry of agriculture, giving it access to between 100,000-200,000 ha for rice production.5 These three projects alone will displace tens of thousands of peasant rice farmers and destroy the livelihoods of thousands of small traders – the very people that the G8 claims will be the “primary beneficiaries” of its New Alliance.6
Smells like structural adjustment
The New Alliance is phase two of the G8’s coordinated response to the global food crisis. The first was the L’Aquila Food Security Initiative, launched by G8 leaders in 2009. They committed to mobilise $22 billion in donor funding to support national agricultural plans in developing countries.
Both initiatives have been spearheaded by the US government.
“The L’Aquila initiative was more than just about money,” says US Deputy National Security Advisor for International Economic Affairs Mike Froman. “In that initiative leaders agreed to put their money behind country plans that had been developed and that were owned by the developing countries themselves.”7
For Africa, the G8 funds were to be aligned with the country agriculture plans developed through the African Union’s Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP).
The New Alliance, which carries forward the funding commitments of the L’Aquila Initiative, is supposed to do the same: align donor funds with the CAADP national plans. But this is not what is happening.
The G8 has signed Cooperation Frameworks with six countries since the New Alliance was launched in May 2012: Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mozambique and Tanzania.8 The Frameworks involve a set of 15 or so different policy measures that each African government commits to implement within clearly defined deadlines.
But few of these policy commitments are found in the CAADP plans that these countries developed through national consultations.9 And, while the national plans are extensive documents covering a wide range of issues, the frameworks zero in on only a small number of measures. almost exclusively aimed at increasing corporate investment in agricultural lands and input markets (see Annex).
So where do these specific policy commitments come from? “The policy commitments in the Cooperation Frameworks were identified through a consultative process between the respective African governments and the private sector,” says USAID in a written response to GRAIN.10
Such behind-the-scenes consultations between African officials and corporate executives are being facilitated by the World Economic Forum’s Grow Africa Partnership. The partnership’s mandate is to bring business executives from companies like Monsanto and Yara together with African governments to convert the CAADP national plans “into increased flows of private sector investment.”
The G8 tasked Grow Africa to identify the private sector investments that are included in the Cooperation Frameworks. Many of these investments and the government policy commitments in the frameworks target the specific geographic areas for farmland investment that Grow Africa is focussing on, such as the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor in Tanzania and Burkina Faso’s Bagré Growth Pole for private investment.
The involvement of the G8 gives a boost to the wish lists drawn up by Grow Africa’s members with African governments behind closed doors, because it ties their implementation to donor funding. The “performance” of African governments in implementing the policy measures they have committed to under the Cooperation Frameworks will be regularly reviewed by a joint Leadership Council of the G8 and Grow Africa, which USAID describes as a “high-level accountability mechanism to drive implementation.”11
On the eve of the G8 leaders summit in 2012, Mamadou Cissokho, Honorary President of the Network of Farmers’ and Agricultural Producers’ Organisations of West Africa (ROPPA), sent a letter to the President of the African Union on behalf of African civil society networks and farmers’ organisations expressing his concerns over how the G8 was dictating agricultural policy in Africa.
“At the moment when the President of the United States, acting in good faith I am sure, has decided to organise a Symposium on Food Security in Washington on 18-19 May 2012, on the eve of the G8 meeting at Camp David, I address myself to you, the President of the African Union – and through you to all African Heads of State – to ask what leads you to believe that Africa’s food security and food sovereignty could be achieved by international cooperation and outside the policy frameworks formulated in inclusive fashion with the peasants and producers of the continent…
The G8 and G20 can in no way be considered appropriate places for such decisions.”12
Straight through the heart
One of the main corporate partners of the G8’s New Alliance is US-based Cargill, the world’s largest grain trader. In a rare interview, the vice chairman of this secretive, family-owned company, Paul Conway, told Al Jazeera that the key to resolving the current global food crisis is “to make better use of the land in Africa and, at the very heart of that, is better property rights.”13
Land is a top priority for Cargill and the other agribusiness corporations targeting Africa. This is why it figures so prominently in the Cooperation Frameworks of the G8’s New Alliance.14
Each Cooperation Framework contains a set of policy commitments by African governments that are designed to make it easier for companies to identify, negotiate for and acquire lands in key agricultural areas of the continent. Ghana will create a database of suitable land for investors, simplify procedures for them to acquire lands, and establish pilot model 5,000 ha lease agreements by 2015.15 Tanzania will map the fertile and densely populated lands of Kilombero District to make it easier for outside investors to find and acquire the lands they want. Burkina Faso promises to fast forward a resettlement policy, and Mozambique commits to develop and approve highly controversial “regulations and procedures that authorise communities to engage in partnerships through leases or sub-leases (cessao de exploração)” by June 2013.16
Ethiopia, for its part, will extend protections for commercial farms and establish a one-window service for investors to cut through the red tape involved in acquiring land. The Ethiopian government has already allocated more than three million hectares of land to corporate investors under an agricultural development plan linked to gross human rights violations. It has only three policy indicators to live up to in its Cooperation Framework with the G8: “improved score on Doing Business Index,” “increased dollar value of new private-sector investment in the agricultural sector,” and “percentage increase in private investment in commercial production and sale of seeds.”17
There are no policy commitments in the framework for Ethiopia – or any of the other countries involved – to protect peasants and pastoralists from the growing number of land grabs taking place.
The New Alliance instead promotes a voluntary approach to regulate the corporate investment in land that it encourages. Within each framework, the New Alliance partners confirm their “intentions” to “take account” of both the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests and the Principles for Responsible Agricultural Investment (PRAI).18
The PRAI, which were initiated by the World Bank in 2009, have been fiercely rejected by civil society organisations for legitimising land grabs. And while the principles have been endorsed by both the G8 and the G20, the FAO-hosted Committee on World Food Security (CFS) refused to do so.
The Voluntary Guidelines, on the other hand, were adopted by the CFS in May 2012, after a three-year process of bottom-up consultation and are acclaimed for putting emphasis on the rights and needs of women, indigenous peoples and the poor. The effectiveness of these guidelines will depend entirely on how they are implemented, and this is being fiercely contested.19 Social movements and NGOs in the CFS want the Voluntary Guidelines translated into binding national laws; corporations want them to remain voluntary.
The New Alliance is posing as a programme for the implementation of both the Voluntary Guidelines and the PRAI. Both will be implemented through “pilot implementation programs” that the New Alliance partners – i.e. the very actors doing the land grabbing (governments and companies) – commit to develop together under each Cooperation Framework.
Louis Dreyfus will thus “take account” of the Voluntary Guidelines and the PRAI as it takes over 100,000-200,000 ha of farmlands in Côte d’Ivoire to produce rice. So will the Japanese trading house, Itochu, as it works with the Japanese government and Brazilian farming companies to establish large-scale soybean and maize farms in Northern Mozambique.20 These will serve as models for how to responsibly handle the transfer of African farmlands to corporations.
At the next G8 meeting, in the UK in June 2013, the British government will propose an initiative to encourage companies and developing countries to disclose basic information on large scale land acquisitions. The proposed Global Land Transparency Initiative is intended to demonstrate concrete and effective implementation of the Voluntary Guidelines. But it will remain voluntary and would provide only rudimentary information about land deals.
The UK’s Department for International Development is organising an invitation-only session to discuss the initiative on the sidelines of the World Bank’s Annual Conference on Land and Poverty in April 2013.
Holding the G8 to account
In the five years since the global food crisis began and investors started to turn their attention to African farmland, there have been hundreds of conflicts – some of them violent – between marginalised peasant communities and powerful foreign companies over access to Africa’s lands and water for agriculture.
By using their influence as donors to push African governments to enact policies that make it easier for transnational companies to acquire farmlands in Africa, the G8 governments are taking sides. They are contributing directly to the displacement of peasants and pastoralists to make way for foreign agribusiness.
The Cooperation Frameworks for Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mozambique and Tanzania are available here: http://feedthefuture.gov/article/unga2012
The national agriculture and investment plans that have been published by Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mozambique and Tanzania are available here: http://www.grain.org/e/4662
GRAIN, “Responsible farmland investing? Current efforts to regulate land grabs will make things worse,” August 2012: http://www.grain.org/e/4564
1 Fulgence Zamblé, “Les femmes rurales et l’autosuffisance alimentaire en riz,” IPS, 16 juillet 2009
3 The G8 countries are: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, UK, US and the EU.
4 “Cevital, 1ère entreprise privée algérienne, choisit la Côte d’Ivoire pour sa 1ère implantation à l’étranger,” 20 minutes, 11 juin 2012:
5 “Côte d’Ivoire : Louis Dreyfus investira 60 millions de dollars dans le riz,” Jeune Afrique, 31 janvier 2013
6Food security: EU supports G8 initiative for a “New Alliance” with partner countries, donors and the private sector, Letter from African Civil Society Critical of Foreign Investment in African Agriculture at G8 Summit
8 According to USAID: “These African countries [participating in the New Alliance] have committed to major policy changes that open doors to more private sector trade and investment, such as strengthening property rights, supporting seed investments, and opening trade opportunities. G8 members identified development assistance funding aligned behind these nations’ own country investment plans for agriculture, and private sector firms from within these countries and from around the world have laid out investment plans in the agricultural sectors of these countries.” Personal communication from USAID, 8 February 2013.
9 The Cooperation Frameworks reference both the national agriculture plans and the national agricultural investment plans, which involved varying degrees of national consultation in their formulation. In Mozambique, for instance, the national peasants union was involved in the formulation of national agriculture plan but not the investment plan.
10 Personal communication from USAID, 8 February 2013.
11 Personal communication from USAID, 8 February 2013.
14 Seeds and fertilisers are another major area of focus for transnational agribusinesses like Monsanto and Yara that are also part of the New Alliance, and there are several policy commitments dealing with both of these as well. Tanzania, for instance, commits to approve a new seeds act based on UPOV 91, while Mozambique will “systematically cease distribution of free and unimproved seeds.”
16 The exact same policy commitment is found in a Development Policy Operation (DPO) that Mozambique is negotiating with the World Bank.
17 Figures on land come from the 2011 Oakland Institute report on Ethiopia. For information on land grabs and human rights violations in Ethiopia, see the 2012 report by Human Rights Watch, “Waiting Here for Death”; and, “Ethiopia’s resettlement scheme leaves lives shattered and UK facing questions,” Guardian, 22 January 2013, which points the involvement of the UK government.
19 Both the B20, the business lobby that reports to the G20, and Via Campesina, the largest global peasant movement, have called on governments to adopt the voluntary guidelines.
20 UNAC, Via Campesina Africa, GRAIN, “Brazilian agribusiness invades Africa,” 30 November 2012; ASA-IM – Special Report – US Soybean Export Council (pdf)