The imperialist retaking of Africa

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Through most of the 16th to 20th centuries, traders and colonialists from Europe sold and enslaved Africa’s peoples, carved up their territories, and pillaged resources from their continent.

Jump forward to the present day. The exploiters are back. They have plundered most of the Western Hemisphere, Asia and Central Asia and dealt severe blows to many a resistance movement. Now they’re after Africa again. Some of the players are different, some the same. Land borders have been re-drawn through the decades, and the tools and technologies of exploitation are more sophisticated and lethal. But their aims are exactly the same.

France is bombing Mali, the U.S. is expanding its military presence, China is buying up natural resources. It all confirms that Africa is still a coveted gem, and one of the few remaining frontiers for the predators of global capital.

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Area occupied by France during

European colonization of Africa,

circa 1914 to 1940. Click on image

for detailed view.


France invades Mali. In January 2013, French “socialist” President François Hollande ordered troops into Mali, supposedly because of terrorist threats and humanitarian concerns. Northern Mali had raised alarms in Paris when the Tuareg people revolted in January 2012 and ignited a coup that ousted the president a few months later. Entire Malian army units of Tuareg commanders and soldiers have defected during the rebellion and organized into the “MNLA” (National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad”).

A nomadic, Berber-speaking group that moves about through much of the North and West Africa, the Tuareg have long battled the central Malian government. Despite its portrayal by the U.S. and European leaders as a beacon of democracy, this regime has been a corrupt, client-state of imperialism, whose officials are in the drug trade and have tolerated gangs and jihadists groups for years. It has scapegoated and retaliated against the Tuareg for their inability to resolve the impoverishment of the population.

With the fall of Gadhafi’s regime in Libya and NATO’s intervention there, Libya’s loosely associated ethnic groups began to unravel. Some moved into Northern Mali, escalating the insurrection there and complicating an already tense political situation.

The Tuareg rebellion for independence was soon hijacked by better-armed fundamentalist groups such as the “AQMI” (“Al-Qaida in Islamic Maghreb”) whose goal was not independence, but to enforce harsh Sharia practices. Although secularly oriented, the MNLA first tried to compromise with the Islamic jihadists, and then supported the French invasion.

As for France, its real aim is to stabilize the region to protect access to natural resources, particularly uranium. Although Hollande campaigned for curtailing nuclear power in France (seventy percent of the country’s power is nuclear), he made a deal with President Issoufou of Niger and endorsed the bid of French nuclear power company Areva to develop and operate the Imouraren uranium mine, which is expected to be the largest open-pit mine in the world. Naturally, the two leaders also warned of “terrorists” taking over Northern Mali.

U.S. military — small but sinister. To hear American politicians and military leaders talk, you’d think they have noble goals for Africa. Quite the contrary. Obama’s policy directive “U.S. Policy Toward Sub Saharan Africa” (June 2012) refers to “strengthening democratic institutions and boosting broad-based economic growth … sustained by a deep commitment to the rule of law, [in order to] generate greater prosperity and stability.”

Instead, the U.S. established “Africa Command” (AFRICOM) in 2007, and has since built three Predator drone bases in the Republic of Seychelles, Ethiopia and most recently Niger, along with a forward operating base in Kenya. Army General David Rodriquez recently said that the U.S. needs a 15-fold increase in “additional intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities … to protect American interests and assist our close allies and partners.”

Apparently, the U.S. is playing the role of spy for other imperialists, and it gave “logistical” support to the French invasion of Mali. Compared to wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan, Africa is comparatively inexpensive for the U.S. in financial outlays, military materiel and American lives.

China — investing to exploit. Since China’s rise to the top of global capitalist wealth, its state-owned and private enterprises have been increasingly aggressive throughout Africa. The primary aim has been to secure the huge reserves of oil and minerals found in many African countries, and build roads, airports and ports to export the goods from source countries.

There are over 2,000 private Chinese firms now operating in Africa. China is now Africa’s largest export market. But as China’s economy cools — its domestic production is not expected to grow this year — Africa will take a direct hit.

China’s role in Africa underscores the paradoxical nature of global capitalism. China needs Africa’s resources and markets to fuel its economic growth. But already it cannot employ enough Chinese workers domestically, so it sends an estimated 500,000 Chinese workers to labor in Africa. The world in recession cannot buy all that China needs to produce and sell, which in turn will impede capital growth in Africa. And so goes the vicious cycle. The sacred “growth” of capitalist economies leads not to development and fair exchange, but to decay and misery.

Many imperialists — one goal. French, U.S., Chinese and other imperialists each have their self-interests, but in the end they agree on one thing — rescue capitalism. They need Africa’s resources which include all the raw materials needed for modern warfare. They need a new cheap-labor manufacturing oasis for foreign businesses, now lessening in China because of workers’ angry resistance. Most importantly, they need social stability. What they don’t need is rebellion and revolution!

Imperialists will cooperate with each other when necessary, and one-up each other when possible. They would prefer façades of democracy and mild corruption to stabilize society. However, they will do anything to discredit rebellions as “terrorists” and “Al Qaida-linked,” or crush them with overwhelming military power.

Only a massive, class-conscious movement that crosses borders and defends the rights and needs of all ethnic and cultural minorities can rally and integrate the working people, farmers and nomads of Africa to counteract their foreign and domestic dictators.

No imperialist troops in Mali!

Down with the reactionary regime in Bamako, Mali’s capital.

Shut down all U.S. military and drone bases in Africa!

For a continent free of right-wing religious extremists and for equal treatment for women.

For rational, sustainable development of Africa planned and controlled by workers and farmers and nomads.

Dennis Sanders can be contacted at

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