Tag Archives: africa

The Colonial Project that Never Ended

The recent shake up in the media over President Trump’s condolence call to the bereaved widow of Sgt La David Johnson, whose body was found after an ambush in Niger near the border with Mali, has shined a light on an all too murky subject. Putting Trump’s appalling dearth of empathy aside, we should look closer and honestly at why this soldier and the others who were killed were in Niger in the first place. One of 800 US military personnel, we are told that Johnson was there to “support and train the local forces to improve counterterrorism efforts.” But in this age of deliberate obfuscation with the so-called “war on terror” used as a blanket excuse for American militarism such a statement belies the real reasons for their presence on the continent.
          Many Americans couldn’t locate Niger on a map to save their lives but the global capitalist class can. They have had their talons there and across Africa for decades. In Niger, for example, the US military has been working with the French who once held the impoverished country as a colony and now exploit it for its rich resources. Meanwhile at least 63% of Nigeriens live under the global poverty line. And like most African nations they are forced to pay “debt” to the nations that once enslaved them for the “benefits” they received from centuries of European subjugation.



Today the ruse continues thanks to the cover of “counterterrorism” which justifies the presence of US and European troops and special forces in order to protect the interests of multi-national corporations who pillage resource rich regions across Africa. Niger alone has one of the world’s largest uranium deposits along with coal, iron ore, tin, phosphates, and gold to name just a few.

          While it is true that violent extremism is a major problem from groups like Boko Haram or Al-Shabab, it is equally true that the global elite have exacerbated tensions and even fomented some by creating situations which pit one group against another. The brutal attack in Mogadishu earlier this month which killed hundreds and maimed thousands more, for instance, might have been the result of Trump’s pledge to “ramp up” attacks against the violent extremists of Al-Shabab. Incidentally, Somalia like Niger is rich in uranium.


The best response to the threats of Boko Haram and Al-Shabab come in the absence of militaristic aggression. It is African women, for instance, who have mounted the most effective campaigns to fight the brutality of Boko Haram. And as history has shown militarism generally destabilizes societal infrastructure and increases the suffering of the vulnerable and the oppressed. A perfect example of this is the US war against Afghanistan. The Pentagon along with many feckless feminists promoted it in part to “liberate women” from the Taliban. Sixteen years later we can see how that lie turned out. We can also take a look at Afghanistan’s vast mineral resources and opium to understand why the American Empire keeps the longest war in its history going.


It’s time to be brutally honest. The US soldiers killed in Niger may not have fully understood their role but they were not there “protecting the homeland” or “fighting for freedom.” They were not “liberating locals” either. They were employed to protect the capital investments of the global .01%. And when the mask is ripped off it becomes apparent that colonialism in Africa and around the globe never really ended. Quite the contrary. It has only morphed into a more insidious and noxious form of plunder in this desperate era of late stage, predatory capitalism. And the military, whether wittingly or not, is ultimately protecting the elite, their interests and their vast, ill-gotten wealth.


Kenn Orphan  2017

The Chronicles of “Nambia”

There are a lot of people laughing at Donald Trump’s praise of a nation that doesn’t exist when he spoke yesterday before African leaders at the United Nations. “Nambia,” he proclaimed twice. Of course he meant Namibia. Trump’s worldview is farcical and his ignorance is legendary, but what is far worse than this bungle is what he actually said in this speech.

Trump told these leaders that they should be “proud” that many of his friends are going to African countries “trying to get rich.” This might seem innocuous, but to anyone who understands the bloody history and enduring legacy of colonial plunder it is far from a benevolent commendation.  It is a signal that the United States, which expanded its covert wars and neo-colonial projects on the continent under President’s Bush and Obama, will only continue and widen its presence and plunder in the years to come.

Trump went on to talk about oil and gas exploration, extraction and production across the continent. This cannot be looked at without considering the global crisis of climate change which he arrogantly dismisses or the enormous ecological cost the fossil fuel industry exacts upon ecosystems and poor communities that depend upon them for sustenance and survival.  An example of this is the once fertile Niger Delta which has been devastated by companies like Shell. This, along with mining that often ruthlessly exploits children and women, is how many wealthy investors actually do “get rich” in Africa.

The US has always had a disruptive and destructive presence across the continent.  The CIA and US State Department hatched multiple plans to assassinate political leader Patrice Lumumba of Congo.  And it lent its support to apartheid South Africa.  But today, thanks to the bogus “war on terror,” it runs scores of special operations, training exercises and other military programs and interventions from Algeria to Zambia.   Trump’s speech merely solidified this commitment in the coded language of capitalistic opportunism and imperialism.


At the end of his speech Trump seemed to drift into a non sequitur when he warned participants of the supposed “threat” of North Korea. This wasn’t as strange as it might appear. Trump may very well be playing a calculating game by building a “coalition of the willing” with “client states” as George W. Bush did in the run up to the catastrophic invasion of Iraq.

If this is true, we should all be worried about what he and his military generals have in store for a country and a planet that do, in fact, exist.


~ Kenn Orphan  2017

Suffering in the Congo: the High Price of Technology

congo-2In all likelihood, the Smartphone that many Westerners carry around all day, checking messages, taking ‘selfies’ and downloading apps, was manufactured with minerals extracted from a nation decimated by genocide and imperialistic plunder.  Much of the cobalt and tantalum used in the electronics industry is harvested from central Africa, and mainly from one former Belgian colony.

Beginning with the murderous, genocidal King Leopold II of Belgium, who was responsible for the murder of nearly 10 million people in the 19th century, and leading up to the US corporate raiders of this century, the Democratic Republic of the Congo has been continually robbed of its rich human and natural resources.  In 1961 the Belgian capitalist elite and the CIA backed the assassination of democratically elected president Patrice Lumumba.  This set in motion the turmoil and suffering the people of the Congo now live with today.  Lumumba, like countless other leaders around the world, was disposed of by the Western hegemony because of his gall to defend his own people against foreign robber barons.  Ignored by a subservient United Nations, the new junta government murdered Lumumba by firing squad.

The US and Belgium, along with most of the West, then installed the murderous dictatorship of Mobutu Sese Seko.  Despite his looting the country of billions of dollars and committing brutal and heinous human rights violations, Seko, enjoyed a close friendship with several US presidents and was honored at the White House by Ronald Reagan several times.  Following his exile, the DRC was plunged into mayhem for over a decade.  And it is estimated that 6 to 10 million Congolese have been killed in what can only be termed as genocide.

Slavery, land grabs and violence have decimated this beautiful land with seemingly no end in sight.  The systematic rape, mutilation and torture of women and children has been used to demoralize and dehumanize millions of Congolese, while the mainstream media generally ignores their plight and world leaders mostly look on with apathy.  And today this travesty continues chiefly by the support of US foreign policy which lends aid to its rival nations, Rwanda and Uganda, as its presidents, Paul Kagame and Yoweri Musuveni, strip it clean of its natural resources for Western corporate interests.

It is in this way more than any other that Western colonialism never ended in Africa.  It continues through the vehicle of free trade and globalization, which mask the ugliest facets of neoliberalist policies.  And it continues through the blind exploitation of resources for the sake of Western technology and insatiable consumerism.  The Congolese have no agency while such powers are permitted to plunder for profit.  And the carnage will only grow beyond what is arguably the biggest genocide the world has seen since World War II.

Kenn Orphan  2014

(Photo: REUTERS/Finbarr O’Reilly)

*For more information on this issue I highly suggest reading the fine journalistic work of Andre Vltchek.