Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Ganging up on China & Sudan: Chad, Darfur, and the CAR on the brink of collapse

Ganging up on Beijing – Part II

I’ve been preparing in my spare time follow-on posts to my last post “Age of the Dragon: German press on China’s conquest of the schwarze Kontinent”. Like many concerned people around the world the news reports on the deteriorating crisis in Sudan’s Darfur region, eastern Chad, and the violence now spreading across the Central African Republic is both alarming and disheartening. The Chad and CAR (Central African Republic) situation has been worsening for many, many months but major international TV news networks have only recently decided to give the stories more airtime. Some key international newspapers and online journalists have done a much better job of reporting on Chad and the CAR over the past year than the TV news giants. Sudan, Chad, and the Central African Republic have all made it into the Top 10 of the 2007 Foreign Policy Failed States Index with the Khartoum regime of Omar Hassan al-Bashir taking the Nr. 1 spot for two years running. This is a region of Africa that is in serious crisis and millions of innocent civilians, particularly women and children are under tremendous pressure trying to just survive from day-to-day.

Something I read today over at Global Voices Online really drove home for me how misguided and callous some people can be about the suffering and misery of others, particularly if they are black Africans. It was a roundup post about the Chinese blogger community reactions to calls from individuals and Darfur activist groups for a threatened boycott of the upcoming Olympic Games 2008 in Beijing. Jacky, a contributing editor/writer at GVO was good enough to translate summaries of the Chinese-language posts and comments for English-language readers. I also wanted to comment on that post but decided it may be better to highlight it here at Jewels.

Note that the last entry written in Chinese is from an anonymous commenter who addresses the situation on the ground in Darfur and suggests that the Beijing government can and should do more to help alleviate the suffering of people in Sudan. Not a single other person addressed the issues of China’s support for the Khartoum regime and complicity in the atrocities taking place in Darfur including the spreading violence to Chad and the CAR. This is the type of mentality and denial that the world is up against re: China in Africa not only from the Beijing government and business community but it appears also from some “free-thinking” prosperous members of modern Chinese society. Paul Josef Goebels couldn’t have done a better job at mass brainwashing a whole society if he were alive today.

So, if (some) Chinese citizens feel that the PRC is unfairly being singled out as a supporter and provocateur of mass murder in Sudan, Chad, and now in the Central African Republic I think that it deserves some “special investigation”. Here is the latest from the biased, corrupt, double-standard, incompetent “Western media” on a region in deep crisis and the China Factor.

Dateline: Paris, June 25, 2007

An(other) International Conference on Darfur Yields Mixed Results

France’s newly elected president, Nicolas Sarkozy, along with his freshly appointed foreign minister Bernard Kouchner (a founder of Médecins sans Frontières) called an international conference on the Crisis in Darfur this week. Heck why not, nothing else seems to be working to resolve the conflicts and disagreements between the warring parties in Sudan. There has been plenty of media fanfare around this conference because its one of the first times that representatives from the U.S.A. the European Union, China, the Arab League, and the United Nations (representatives from 18 countries attended) have sat around the same table privately discussing ideas and joint strategies that could bring a halt to the horrible violence against innocent civilians trapped in Darfur and eastern Chad. The African Union is upset with ‘France and the West’ because they say the conference will be counter-productive to their own efforts and of course the Government of Sudan is ‘warily eyeing the conference’. Just two days after the conclusion of this conference what do we have to show for it? More promises to act quickly on this widening crisis which has entered its fourth year and counting.

Sudan the Passion has much more on the Paris conference with a good June 25th roundup of the Paris conference coverage from world news serivices. Here is a link to the French Foreign Ministry’s website with press releases and statements from the Ministerial Meeting of the Enlarged Contact Group on Dafur. The UK’s Times Online newspaper has one of the best commentaries on the Paris Conference on Darfur that I have read. Bronwen Maddox, chief foreign commentator for The Times highlights in her piece both China’s complicity in these regional conflicts and its responsibility to the world community, “Silence kills, but money and China are key to Darfur.”

Let’s face facts: the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, Sudan is very complicated and is getting more complicated and dangerous by the day. To make matters worse there are credible rumors of civil war that could flare up again between the south and north of Sudan coming from ‘reliable sources’ on the ground in southern Sudan. Why is this happening? The regime in Khartoum is simply not living up to its agreements with the government in the south on a number of points ranging from the agreed sharing of oil export revenues to fully withdrawing government troops from at least 3 southern states. At the center of the economic, political, and military support that props up the Khartoum regime are the governments of the People’s Republic of China, Russia, and key member governments of the Arab League. Let’s not leave out the various European, Middle Eastern and Asian companies conducting a very profitable business with the Khartoum regime and Khartoum’s business community.

To get a better idea about what’s happening today in Chad have a look at the excellent Washington Post Interactive multimedia special feature by Travis Fox, Crisis in Darfur Expands. The report with eyewitness testimony from several victims of the violence is shocking but also very informative. There has been plenty of recent news coverage about the lawlessness and atrocities being committed against innocent men, women and children in northern Central African Republic too. Some of the best reporting on the CAR can be found at the BBC, Washington Post, Amnesty International, MSF, IPS, the New York Times and Topix. The U.K. Channel 4 News has just aired a very disturbing news report about French military operations against an (alleged) rebel-held village in northern CAR “France’s African War?

Dateline: Washington, D.C. May 28, 2007

France gets 'Rackleyed'

Dr. Edward B. Rackley has written an excellent background article about France’s relationships with its former colonies in sub-Saharan Africa. Dr. Rackley provides a clarification of ‘Francafrique’, a corrupt system of policies and practices between former French government administrations, French companies, and African leaders. Rackley explains how this policy may change under the new political leadership of French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner. In his May 28th article for 3 Quarks Daily Edward Rackley writes (excerpts):

Could France’s new odd couple—Sarkozy and Kouchner—spell the end of French privilege for Africa’s most venal? by Edward B. Rackley

In the 1960s, post-colonial Africa was the most hopeful place on the planet. Post-partum exuberance in Europe’s former colonies was infectious and abundant. Yet fate has not been kind to sub-Saharan Africa. From Namibia to Guinea to Somalia, the path of most sub-Saharan nations has traced an arc of intimate complicity with the predatory appetites of their former colonial masters. Nowhere has this neo-colonial continuation of anti-development and enrichment by and for the few been more evident than in France’s former colonies.

The nature of governance in these ex-colonies attests to the abiding power of the self-serving instinct and immediate gain, over and against the long-term goal of national progress. Such is the confounding irony of Africa’s entire post-colonial era in nations previously occupied by France, Britain, Portugal and Belgium alike: why is the colonial, predatory model of governance so faithfully re-enacted by ruling African elites? It’s as if all that negative conditioning only succeeded in instilling a predatory instinct in the new ruling class. Why are Mandela-style visions for collective prosperity not more common, given the shared experience of subjugation and occupation across the continent?

Two to Tango

Colonialism’s direct rule in Africa was subjugation globalized. African independence in the early 1960s opened the door to fresh national possibilities. New African leaders claimed to reject the culture and values of the former occupier but happily overtook their infrastructure, education systems and administrative apparatus. “Authenticity” campaigns were launched in many countries; western attire and Christian names were banned in an effort to restore the indigenous to its rightful pride of place. Private companies held by former colonials were nationalized and dispersed among the new political elites, the results of which were just as disastrous as Mugabe’s land re-distribution schemes in Zimbabwe. Yet genuinely radical or “clean slate” beginnings, in affairs of the state as in art, are illusory.

During the cold war, western foreign policy in post-colonial Africa sought political stability, access to raw materials, and a common front against the Soviet threat. Military hardware and training for elite presidential guards was a common form of international assistance, a quid pro quo in exchange for access to resources and for remaining faithful to western capitalism. African leaders were not pressed on human rights, “good governance” or controlling corruption as they are today. The massacres of Idi Amin were insignificant compared to the Soviet threat.

Shortly after the fall of the Berlin wall, western strategies towards Africa shifted as the need for quid pro quo camaraderie faded. The US gradually disengaged. Multiple internecine wars arose to topple African dictators, newly vulnerable without superpower protection. The UN struggled to contain the violence in Somalia, Liberia, Congo-Kinshasa, Congo-Brazzaville, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, Burundi, Angola, and more recently Ivory Coast and Sudan. Peace deals were brokered, mostly on the cheap, resulting in a new crop of leaders.

As Africa imploded in the 1990’s, France in particular found itself on the receiving end of a massive outpouring of illegal immigrants, refugees and asylum seekers. This influx continues at a massive pace regularly making headlines in the international media. For Sarkozy and other EU leaders, the “African disaster” and the ongoing human exodus towards Europe constitutes a social, economic and political crisis and hot potato, engaging and enraging all sides of the domestic political spectrum.

Read the full text of Edward Rackley’s article at 3 Quarks Daily.

Update June 28th: TIME Europe Magazine has just published an excellent article about French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and his work preparing for the international conference on Darfur held this week in Paris. Read "Diplomat without Borders" by Vivienne Walt.


Dateline: New York, May 16, 2007
Francafrique gets slammed at the WSJ

Buried in the lengthy but informative article above by Edward Rackley is a link to another great article about France’s dubious post-colonial relationships with key Francophone African countries. The piece was written by David Gauthier-Villars for the Wall Street Journal on May 16th. France Watcher has a full reprint of the article in case you don’t have a paid subscription to read the archived version at the WSJ. Here is an excerpt from Villar’s piece to help whet your appetite and interest:

Colonial-Era Ties to Africa Face a Reckoning in France


The Wall Street Journal - May 16, 2007

On the evening of March 4, 10 French paratroopers reached Birao, Central African Republic, and dropped near an airstrip captured by rebel militia. The paratroopers ambushed the rebels, killing several and reclaiming the airport for the government.

In France, neither the public nor parliament was informed of the attack for three weeks. Coordinating the mission was the "Cellule Africaine," a three-person office nestled behind the Elysée, France's presidential palace. This wasn't the first time the office has been involved in the Central African Republic's internal affairs: In 1979, France toppled the former colony's self-proclaimed emperor and reinstalled his predecessor.

For the past half-century, the secretive and powerful "African Cell" has overseen France's strategic interests in Africa, holding sway over a wide swath of former French colonies. Acting as a general command, the Cell uses France's military as a hammer to install leaders it deems friendly to French interests. In return, these countries give French industries first crack at their oil and other natural resources. Sidestepping traditional diplomatic channels, the Cell reports only to one person: the President.

But with France's new President Nicolas Sarkozy preparing to assume office later today, the African Cell's days may be numbered. There are accusations the French military bears some responsibility for the genocide of 800,000 Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994, charges the government strenuously denies. There's fierce debate over the French military's continuing presence in the Ivory Coast, where soldiers were dispatched in 2002 when rebels threatened to overthrow President Laurent Gbagbo.The Cell's close ties to oil giant Elf Aquitaine, where top executives were jailed on corruption charges, were a source of embarrassment. And a former Cell chief is now facing charges related to arms trafficking to Angola.

Critics say the Cell's support of non-democratic African regimes, an artifact of France's colonial past, is preventing these nations from making progress to modernity. And Africa, once evidence of imperial grandeur, is now viewed by many French as the source of a continuing flood of poor immigrants.

Read the full text at the Wall Street Journal or at France Watcher.

Dateline: Ndjamena, Chad June 7, 2007
A French Glimpse of France & China in Africa

The New York Times Shanghai bureau chief, Howard French, who has been traveling across the continent of Africa in May and June has published an article about China’s surprising presence in Chad and follows-up with a June 14th piece titled ‘The Chinese Footprint Growing Across Africa’. In his June 7th article “Tattered French African empire looks toward China” he writes (excerpts):

NDJAMENA, Chad: When I last visited this country, in the late 1990's, watching CNN at a French-run hotel here, or for that matter in many former French colonies in the region, meant carrying a screwdriver and readjusting the television's tuner to have some choices beyond French-language fare.

Less than a decade ago, the French claim on this region was still so strong, and Africa's importance to France's view of its own place in the world correspondingly so, that the French were paranoid about expanding American influence on the continent. This went so far as to interpret the American-aided ouster of Zaire's longtime dictator, Mobutu Sese Seko, as Washington's bid to supplant France in Africa.

Amid such a climate, even CNN was regarded in Africa by the possessive French as an arm of an encroaching American empire to be held at bay.

Imagine my surprise then, arriving in Ndjamena late at night on a visit from China, when I turned on my television at the French-run Sofitel Hotel to find that the program blaring from Channel 1 was a starchy variety show in Chinese, courtesy of that country's state broadcaster CCTV.

The point here is not to lament the arrival of the Chinese in what has for so long been a pillar of the economic, military and political empire that France has labored to maintain in this part of the world. It is rather to pronounce the inevitable conclusion of its demise.

Virtually wherever one looks in French-speaking Africa today one finds evidence of a postcolonial policy in tatters, and more startling still, given the tenacity of French claims over the decades, an open sense of failure, of exhaustion and of frank resignation.

There was a time, not long ago, when virtually every car on the street in France's cloistered African client states was French, when no big deal was let without a French contractor's securing a big payday, and where the downtowns of African capitals pulsed with French businesspeople and "cooperants," or aid workers....

Despite the recent oil wealth, Chad seems poorer and far more decrepit than when I first visited more than 20 years ago. Nowadays, the only French cars rolling on Ndjamena's dusty streets are battered old taxis of that vintage. All the new vehicles are Japanese.

From oil to telecommunications, all the big new investments seem to be Chinese. And to the extent there is any construction going on, as in so much of the continent today, it is Chinese companies landing the contracts.

A reminder of the French presence comes every morning with the roar of fighter jets that take off from a military base at the edge of town. Americans and Chinese seek riches, Chad gets ever more corrupt, and by appearances poorer, and puzzlingly, even to itself nowadays, France is left holding the bag, maintaining a military base that is probably the only thing that stands between this country and outright warlordism….

Chad, in fact, is anything but an anomaly. From next door in the Central African Republic, to Ivory Coast, once Paris's proudest showcase, France's positions in Africa have been overtaken by chaotic events and by competitors, most pointedly of late the Chinese, who recognize a good vacuum when they see one. Here and there, through the deployment of troops, France has been able to hold the line against disorder, if barely, but a country that for so long punched above its weight has proved utterly incapable of helping its African clients move forward.

How did things reach this pass? During the long tenure of Jacques Chirac, France underestimated Africans and China alike, while mistaking America as its rival in a part of the world where Washington has never had grand ambitions or even much vision.

Chirac talked down democracy on the continent as a frivolous luxury and coddled many of its most corrupt dictators, the only conditions for entree at the Élysée Palace were chummy personal ties, flattery of France and business for the clutch of big French companies that have done well for themselves on the continent by hewing close to power.

In the French world, this ruinous condominium, of French politicians who support corrupt African leaders while pushing business deals for their friends, is known as FranceAfrique, and it has cost Africa and France dearly….

Read the full text of Howard’s article at the International Herald Tribune.

Note: A Glimpse of the World, Howard’s personal blog presents more articles and photography by the journalist as he offers up views of China and the Chinese through the eyes of a black man, something unique in the international press and news media scene for a change. More articles on Africa and China by top journalists such as the renowned Nicholas D. Kristof and the new foreign correspondent for Africa Lydia Polgreen can be found in the New York Times Africa section. It’s a pity that the New York Times charges people (premium paid content) for much of their “old news”.

Howard French reports at his blog that the Shanghai weekly newspaper Wai Tan Hua Bao (English: the Bund) has just published a cover story feature about his photographic essay "Disappearing Shanghai" in their lifestyle section for the June 28th issue. You can also visit his new photography website Glimpse to check out his fine camera work in China.

Dateline: Germany, June 27, 2007

An Old Chinese Proverb about Africa(ns)

In my previous post about China in Africa I focused on an article from the highly respected German magazine Der Spiegel titled ‘The Age of the Dragon: China’s Conquest of Africa’. At the end of that feature story about Chinese business activities in sub-Saharan Africa there is a quote from a Chinese farm owner living in Zambia who describes his experiences working with the locals. The ‘old Chinese saying’ uttered to the German journalist by this former peasant-turned-entrepreneur clearly reveals a disturbing mentality held by far too many Chinese businesspeople and officials working in Africa today. Mr. Si Su, a farmer from China’s Jiangsu Province and now the proud owner of Sunlight Farm near Lusaka said:

When the tiger is [away] in the mountains, the ape is king!

My analysis: The Great Apes are highly intelligent and tend to work in groups. If a predator like a lion or tiger pisses them off for an extended period of time chances are that they will get together, communicate about the problem, hunt down, surround, attack, and feast collectively upon a tiger or any other threatening beast. Be careful Mr. Si Su, be careful.

Well, that’s it for today. Next article in the pipeline will be based upon the Christian Science Monitor’s latest 4-part special feature on China in Africa titled “Is China Good for Africa? - Lessons from Sudan”. What, you haven’t read it yet? It’s a must!

Related articles and resources

The Christian Science Monitor
Is China Good for Africa: Part I
In Sudan, China focuses on oil wells, not local needs, 06/25/07
China boosts African economies, offering a ‘second opportunity’, 06/25/07

France24 News Channel (new international news service from France)
France24 special coverage: Crisis in Darfur and the Paris Conference
Rice to visit France for Darfur talks, 06/22/07

Financial Times (London)
China insists on ‘tied aid’ in Africa, 06/35/07
France out on a limb to be Sudan peace broker, 06/22/07

Foreign Policy magazine and the Fund for Peace
The Failed States Index 2007

International Herald Tribune
Tattered French African empire looks toward China, 06/07/07
The Chinese Footprint Growing Across Africa, 06/14/07

EU declines to take on China over loans, human rights, 06/28/07
Letter from China: One debate Beijing won't be able to control, 06/28/07

Times Online (UK)

Silence kills, but money and China are key to Darfur, 06/27/07

Council on Foreign Relations
Sudan, Chad, and the Central African Republic, 01/02/07
The French Military in Africa, 03/22/07
The Pentagon's New Africa Command, 05/03/07

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Age of the Dragon: German press on China's Conquest of the 'schwarze Kontinent'

While the People’s Republic of China is still reeling from the latest slavery scandal in the country (Hat Tip: Global Voices) and the Beijing officials have ordered the Chinese press and TV networks to stop reporting on the issue, I couldn’t help but wonder what implications this has for workers at Chinese businesses that are expanding so rapidly across sub-Saharan Africa. Of course it would be ridiculous and xenophobic to even suggest that the type of behavior uncovered in Shanxi province is widespread and is practiced by Chinese businesses working abroad, but if you do a Google search on Chinese slavery you do come up with a lot of stuff. For example, I didn’t know that slavery has been a problem in China dating back to the Shang Dynasty (18th-12th Century B.C.).

My regular readers know all too well that I have serious doubts about the Beijing government’s ‘good intentions’ toward African people as the world looks on in awe at China’s massive investments in African oil, gas, and minerals, no-strings-attached government sponsored loans to cash-strapped African governments in return for huge no-bid public infrastructure contracts and door-wide-open policies for cheap Chinese imports and labor. But for a change I am not going to go down that path and instead will point readers to the objective, independent, and transparent reporting on the subject by respected international journalists and news editors. Let’s start with the Germans.

In the weeks preceding the 2007 G8 Summit at Heiligendamm, Germany the EU finance ministers and Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel ‘voiced deep concern’ over some $20 billion dollars in loans promised by the Beijing regime to key African nations in the wake of the May 2007 African Development Bank meeting in Shanghai. In a statement made at the Potsdam meeting of G8 finance ministers Germany’s Peer Steinbruck said, “…China is willing to re-launch what we are trying to break, with our debt relief.”

How do the Germans feel about China’s aggressive push into the African continent? There has been some limited TV news and press coverage on the subject recently in light of the German Chancellor’s intense focus on helping to reduce poverty in Africa by forcing fellow G8 leaders to live up to their promises made at the 2005 G8 Summit, by increasing Germany’s direct foreign aid and development to African nations, and by encouraging German business leaders and entrepreneurs to invest more in Africa. During a pre-summit conference, the African Partnership Forum in Berlin, attended by some key African and European political and business figures, Merkel stated in a report by Germany’s Deutsche Welle news service:

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen opened the Africa Partnership Forum in Berlin on Tuesday.

The two-day meeting is looking at how the G8 can help the world's poorest continent. It will "make recommendations for the preparations for the G8 and African Union summits," the German government said.

On Monday, the chancellor had met with German business leaders in Berlin and urged them to invest more in Africa.

"Whoever accepts Africa as an investment location today will reap the rewards tomorrow," Merkel told the group of high-ranking managers, including the chief executives of automaker Volkswagen and telecommunications giant Deutsche Telekom. The meeting was also attended by representatives from medium-sized businesses, trade groups and international organizations.

"Africa is a continent with an unbelievable development potential," Merkel said.

The meeting at the chancellery discussed investment opportunities in Africa, as well as good governance and ways to integrate the continent in the global economy. Merkel said she and business leaders agreed that political efforts to improve government in Africa should be coordinated with economic activities.

In a parallel meeting, the German World Bank Forum opened in Berlin on Monday. German Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul said that Africa received only two percent of worldwide direct investment at present.

"That is not enough," Wieczorek-Zeul said. "Germany and the G8 are supporting reform-minded Africa countries through a partnership for development aimed at creating the basis for an increase in sustainable investment: good governance, an adequate infrastructure and combating corruption."

The two-day World Bank Forum is hosted by the German Development Ministry and the World Bank.

Read more at Deutsche Welle Germany’s Chancellor...Urges Investment in Africa 22.05.2007

Germany’s Der Speigel magazine, a highly respected news source in Germany and across Europe, published a pre-G8 Summit special report on China in Africa titlted ‘The Age of the Dragon: China’s Conquest of Africa’ by Andreas Lorenz and Thilo Thielke.

The China Digital Times (Univ. of California - Berkeley) picked up on the May 30th feature at Spiegel International (Der Spiegel’s English language edition) right away. The CDT (China Digital Times) also has a great podcast interview with Der Spiegel’s former Beijing correspondent Andreas Lorenz that you won’t want to miss titled ‘Andreas Lorenz on Germany’s late China-phobia’.

Update June 20th:

Looks as if the PR of China is grabbing headlines over in the U.K. too! The Aegis Trust has just launched a Sudan Divestment Campaign focused on major U.K. retirement funds, Barclays bank, U.K. companies, and (get this) the Church of England's massive investments (100's of millions of British Pounds Sterling) in Sudanese oil projects and China's state-owned oil and chemical companies. More on the Guardian newspaper article and the Comment is Free blog post by Aegis Trust executive director John Smith can be found at the end of this post.

Plus, Eric Jon Magnuson of the Sudan: the Passion of the Present blog has published an article about the growing debate in the U.S.A. and Europe to boycott the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing (aka The Genocide Games). The Related Articles section at the end of this post includes links to press releases, news articles, and video about how German businesses are working in partnership with Chinese companies and the Government of Sudan (GoS) on oil and transport (railway) projects. The researchers at Der Spiegel and Spiegel International online failed to spot that little morsel for their article, and fellow blog authors here in Germany have ignored this little factoid in their posts about the G8 Summit 2007 and/or have chosen to remain selectively ignorant of these facts.

So let’s dig right in by examining a few choice excerpts from the Spiegel article on China in Africa and see if it holds up to heated debate in "the Sphere".

China's Conquest of Africa

by Andreas Lorenz and Thilo Thielke - translated from the German by Christopher Sultan

May 30, 2007

China is conquering Africa as it becomes the preferred trading partner of the continent's dictators. Beijing is buying up Africa's abundant natural resources and providing it with needed cash and cheaply produced consumer goods in return.

Thomas Mumba was a devout young man. He spent his free time studying the Holy Scriptures and directing the church choir at the United Church of Zambia in his hometown of Chambeshi. Mumba, a bachelor, was also committed to abstinence -- from beer and from sex before marriage. A larger-than-life depiction of Jesus Christ surrounded by a herd of sheep still hangs in his room. The poster is pure "Made in China" kitsch, like most things here in the Zambian copper belt, located more than a six hours' drive north of the capital Lusaka.

Mumba, a shy, slight young man, bought the Chinese-made religious image at a local market and hung it up at home. It was cheap, cheaper than goods from Europe, at any rate. Mumba's Chinese Jesus cost him 4,000 kwacha, or about 75 cents. "It was his first encounter with the evil empire," says Thomas's mother Justina Mulumba, two years after the accident that would change her entire life.

Thomas Mumba died on April 20, 2005 when an explosives depot blew up in the Chambeshi copper mine. He had just turned 23 and had been working in the mine for two years. To this day, no one knows how many people died that day, because the mine's Chinese owners attempted to cover up what they knew about the accident. Besides, they had kept no records of who was working near the explosion site on the day of the accident.

According to the memorial plaque, there were 46 victims, but it could just as easily have been 50 or 60. Only fragments of the remains of most of the dead were recovered. Mukuka Chilufya, the engineer who managed the rescue team, says that his men filled 49 sacks with body parts that day. The Chinese have deflected all inquiries about the explosion.

Justina Mulumba wears a mint-green dress as she kneels at her son's grave, whispering almost inaudibly: "Forgive them, Lord, for they know not what they do." The cemetery is by the side of the road, only a short distance from the plant gates. Chinese trucks drive by, churning up the dry African soil and briefly coating the entire cemetery in a cloud of red dust.

The drivers are in a hurry to get their trucks, filled with copper, to the port of Durban on the Indian Ocean, where the copper will be loaded onto ships bound for China. Mumba wasn't the only one whose fate was sealed by copper. All of Zambia depends on copper, which is by far this southern African country's most important export, well ahead of cobalt. Copper accounts for more than half of all its export revenues.

Feeding China's Hunger for Raw Materials

In the early 1990s, Zambia abandoned its socialist planned economy, Kaunda withdrew from politics and the ongoing slump in copper prices precipitated an economic crisis. In the late 1990s, when then-president Frederick Chiluba felt compelled to give in to pressure from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund to privatize the unproductive, unprofitable state-owned mines, the price of a ton of copper was barely $900.

At the time, no one in Africa -- or, for that matter, in New York, London or Geneva -- foresaw India's and China's rise as economic powers, or the attendant thirst for resources. When rising demand suddenly drove up copper prices to previously unanticipated levels, it was yet another stroke of bad luck for poor Zambia that the country had already sold off much of its copper-mining rights to the Australians, Canadians, Indians and Chinese.

A ton of copper costs $8,000 today. Zambian mines are currently producing 500,000 tons a year, a number that could soon increase to 700,000. This is good for the foreign mine owners, but the Zambians see next to nothing of the profits.

Sata captured more than 29 percent of the vote in the September 2006 presidential election, while the winner in that race, current President Levy Mwanawasa, claimed 43 percent. But Sata believes that the election was rigged. According to opinion polls, he was initially clearly in the lead in the capital and in the copper belt. But when the tide turned in favor of the incumbent, Sata cried election fraud and violence erupted in the streets of Lusaka for several days.

If there is one issue which Sata uses to mobilize the masses, it is the Chinese. He has warned voters that they plan to export their dictatorship to Africa, colonize the continent and introduce large-scale exploitation. Unlike Western investors, says Sata, the Chinese have little interest in the Africans' well-being.

The politician quickly talks himself into a rage. Chinese have little interest in human rights, he says. They are only interested in exploiting Africa's natural resources, which they have carted off using their own workers and equipment, and without having paid a single kwacha in taxes. Sata sums up his position as follows: "We want the Chinese to leave and the old colonial rulers to return. They exploited our natural resources too, but at least they took care of us. They built schools, taught us their language and brought us the British civilization."

A majority of Zambians likely agree with Sata. On his recent and third trip to Africa, Chinese President Hu Jintao canceled his planned visit to the Zambian copper belt at the last minute, fearing demonstrations by disgruntled workers and the resulting embarrassing TV images. Only last year, protestors in Chambeshi were injured when police fired into their midst.

Thousands of workers felt they had been conned out of their wages and had staged a protest march in front of the local mine. These demonstrations have become almost a ritual in Chinese-owned mines. The Chinese pay wages of only $30 a month, less than the Indians and substantially less than the salaries paid by the Canadians and Australians.

While Zambians may have long considered Western capitalism barbaric, it now seems practically idyllic compared to the supercharged Chinese version. "At least Western capitalism has a human face," says Sata, "the Chinese are only out to exploit us." Indeed, the Chinese are currently toying with the idea of establishing two Special Economic Zones within Zambian borders. "Then they will have their state within a state," Sata believes, "and will truly be able to do as they please."

'The Silent Invasion'

It is especially irksome to many Zambians that the Chinese have created relatively few jobs in the country. According to Sata, there are already 80,000 Chinese in Zambia, "former prisoners who are housed in labor camps and mine the copper." The metal is shipped to China in the form of copper ore and processed there. Even the machinery comes from China. The Zambian government allows it to be brought in without imposing any duties. The Chinese workers don't even leave their camps for lunch or to drink beer, says Sata, who calls them "a strange people."

Resentment over the behavior of the Chinese is also smoldering elsewhere in Africa. China's involvement in the continent creates few jobs, says political scientist Alfredo Tjiurimo Hengari. Instead, he says, "we solve China's problems by giving Chinese workers jobs in our backyard."

According to Hengari, who teaches at the Sorbonne in Paris, Africa is the only continent on which Chinese companies "apply for government contracts, get them and then import Chinese workers." Kenyan monthly magazine New People calls it a "silent invasion." Even South African President Thabo Mbeki, whose country maintains close ties to China, has warned that Africa threatens to become an "economic colony" of China.

Read more of China's Conquest of Africa at Spiegel International Online.

Related articles and online resources (last updated July 5, 2007):

BBC News ( the BBC expands on the China in Zambia mining ripoff)
Zambia's miners see 'little reward', 07/04/07
China's hunger for African minerals, 07/03/07

Finance & Development - a quarterly magazine of the IMF, June 2007 Vol. 44 Nr. 2
(HT re: these new articles goes to Pablo of the World Bank's PSD Blog)
Getting Together: the new partnership between China and Africa for aid and trade by Ulrich Jacoby
Connecting Africa and Asia by Harry G. Broadman
Making Remittances Work for Africa by Sanjeev Gupta, Catherine Patillo, Smita Wagh

AfricaBeat by Jennifer Brea
Can China offer Africa an alternative path for development?, 05/28/07

Danwei (media, advertising, and life in China)
China and Africa: the hypocrisy of the West by Jeremy Goldkorn, 05/28/07

Comment is Free (The Guardian newspaper blog)

Funding Genocide by James Smith (AEGIS Trust U.K.), 06/19/07
China’s lessons for the World Bank by Dr. Jeremy Sachs, 05/24/07

The Guardian Online (UK)
British Investors Urged to Quit Sudan, 06/19/07
(Aegis Trust publishes first dossier detailing U.K. investments linked to the Khartoum regime and launches the U.K. Sudan-China Divestment Campaign)

Sudan - Passion of the Present
Darfur Crisis Sparks Louder Cries for 2008 Olympics Boycott, 06/19/07

China Digital Times (University of California – Berkeley)
Andreas Lorenz on Germany’s late China-phobia, 05/20/06
China’s Conquest of Africa, 05/30/07
Children Slaves, Shanxi, China Video, 06/18/07

The Peking Duck (Taipei, Taiwan)
China’s approach to developing countries way better than the World Bank’s, 05/25/07

DW-World, Deutsche Welle
Germany’s Chancellor Merkel urges investment in Africa, 05/22/07

(Note: see the DW-World video 'German Oil Pumps and Pipelines in Sudan' which features a 10 million Euro export of heavy equipment by Bornemann Pumps from Hanover, Germany. Also see Dornier Consulting and the Sudan Railway Project)

Hitting Sudan in the Pocketbook, 05/02/07

International Herald Tribune
Siemens sets timetable to pullout of Sudan, 01/27/07
Some U.S. states move to bar investments linked to Sudan, 02/21/06

Business & Human Rights Resource Center
Siemens to pull business out of Sudan, 01/22/07
Archive on Siemens, Warren Buffet’s Berkshire Hathaway, Fidelity Investments
Buffet can follow Harvard, ABB lead on Sudan, 01/29/07

Siemens and the moral high ground, 01/22/07

Sudan Tribune
Siemens, Mobitel Sudan sign Euro 20 million deal, 08/09/06

Atlantic Review

Oympics 2008: Only Americans remind China of its resonsibility for Darfur, 06/20/07
Sudan Divestment Campaign against Siemens and others gets stronger, 07/21/06

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Tuesday, June 12, 2007

G8 Summit 2007 in Germany closes with a fizzle. Will Africa's voices fall silent?

Dateline Berlin 06/12/07 – Sweltering in a sudden heatwave west of Germany’s cool capital. Updates on the close of the G8 Summit with a focus on African voices.

I’m still trying to figure out what happened at Heiligendamm? Was it a success as claimed by the G8 Summit 2007 host country Germany and some members of the German press and media, or was it a bust as described by Bob Geldof and Bono and other high-profile activists and various experts? If the G8 Summit at Heiligendamm was a success then a success for whom, Germany’s Chancellor Angela Merkel?

I’m not as disappointed and pessimistic about the outcome of these talks as some people seem to be but at the same time you have to wonder, are the G8 Summits relevant anymore? Were they ever useful in helping to solve the world’s problems? It has all become such a circus for the politicians and every group under the sun to voice their outrage and anger about all kinds of causes that have little or nothing to do with the summit agendas that one has to ask, why bother?

TIME Magazine’s Massimo Calabresi writes in the article ‘
Does the G8 Summit Have a Point?’:

It's hard to get a fix on just what the 80,000 protesters who descended on the G-8 summit here in northern Germany this week actually want. Plodding through a field towards the 7.2 mile, multimillion-dollar fence designed to keep him and his unkempt peers out, Channing Jones, a 40-year-old American freelance programmer, said Wednesday his purpose was to get governments to "help the common people." Earlier in the day, the art group Dropping Knowledge had released a huge floating sculpture of a baby into the River Warnow, in a less-than-self-explanatory attempt to show that "the Western world is not really taking Africa seriously," according to one of the group's sponsors, Stefan Liske. Late Thursday afternoon, a man wearing a fluorescent pink wig and standing on stilts made up to look like enormous pink go-go boots declared he was blocking the main road to the summit "for freedom of movement for all people, and no nations and no borders!"

One priority these disparate, confused groups share, however, is bringing the annual G-8 meeting to a grinding halt. They managed to shut down all the road and rail access to the summit Wednesday, and interrupted it Thursday. Some skeptics at think-tanks and college campuses around the world have suggested that may not such a bad thing. The annual G-8 meeting is an anachronism that no longer pursues the economic agenda for which it was created, they argue; it doesn't include some of the world's most important economies (China and India are not in the club) and fails to achieve even the limited goals it sets for its members.

As a small group of protesters bounded through a wheat field on Wednesday afternoon pursued by a slightly larger group of policemen, it was hard not to wonder what the point of the whole exercise was.

Inside the fence, it turns out, some were asking the same question. In the whitewashed buildings of the elaborately restored Baltic resort of Heiligendamm, important things seemed to be happening. Russia's Vladimir Putin and President Bush strolled out past the massive beds of hydrangeas to say they had held good discussions on missile defense in Europe, with Putin provocatively proposing the use of Russian installations as a substitute for the ones the U.S. plans to place in Poland and the Czech Republic. And the G-8 leaders agreed on a putative program for addressing climate change.

But even in the highest-level delegations, there were skeptics. "They should just hold the whole thing over secure video-conference and make it every other year," said one White House aide Thursday morning. "There's a whole industry now surrounding the G-8, and two weeks from now, when it's all over here, they're going to start again for next year. In my opinion, they'd be better off sending the money to Africa."

The Germany summit cost $134 million, much of it spent on security. Measured by the organizers' outlay or by the media coverage the event receives, it appears as if the protests themselves have become the point.

End excerpt---------------

My analysis: Call the whole thing off and save the taxpayers money. The
carbon footprint alone from the 10,000’s of people at this summit is enough to setback efforts to fight global warming by one hundred years. Private passenger jets and military and police helipcopters for the official delegations, gas-guzzling motor vehicles of every type for the security forces and demonstrators, and 25,000 open-air barbecue pits using ill-gotten timber (charcoal) from developing countries on a planet under ecological pressure. I mean BITTE (Please)! Get a grip on yourselves.

What news do I take home for my people? AfricaVox journalists call it a wrap at the G8.

The 9 African journalists and media professionals invited by
Panos-London to attend this year’s summit are heading home this week and I must say that I will miss their contributions to open expression and the sharing of their ideas and thoughts about the G8 Summit. Unfortunately not very many other CJ’s (Citizen Journalists) who write regularly about African news and affairs bothered to stop by the AfricaVox 2007 blog to express their appreciation and welcome these journalists to our sector of the blogosphere. I find that to be sad but heck, maybe many Africa bloggers didn’t know about this great journalism project. So if you haven’t stopped by the AfricaVox 2007 blog yet then do so before it’s too late (a hint for Melissa at Africa Media and other hardworking blogger colleagues out there in the Sphere).

I’ve made myself a real nuisance at the AfricaVox 2007 comments section but Risha Chande, external relations assistant for the Panos AfricaVox project, sent me a very nice message today thanking me for my support and encouragement. Problem is that “We the Bloggers” who write about Africa need to be thanking Panos-London and this fine group of African journalists and media professionals. Africa’s bloggers need to show much more support for Africa’s professional journalists and editors and publishers so that we all can learn from one another, not compete with one another as is so often the case.

Collins Vumiria, chief news editor of Uganda’s Radio West (Mbarara), writes in her G8 summary article titled ‘What news do I take home for my people?

As far as I can tell, everyone who's attended the G8 Summit here in Heiligendamm leaves it with mixed feelings. Some are bitter that the G8’s announcement of $60 billion to fight disease failed to mention when it would arrive. Others complain that the Gleneagles promises have yet to be fulfilled.

But out of all this, what do I have to tell my people back home in Uganda when I return? To get a steer, this afternoon I rushed down to a news conference given by two musicians who for years have been campaigning to rid Africa of poverty and disease: Bob Geldof and U2’s Bono.

I find Geldof describing the Summit as a total mess. “I do not want to see 2005 reiterated endlessly,” he tells the assembled journalists. “The richest countries of the world, trillions of dollars, swirling around that table… do me a favour! Get serious guys! This wasn’t serious. This was a farce. This was a total farce.”

All very well, I think to myself. But I need specific information for my own people, not just these soundbites. I had hoped for something more constructive to communicate to my people in Mbarara than this emotional dismissal.

Next it’s question time for the journalists. “My name is Collins Vumiria, I am a journalist from Uganda.” Faces turn to look at me. “After this summit, what news do I take home for my people?”…

Read the full article
What news do I take home for my people?

More articles of interest from the very fine AfricaVox 2007 crew:
AfricaVox 2007 – African voices at the G8 Summit 2007
Africa: master of its own destiny
The G8’s $17 million dollar security fence scandal
AIDS prevention paying the price of the G8 donor circus
The sick priorities of the G8
The J9 (Junior G8+1 Summit) at the G8

openDemocracy Speaks Up for Women & Girls at the G8 Summit’s blog project ‘
openSummit – Women talk to the G8’ has a good series of posts about the G8 Summit 2007 and the Alternative G8 Summit. See the great work by Patricia Daniels and the summit summary post by Jessica Reed. The openDemocracy open blogs section has an article by Chukwu Emeka Chikezie titled Africa at the G8 Summit: déjà vu? Mr. Chikezie who works for the London-based non-profit organization AFFORD writes:

So, here we are again. Two years on from the July 2005 gathering at Gleneagles, Scotland, the acceptable face of African leadership is preparing to assemble on the steps of the Group of Eight (G8)
summit at Heiligendamm, Germany for a photo-opportunity amid more heartfelt pleas to increase aid to Africa.

presence of "this" Africa at the summit owes much to the promotion and patronage of individual G8 leaders, most notably Tony Blair. Indeed, it seems hard to think now about the African component of the G8 summit at all without considering the input of the outgoing British prime minister; he has even made Africa a central part of his valedictory tour, whose aim (according to a normally reticent BBC) was to burnish the Blair legacy for posterity.

And this is the
problem. The mere fact that media commentators seem routinely to put "Blair, Africa, aid, legacy" together in the same sentence underlines the inability to "see" Africa as it really is: a living, proliferating, diverse collection of some 700 million people in fifty-three different countries, making their lives, lurching forwards, sometimes falling backwards, occasionally sideways. "That" Africa is invisible; the one that has come to dominate public perception is a meek, grateful place that provides a soft, faintly glowing backdrop to an assessment of Blair's ten years in office. The African leaders on the Heiligendamm steps are unlikely to do anything to change the focus.

Aid: from critique to reform

Two years after Gleneagles, a year after
St Petersburg, it is striking how little the discourse around Africa has changed. G8 leaders, NGO activists and African leaders all seem to agree that aid is pivotal to Africa's turnaround. Germany's chancellor and host of the G8, Angela Merkel, has joined the club - promising that this time the G8 will redeem its pledge to double aid to Africa by 2010.

This approach rests on a studied evasion about why so much
aid to Africa in the past has failed to deliver transformation. It thus seems more concerned to salve consciences than to bring real change. It also ignores the lively debate that is raging behind the scenes and in public forums about whether aid is really effective as an instrument of development.

A thirty-year veteran of the World Bank,
Phyllis R Pomerantz contributes one valuable view to this argument (see Aid Effectiveness in Africa: Developing Trust between Donors and Governments [Lexington Books, 2004]). Pomerantz attributes much of aid's ineffectiveness in Africa to donors' failure to pay attention to culture. Monologue and one-way impositions, donor paternalism, and insensitivity undermine the trust, mutual respect and understanding that should, in Pomerantz's view, underpin aid relationships.

Pomerantz would like to see donors pay more attention to African traditions and conditions. She is aiming for trusting relationships that underpin shared purpose, commitment, reliability, transparency, and familiarity.

Such a vision - which is echoed from a different direction by Michael Edwards in his openDemocracy
article on the reinvention of "development" - seems very far from the cold calculations of summit talks where the paternalism of the discourse about aid is reinforced by hypocrisy over a second potential route to African development: trade. Here, the contradiction between the rhetoric of free and equitable trade and the reality of subsidies and preferential agreements is all too established. As the United Nations human-development report of 2005 says: "The world's richest countries spent just over one billion dollars for the year 2005 on aid for agriculture in poor countries, and just under one billion dollars each day of that year for various subsidies of agricultural overproduction at home."

Africa at the G8 Summit: déjà vu?

More posts and podcasts about the G8 Summit at
Podcast Nr. 22 – G8, are you listening? by Solana Larsen
Women won’t wait by Susana Fried
G8: the aid gap by Tina Wallace
Merkel’s G8 – spot the difference by Patricia Daniel

It would appear that the
G8 Summit 2007 at Heiligendamm ain’t quite over yet but instead has only just begun. The follow-up activities from this summit to insure that what has been promised is actually done and that these initiatives and programs and processes bring the desired results for all stakeholders, depends on us. Oder?

We shall see.

Related news articles, posts, and online resources:
Guardian Online (U.K.)
Geldof hits out at G8 ‘farce’, 06/08/07

Globe and Mail (Canada)
Bono singles out Canada’s PM Harper in deriding leaders, 06/09/07
PM’s ‘laggard’ effort on Africa assailed

Bloomberg Financial News
Merkel quarrels with Bono, Geldof over Africa aid, 06/07/07

Washington Post
Geldof puts Africa on front page (BILD special Afrika edition), 06/01/07

Jewels in the Jungle
Germany: Saving the Africa Agenda at the G8 Summit 2007
G8 Summit and Tanzania (TED Global in Africa)
Circus Maximus Opens in Germany
G8 Summit and TED Global Updates II

Africa Media
World’s most famous African: Bono or Madonna?

More news coverage of the 2007 G8 Summit
Spiegel International (Germany)
G8 Summit in Heiligendamm special feature archive

Financial Times London
G8 Summit 2007 In-Depth special coverage
African graft is a global responsibility by Richard Murphy and Nicholas Shaxson
Why Africa needs a Marshall Plan by Glenn Hubbard and William Duggan
The rich world can help Africa by Jeffrey Sachs and Glenn Denning

New York Times
Group of 8 (G8) special coverage

Reuters and Reuters Alertnet
Interview with Kofi Anan: G8 must give Africa aid faster
No Coke, only German AfriCola at the G8 Summit (soft drink of choice since 1931)
Factbox: G8 measures to tackle African poverty
Reuters’ blogs: Who should hold the aid world to account?

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