RSS

Tag Archives: China

China-built railway linking Ethiopia and Djibouti officially opens for business

ethiopia_railway5.jpg

Following a few months of testing on the Ethiopian side, the China-funded and built railway linking Ethiopia’s capital of Addis Ababa with the strategic Red Sea port of Djibouti was officially inaugurated in Djibouti on Tuesday.

The new 750km railway line turns a week-long drive through a winding pot-hole filled road into a smooth 12-hour ride to the coast. The project, backed by $4 billion of Chinese investment, is expected to be a boon for the economies of both African nations. Landlocked Ethiopia, one of the fastest growing markets in the world, gets access to the sea, while the tiny country of Djibouti gets easier access to 94 million Ethiopian customers.

ethiopia_railway10.jpg

Last October, Xu Shaoshi, head of China’s top economic planner, the National Development and Reform Commission, gave a speech at the railway’s inauguration ceremony in Addis Ababa acting as Chinese President Xi Jinping’s official envoy. Xu hailed the project as “a railway of Sino-African friendship in the 21st century.”

It replaces an old diesel railroad line started by the French in 1894 that had fallen into disuse and disrepair after years of war and famine. It also marks the second time that China has built a trans-national railway through Africa. The last one was the Tazara Railway connecting Tanzania’s Dar es Salaam with Zambia’s Kapiri Mposhi in the 1970s.

We likely won’t have to wait 40 years for another one. South China Morning Pot reports that this could be just the first stage in an ambitious trans-African track that would link the Red Sea with the Atlantic Ocean.

ethiopia_railway9.jpg

In the meantime, the Ethiopia-Djibouti railway serves to signify China’s continued investment on the African continent. Perhaps no where is this investment more evident than in the burgeoning manufacturing powerhouse of Ethiopia. In 2016, $20 billion of Chinese investment poured into the country which is fast trying to change its global image from a country filled with drought and famine to one that is filled instead with factories and railways — recently attracting no less than Ivanka Trump’s shoe manufacturer to move shop from China to Addis Ababa.

Furthermore, according to AFK Insider, Ethiopian Airlines is in the process of adding a direct flight to Chengdu, its fifth non-stop flight to a Chinese city, and Ethiopia is working on launching a civilian satellite into orbit with the help of China.

Meanwhile, the tiny East African country of Djibouti is home to China’s first overseas military outpost, a naval base that Beijing insists is only a logistics hub for China’s naval and trade presence in the Gulf of Aden.

ethiopia_railway3.jpg

Matt Bonini contributed to this story

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on February 11, 2017 in African News

 

Tags: , ,

Wooing, and Also Resenting, Chinese Tourists

Ed Alcock for The New York Times

Chinese tourists on the Boulevard Haussmann in central Paris.

 

By DAN LEVIN

TOKYO — The Ugly Americans terrorized Europeans and Asians with their booming voices and tennis shoes in the years after World War II. Decades later, Japanese tour groups descended from their air-conditioned buses to flash peace signs as they shot photos of every known landmark as well as laundry on backyard clotheslines.

Khaled Elfiqi/European Pressphoto Agency

Chinese tourists posing in front of the Giza pyramids in Giza, Egypt.

Now it is China’s turn to face the brunt of complaints. The grievances are familiar — they gawk, they shove, they eschew local cuisine, and last year, 83 million mainland Chinese spent $102 billion abroad — overtaking Americans and Germans — making them the world’s biggest tourism spenders, according to the United Nations World Tourism Organization.

Their numbers have also placed them among the most resented tourists. Mainland Chinese tourists, often laden with cash and unfamiliar with foreign ways, are tumbling out of tour buses with apparently little appetite for hotel breakfast buffets and no concept of lining up.

The frustrations with the new tourists were summed up on a Thai online message board last spring, when users posted complaints about Chinese tourists using outdoor voices inside and spitting in public, among other transgressions.

Last year, Thierry Gillier, a French fashion designer who founded the Zadig and Voltaire label, caused a small scandal when he told Women’s Wear Daily that Chinese tourists would not be welcome at his new Parisian boutique hotel. A barrage of international criticism persuaded him to apologize.

Like their predecessors, the Chinese are newly wealthy and helpless with foreign languages, a combination complicated by their developing country’s historical isolation.

“That China is a lawless, poorly educated society with a lot of money is going to take its toll on the whole world,” said Hung Huang, a popular blogger and magazine publisher in Beijing.

Despite these faux pas, countries are practically tripping over themselves to attract Chinese tourists. Wedding companies in South Korea are trying to lure Chinese couples with bling-heavy ceremonies inspired by the viral music video “Gangnam Style.” A coastal county outside Sydney, Australia, is building a $450 million Chinese theme park centered on a full-size replica of the gates to the Forbidden City and a nine-story Buddhist temple. France, one of the most popular destinations for Chinese tourists already — 1.4 million visited in 2012 — is working to further bolster its appeal.

Parisian officials recently published a manual for the service industry that offers transliterated Mandarin phrases and cultural tips for better understanding Chinese desires, including this tidbit: “They are very picky about gastronomy and wine.”

To judge from the grumbling across the globe, such guidelines may be necessary. But the greatest opprobrium seems to be coming from fellow Chinese. In May, a mainland Chinese tourist in Luxor, Egypt, discovered that a compatriot had carved his own hieroglyphics on the wall of a 3,500-year-old temple. “Ding Jinhao was here,” it declared. A photo of the offending scrawl spread rapidly on Chinese social media, and outraged citizens tracked down the 15-year-old vandal. The uproar subsided after his parents issued a public apology.

Embarrassed by the spate of bad press that month, Wang Yang, China’s vice premier, publicly railed against the poor “quality and breeding” of Chinese tourists who tarnish their homeland’s reputation. “They make loud noises in public, scratch graffiti on tourist attractions, ignore red lights when crossing the road and spit everywhere,” he said, according to People’s Daily.

Despite his admonition, articles with headlines like “Chinese Bride Brawls in French Lavender Field” continue to appear in the state media.

Ms. Hung, the blogger, blames the Communist Party’s tumultuous rule for China’s uncivilized behavior abroad. “There’s an entire generation who learned you don’t pay attention to grooming or manners because that’s considered bourgeois,” she said. While Chinese are more open to Western ideas now, that has not necessarily sunk in when actually interacting with the outside world. “They think, ‘The hell with etiquette. As long as I have money, foreigners will bow to my cash.’ ”

Most mainland Chinese vacationers have a splendid time abroad. In May, Huang Honglin, 53, and his wife paid $8,000 for a 16-day group tour of the United States, a country he last visited on a business trip 25 years ago. That was long before he joined China’s growing middle class as the owner of a trading company.

Rungroj Yongrit/European Pressphoto Agency

Chinese tourists riding elephants in Chiang Mai province, northern Thailand.

Elizabeth Shim/Associated Press

Chinese tourists having a wedding shoot at a studio in Seoul, South Korea.

This time around, Mr. Huang had money to burn.

“We went shopping for gems in Hawaii and bought Prada bags in New York,” he recalled. Mr. Huang never made it to the chic boutiques of Manhattan. Instead, he traveled an hour north to the Woodbury Common Premium Outlets, where many designer stores have recently hired employees who speak Chinese.

His only complaint was that they had to race through the racks before the bus departed. “Time was so short, it felt like war,” he said.

According to a McKinsey & Company report, nearly 70 percent of Chinese luxury consumers buy their Tiffany baubles and Hermès scarves abroad to avoid higher sales tax on such goods at home, which can reach 60 percent. Take the black Louis Vuitton “Neverfull” handbag, a hefty status symbol with straps that costs 14,400 renminbi in China, or $2,335 — over $350 more than the same item in the United States.

In 2007, China granted the United States “approved destination status,” which opened the doors to Chinese group leisure travel to America beginning in 2008. Last year, 1.5 million Chinese arrived on American shores, spending nearly $8.8 billion, according to the Commerce Department. Today, around 150 travel agencies in the United States have the approval of the National Tour Association, an American trade group, to organize trips from China, many of them owned and operated by Chinese-Americans.

But the industry has experienced growing pains. Despite years of meetings in China and decades of leading motor coach tours across the United States, the travel agency AmericanTours International learned that Chinese tourists required a special touch. For one, people from Beijing and Shanghai cannot travel on the same bus.

“They clashed,” recalled Nick Hentschel, the company’s director of business development.

Last year, 1,500 Chinese took the company’s “Hollywood to Broadway” bus tour, a 20-day cross-country journey intended for mainlanders with stops that included a Las Vegas casino; the bridges of Madison County, Iowa; Niagara Falls; the White House; and the Empire State Building.

If the sights are crowd-pleasers, the overnight stays can sometimes prove challenging. “Smoking in hotel rooms is always a problem,” Mr. Hentschel said, a habit that can cost tourists hundreds of dollars in hotel cleaning bills. Then there was the episode last summer, he said, when a tour group caused a scene at a hotel in Cody, Wyo., after mistakenly thinking another busload of compatriots had been given preference at breakfast. The police were called to escort them out of town, he said.

More often, Chinese tourists find themselves victims of unscrupulous tour operators. On a weeklong guided tour through Thailand in 2009, Qi Lingfeng, 27, was one of several people in his group who refused to sign up for costly excursions like speedboat rides and concerts. As punishment, he said, the local guide locked them out of their hotel rooms. Other tourists at the same hotel, he said, were forced off their bus for the same transgression.

“It was so crazy, we even thought about calling the Chinese embassy in Bangkok,” he said.

During a group tour of the Siberian city of Vladivostok in January, Chen Xu, 47, a scientist from the coastal city of Xiamen, said the “ethnic Russian dancing” excursion, which cost $80, turned out to be a woman in a bikini twirling around a stripper pole.

“When the parents saw what was happening, they took their kids and left the room,” he said.

Surrounded by so many foreign stimuli, many yearn for a taste of home while abroad. Xie Nuoyan, 20, a college student from Beijing, felt as much during a recent visit to New York. While she appreciated the drinkable tap water, she said Chinatown was a letdown.

“I was really disappointed to see it’s not like in the movies, where there are lots of lanterns and performances everywhere,” she said.

On the upside, finding an abundance of Chinese food after days of consuming only strange Western concoctions redeemed the neighborhood.

“The sight of rice moved me to tears,” she said.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on September 17, 2013 in African American News

 

Tags: ,

Chinese women fight to shake off ‘leftover’ label

By Kristie Lu Stout, CNN
Watch this video

Women’s rights in China

STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Chinese women may feature on rich lists but many take second place to men
  • Young women are under pressure to marry lest be labeled “leftover women”
  • Marital property belongs to one person, typically the man of the household
  • Preference for boys continues due to China’s one-child policy

Editor’s note: This month’s episode of “On China” with Kristie Lu Stout examines Chinese women’s rights, roles and dreams.

Hong Kong (CNN) — On the face of it, women in China seem to have cracked the code for success.

Seven of world’s top 10 wealthiest self-made women are Chinese.Property tycoon Zhang Xin is richer than Oprah. And a girl-power chick flick called “Tiny Times” broke the mainland’s opening-day box office record earlier this summer.

But don’t let the headlines fool you. In China, as in many other corners of the world, women are under pressure, under-represented, and under threat.

A preference for boys under China’s one-child policy continues to this day. Access to cheap ultrasound and and abortions has led to widespread selective abortion of female fetuses. According to the China Statistics Bureau, there are now 34 million more men than women in China.

Marital property rights in China

What is ‘love’ in China?

Who are China’s ‘leftover women?’

Marital property in China belongs to the one person who owns the home — who is, more often than not, a man.

And there’s not a single woman on the ruling Communist Party’s seven-member Politburo Standing Committee.

“So when it comes to women’s issues, who will speak for women?” asks former legislator and committed feminist Wu Qing.

For CNN’s “On China,” I talked to Wu and two high-profile observers of women’s issues in China — Tsinghua University scholar Leta Hong Fincher and bestselling author Joy Chen — on the state of gender inequality in China.

Wu squarely blames the government for not trying hard enough to shore up women’s rights by implementing the constitution.

“Article 33 says every single citizen of the People’s Republic of China should be treated equally,” Wu points out. “And, according to Article 48 on women, women should enjoy equal rights in the economy, in politics, in everything.”

“And yet, China is still rule of man, by man.”

Beijing is not only failing to represent the needs of women. It’s putting its own interests ahead of China’s increasingly educated and single female population.

According to Hong Fincher, there has been an active state media campaign to promote the term “leftover women,” a derogatory term referring to spoiled food that’s been used to shame China’s urban educated women over the age of 27 who are still single. The term was defined by the All China’s Women’s Federation in 2007.

“After the Women’s Federation defined this term, then the state media started aggressively pushing it,” Hong Fincher tells me. “There’s been a stream of reports insulting educated women in their late 20s who don’t have a husband yet.”

“It’s insulting not just to single women,” says Joy Chen. “It’s insulting to all women and all men because it basically says you’re legitimate to the extent that you’re married.”

“And the leftover label is everywhere in society,” Chen adds. “Your plumber tells you to hurry and get married if you’re a single woman with an apartment.”

There’s been a stream of reports insulting educated women in their late 20s who don’t have a husband yet.
Leta Hong Fincher

Hong Fincher argues that the term is part of a government program to upgrade population quality: “So what they want to do is promote match -making to encourage or scare educated women into having a child because that fits the government’s demographic goals.”

Despite all the social pressure and lack of government support, there are the outliers among Chinese women — extreme examples of extraordinary success. So what pushed them to go so far?

“These women who are multi-millionaires have made it in spite of being in China, not because of it,” says Hong Fincher. “I wish that those women would speak out more on behalf of women all across China.”

Wu herself is an outlier among China’s women. A former university professor and a member of the Haidian district’s People’s Congress for 27 years, she is a tireless activist.

And she is speaking out on behalf of China’s women as a women’s rights advocate and a founder of a school to empower rural women.

“We need to have a very clear goal in our lives, know what we want,” Wu tells me.

“I was lucky that when I was a little girl, my mom told me that I’m a human being first before I’m a girl or a woman.”

To crack the code for success, don’t say you’re a woman first.

 

 
 

Tags: , ,

China-Africa relations: looking beyond the critics

Babette Zoumara and Abdul-Rauf Ibrahim

2013-06-06, Issue 633

 


cc C AAfrica is lacking a clear and unified policy in terms of how it relates to China. In developing further social, economic and political ties with China, African leaders must develop a coherent and structured plan to promote the interests of Africans

Opinions on the impact of the China-Africa relations differ among observers. For instance, Thierry Bangui, a development consultant and a native of the Central African Republic, and Fweley Diangitukua, a Congolese economist, believe that the mutual benefit (win-win situation) is a hoax (InfoSud 2010). These observers argue that China importing its own workforce to work in aid projects granted to Africa is disadvantage for Africa but beneficial to China since it allows China to solve its domestic unemployment problem (Gaye 2006). They claim that China offers astronomical projects to Africa but that fewer jobs were created in recipient countries, especially for locals. In fact, the same observation was made by Beuret and Michel (Beuret and Michel 2008). It is speculated that part of the Chinese government’s policy is to encourage Chinese entrepreneurs to travel abroad and seek greener pastures and that Africa happens to be the destination these entrepreneurs were privileged to be (Li et al. 2012; Cisse 2012). These investors are believed to come with fierce competition (as they are allegedly supported by the Chinese government) especially in the informal economic sector, which is normally a reserved area for local entrepreneurs. It has been pointed out that this situation has the tendency of causing conflict between the disadvantaged locals and Chinese entrepreneurs (Adisu et al. 2010). In Dakar (Senegal) for instance, there were reports that half of the local traders were bankrupt because of cheap made-in China goods imported by Chinese businessmen. Consequently, unemployment was said to be on the rise and that life was increasingly difficult by the day (Beuret and Michel 2008).

ARE CHINA’S RELATIONS WITH AFRICA NEOCOLONIAL?

The emergence of China as a new economic power and the deep relations it has with Africa drew and received global attention. For Africa which was formerly controlled economically by its development partners, now enjoys relations with a new and emerging power on a seemingly equal footing. The economic control of Africa and its natural resources have become the major issues for opposing interests by the big powers (Van Dijk 2009). As expected, China’s advancement into Africa is no exception; its relation with Africa has received condemnations from Africa’s traditional donors. In fact, the term neo-colonialism is usually used to describe the relations between China and Africa (Rotberg 2008). Some argued that the China-Africa relation was not different from the relation Africa had with the West (Gaye and Brautigam 2002). Yet still, others are worried about the fact that Beijing was cooperating with regimes denounced by the international community (Sudan and Zimbabwe) (Van Dijk 2009).

On the issue of colonization, Beuret and Michel estimated the number of Chinese in Africa to be around 750,000 while Zequan Huang, a reporter for the People’s Daily (Renmin Ribao) put the figure to be around 500,000 and stressed that this could not be described as colonizing Africa. Similarly, Martyn Davies, director of the Centre for Chinese Studies at Stellenbosch University in South Africa argued that Chinese presence in Africa could not be described as colonization in fairness. To buttress his point, he pointed out that ‘there are 2,000 Chinese companies in Singapore and no one speaks of colonization, there are only 900 in Africa, the second continent in the world and everybody speak of colonization’ (Financial Times 2008).

CHINA’S LACK OF RESPECT FOR HUMAN RIGHTS

Meanwhile, Western scholars have also criticized the relations. They cite in particular, the perceived lack of China’s respect for human rights and reluctance to fight corruption (Alessi and Hanson 2012). Alden (Alden 2007) is one of the few to have recorded these negative sentiments. In ‘China in Africa’ at page 104, he discussed the official U.S rhetoric focusing on issues of democracy and natural resources. He emphasized that the U.S perceives China’s presence in Africa an obstacle to (what they consider as) the fragile process of democratization and of course U.S grip on African resources (Alden 2007).

In this modern time, information management is essential and critical especially with respect to the terms and conditions of loans, investment and aid provided by developing partners to developing nations. For example, Brautigam in ‘The Dragon’s Gift: the real story of China in Africa’ at page 2, used the term ‘gifts’ and ‘mysterious donations’ to describe loans, investment and aid projects offered by China to Africa because of the lack (according to her) of transparency in the funds paid to African countries. She indicated that aid provided by China raised very sensitive questions bothering on transparency, corruption and human rights issues (Brautigam 2009). Note that these issues have been raised severally by various people in the Western media. In 2006 for instance, Wieczorek Zeul, the then German development minister, stated in an interview that China perceived development in Europe as an alarm that just sounded. She openly criticized China’s aid policy to Africa and insisted that loans to Africa ‘should be linked with conditions’ (ECDPM 2007).

THE PROBLEM OF LOANS WITHOUT CONDITIONS

Similarly in 2007, Philippe Maystdt, past President of the European Bank, renewed this propaganda. He claimed that loans could drive the debt of Africa to dangerous levels if China continued to lend too easily; in other words, lend to Africa without conditions. He then, asked the European Union (EU) to open dialogue with China to discuss the problems of loans without conditions (ECDPM 2007). In the same year, Hilary James Benn, former British secretary for international development, cautioned the European Community during a visit to Malawi and boldly declared that ‘Chinese aid do more harm than good’ in Africa (ECDPM 2007). According to him, the unconditional aid could lead to setbacks in terms of democracy and human rights developments. Furthermore, Louis Michel, European commissioner for development, during an annual meeting of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank in 2006, advised the European Union to cease attacks on China on the issue of interest-free loans granted to the poorest countries. In fact, he strongly recommended inclusion of China as a partner for promotion of effective development of Africa (ECDPM 2007); in other words, to politically or strategically muzzle China. In a newspaper published by the China Youth Daily and the China Review in February 2007, Solana Javie, a former Representative of the Common Foreign and Security Policy of the European Union, supported the proposal of Louis Michel (Solana 2007). Perhaps, with these comments in mind, the then Director General of the European Commission launched a conference on the 28th of June 2007 dubbed ‘Partners in competition, EU, Africa and China’. This brought together 180 think-tanks and experts such as policy makers, academicians and representatives of civil society and business from China, Africa and the EU to deliberate on the way forward (ECDPM 2007).

‘THE SUN HAS SET IN THE WEST AND HAS RISEN FROM THE EAST’

Notwithstanding, some analysts see the relations as positive commitment to the development of Africa (Rotberg 2008; Eisenman and Kurlantzick 2006). Even though some have highlighted the weakness of the relations and concluded that it was pernicious (Alessi and Hanson 2012), thorough and objective analyses show that the engagement is still deepened. Indeed, the partnership is largely appreciated on the African continent as it has boosted its growth (Li 2007). Under-developed several years ago, as majority of African countries were, China succeeded in breaking through the ranks of major economic and industrial powers and made positive impact (Li et al. 2012). It is therefore, not surprising that African leaders continue to seek ways to develop their countries with the assistance of China, especially and rightly so, as conditions imposed by Africa’s traditional donors did not lead to any definitive economic independence. No wonder the President of Zimbabwe, Robert Mugabe, in striking and metaphorically speaking (right or otherwise) stated that ‘the sun has set in the west and has risen from the East’ to state his frustrations at the West and his confidence in China (Gaye 2008).

Beyond these critics, one thing is clear; the cooperation between Africa and its economic development partners (EU, China and US) are strategically different, and each is driven by economic self-interests. It is of vital importance therefore, that Africa approves on an equal footing, strategic and most consistent partner (business or otherwise) who recognizes, shares and respects it’s difficult but critical needs be it political, economic or social as well as sovereignty. Unfortunately, one of Africa’s key problems that have hindered its development, irrespective of the kind of relationship, is responsive leadership. It appears that some of its leaders are not able to separate their own interests from the collective national interest; for example, the craze for political power at all cost. They also seem not to have been able to critically analyze the consequences of policy directives and recommendations from its development partners as happened with the IMF and World Bank, or are not able to reject programs that do not embrace the continents problems in totality.

An example in this case, in our opinion is the whole-sale adoption of western-styled governance (democracy) without at least setting up the foundations necessary for its sustainability and smooth running. This is not a suggestion for the total rejection of Western democracy or ideas however; we believe that Africa could have developed its own style of governance based on the Western experience, given its unique issues and characteristics without this ‘copy-paste’ that appears to be causing more harm than good in spite of the ‘democracy’ in most parts of the continent. After all, there were some sorts of governance (democracy) in Africa long before the appearance of the ‘everything Western is best’ mentality.

CONTINENTAL UNITY NEEDED IN APPROACHING CHINA

Another problem is the lack of coherent and collective policy. While China has a clear and strategic policy for Africa, Africa as a united force has no unified policy for its relations with China. Indeed, it is a worrying situation for a relation that is supposed to be based on mutual values in terms of cooperation, trust and development to lack this key ingredient. Each African country therefore, pursues the relation based on its unique needs and development agenda resulting in weak bargaining power in certain aspects and attracting less developmental projects from China. A further troubling aspect is the lack of adequate participation of the African private sector, media and academia in this partnership. For instance, during the conference on China-Africa in 2006, the African private sector was not adequately represented. There were nearly 300 Chinese private firms but only a handful of their African counterparts. This seems to suggest that as Chinese private companies show interest in building long term relations with Africa, the continents private firms do not appear to show much interest in sustaining the relationship or are not given the necessary incentive to augment governmental efforts. This will inevitably create gaps between internal policies of African countries and their implementations.

A NEW PLAN FOR DEALING WITH CHINA

Therefore, Africa must necessarily develop a coherent and structured plan in successfully asserting its political, economic and social ties with China. It must avoid repeating some of the mistakes committed in its past relations with its traditional development partners. In the meantime, African leaders must be able to define and formulate strategic and comprehensive policies, individually, for the influx of Chinese investments. For instance, they must exert pressure on China and together, differentiate and separate investments and loans CLEARLY from interest free loans, grants and aid projects. In fact, several writers have already pointed out the fact that there seem not to be difference, at least on the part of China, between investment and aid projects (Shinn 2012; Der Lug et al. 2011). For example, David Shinn, adjunct professor at George Washington University pointed out that China mixes aid with commercial deals, enabling Chinese construction enterprises access to infrastructural projects in Africa (Shinn 2012). Even the Center for Chinese studies (CCS) based in South Africa appears to agree with this. They believe that ‘Chinese government officials rarely distinguish aid and investments’ (Der Lug et al. 2011).

In any case, the distinction of projects will make it easier to handle and formulate appropriate policies to effectively manage respective projects (Investment, grants loans or grants) such that clearly China could be dealt with as a business partner in terms of investments and loan projects (commercial deals) or as a development partner when it comes to grants and aid projects. As it stands now, it is not easy to tell whether Africa sees China as business partner (an investor) or development partner (a friend). Furthermore, clear distinction of these projects will make easier for tracking and at the same time holding the various governments and implementing agencies accountable. This will among other things, ensure sanity, dedication to job, sense of duty, transparency and above all, mitigate corruption. In this regards, the private sector, business community, academia and more importantly, the media must be encouraged and given the opportunity to vet and critic these Chinese contracted developmental projects.
There are successful and intelligent men and women in all fields living in Africa as well as in the Diaspora that can give Africa value for money considering project contracts and negotiations. Until this is done and African leaders began using these best brains so as to obtain better deals from China, the relations will certainly not be totally different from Africa’s past ones.

ENDNOTES:

Adisu, K., Sharkey, T. and Okoroafo, S. C. (2010) ‘The impact of Chinese investment in Africa’, International Journal of Business and Management, 5, pp.1-9

Alden, C. (2007) China in Africa, London/New-York,

Alessi, C. and Hanson, S. (2012) Expanding China-Africa oil ties – council on foreign relations, 9557, pp.1-6

Beuret, M. and Michel S. (2008) Chinafrique-Beijing’s Conquest of the Black Continent, Hachette plurielle, France,
Brautigam, D. (2009) The Dragon’s Gift: The Real Story of China in Africa, Oxford University Press, pp.12-292

Cisse, D. (2012) FOCAC: trade, investments and aid in China-Africa relations. Policy Brief, Centre for Chinese Studies (CCS), Stellenbosch University, South-Africa, pp.1-4

Der Lugt, S.V., Hamblin, V., Burgess, M. and Schickerling, E., (2011) Assessing China’s Role in Foreign Direct Investment in Southern Africa, Centre for Chinese Studies (CCS) report, pp.36-39

Eisenman, J., and Kurlantzick, J. (2006) ‘China’s Africa Strategy’, Current History, pp. 219- 224

European Center for Development Policy Management (ECDPM), (2007) EU, China and Africa-A
Trilateral Partnership in Theory, A Bilateral One in Practice?, open document, Maastricht, pp. 1 – 6
Alee, R. and Mathew, G. (2008) Africa-China Trade: Big push to be more assertive, Financial Times Special Report, pp. 1-6 http://www.ft.com/cms/e1350f4-c9df-11dc-b5dc-000077b07658.pdf, accessed 24 April 2013

Gaye, A. and Brautigam D. (2002) Is Chinese Investment Good for Africa? Online debate, Council on foreign Relations, pp. 1-10, 12622, www.cfr.org, accessed 15 January 2013

Gaye, A. (2006) China-Africa-The dragon and the Ostrich (in French), L’Harmattan, Paris

Gaye, A. (2008) Africa and Europe in the new Geo-political World, Robert Mugabe cited by Adama Gaye, www.gabrielperi.org

InfoSud (2010) The West powerless to counter Chinese hegemony in Africa, article 2359,www.ritimo.org, accessed 30 April 2013

Li, A. (2007) China’s Engagement in Africa- Singular Interest or Mutual Benefit?’ Expert round table on resource governance in Africa in the 21st century, Beijing University, pp.1-5

Li, A., Liu, H., Pan, H., Zeng, A. and He, W. (2012) FOCAC Twelve Years Later-achievements, challenges and the Way Forward, Discussion Paper 74, Peking university, pp.11-43

Rotberg Robert I. (2008) China into Africa: Trade, Aid and Influence, Washington, D.C. and Cambridge, MA, pp. 21-37

Shinn, D. (2012) China’s Investment in Africa, www.chinausfocus.com, accessed 24 April 2013

Solana, J. (2007) Challenges for EU-China Cooperation in Africa, article 92678, pp. 1-3,
www.consilium.europa.eu, accessed 30 April 2013

Van Dijk, P. (2009) The new presence of China in Africa, Amsterdam University Press, pp. 13, 89,151-152

*Babette Zoumara is with the Department of International Relations, College of South East Asian Studies, Xiamen University, Xiamen 361005, P. R. China
*Abdul-Rauf Ibrahim is with the Department of Chemical and Biochemical engineering, Xiamen University,Xiamen 361005, P. R. China

 
 

Tags: ,

Africa: China’s export route to the US?

China textiles
By ADAM ROBERT GREEN

The Africa Growth and Opportunity Act intends to support African exports to US markets. Is it helping savvy Chinese companies too?

US-Africa trade received a boost with the signing of the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) back in May 2000, which enabled African countries to export over 4,000 products, including apparel, quota-free and duty-free to the US.  Geared to support the integration of African countries into global markets, AGOA has enjoyed broad cross-party support in a usually fraught US legislature – especially on issues of foreign trade – and has been renewed several times. Helping Africa, it seems, is something everyone can agree on.

But they might, unwittingly, have been helping China too. Research by Lorenzo Rotunno and colleagues at the Centre for the Study of African Economies, Oxford University, suggests that savvy Chinese companies have set up shop in Africa as a route to get their products into the US with all the AGOA benefits. The entrepreneurs’ logic is impeccable. Not only could an Africa platform get them duty free access to US markets, they could also avoid heavy quotas on China’s exports to the US, imposed through previous protectionist measures by the rich world, such as the Multi-Fiber Agreement. Because AGOA did not contain ‘rules of origin’ provisions, the door is wide open for such creative thinking.  “Restrictive quotas on Chinese apparel exports in the US and preferential treatment for African exports resulted in quota-hopping transhipment from China to the US via AGOA countries” the researchers say.

Chinese and Taiwanese producers are now said to comprise the bulk of a textile “diaspora” in Lesotho, Madagascar and Kenya.  In one Kenyan processing zone, 80% of the 34 garment plants had Asian owners. While some outfits doubtless have in-country assembly – and therefore generate jobs and incomes for Africans – a number are little more than transporting docks for foreign-sourced, fully assembled goods ready to go to their final destination, tax free. Chinese entrepreneurs made no bones about it. In one survey, they gave ‘taking advantage of international trade agreements’ in their top five list of motives for investing and operating in Africa.

But Florie Liser, assistant US trade representative for African affairs, rejects the researchers’ claim. She told This is Africa that rigorous systems were in place for ensuring that no transhipment occurs. “Over the years under AGOA, there have been some cases of transhipment, but they have been very few and the African countries have been very good at going after transhipment”. So they ought. If transhipment occurs, any trader in the country is barred from exporting their products to the US under AGOA for a five year period. Regular visits are conducted by US customs officials to weed out potential mischief, she says, including surprise visits to production plants.

Debate about transhipment is largely about rules of origin. “ROOs” determine how much value addition should take place domestically as part of a preferential trade deal, to ensure the product exported is benefiting the country exporting it. But if ROOs require too much value to be sourced or produced locally, small economies cannot take advantage of the deal because they don’t have enough materials and inputs (even China imports many inputs for its apparel products). So under AGOA, ROOs were relaxed, but not abolished. The CSAE paper says relaxation was sufficient to enable foreign producers to use AGOA countries as essentially platforms for US entry rather than intensive production and assembly zones.

But Liser counters that Asian investment into AGOA countries in no way diminishes the African impact of the legislation, provided the minimum of 35 per cent domestic value addition is upheld. “If China had invested in a factory in Mauritius or Lesotho and the company is producing apparel with Chinese investment and inputs but meeting all the rules of origin requirements and shipping to the US, that would not be transhipment. Transhipment would be where the apparel was being produced in China and sent to Lesotho where they illegally sew in a label that says ‘Made in Lesotho’ and then shipped it to the US”.

The arrival of foreign investors looking to utilise the opportunities of AGOA is in keeping with the globalised nature of apparel production, she says. “For all countries, we want what we do with them with our trade agreements to encourage people to invest.”

 

Tags: ,

China in the heart of Africa

Opportunities and pitfalls in a rapidly expanding relationship
From Africa Renewal:
Railway and train station construction site in AngolaRailway and train station construction site in Angola, part of an agreement in which China helps build infrastructure in exchange for oil: With trade between Africa and China reaching $166 billion in 2011, the relationship is one of “give and take.”

Photo: Panos/Dieter Telemans

“China’s gift to Africa.” The new headquarters of the African Union, a towering 20-storey building in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, is so called because China picked up the $200 million tab for the state-of-the-art complex. Ethiopia’s tallest building, completed in December 2011 in time for an AU summit the following month, includes a 2,500-seat conference hall. The gift prompted Ethiopia’s late Prime Minister Meles Zenawi to refer to Africa’s current economic boom as a “renaissance,” due partly to China’s “amazing re-emergence and its commitments to a win-win partnership with Africa.”

Not all Africans have welcomed China’s gift. West African political commentator Chika Ezeanya considers it an “insult to the AU and to every African that in 2012 a building as symbolic as the AU headquarters is designed, built and maintained by a foreign country.” However, as African leaders savoured the swanky complex in January, they took turns thanking China.

China’s largess to Africa is not new. Previously China had either donated or assisted in building a hospital in Luanda, Angola; a road from Lusaka, Zambia’s capital, to Chirundu in the southeast; stadiums in Sierra Leone and Benin; a sugar mill and a sugarcane farm in Mali; and a water supply project in Mauritania, among other projects. At the fifth Forum on China-Africa Cooperation, held in Beijing in July 2012, Chinese President Hu Jintao listed yet more, including 100 schools, 30 hospitals, 30 anti-malaria centres and 20 agricultural technology demonstration centres.

African leaders continue to insist that the relationship with China is not a one-way street and that it includes more trade than aid. Indeed, trade between Africa and China was $166 billion in 2011, according to the Economist, a UK weekly. “The good thing about this partnership is that it’s a give and take,” Faida Mitifu, the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s ambassador to the US, told the Reuters news agency.

Eye on the pie 

What then is China taking? In China Returns to Africa, a collection of essays published by Columbia University Press, the editors Chris Alden, Daniel Large and Ricardo Soares de Oliveira note, “The overarching driver has been the Chinese government’s strategic pursuit of resources and attempts to ensure raw material supplies for growing energy needs within China.” The world’s second-biggest economy currently buys more than one-third of Africa’s oil.

In addition, China’s industries are getting raw materials such as coal from South Africa, iron ore from Gabon, timber from Equatorial Guinea and copper from Zambia.

Chinese industries also require new markets for their products and Africa is a potentially enormous outlet. “China is repositioning itself continuously for the new Africa that’s emerging,” says Kobus van der Wath, founder of Beijing Axis, an international advisory and procurement firm based in Beijing.

Chinese products have flooded markets in Johannesburg, Luanda, Lagos, Cairo, Dakar and other cities, towns and villages in Africa. Those goods include clothing, jewellery, electronics, building materials and much more. “Even little things like matches, tea bags, children’s toys and bathing soaps are coming from China,” says Bankole Aluwe of Alaba market in Lagos, Nigeria.

African consumers like Chinese products because they are affordable. “Chinese goods are cheaper than those from Europe and North America. In our business, price is very important to customers,” Mr. Aluwe says.

Largest trading partner 

In an article in This Is Africa, a Financial Times publication, Sven Grimm and Daouda Cissé state that in recent years China’s economy at times has grown at more than 10 per cent a year, while cheap labour has helped reduce production costs — hence cheaper products. They also note, “The low level of the yuan [the Chinese currency] compared to the other major world trading currencies such as the US dollar, the euro and the yen” attracts African importers.

Already trade between Africa and China has grown at a breathtaking pace. It was $10.5 billion in 2000, $40 billion in 2005 and $166 billion in 2011. China is currently Africa’s largest trading partner, having surpassed the US in 2009. The Chinese government is eager to cement China’s dominance by burnishing its image through initiatives such as a $20 billion credit to African countries to develop infrastructure and the African Talents Programme, which is intended to train 30,000 Africans in various sectors.

China’s give-and-take relationship also plays out in other forms. Chinese construction firms are acquiring enormous construction contracts. The China Railway Construction Corp. (CRC) signed a $1.5 billion contract in September 2012 to modernize a railway system in western Nigeria. That same month, China South Locomotive and Rolling Stock Corporation, the largest train manufacturer in China, signed a $400 million deal to supply locomotives to a South African firm, Transnet. In February 2012 the CRC announced projects in Nigeria, Djibouti and Ethiopia worth about $1.5 billion in total.

Not all is rosy 

China’s inroads into Africa’s agricultural sector include the 20 demonstration centres that President Hu said will “help African countries increase production capacity.” But there was a backlash when the government of the Democratic Republic of the Congo leased thousands of unutilized hectares of land to ZTE International, a Chinese company, in a deal that Oxfam, a UK charity, and others have labelled a “land grab.”

The “land grab” accusation may be overstated, according to a study by the UK’s Standard Chartered Bank. But the authors of the study believe that in the longer term China could well seek to import much more food from Africa which, by World Bank estimates, has 60 per cent of the world’s uncultivated land. “Given Africa’s potential, China is likely to turn towards it.”

The furore over land adds to growing criticisms of the manner of China’s aggressive Africa penetration. Many Africans often refer to the poor quality of Chinese products and blame their low prices for the collapse of local industries. Comatex and Batexci, two leading textile companies in Mali, have been severely affected by cheap fabrics from Asia (see Africa Renewal April 2012). “Hundreds of textile factories collapsed across Nigeria because they could not compete with cheap Chinese garments,” noted theEconomist, which approvingly added that the Tanzanian government has stopped Chinese from selling in that country’s markets. Chinese are welcome as investors, but not as “vendors or shoe shiners,” said the Economist. In May, Neil Bruce, head of Zimbabwe’s Furniture Manufacturers Association, told the country’s parliament that imported Chinese furniture, “which is not strong,” is crippling the local furniture industry.

Performance assessments of some Chinese investors have not been stellar. The managers of Chinese-run mines in Zambia have been accused of not taking adequate safety measures for their local workers. A Chinese oil firm is exploring in a Gabonese national park, angering environmentalists.

Bridging the culture gap 

On the flip side, Chinese investors face huge challenges in Africa. In an article in theGlobe and Mail, a Canadian newspaper, David Berman maintained that cultural differences between Chinese and Africans, including the language barriers, often lead to social tensions, and that poor infrastructure in Africa makes business operations difficult. Frequent power outages in some countries raise production costs, while policies towards businesses are inconsistent. African governments can raise taxes at a whim. And most African economies are still fragile, subject to shocks from the global economy.

China hopes to minimize social tensions by bridging the information gap. Xinhua, China’s state-run news agency, has increased its bureaus in Africa to more than 20. In 2008 the China Africa News service was launched, to report “China-Africa news stories from African, Chinese and Western sources.” In early 2012 China Central Television (CCTV) opened a broadcast hub in Nairobi, Kenya — its first outside of its Beijing headquarters. Its strategy has been to hire some of Africa’s brightest journalists to report on Africa to viewers in about 170 countries.

“We have the news of what is happening in Africa, we tell a positive story,” says Pang Xinhua, the CCTV managing editor. But Yu-Shan Wu, a researcher at the South African Institute of International Affairs, sees a broader motive. “China is actively introducing its culture and values,” she says, and calls the push “the rise of China’s state-led media dynasty in Africa.”

Western concerns 

In the view of David Shinn, former US ambassador to Burkina Faso and Ethiopia, the West is nervous about China’s activities in Africa. Mr. Shinn adds that China’s policy of non-interference in the internal affairs of African countries and its fast approach to aid delivery make it more attractive than Western donors, whose aid often comes with demands to improve human rights and democracy.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently warned against a “new colonialism in Africa,” in which it is “easy to come in, take out natural resources, pay off leaders and leave.” It was a veiled jab at China, according to the Guardian, a UK newspaper. But Ms. Clinton’s point echoed across the continent, and it appears that African leaders are now treading cautiously.

South African President Jacob Zuma warned in July that the current “unbalanced” trade pattern is unsustainable. He was referring to the tendency of Africa to export raw materials to China while largely importing only cheap manufactured goods. Maged Abdelaziz, the UN Secretary-General’s special adviser on Africa, told Africa Renewalthat the continent must develop a strategy for its dealings with emerging economic giants such as China, Brazil and India.

Along this line, talks began in South Africa in June 2011 to merge three regional trade groupings (the East African Community, the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa and the Southern African Development Community) into a “grand free trade area” incorporating 26 countries with a combined gross domestic product of $1 trillion. Such a combined strength could give Africa a more assertive voice at the negotiating table.

The China-Africa relationship will get stronger. The editors of China Returns to Africasum it up: So long as Africa’s development requires huge foreign investments, so long will China continue to be relevant. “Irrespective of the concerns being voiced in some circles in Africa, Chinese involvement is widely considered to be a positive-sum game.”

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on December 4, 2012 in African News

 

Tags: ,

Britain and America target DR Congo

They have been cornered by financial crisis

Antoine Roger Lokongo

2012-11-29, Issue 608

 

What is happening in eastern DR Congo is not a civil war, but continuation of a 16-year aggression by the country’s two neighbours, financed and directed by the United States and Britain.
cc E E

 

 

INTRODUCTION

All the signs are written on the wall that after the split of Sudan, the United States of America is targeting the Democratic Republic of Congo to re-enact the same scenario: arming the Tutsi regime of Rwanda and Uganda to the teeth to occupy eastern Congo for some time, first of all to extract its strategic minerals which the Western economies in crisis desperately need, and then annex it to Rwanda and Uganda. This conspiracy against the Democratic Republic of Congo is now an open secret. The stakes are therefore both economic and geostrategic but they have been uncovered, including by the latest United Nations report which accused Ugandan and Rwandan officials of supporting M23, the so-called rebel group in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and recommended to the United Nations that it sanctions Kampala and Kigali. Although there are doubts that such recommended sanctions will be implemented, nevertheless this represents a moral victory for the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo which could not have been won with a Mobutu-like president.

REBELLION? WHAT REBELLION?

First of all, there is no rebellion in eastern Congo. After Laurent Kabila was assassinated, the whole international community imposed what was called the ‘brassage’ or integration of the army; all the rebel groups had unconditionally to be incorporated into the army. Then came the 2004 Gen Nkunda war backed by Rwanda and Uganda still, Kinshasa having had no respite to re-organize its army. That was an open infiltration for which Congo is paying a heavy price today. All the media that refer to Tutsi insurgents as rebels are wrong! Rwanda and Uganda, both staunch allies of the United States and Great Britain, continue to support Tutsi insurgents – led by General Bosco Ntaganda, a Tutsi warlord wanted by the International Criminal Court for recruiting child soldiers in 2006 and who was also placed under Security Council sanctions. For America which is waging a war against global terrorists, paying some lip service to punish Tutsi terrorists is a bluff! We are therefore not surprised that America worked with al-Qaeda members to overthrow Gaddafi (Gardham, Swami and Squires 2011).

On 26 October 2012, President Joseph Kabila of the DRC dispatched a special envoy to President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda to request him to authorise the closure of the Bunagana border post because Kinshasa had concerns that, ‘M23 rebels’ were taking advantage of the open border point at Bunagana to collect revenues from cargo vehicles and other goods. Museveni acquiesced but warned that the DRC must ‘take responsibility for any negative impact on the humanitarian situation’ as result of closing the border (…) in the end (Akugizibwe 2012). Museveni knew what he was talking about because immediately after the closure, the M23 attacked the Congolese army in Kibumba. Les Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo (FARDC), as the Congolese army is known, responded and killed more than 150 Tutsi insurgents out of 900 and approximately wounded 300 to 450 (evacuated to Rwanda). Some of them were wearing Rwandan military uniforms; in fact six Rwandan high ranked officials were also killed. Congo lost two army officers.

A furious Kagame immediately deployed several battalions of fighters, well-equipped with night-vision equipment allowing them to fight at night, including goggles as well as 120 mm mortars (some say American made) who captured Goma and dislodged the Congolese army after a stiff resistance, pursued them up to Sake 30km from Goma. The Congolese army pushed them back and inflicted heavy losses on them but the Rwandans re-captured the town later. The United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in Congo, known by its French acronym as MONUSCO, even filmed three Rwandan tanks being driven from a Rwandan military base across the border to the headquarters of Congo’s M23 rebel militia . The Congolese army is now concentrated in Minova and preparing a counter-offensive after General Olenga, the new army chief of staff, was appointed following the suspension by President Joseph Kabila of General Gabriel Amisi, the chief of land forces over, UN accusations he ran a huge arms smuggling network supplying Congolese rebels and other groups. A report by the UN Group of Experts on the DRC accuses Amisi of overseeing a network that provides arms and ammunitions to poachers and armed groups, including some with links to the M23.

The Democratic Republic of Congo is a member of the Southern Africa Development Community and since it has been ascertained that Congo has once been attacked by Rwanda (a SADC delegation visited Goma recently), we do not think SADC will remain indifferent to Congo being re-invaded, with hundred of people killed, maimed, women raped, children forcefully enrolled in the rebel armies and abused. According to a reliable sources, SADC countries might already have deployed troops in eastern Congo.

According the plan made by regional leaders (Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Congo) a joint force would be deployed at Goma airport comprising of a company of neutral African troops, a company of the Congolese army (FARDC) and a company of the M23. The leaders told M23 to withdraw from current positions to not less than 20 km (12 miles) from Goma town within two days, but did not say what the consequences would be if the rebels did not comply. Elsewhere, rebels would simply be disarmed, strangely not in Congo where international law and war crimes do not apply.

But the Congolese are determined to avert any balkanisation of their country. With the support of its allies, Tutsi insurgents will face a stronger fire power. Rwanda will not be able to intervene because the border will now well monitored.

In fact, China Great Wall Industry Corp will launch Democratic Republic of Congo’s first satellite, which will also be developed by China, before the end of 2015, according to a contract signed recently. The contract for CongoSat 1, a communications satellite to be developed and manufactured by the China Academy of Space Technology for the National Network of Satellite Telecommunications of the African country, was inked in Zhuhai, Guangdong province.

The signing was on the sidelines of the Ninth China International Aviation and Aerospace Exhibition, also known as the Zhuhai Airshow. The contract shows the CongoSat 1 design will be based on the DFH 4 satellite platform, capable of covering the Democratic Republic of the Congo and all the central and southern parts of the African continent through the advanced transponders installed on the satellite. China will build ground control and training facilities and will train satellite-control personnel for the client. China Telecom, one of the country’s biggest telecommunications companies, will also play an active role in the project by upgrading the operation system and providing management services to the network. The deal marks the second time that China has exported a satellite to African nations, following the NigComSat 1, another communications satellite that was launched for Nigeria in May 2007 by Great Wall.

At the same time, the UN is said to have contacted Britain and France asking them to supply drones that can be very useful in monitoring Congo’s borders with Rwanda and Uganda. This could be another Trojan horse!

MONUSCO’S COMPLICITY

Despite the Goma airport still being controlled by MONUSCO, the latter could not hide its complicity with Tutsi insurgents. MONUSCO did not engage M23 in battle in Goma, according to a South African soldier who did not give his name. ‘We [MONUSCO] have had no trouble with M23, to be honest,’ he said.

That tells it all and justifies current protests throughout Congo against MONUSCO’s presence.

WASHINGTON EMBARRASSED

Washington, embarrassed by the leaked UN Panel report which showed clearly that its Rwandan and Ugandan lackeys are arming Congo rebels and providing troops and whose final publication it was trying to block, is attempting to cover up the real culprits, Museveni and Kagame, who act as mercenaries for American and European interests in Africa and whose regimes are armed to the teeth, generously supported by foreign aid, and allowed free rein to plunder their Congolese neighbors. Just a day after the UN Panel report was leaked, Rwanda was accepted as ‘non-permanent member of the UN security Council’ . Which world do we live in?

Uganda for its part pitched a kind of puppet tantrum, threatening to pull its troops out of so-called peace-keeping duties in Somalia, as Glen Ford reported. Museveni’s government is angry, because yet another United Nations report has been leaked, showing that Ugandan and Rwandan military officers are directly in charge of the so-called rebels that are wreaking havoc in Congo. This is not a Congolese civil war, but a continuation of a 16-year aggression by its two neighbours, financed and directed by the United States and Britain.

Uganda’s threat to pull out of Somalia has proven to be empty. After all, what is a samurai without a lord and master? Uganda’s value to the United States lies in its willingness to kill other Africans on orders from Washington. A Uganda withdrawal from Somalia would amount to going on strike against its employer, the United States – a very dangerous thing to do. Besides, who else is going to employ the Ugandan and Rwandan mercenaries?

By the time the Uganda delegation got to New York, there was no more mention of leaving Somalia, much less a Ugandan disengagement from the US Special Forces units that President Obama sent into the Great Lakes region, last year. Uganda had temporarily forgotten its place as a servant in the neocolonial scheme of things. But, in truth, the Ugandans and Rwandans need not worry about the US cracking down on their genocidal activities in Congo, because that, too, serves America’s purpose: to control Africa by drowning it in chaos and blood (Ford 2012).

KAGAME, THE SPOILT CHILD OF ANGLO-SAXONS

In fact, Stephen Rapp, the head of the US war crimes office has warned Rwanda’s leaders, including President Paul Kagame, that they could face prosecution at the International Criminal Court for arming groups responsible for atrocities in the Democratic Republic of Congo, adding that they may be open to charges of ‘aiding and abetting’ crimes against humanity in a neighbouring country – actions similar to those for which the former Liberian president, Charles Taylor, was jailed for 50 years by an international court in May 2012 (McGreal 2012).

Three days later, the US Embassy in Kigali issued a statement in which it said that the media reports suggesting that senior Rwandan officials faced possible prosecution by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for alleged support to DRC’s M23 rebels were inaccurate.

‘Ambassador (Stephen) Rapp was not calling for any specific prosecution in this case,’ Susan Falatko, the Public Affairs Officer, at the American Embassy in Kigali told The New Times, saying the official was misquoted by the newspaper. ‘He sought to underscore the importance of holding to account those responsible for crimes against humanity, noting as a general principle that neighbouring countries have been held responsible in the past for cross-border support to armed groups,’ she added. A senior ICC official is said to have said that the Hague-based court was not investigating any Rwandan leader

The Obama administration even pompously announced that it was withholding a paltry $200,000 in fiscal year 2012 foreign military financing funds that were intended to support a Rwandan academy for non-commissioned officers, adding that these funds will be reallocated for programming in another country.

ANOTHER OBAMA’S WAR

Another glaring contradiction which does not bother America’s conscience (if it has any) is that American trained and paid Rwandan and Ugandan soldiers have been deployed as ‘peacekeepers’ in Darfur and Somalia while at the same time they are making the blood of millions of Congolese flow into the ground, while billions of dollars in minerals are extracted from the earth and delivered to their corporate customers – with Rwandan and Ugandan middlemen pocketing their cut. America is also trying to sweep under the carpet the genocide that Rwanda and Uganda have committed in Congo since 1996. As we know, Rwanda and Uganda invaded the Democratic Republic of Congo in 1996, ostensibly to hunt down Hutu fighters among millions of refugees from ethnic violence in Rwanda. But the invasion became an occupation that has killed six million Congolese – the world’s greatest holocaust since World War Two. The genocide has been very profitable for Uganda and Rwanda, who have plundered eastern Congo’s mineral resources for sale to multinational corporations, most of them based in the United States and Europe.

According to a report published in his blog, Jason Stearns of the International Crisis Group, who also has been a member of the UN Panel of Experts, US ambassador to the US Susan Rice delayed the publication of UN Group of Experts’ interim report, insisting that Rwanda be given a chance to see the report first and respond. While these UN investigations are supposed to give the accused the opportunity to respond and explain –– the Group says it was refused meetings by the Rwandan government, which Kigali denies –– they rarely allow them to see the entire report before publication. In any case, the Group finally did brief a Rwandan delegation in New York in June in New York (unsurprisingly, the Rwandan rejected the report as flawed) and the report was released.

Stearns says that Rice emerged as a skeptic within a State Department that had largely accepted Rwanda’s role in backing the M23. Both Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson and Special Envoy Barry Walkley have told Kigali explicitly to stop supporting M23. According to sources within the Obama administration, Rice has weighed in during these conversations, even when they do not directly relate to the United Nations.

According to an international NGO that follows Security Council politics closely, ‘Rice isn’t convinced that support is ongoing––maybe [there was some] in the past, but not now.’ Others point to her skepticism at the UN Group of Experts reports and their methodology.

Her latest controversial step was to block the explicit naming of Rwanda and Uganda in this week’s UN Security Council resolution, condemning the M23 occupation of Goma. As in previous statements, the body demanded that ‘any and all outside support to the M23 cease immediately.’ Other Council members had wanted to name Rwanda explicitly, but Rice demurred, arguing that this would not be constructive in a process in which Rwanda must be part of the solution. Rice’s supporters say that this was simply the official US position, and she was following orders from Washington .

Susan Rice, a key player in Obama’s administration (now tipped to become the next US Secretary of State) was then Bill Clinton’s Under-Secretary of State for African Affairs who could not hide her government’s satisfaction with Rwanda’s and Uganda’s felony in Congo. Had her then boss Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright not said that ‘Rwanda is to the US what the pupil is to the eye’?

As the Ugandan and Rwandan armies occupied Eastern Congo and engaged in open warfare with the new DRC government, Rice continued to support their efforts and offered US diplomatic and barely-cloaked military support. Her arrogance was unbounded. She was sent on a mission in 1999 to visit Kinshasa to discuss the US position on the war with Kabila. On her way to Kinshasa she stopped first at Kigali to meet Kagame and then in Entebbe to meet Museveni. She then cabled Laurent Kabila that she was ready to be received in the DRC. Kabila went to N’Djili Airport to meet Susan Rice in person. Kabila, to everyone’s amusement, greeted Rice as she descended from the plane saying, ‘I greet you Madame Rice, as the ambassador from Uganda’; for that was in effect what she was. Rice spent her time lecturing Kabila about how awkward it made US foreign policy when Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe troops assisted the DRC in repelling the Ugandan and Rwandan invasion of the DRC and the rape and plunder they were causing in the Kivus and Kasai. Rice was happy to see the war against the DRC as US African policy had always shunned Angola and Zimbabwe because they were not allied inflexibly to the US in their Cold War struggle with Russia and China.

This predilection for Uganda and Rwanda and contempt and hostility toward Zimbabwe continues to this day. The fact that both Uganda and Rwanda still occupy parts of the DRC and pillage its resources and massacre its citizens – through M23 – does not seem to bother her as US ambassador to the UN, let alone if she becomes Secretary of State. These two nations now are part of the US proxy army in Africa and receive her full support at the United Nations.

The US is firmly behind Kagame and Museveni. In fact, Rwanda has now become the ‘CIA listening post’ in the region from a station built on top of Mount Karisimbi. That is why a new international airport is soon to be built in the Bugesera area of Rwanda, in order to decongest the current Kanombe international airport near the capital, Kigali, which will soon become a military airport; as Colette Braeckman of the Belgian daily Le Soir revealed on 20 February 2008.

Uganda for its part runs the Singo Training School, in Kakola, 75 miles north of Kampala. It is a training camp operated by the Ugandan military, but the instruction is overseen by the Military Professional Resources Incorporated (MPRI), a subsidiary of L-3 Communications, based in the District. It is one of four State Department contractors that are training African troops for Somalia (and Congo). US contractors are hired by the State Department and American military trainers are playing a supporting role, offering specialized instruction in combat medicine and bomb detection, among other subjects.

Moreover the Uganda government has since 2003 splashed an annual retainer of $300,000 on the Washington DC-based Whitaker Group, which is owned by the US former Assistant Trade Representative for Africa, Rosa Whitaker, for lobbying in the US. Dr. Jendayi E. Frazer, former US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs (a successor to Susan Rice in that post) is now working as a lobbyist on behalf of the Ugandan government as part of the Whitaker Group (TWG) as a strategic advisor. The Washington D.C.-based firm has a long-standing relationship with Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni and is currently under a million dollar a year contract with the Ugandan government.

After Obama came to power, his administration’s policy on the ‘Congo question’ did not change. In fact, one of Obama’s advisers was embarrassingly caught red-handed while attempting to smuggle minerals from Eastern Congo and his jet was impounded. Kase Lawal, 57, is a Nigerian-born American who propelled CAMAC International Corporation’s rise to a $2.4 billion private company — said to be the second-largest African-American-owned business in the US – was appointed to a trade advisory post by the Obama administration, and has held similar positions in Republican administrations. He lost $30 million after financing a botched deal to buy 1,000 pounds (475 kg) of smuggled gold from the Democratic Republic of Congo, according to a report by United Nations investigators.

The transaction ultimately profited General Bosco Ntangada. The investigation was mandated by the UN Security Council to probe links between mineral trading and illegal armed groups in eastern DRC (Fitzgerald 2012).

Washington’s double game playing in the Great Lakes Region came to light in 2008,
following the breakdown of peace talks between the Ugandan government and the the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA),which the United States, after the September 11 attacks declared a terrorist group and Joseph Kony its leader a terrorist. In late 2008, the National Security Council authorised AFRICOM to support a military operation (one of the first publicly-acknowledged AFRICOM operations) against the LRA, which was believed to be in the Congo at the time. AFRICOM provided training and US$1 million in financial support for ‘Operation Lightning Thunder’ – a joint endeavour of the Ugandan, Congolese and South Sudan forces in Congolese territory launched in December 2008 to ‘eliminate the threat posed by the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA)’ and never the threat posed by Rwandans and Ugandans in eastern Congo as if some terrorists are better then the others. According to the United Nations, the offensive ‘never consulted with partners on the ground on the requirements of civilian protection. Stretching over a three-month period, it failed in its mission and the LRA scattered and retaliated against the Congolese population; over 1,000 people were killed and up to 200,000 displaced.

This battle against the LRA has to be seen as a continuation of the battles in Eastern Congo. In October 2011, US President Obama authorised the deployment of approximately 100 combat-equipped U.S. troops to central Africa. They will help regional forces ‘remove from the battlefield’ Joseph Kony and senior LRA leaders. ‘Although the U.S. forces are combat-equipped, they will only be providing information, advice, and assistance to partner nation forces, and they will not themselves engage LRA forces unless necessary for self-defense’, Obama said in a letter to Congress.

ENTER THE BRITISH

Britain has been blocking European sanctions against Rwanda — in fact shamelessly went back on its word. The former British Secretary for International Development Andrew Mitchell told MPs that he had decided to resume Britain’s £16m aid package to Rwanda after two out of three conditions set by the UK – a ceasefire in the Kivus region and an end to practical support from Rwanda to militias – were met. The Congolese people, in fact the whole world, aren’t aware of such a ceasefire as the unfolding situation on the ground shows.

Feeling isolated and under pressure after all major European countries suspended their aid support to Kagame, Prime Minister David Cameron finally acknowledged that ‘the international community could not ignore evidence of Rwandan involvement with the M23’ and called on Kagame to ‘show the government of Rwanda had no links to the M23.’

When Joseph Kabila made a deal with Paul Kagame in 2009 to allow the Rwandan army to enter Congo and hunt Hutu militia, he did not know that on the Rwandan side scheming British were being associated to ‘the project’. It is for that matter that the Chief of General Staff (CGS) of the British Army, Gen. Sir Richard Dannatt travelled to Kigali specifically to be briefed by his Rwandan counterpart James Kabarebe about the operation on ‘how their two armies could work together’. He also met President Kagame. Rwanda boasts the Gabiro School of Infantry where a commander’s course, the first of its kind, is jointly conducted by Rwandan, British and American instructors (under Africom, the Africa Military Command).

It was only later that the people of Congo realized that the Tutsi continued to use the war against Hutu ‘genocidists’ as a pretext for occupying mining concessions and systematically exploiting them. In fact the 4,000 thousand Rwandan troops did not really leave as such and have turned into what they call M23 today.

The discovery of oil has sharpened the appetites: the British company SOCO (which has offices in Kigali) began oil exploration in Virunga National Park in North Kivu. As for the oil field discovered in Lake Albert, operations should be shared between Uganda (which will develop a refinery) and Congo. But for the ground extending into Rutshuru, Rwanda via its M23 allies could claim to take its share of the loot.

During his tenure, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair was very much Rwanda and Uganda’s partner in crime in Congo. James Astill, writing in the British daily, The Guardian, on 10 April 2003, said it all: ‘While Rwanda and Uganda remain in Congo, peace will be impossible. Yet both continue to receive more than half their budgets in Western aid, and only an occasional chiding for their role in the slaughter. How do they get away with it?’

The biggest donors to both Rwanda and Uganda are Britain and America. Britain contributes over £30 million a year to Rwanda’s budget. Clare Short, then British minister for international development, flew in and out of Uganda, Rwanda and the Great Lakes Region several times a year. So, she must have known what was going on.

In his Guardian article, Astill wrote that when he returned from a reporting trip to Congo in the middle of 2002 and put his findings to British and American diplomats, ‘virtually all – off the record, of course – corroborated them’.

‘I put them to Clare Short, and she refused to comment,’ said Astill who went on to quote Richard Dowden, the former Africa editor of the British weekly, The Economist, as saying that when he asked Glare Short why, in 2002, Rwanda ‘needed to occupy [Kisangani] a diamond-rich town 700 miles into Congo to protect its border’, Ms Short hit the roof.

Tony Blair now acts as personal adviser to Mr Kagame, while one of his charities, the Africa Governance Initiative (AGI), employs about 10 people inside the Rwandan government, helping it to run more effectively (Mendick 2011). However, Tony Blair who claims success in reconciling the Catholics and the Protestants, hitherto enemies in Northern Ireland, is backing away from encouraging Kagame to initiate a inter-rwandan dialogue susceptible to reconcile Hutu and Tutsi so that they can share power, live in peace. The Ugandan government must also dialogue with people from the North and their Lord Resistance Army (LRA) movement. This is the only way that will bring peace to eastern Congo.

As Jacqueline Umurungi writes, some of Kagame’s greatest admirers are Bill Clinton, Tony Blair and Starbucks magnate Howard Schultz. American evangelist Rick Warren considers him something of an inspiration and even Bill Gates has invested in what has been called Africa’s success story. Yes, Western liberals, reactionary evangelicals, and capitalist carpetbaggers alike tout Paul Kagame as the herald of a new, self-reliant African prosperity. Britain annually subsidizes 50 per cent of Rwanda’s national budget (Umurungi 2012). Now you understand why the war in mineral-rich eastern Congo never ends and why, mockingly according to the BCC, ‘there is no end to the tears in the DRC.’

This is what Obama must tell his American electorate in case he promised them a big chunk of Congo: The Democratic Republic of Congo’s territorial integrity is non-negotiable.

* BROUGHT TO YOU BY PAMBAZUKA NEWS

* Please do not take Pambazuka for granted! Become a Friend of Pambazuka and make a donation NOW to help keep Pambazuka FREE and INDEPENDENT!

* Please send comments to editor[at]pambazuka[dot]org or comment online atPambazuka News.

* Antoine Roger Lokongo is a journalist and Beijing University PhD candidate from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

REFERENCES

Antoine Roger Lokongo, “The Suffering of Congo”, New African Magazine, September 2000.

AFP, “Fighting in DR Congo as rebels reject pull out calls”,
http://www.afp.com/en/news/topstories/fighting-dr-congo-rebels-reject-pull-out-calls, November 23, 2012.

BBC, “DR Congo: US sanctions M23 rebel leader Sultani Makenga”, BBC News, Africa, November 14 , 2012.

BBC, “Rwandan aid: Greening to reflect ‘very carefully’ before continuing UK support”, BBC News, UK, November 13 , 2012.

BBC, “UK cannot ‘ignore evidence’ of Rwandan involvement with Congolese militia”, BBC News, UK, November 23 , 2012.

Celestin Lutete, “Le M23 est en deuil : plus de 150 rebelles tués dans les combats ce jeudi 15 novembre”, Digitalcongo.net, http://www.digitalcongo.net/article/87953,Novembre 16, 2012a.

Celestin Lutete, “Guerre dans l’Est de la Rdc : l’ONU prête à l’utilisation des drones de surveillance”, Digitalcongo.net, http://www.digitalcongo.net/article/88116,Novembre 24, 2012b.
Craig Whitlock, “U.S. trains African soldiers for Somalia mission”, The Washington Post, May 14, 2012.

Chris McGreal, “Rwanda’s Paul Kagame warned he may be charged with aiding war crimes”, The Guardian, July 25, 2012.

Colette Braeckman, “Les rebelles aux portes de Goma, bloqués par l’ONU”, Le Soir, Novembre 18, 2012a.

Colette Braeckman, “Cinq questions après la chute de Goma”, Le Soir, Novembre 21, 2012b.

Denis Fitzgerald, “Congo News: How gold smuggling profits warlords not Congo. [Obama’s advisor involved]!”, Global Post, February 7, 2012.

Duncan Ghardam, Praveen Swami and Nick Squires, “Libya rebel commander admits his fighters have al-Qaeda links”, The Telegraph, March 25, 2011.

Edison Akugizibwe, “Inside Story: How Kabila Forced Uganda To Close Bunagana Border Post”, Chimpreports.com,

Edward Musoni, “British military chief hails DRC operation”, The New Times, February 11, 2009.

Elias Biryabarema, Yara Bayoumy and Paul Simao, “Exclusive: Rwanda, Uganda arming Congo rebels, providing troops – U.N. panel”, Reuters, Oct 17, 2012.

Freya Petersen, “US to cut military aid to Rwanda over support of Congo rebels”, Global Post, July 22, 2012.

Gary K. Busch, “A Preventable Disaster”,
Ocnus.Net, Nov 9, 2012a.

Gary K. Busch, “International dimensions of the conflict in Eastern Congo”, Pambazuka.org, http://pambazuka.org/en/category/features/82718, June 6, 2012b.

Gary K. Busch, “The difficult decisions for Joseph Kabila”,
Ocnus.Net,

Glen Ford, “A Profitable Genocide: Rwanda and Uganda Annex Eastern Congo”, Black Agenda Report, October 23, 2012a.

Glen Ford, “America and the Politics of Genocide in Africa”, Black Agenda Report, November 23, 2012b.

Hayes Brown, “Rwanda Gains U.N. Security Council Seat Amid Controversy”, thinkprogress.org,

Jacqueline Umurungi, “The Untold Stories: Again Rwanda is on the front line in the Congo Conflict. Who is fooling who?” Inyenyeri News.org,

James Astill, “Counting the dead: Rwanda and Uganda are occupying Congo for largely bogus reasons – yet Britain continues to back them”, The Guardian, April 10, 2003.

James Munyaneza, “US Embassy says Ambassador Rapp was misquoted on Rwanda”, The New Times, July 28, 2012.

James Karuhanga, “Kayonga says Rwandan Defence Force’s duty is to serve world, humanity”, The New Times, May 24, 2009.

Jason Stearns, “Susan Rice and the M23 crisis”, congosiasa.blogspot.be,

Jonny Hogg and Elias Biryabarema, “African presidents urge Congo rebels to abandon war”, Reuters, November 25, 2012.

Melanie Gouby and Rukmini Callimachi, “Congo Violence: Rebels Attack Provincial Capital of Goma”, huffingtonpost.com,

Pete Jones and David Smith, “Goma falls to Congo rebels”, The Guardian, November 20, 2012.

Robert Mendick, “Tony Blair, trips to Africa and an intriguing friendship”, The Telegraph, November 12, 2011.

Thomas Hubert, “Havoc as Congolese flee the ‘Terminator’”. BBC News Africa,http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-17994753, May 11, 2012.

Zhao Lei, “China to launch second African satellite”, China Daily, November 18, 2012.

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on November 29, 2012 in African News

 

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: