Gray Panthers of San Francisco
July 2007 Newsletter



“Whenever I hear the words ‘al Qaeda,’ my deception-detector goes off—I want to look behind it to see who’s fighting who for which interests…” said journalist and human rights investigator Keith Harmon Snow in a recent interview on KPFA (Guns and Butter, June 6, 2007). ‘Al Qaeda’ and ‘terrorists’ are increasingly mentioned in US government reports on Africa these days, presumably to justify the recent creation of a US Africa Command (AFRICOM) designed to integrate DOD, State Department, and USAID personnel working in Africa, as well as the ever-present CIA, “partner” nations, and humanitarian organizations.

Why this sudden interest in Africa? In a word, oil. In the next ten years, African oil could be 25-35% of US imports. Already, it accounts for over 15%. In 2005, the US imported more oil from the Gulf of Guinea than from Saudi Arabia. The African continent has vast untapped oil reserves, particularly in southern Sudan and Somalia.

Do those countries sound familiar? Somalia is where Ethiopian troops, trained and equipped by the US and accompanied by US amphibious vehicle and helicopter support, recently ousted a moderate Islamic government that had given Somalia the only few months of peace and stability it had seen in many years. And Sudan? Oil reserves in Darfur are “massive,” according to Snow. Some analysts believe that oil is behind the Sudanese government’s attack on tribal people—that it’s an effort to clear the areas where oil concessions could be sold, and that various countries and corporations are jockeying for position to exploit them when they’re accessible.

Darfur is much in the news, but we rarely hear about two far larger humanitarian crises in Africa today: northern Uganda, where 1500 people die every week and 1.2 million have been displaced; and the Democratic Republic of Congo, where Rwandan-supported militias are attacking villages in the eastern region, displacing 80,000 and causing more than 1000 deaths a day, and where 4-6 million people died from the war of the 1990s.

Must humanitarian crises be bathed in black gold?

For an African perspective on AFRICOM, read Pambazuka News, July 24, 2007 and Afrol News September 23, 2006

Read a Foreign Policy in Focus article on AFRICOM.

(back to July 2007 Newsletter front page)