East Africa is caught in a deadly resource paradox, the resolution of which will either result in great development or the reduction of our homeland into a wasteland of war, death and oil.There was a lot of (unhealthy?) excitement recently in energy circles over gas finds in the general East African region, mainly in Mozambique and Tanzania.
AFP, the French wire service, claimed that East Africa was poised to become “a major player” in the global energy sphere.
The excitement arose from the discovery of 60 trillion cubic feet of natural gas in Mozambique by Anadarko, a company out of Houston, Texas.
Another discovery I have seen in the news is by Italian firm ENI of 52 trillion cubic feet of recoverable gas in the somewhat rich Rovuma basin in the Indian Ocean.
I have been adding up Tanzania’s discoveries, and I have 90 trillion cubic feet. This is a lot of wealth.
AFP quoted the US Geological Service rather helpfully estimating that the East African share of the Indian Ocean, stretching from Mozambique to the Seychelles, has 50 per cent more gas than Saudi Arabia: some 441.1 cubic metres of it.
A lot of it is, of course, just there on the ocean floor waiting for foreign companies to discover and profit from.
Put that aside and let’s turn to another interesting and related story.
This one was in the Guardian by one Dan Glazebrook and published under the headline “The imperial agenda of the US’s ‘Africa command’ marches on”.
Africom, as it is known, is one of six regionally-focused military organisations (for lack of a better word) within the US Department of Defence. So why does the world’s sole superpower have an entire military wing dedicated to poor little us?
Mr Glazebrook quotes Africom’s mission statement (which you can read for yourself at http://www.africom.mil <http://www.africom.mil/>) as a command that “contributes to increasing security, stability in Africa, allowing African states and regional organisations to promote democracy, to expand development, to provide for their common defence and to better secure their people”.
Mr Glazebrook thinks that Africom was decreed into being by former President Bush to help America “re-assert its waning influence in the continent in the face of growing Chinese investment”.
And he digs around and comes up with statements by Africom founder and first deputy commander, Robert Moeller, who died in retirement last year.
He is quoted as saying that the purpose of Africom was the preservation of “the free flow of natural resources from Africa to the global market” and “Let there be no mistake, Africom’s job is to protect American lives and to promote American interests”.
Africom’s first major war was Operation Odyssey Dawn, the Libyan conflict which led to the toppling and killing of Muammar Gaddafi, Africom’s fiercest critic and adversary.
In that conflict, Mr Glazebrook sees echoes of British imperial past during which Britain got natives to fight colonial wars against themselves on its behalf.
In that analysis, Africa’s militaries will fight proxy wars on behalf of Africom to ensure foreign powers, or the “global market”, get our natural resources. All this, by the way, could be the imaginings of a leftist nut.
But suppose it were true; what is our capacity to negotiate with these powers to ensure that our people get a fair return from their natural resources?
What is our capacity to protect the interests of local communities and the environment so that we do not have another Ogoniland on a regional scale?
How do we ensure that foreign powers do not kill our leaders and steal our natural resources?
How do we secure our children's future irrespective of the resources in their land?
In the face of what is certain to be a fierce competition for our energy resources, how do we ensure that this and future generations do not become embittered and radicalized, as has happened in the Middle East?
Of course, it all starts here at home. We probably need to try and be less stupid and create open, transparent and sustainable structures for the management of resources.
Secondly, this region must come together, act together, negotiate together.
We have umbrellas such as EAC and Igad under which we can respond collectively.
By MUTUMA MATHIU [email protected]
Posted Thursday, June 21 2012 at 20:10