Africa is a key component of China's Belt and Road Initiative. Its inroads into the continent have created panic in Washington and Secretary of State Blinken was dispatched to undo what can't be undone. He engaged in hypocritical hectoring while the administration destabilizes Ethiopia and other African nations.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken's official visit to Africa had the typical hallmarks of paternalism and hypocrisy the U.S. exhibits toward Africa but this time with a subtle difference. Blinken’s trip to meet with heads of state in Kenya, Nigeria, and Senegal was ostensibly to address the COVID-19 pandemic, “building back” to a more inclusive global economy, combating the climate crisis, revitalizing democracies, and advancing peace and security.
The U.S.’s poor performance in all of these areas is now notorious, making it difficult to be as condescending as it tends to be toward Africa. Even though this predicament hasn’t been lost on Blinken who admitted to a group of human rights activists in Nairobi, Kenya “[t]he United States is hardly immune from this challenge” of being vulnerable to misinformation, corruption, political violence and voter intimidation. He was making an apparent reference to the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capital.
The fact is that the US is among the top countries that has done the worst to address the COVID-19 pandemic. It has the highest number of deaths from the disease. It is certainly no model for reducing CO2 emissions, being number one, too, in producing emissions. An oligarchy where only the rich have their interests secured as policy, the US cannot lecture about democracy. Not to mention the fact that the US is most responsible for militarizing the planet with over 800 bases worldwide involved in countless military operations - operations that are largely unknown to the majority of the US public.
Blinken still managed to lecture Africans in Nigeria about human rights and authoritarianism. In this coded language we find both Blinken’s substantive mission, and the most blatant of US-Pan-European hypocrisy. The US is desperately concerned about China, particularly in Africa. And the Democratic Party side of the duopoly feels that the US lost crucial ground in Africa during the Trump presidency’s relative disregard for Africa, and his push to move US military forces from the Horn of Africa.
As prologue to Blinken going to Africa, major US news outlets like NBC Nightly News fed the public stories about US concern over the one military base of China in Djibouti. It was as if the US itself didn't have at least 29 military bases across Africa.
In mafioso style, Blinken suggested the US wants to “protect” African countries from becoming saddled with debt that it cannot handle. This was in reference to the many contracts that China has with several African countries for infrastructure construction. Chinese loans, however, often have low or no interest, and are carried out in a policy of non-interference in the affairs of that country.
When memory serves informed people correctly, we will recall the US and Europe dominated IMF and World Bank loans infamous for their insurmountable interest rates strapped to African countries. And the strings attached to this Western European debt traps include structural adjustment programs that force African and other colonized countries to:
open to foreign investments of capitalist multinational corporations with little to no tariffs,
privatize social services,
reduce or eliminate protections for workers and other locals,
Protect extractive industries from environmental regulations
Even when the US elite and its European counterparts give aid that does not require repayment, it is used as a weapon to impose their will on the rest of the world. It is well known as a method of rewarding allies and punishing those who dare to question the white supremacist global order.
During his last stop in Senegal, Blinken expressed satisfaction about his meetings with African leaders but added that, “we [the US] have to be judged on what we do, not simply on what I say.” Such platitudes could only carry weight with the comprador class in Africa because, as Dave DeCamp points out in antiwar.com, “Over the past two decades, as China was building infrastructure in Africa, the US was busy building military bases and waging wars.”
Of course the Secretary of State’s sit down with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, didn’t address the CIA and MI6 secret war waged on citizens of that country by a US trained paramilitary team that carries out deadly raids on Kenyans suspected of working with alleged terrorist groups. Sending Anthony Blinken to work on ending violence in Ethiopia is tantamount to sending Hillary Clinton to smooth tensions in Libya. It was only 6 months ago that the US Secretary of State alluded to direct military intervention in Ethiopia, threatening, “Should those responsible for undermining a resolution of the crisis in Tigray fail to reverse course, they should anticipate further actions from the United States and the international community.”
The millions of Africans who demonstrated across the world last Sunday, mostly from the Horn of Africa, mostly Ethiopians, prove clearly that US intervention in Ethiopia in particular, and Africa in general, is not welcomed. Peoples-centered solutions to conflicts in Africa require localized, African-led processes for conflict resolution. Space for the nefarious, neo-colonialist Western agendas in Africa is quickly disappearing.
Netfa Freeman is an organizer in Pan-African Community Action (PACA) and on the Coordinating Committee of the Black Alliance for Peace. Netfa is also co-host/producer of the WPFW radio show and podcast Voices With Vision.