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HVK Archives: US's hidden agenda in Africa

US's hidden agenda in Africa - The Sunday Observer

Sehlare Makgetianeng ()
June 14-20, 1998

Title: US's hidden agenda in Africa
Author: Sehlare Makgetianeng
Publication: The Sunday Observer
Date: June 14-20, 1998

South Africans and other Africans who support the Clinton
Initiative view it as a response to their call for a Marshall
Plan for Africa.

They are demanding that the US play a leading role in the
struggle to solve the social, political, and economic problems
faced by the majority of people in Africa.

According to them, Africans cannot solve their socio-economic
problems without assistance from the West, particularly the US.
Among these are a considerable number of liberal and conservative
white South Africans who act like self-appointed representatives
of the West in South Africa.

Their position is that post-colonial South Africa should serve
not only as the regional nerve centre, but also as the staging
post and relay station for the maintenance and expansion of US
interests in southern Africa. This is not dissimilar to the role
played by colonial South Africa in southern Africa.

A structural examination and critique of the strategic and
tactical principles which have historically guided US foreign
policy towards Africa is necessary to explain the critical
response of progressive Africans to the Partnership for Promoting
Economic Growth and Opportunity in Africa.

The relationship the US has established and still maintains with
African states follows the dictum that friendship between nations
exists only or primarily when there is a commonality of interests
between their rulers.

US foreign policy is first and foremost a reflection, if not an
extension, of its domestic policy. Its domestic policy, in turn,
is a mirror of the socio-political and economic structures that
underlie the relationship between the different and antagonistic
social forces constituted by its economic system.

Therefore, both within the US and in Africa, there are opponents
as well as supporters of US foreign policy. Those in power in the
US, in their struggle to defend and expand the state's interests
in Africa, are contending with their opponents both in Africa and
nationally.

It is a grave mistake to reduce US foreign policy towards Africa
either to its president or administration. No administration is a
force independent from what it has inherited. It always seeks to
maintain and expand an international structural interlocking
network of strategic and tactical interests, be they social,
political, economic, military, or cultural.

It also seeks to maintain and expand linkages and ties with those
social, political, and economic institutions, both in the US and
in African countries, that serve to maintain its strategic and
tactical interests.

US foreign policy towards Africa therefore takes the form of a
structural interlocking network of class interests, common
interests, and patterns of cooperation between those who control
the state and the economy in the US and those who control the
state and economy in particular African countries. This social,
political, and economic network enables those in power in the US
to defend and expand their interests in certain African
countries.

The Allied victory in World War II resulted in the emergence of
the US as a superpower, or the leader of the corporate
multilateral imperialist camp. US foreign policy, therefore, bore
the double responsibility of defending and expanding not only the
interests of US rulers throughout the world, but also the
interests that were inherent in the status of the US as a
superpower. As such, the US has assumed the role of a self-
appointed world gendarme and, in the process, became judge, jury,
and executioner of the revolutionary and progressive forces in
the liberation struggle.

After World War II, US rulers started to confront the "friendly
tyrant dilemma" in their relations with African rulers who were
allies of the US but whose domestic and foreign policies did not
adhere to the principles of democracy and human rights.

Although US rulers have been emphasizing and over-emphasizing
that they were against tyranny or oppression, their practice
refuted this position. The primary concern of these rulers as
well as intellectuals supporting their position has been how best
to deal with the "friendly tyrants" of the world while
maintaining and expanding their interests. They have consequently
been prepared to support brutal oppressors, particularly in
Africa and Latin America, who assisted in defending and expanding
their interests.

In this dilemma, their strategic security interests were most
often in direct contradiction to their declared commitment to
democracy, human rights, and opposition to oppression. For
example, in the case of Mobutu Sese Seko of the Congo, they were
confronted with the dilemma of whether to continue supporting a
"friendly tyrant" or help bring about his downfall at the risk of
creating a government that might not promote their interests.

Intellectuals supporting US imperialism have developed many
concepts to camouflage the essence of the country's foreign
policy. In the theatre of foreign policy, successive
administrations have employed different means to defend and
expand the strategic interests of those in power in the US.
Various administrations can be readily identified with particular
concepts such as "zero sum" (Harry Truman), "the dominoes" (John
F Kennedy), "credibility" or "undifferentiated globalism"
(Richard Nixon), "human rights" (Jimmy Carter), "strategic
consensus" (Ronald Reagan), "constructive engagement" (Ronald
Reagan), and so on.

These concepts were theoretical and ideological formulations used
to justify the tactical means that administrations used to defend
the dominant position of the US within the international
capitalist system. They were formulations intended to camouflage
the real intentions of US rulers to maintain and expand their
interests and those of their allies throughout the world.

The Clinton administration is not - and cannot be - an exception
to this historical reality. Its Partnership Initiative, which
will be voted into law as the Economic Growth and Opportunity Act
by Congress in 1998, is essentially no different from the Reagan
administration's Caribbean Basin Initiative Plan.

Reciprocal free trade arrangements are central to the Clinton
Initiative. Sub-Saharan African countries will be able to sell
raw materials and light manufactured products to the US at little
or no duties. In return, they have to open their own markets to
US products and investment.

The act will mostly benefit US corporate interests. It will
provide new markets for US products and services, as well as
investment opportunities for US companies seeking cheap raw
materials, cheap labour reserves, and markets for manufactured
products.

Market access offered by the US in return will have no negative
impact on the US economy. Congress found that given the "lack of
competitiveness of sub-Saharan Africa in the global market,
especially in the manufacturing sector", its "limited capacity to
manufacture textiles and apparel" and its "limited capacity to
export" them, African countries' expanded access to the US market
"will not represent a threat to United States workers, consumers,
or manufacturers".

The act also proposes an initiative to reduce the debt of the
heavily indebted poorest countries, or HIPCs. But the US will
demand that those countries that want to qualify for financial
assistance put in place political and economic reforms.

These will include strict budgetary and tax controls that will
protect private property, reduce the state's participation in the
economy, support growth of the private sector, and remove
restrictions on investment. Before countries can even be
considered for HIPC status, they have to put in place a three-
year programme to eliminate trade barriers and sustain a record
of reforms and performance for at least three more years.

It is clear that this act is perpetuating the neo-liberal
ideology of the "Washington Consensus" by promoting economic
structural adjustment, export-led growth, and a strong private
sector. An unusual coalition of leading corporate campaign
donors, conservative and liberal members of Congress, and members
and leaders of different US organizations are therefore seeking
to expand US interests in Africa, supported by political Arid
economic elites in Africa.

Progressive Africans are therefore challenging this initiative as
a continuation of the pattern described above, whereby those who
hold political and economic power in the US are veiling their
real intent (expansion of American capital) through the concepts
(equal growth and opportunity) they use.

(Makgetianeng is senior lecturer in the department of political
studies at the University of the North-West in South Africa)


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