African wars, Global Gateway and the European Peace Facility
Well, it is really not a big news that the USA, Europeans, Chinese, Russia, Turkey and other regional powers from the Gulf states from Qatar, Saudiarabia or the UAE are having a fierce fight about the resources and spheres of influence in Africa. Seldom have African countries been so courted as in the past few weeks. In Brussels, the President of the EU Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, announced on Wednesday last week that up to 300 billion euros would be invested in infrastructure projects in emerging and developing countries, especially in Africa, over the next six years under the title “Global Gateway”. These investments would »meet the highest social and environmental standards and be in a line with the democratic values of the EU as well Two days earlier, Chinese President Xi Jinping had sent his promises by video greeting to the Sino-African Cooperation Forum, the eighth conference of which was held in the Senegalese capital Dakar last week. China will increase the value of Chinese imports from Africa in the country through large investments and in the „perpetual spirit of Sino-African friendship and cooperation between the two sides, which is characterized by sincere friendship, equality, mutual benefit and common development, fairness and justice.“ over the next three years to 300 billion US dollars. Let´s take the Democratic Republic of Congo as an role model for it.
According to research by the New York Times, 15 of the 19 cobalt mines in the Congo are now owned or financed by Chinese companies. The emphasis on values and reciprocity stands in striking contrast to the actual practice of the competing major economic powers on the African continent. The raw materials sector in particular, which neo-imperial courtship is all about, is traditionally characterized by corruption, environmental destruction and the expropriation of local populations. The history of today’s Democratic Republic of Congo can be told as a series of scandals in this sector since the so-called Congo Free State was founded in 1885. One of these episodes is about Glencore, the world’s largest mining company. He operates large copper and cobalt mines in the Congo, which he allegedly acquired through corruption. Legal and regulatory investigations are currently ongoing against the company in Canada, the United States, and the United Kingdom. Most recently, the Swiss judiciary has also started investigations against the group registered in the Swiss canton Zug. Before the start of the Sino-African Cooperation Forum, Western media had particularly criticized the Chinese cobalt extraction in the Congo. Cobalt, a heavy metal, has so far been irreplaceable in the production of large batteries, for example for electric cars. The largest reserves, around half of the world’s known deposits of the metal, are located in the Congo. 70 percent of annual production currently comes from the Central African country similar as rare earth from Burundi. Last month, the New York Times published a long research into Chinese cobalt mining in Lualaba Province in southern Congo.
According to the US daily, China is following „a disciplined game plan, which Beijing announced with great fanfare in 2015 in order to dominate the emerging clean energy industry in the world.“ According to research by the New York Times, 15 of the 19 cobalt mines in the Congo are now owned or financed by Chinese companies. In these mines, according to the newspaper, there are regular serious accidents at work. Protests by workers would be suppressed, villages would be evacuated in order to develop cobalt deposits. The supremacy of Chinese firms has alarmed the US government, which fears that US electric car manufacturers will become dependent on Chinese battery manufacturers. According to a report by the White House published in June this year, the main problem with the existing cobalt supply is that „more than half of the cobalt reserves are in the Democratic Republic of Congo,“ where mining and working conditions are poor by international standards. and „that China has a dominant position in cobalt mining and in the processing of materials extracted in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.“
This supremacy, which China also has in other areas of the Congolese raw materials sector, goes back to the so-called Sicomines Agreement, which China and the Democratic Republic of Congo announced in 2007 and concluded in 2009. The then Congolese President Joseph Kabila wanted to use the agreement to promote the renewal of the country’s infrastructure and thus fulfill one of his key election promises. For this purpose Sicomines was founded, a joint venture between the state-owned Congolese mining company Gécamines and a consortium of Chinese companies, which received concessions to mine several million tons of copper and several hundred thousand tons of cobalt. In return, the Chinese side promised to renew some highways, to build electrical lines and hospitals and to realize some construction projects in the center of the Congolese capital Kinshasa. According to research by the French daily Le Monde, there is still not a single one of the 31 hospitals whose construction was agreed in the agreement. The project was financed by Chinese state banks. The profits from the extraction of raw materials should, however, be secured by the Congolese state, which would have resulted in liabilities of nine billion US dollars. This in particular called the western financiers of the then de facto bankrupt country on the scene, who had been negotiating a debt reduction for years and criticized the planned new liabilities as irresponsible. After much back and forth, the then director of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, traveled to Kinshasa in 2009. Kabila received a sweeping $ 12 billion debt cancellation, leaving the country almost debt free.
In return, Kabila reduced the volume of the infrastructure projects agreed with China to three billion US dollars and excluded state liability for the profits from the extraction of raw materials. Nevertheless, the Sicomines Agreement marked the beginning of Chinese hegemony in the resource-rich country. This has been strengthened in recent years by the US commodity group Freeport-McMoRan selling two huge cobalt concessions to the largely state-financed Chinese company China Molybdenum. In August of this year, however, Kabila’s successor, President Félix Tshisekedi, set up a commission to review the agreement. Such commissions are nothing unusual in the Congo: Kabila also questioned raw materials agreements with foreign concessionaires several times on the grounds that they might have come about in an unfair manner. The foreign companies were repeatedly forced to renegotiate, and further bribes were allegedly paid on these occasions. In any case, the mining operations were ultimately able to continue mostly undisturbed. Tshisekedi is currently engaged in a power struggle with Kabila and his political camp. Kabila left Tshisekedi the presidency after the presidential election at the end of 2018, although he probably only received the third most votes. Control of parliament and the military, however, was retained by Kabila’s camp. Since then, Tshisekedi has tried to free himself from the dominance of the Kabila camp. In doing so, he is building on good relationships with the USA, among other things. A report published last month by The Sentry, a think tank affiliated with President Joe Biden’s Democratic Party, comes at the right time. The Sentry, citing leaked documents, claims that following the conclusion of the Sicomines agreement, US $ 55 million from foreign sources went to the letterbox company Congo Construction Company (CCC) founded by Chinese former Sicomines employee Du Wei. The money was apparently intended for Kabila and his entourage. According to recently published research by the Spiegel and other media, the CCC had its account with the BGFI bank, which was in fact controlled by the Kabila family. It is quite possible that Tshisekedi is now trying to suggest to the US government that he will cancel the cobalt concessions sold to China. However, even Tshisekedi will hardly seriously jeopardize relations with Chinese partners, but rather like his predecessor, try to use the neo-imperial competition for the Congolese mineral resources to his advantage.
However in this competition the EU also wants to be part of the great game beyond Global Gateway.And as the US AFRICOM seems to become more passive and Russia, Turkey, China and other regional powers are engaging more militarily by military aid, military advisers, mercenary and security armies like Russian Wagner or troops like Turkey in Libya or even military bases, the EU is also changing course. In December 2020, an agreement was reached on a European Defense Fund (EDF), which will provide eight billion euros for new weapons stocks and the development of military technologies for armies in and outside the EU. In addition, an extra-budgetary fund was decided in March 2021 with the European Peace Facility (EFF), a shadow budget to the EU budget. The aim is to finance training missions and weapons arsenals for non-European armies around the world. France, Germany, the EU Commission and a majority of MEPs in the European Parliament pushed for these instruments to be available. It is important to rely on more international power from the EU, so the tenor. The reasons given were the conflicts in the Middle East, the Sahel zone and the Ukraine, as well as the isolationist course that the USA had taken under Donald Trump. A strong dose of “hard power” is needed. In addition, it is inefficient if 27 national armies maintain their own weapons systems. The European arms industry is to benefit from the approved research and development funds and sell more weapons outside of the EU. “The challenges are becoming more diverse, especially in areas where Americans say to Europeans, Hey! Take care of it, ”said the conservative German MEP Michael Gahler from the Parliament’s Security and Defense Subcommittee. According to Gahler, Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 was an impetus for a more militarized EU: „Don’t think of Trump, think of Putin.“
Despite its name, the European Peace Facility (Europäische Friedensfazilität), which has € 5 billion till 2028, will enable the EU to supply military equipment, including deadly weapons, to non-European armies. This should open up more freedom of movement, especially in Africa, as long as the arms transfers go directly to national governments. So far, the African Union had to be contacted at least for this. There is no need for prophecy to assume that such a practice leads to more human rights violations, does not contribute to the protection of the civilian population and to the search for political solutions, for example in the Sahel region. And that is precisely the area in which the Peace Facility is very likely to come into play: in Mauritania, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali, Chad. Here, the EU’s strategic interest in curbing migration to Europe is overwhelming. Since the uprising against the Malian government in 2011, anti-terrorism operations in this area have increased from year to year. EU instructors not only train the army, police and border troops in Mali, neighbors such as Burkina Faso and Niger are also covered. Despite the presence of foreign troops and a UN peacekeeping mission, violence in Mali, Niger and Burkina Faso has recently increased significantly, but instead of rethinking its strategy, there are signs that the EU is maintaining its military options. France decided to reduce its troops in Mali, but still wants to keep most of them there.
The situation in Africa is very unstable and mixed. In oil exporting Algeria the power of the old FLN elite and the military is eroding, but supported by the West, while the Islamists which have been pushed back in the 1990s after the FIS victory in the election by the military and the price of a dark decade, are on the rise again, but there is also a democratic movement.Howver, Algeria is now engaged in a conflict with Morocco because of its support for the Polisario and the West Sahara. Morrocco itself seems to be pretty stable and as a role model for the region as the Mslimbrotherhood lost in the elections and a secular democratic candidate seized power under the umbrella of an enlightened monarch. Tunesia the only country which had a democracy after the Arab Spring, is under Saeid also becoming more authotarian while the democratic opposition and the Muslimbrotherhood of Ennadah chief Ghanouchi are both waiting for their chance. While Libya had a peace treaty and will hold election in December, it is still unclear if the involved parties and candidates will accept the election outcome or not engage in a new civil war or paralyze the country again- between the government in Tripolis and the government in Tobruk—between General Haftar who is supported by the UAE with tactical support of Russia and the candidates of the Turkish- backed Muslimbrothers or Ghaddafi´s son Saif El Islam Ghaddafi.
In Libya elections will be held on December 24th, at Christmas In the run-up for the elections, rumors of a Ghaddafi treasure are circulating that Ghaddafi’s son Saif El-Islam, who is also running, could use. The traces lead to South Africa to the ANC Presidents Zuma and Ramaphosa. Two Germans, a right-wing extremist former SWAT unit police officer and a libertarian businessman turn up as treasure hunters .Indiana Jones and Relic Hunter send their regards. The German daily taz devotes extensive research to this:
Egypt till now seems to be pretty stable under General Al Sissi, even if the Islamic State is still fighting on the Sinai peninsula and the Muslimbrothers are waiting for a chance, while bordering Sudan was in turmoil and just had a military coup. However, General Burhan accepted that the toppled civil prime minster Hamdok returned to his office, but the latter is now perceived by the democratic movement as a puppet of the military and there are demands not to have a transition period but to have a purely civilian government.There are no news about South Sudan after the two main leaders made a mess out of the oil rich new state and brought the hoped-for new Sudan to the brink of starvation after their war against each other.
However, in the belt from Nigeria to the Sahel Islamism and also the Islamic State are on the rise and also already are building terror cells and Islamist guerillas in Uganda, Mozambique or the DR Congo. Therefore Kagame´s Ruanda helped the Mozambique army with his troop to suppress the Islamic State which had conquered natural gas fields in Northern Mozambique or Uganda helped the Congolese army against the ADF branch of the Islamic State. The war in Ethiopia till now is a fight between the central government and the Tigray People´s Liberation Front and parts of the Oromos, especially Oromo seperatists. However, as most Oromos are Muslims, Islamism could spill over if the Somalian Al Shabbab gets engaged in the former Ogaden and Oromo region. Ethiopia already before sent Ethopian troops to help the Somalian government against the Islamist Al Shabab guerilla .Whether the 5 billion Euro of the EPF and EDF are sufficient for such an counterinsurgency, weapon deliveries, military training or even more European troops, remains to be seen. Also if these engagements will lead to somewhere or some sort of stability as 1.2 trillion $ in Afghanistan and NATO troops couldn´t prevent a desaster.However, counterinsurgency can only win if you win the hearts and minds of a population which then wants to support its goverment and leaders and which is willing to sacrifice and to fight for the country and this can be achieved not only by military means. On the other side to believe that you could win a war against Islamists only by development aid and peace tea talks like the German Left Party (Linkspartei) or Christian peace icon Margot Käßmann is also doomed to fail.