Friday, December 19, 2008

Canada's Constant Gardner

The recent kidnapping in Niger of a Canadian Diplomat assigned to the UN reminded me of John LeCarre's novel; The Constant Gardner, which opens with the disappearance and subsequnet murder of a British Diplomats wife. In fact the senarios are very close.

In this case however the culprits are not global pharmaceutical companies but global mining companies as the article in the Globe and Mail (reprinted below) points out. Ironically while uranium mining is Niger's chief source of development funding, dominated by French corporartions, Canada's friendly imperialism is in promotion of gold mining.

Envoys visited Niger mine on day they vanished
Diplomats ate lunch at the site with employees and left in the afternoon without incident, company spokesman says

And of course we all know Niger from it's apparent role in justifying the U.S. invasion of Iraq because of its uranium.

The vesitages of French colonialism and in the case of other West African countries now in conflict, Belgium colonialism, are the real reason for the so called tribal wars that rage across that contient. The current wars are the old wars of the colonial age. Wars over resources in particular mining interests.The so called atrocities committed in the Congo, Darfur, Rawanda,etc. like the cutting off of hands and mass extermination of ethinic minorities, are not tribal traditions, but modern horrors introduced by European colonial powers. It was European Imperialism at the turn of last century that picked winners and losers and the losers are still fighting back.

However in the case of Niger, the losers are the vestiges of an earlier colonialism, that of Islam and its economy of slavery. This is often overlooked by the apologists for Islam, who attempt to white wash its own role in the development of Africa as a slave colony before the coming of Europeans. Before the European slave trade developed it was preceded by the Arab/Islamic slave trade, which it adapted to its colonial needs to build the new world.

Slavery is the result of patriarchical caste societies, who rely on it as an economic base for production. Caste societies are made up of warriors, merchants and priests and someone has to do the work, which results in the enslavement of those who are out-caste.

Today the small African countries that occasionally make it into the news, like Niger or Chad, are being fought over again for their resources, uranium, gold, copper, heavy metals, and oil. The so called tribal conflicts are localized wars on behalf of modern Imperialist nations, including not only America and Europe but China and yes Canada. Development in Africa remains 'resource' development for global corporations, not sustainable economies for Africans. The result is the mass migration from Africa to Europe of the dispossessed and the genocidal internecine conflicts that make the news like the situation today in Niger.

Because Globe and Mail opinion pieces disappear behind subscriber only walls I am reprinting it here in full.

Caught in the crossfire of two historical forces
From Thursday's Globe and Mail
December 18, 2008 at 12:00 AM EST
The disappearance of two Canadian diplomats in the predominantly Muslim West African country of Niger - there is speculation their apparent abduction is related to a complex conflict involving the Niger government, rebel groups and international mining companies - is part of a much wider game: the struggle for political and economic power in one of the poorest countries in the world.
Niger is a nation of high infant-mortality rates. Slavery is still widely practised, with some sources suggesting that 8 per cent of the population live a life of bondage. Niger is also a nation plagued by periodic drought. It cannot grow enough food to feed itself, and it is dependant on donors. It has been democratic for less than a decade and it has experienced periodic rebellions by its northern ethnic groups.
The latest round of fighting began last year. This could be the fifth or the 10th "Tuareg revolt" of the past 100 years, depending on who's counting. Quite simply, there is a power struggle going on for who controls, and benefits from, Niger's meagre resources, a struggle that is being directed by the elites of two coalitions of ethnic groups - one largely African and agricultural that is based in the southern part of the country, the other largely Berber and nomadic pastoral that is based in the north. It is a struggle that has been going on for centuries, and it is a conflict as old as Jacob and Esau.
The southern, smallest and most densely populated part of the country is close to the Niger River where the Hausa, Djerma-Songhai and Gourmantche peoples sustain themselves through subsistence agriculture. These people are the dark-skinned descendants of the great sedentary Sahelian Muslim kingdoms that arose during the Middle Ages and to whose French-educated elites the former French colonialists gave the reins of power, when Niger became independent in the 1960s.
The largest groups of northerners are the Tuareg, light-skinned nomadic camel herders, former slave traders and raiders who were once the masters of the Saharan gold trade. During colonial times, they were the most resistant to modernization, education and change. They were, and to some degree remain, predatory warriors and smugglers who roam the desert caravan routes, taking what they want by sword or gun.
During colonial times, their elites did not send their sons to France, so they did not master the "means of administration." Ever since the southerners took control of the state and the army after independence, they have been at a distinct disadvantage.
Since then, their grazing lands have been restricted, their slave raiding and slaves have been declared illegal, their elites have not been represented in the government and, most galling to them, they have not shared in any of the wealth that has emerged from the uranium mines that supply Niger with 70 per cent of its export earnings and that are located in the desert wastelands of their traditional grazing lands.
Until recently, French companies had a monopoly on the mining and exportation of uranium from the deserts of northern Niger. In the past two years, however, the Niger government has considered allowing other companies to invest, including Canadian firms that are also involved in the development of gold mines. Through their periodic rebellions, the Tuareg are trying to tell both the government and foreign investors that they want a piece of the pie. And since it has been their historical custom to take what they want, they most likely kidnapped the two Canadians - Robert Fowler and Louis Guay, both of whom were representing the United Nations - in the hope that the Canadian government could help them put pressure on the Niger government and thus gain the pair's release.
UN negotiators have dealt with this kind of situation before, and one sincerely hopes they will find a way to negotiate the release of Mr. Fowler and Mr. Guay. Meantime, Canadians should recognize that Niger and the other states of the Sahel are one extended battleground between northerners and southerners. In Niger, Mali, Chad and Sudan, one must take great care not to get caught in the crossfire between these two opposing historical forces.
Geoffrey Clarfield is a Toronto-based anthropologist.

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bathmate said...

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bathmate said...

As always an excellent posting.The
way you write is awesome.Thanks. Adding more information will be more useful.