Africa

Liberia: Blood and Diamonds

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Leo Zeilig traces the history of the crisis gripping Liberia.

On a demonstration in the Liberian capital Monrovia in June, a demonstrator held up a handmade placard that read 'America Come and Save Us'. The depth of the crisis that has gripped Liberia in the last few months - which has resulted in thousands fleeing their homes and thousands more being killed in fighting - has led many to hope that the US would intervene to stop the fighting. In August the president, Charles Taylor, was forced to step down and was granted asylum by the Nigerian government. Taylor was installed in Calabar, in two palatial mansions.

Kenya: The Safest Pair of Hands

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Kenyans had good reason to cheer when Uhuru Kenyatta was heavily defeated in the presidential election at the end of last year.

Kenyatta was the chosen successor of Daniel arap Moi, the man who ruled the country for 24 years from 1978. It was probably a surprise to many people that Moi did not fiddle the result this time--as he did in 1992 and 1997. Such blatant rigging was passed over by Moi's western backers, who saw him as a valuable agent of 'stability' in the region. Moi got on very well with the British Tories. Kenya's prestigious Moi University proudly boasts the Margaret Thatcher library. During the first Gulf War in 1991 against Iraq, Moi lined up completely with US demands.

Oil: The New Scramble for Africa

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The US is eyeing up Africa's oil.

In the middle of last month a group of oil executives, US government officials and African politicians met in Houston, Texas, to organise a new carve-up of Africa's resources. The background is a scramble for oil that is reshaping western policy towards West Africa. It could also lay the basis for civil wars, tension between the US and European powers and future military intervention.

Scar on the Conscience of the World

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Review of 'Class Struggle and Resistance in Africa', ed. Leo Zeilig, New Clarion Press £12.95

Tony Blair's stance towards Africa effectively sums up that taken by the rulers of the world more generally. At the Labour Party conference last October he called Africa 'a scar on the conscience of the world'--before authorising the sale to impoverished Tanzania of a military air traffic control system that even the World Bank has condemned as inappropriate. Africa, in other words, is a basket case, there just to be exploited economically and militarily.

The plight of Africa is indeed grim. Giovanni Arrighi sums it up in the latest issue of New Left Review:

Into the Heart of Darkness

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The global 'civilisers' have left a bloody legacy in Africa.

It seems appropriate that Francis Ford Coppola's 'Apocalypse Now' should be reissued. Its central figure, Kurtz, the crazed officer who reverts to a state of barbarism deep in the rainforest, might be taken to symbolise the same 'evil forces' that Blair and Bush denounce in their daily meetings with the press. Kurtz first appeared in Joseph Conrad's 'Heart of Darkness', but his role was complex.

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