Release Date: January 31, 1999
Eric Margolis, c/o Editorial Department, The Toronto Sun
333 King St. East, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5A 3X5
Fax: (416) 960-4803 -- Press Contact: Eric Margolis

Where is Clinton's "African Renaissance"

by Eric Margolis

NEW YORK - Last March, President Bill Clinton went hunting for black votes back home by staging a highly-publicized safari to Africa.

Clinton, who was accompanied by a 1,000-strong entourage more fitting to a Chinese Emperor, proclaimed ` a new African renaissance.'

`Africa's accomplishments,' Clinton effused, `grow more impressive each month.'

Ten months of impressive accomplishments later, more than half of black Africa is convulsed by war, slaughter, or famine.

Sudan, the largest nation, is torn by civil war. So, too, Sierra Leone, where drug-crazed rebels chop off the hands and feet of their victims. Eritrea and Ethiopia are warring over a barren border region - `like two bald men fighting over a comb,' one wit noted. Tribal warfare rages in Uganda, Guinea-Bissau, Congo Brazaville, and Liberia. Rwanda is a mountain of bones.

But the most interesting conflicts are in Congo(ex-Zaire), and Angola. They offer a striking sense of deja vu:

Seven armies are battling over Congo, Africa's treasure house of gold, copper, gemstones, and cobalt. Congo's 30,000 man `army' has never been more than gangs of uniformed thugs. So current dictator, Lumumbaist-marxist revolutionary Laurent Kabila, called in troops from fellow, left-leaning African states: 4,000 Angolans, 3,500 Zimbabweans, 1,000 Chadians, 1,000 Sudanese, and 8,000 Hutus who led the massacre of 500,000 Tutsi in their native Rwanda.

Opposing this leftist coalition are anti-Kabila Congolese, led by the delightfully-named Wamba dia Wamba, backed by 4,000 Ugandan regulars, and 6,000 Tutsis warriors from the eastern Congo, and from the Rwandan army. White mercenaries from South African and Europe are being employed by all sides. Powerful US, Canadian, and European mining companies bankroll the Congo fighting.

War has erupted again in neighboring Angola. Though twice the size of France, oil, mineral, and diamond-rich Angola has only 11.3 million people. If properly managed and farmed, its lush central plateau could feed ALL of black Africa. Instead, wretched, dirt-poor Angola has endless civil war, armies of refugees, pockets of starvation, spreading HIV epidemic - which Cuban soldiers took back to their island in the 1980's - and millions of uncharted land mines.

UN efforts to make peace and form a coalition government between Angola's two warring factions, the communist MPLA, and anti-communist UNITA, totally failed. The Angolan civil war, which began in 1975, has resumed full force. Completing the deja vu, Cuban troops have once again landed in Angola to support the marxist regime in Luanda.

I twice covered the Angolan war, including big, fierce battles at Cuito Cuanavale, and Mavinga, that pitted Angolan communist soldiers, backed by 55,000 Cuban mechanized troops, Cuban piloted MiG's, and thousands of Soviet, East German, and Bulgarian military advisors, against Gen. Jonas Savimbi's UNITA army, supported by South Africa and CIA.

By fascinating coincidence, I learned years later in Moscow that my driver, a retired Red Army colonel, had been in a forward position during the same battle for Cuito: I had been firing 122mm rockets at his strongpoint. His unit had been firing back at us with heavy mortars.

At the Cold War's end, the US abandoned its ally, Gen. Savimbi, and backed the communist regime in Luanda. Angola became one of America's most important suppliers of high- grade oil. Since then, the US has used the UN to try to disarm, discredit, and neutralize UNITA, whose anti- communism and free-market advocacy, had become inconvenient. The Clinton Administration fed the US media a steady stream of anti-UNITA stories designed to isolate the movement and pave the way for its demise. Clinton's black supporters railed against UNITA for having once accepted aid from white-ruled South Africa.

Savimbi, a multi-lingual PhD, was, I discovered, one of Africa's most intelligent, impressive, capable leaders, and, notably, the only one who ever is on time. But he was shunned by the US, which was content to deal with the communist regime so long as it suplied oil. Sustained by back-country diamond fields, discreet aid from Zaire's late chief, Gen. Mobutu, and his Ovambundu tribe, which makes up nearly half Angola's people, Savimbi soldiered on. However, Congo's new Kabila regime, quickly made an alliance with Angola's marxists, blessed by the US, and Zimbabwe's leftist leader, Robert Mugabe,to crush Savimbi and UNITA.

Now, we see the exceedingly curious spectacle of the US- backed communist regime in Luanda using US dollars from the sale of oil to America to hire anti-American Cuban communist troops to fight pro-American, anti-communist Angolans, and to resume buying arms from Russia, with American money.

Henry Kissinger once remarked being America's ally was more dangerous than being its enemy. Abandoned ally Savimbi is yet one more shameful example.

War, famine, socialism, and tribalism, as well as growing disease and corruption, have tuned black Africa into the world's worst human disaster area. The GDP of the region has actually declined over the four decades since independence. Many parts of southern Africa are literally going back into the bush. Even once prosperous South Africa is engulfed by waves of violent crime.

Africa's former white colonial exploiters have lost interest in the deeply troubled continent. Half black Africa is at war; the other half in fast worsening economic distress.

So much for Bill Clinton's `African Renaissance.'

[Eric Margolis is a syndicated foreign affairs columnist and broadcaster based in Toronto, Canada.]

[The global diamond trade is continuing to fund vicious civil wars in countries such as Ivory Coast and Liberia, despite international efforts to blacklist stones from regions at war.--Paul Kelbie, "Rough trade: Diamond industry still funding bloody conflicts in Africa," Independent, February 10, 2006]

Copyright © 1999 Eric Margolis - All Rights Reserved
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