Into the Heart of Darkness

December 21, 2017
Many Americans were stunned to read on their smart phones that the Trump Administration temporarily recommended lifting the ban on elephant trophy hunting in Zambia and Zimbabwe. The conservation debate aside, between wildlife management plans that allow local economies to benefit from big game hunting expeditions versus the indiscriminate poaching of the magnificent crop eating, livestock destroying, & structure leveling nuisances, the harm from American and Chinese demand for illegal ivory is just a microcosm for all the damage our capitalist culture has done to Africa. Recent headlines from the heart of darkness of Niger Islamist militants ambushing four American combat advisors, Boko Haram kidnapping 276 school girls, & African refugees being sold into slavery on Libyan auction blocks all stem from our need for raw commodities, like the rare African space metals that will make reading this possible on the handheld device awaiting you, a family member, or a friend under the Christmas tree.

African intrigue of unconquerable wildernesses, prehistoric megafauna, & deadly diseases has riveted imaginations throughout the centuries. What began in the 7th century as a simple caravan route through the land of our creation to exchange Arab beads, cloth, & wire for African ivory, devolved by the 16th century into the aptly named Ivory, Gold, & Slave Coasts due to the continent's exploitation by rival African slaver war parties, Arab slave traders, & European empires. Surreal tales from Zanzibar of tribal markings, lip plates, & cannibalism became international lore during the 19th century as the Royal Geographical Society's expeditions led by Sidi Mubarak Bombay, Richard Francis Burton, & David Livingstone trail blazed the continents interior allowing for the creation of outposts, settlements, & eventual colonies. By the time the tinderbox of forty-eight sub-Saharan countries gained their independence late last century, international corporations already secured long term natural resource extraction contracts cursing the newly formed governments to economies solely based on single commodities leading to graft, nonexistent social contracts, & extreme inequality. In this unfettered free market bonanza, African plutocracies compete to offer lucrative incentives to phalanxes of lawyers representing the very oil and mining corporations that already profit from host nation shell companies, offshore tax havens, & complex subsidiaries. The extremely profitable trade of these commodities on the New York, London, & Hong Kong exchanges is why President Trump congratulated African Leaders during a United Nations speech this past September, saying he has ‘so many' friends who are ‘going to your countries trying to get rich.'

Only a coup against a sitting strong man, not the mass environmental degradation, starvation, or refugee migration, got western governments to slow the African looting machine, that was until China's need for raw materials and investments to sustain their growth turned sub-Saharan Africa into their second continent. China operates under its own globalization rules with a modern day barter system where as payment it accepts Guinea's aluminum alloy reserves for our everyday use, Congo's tantalum bearing ores for our mobile devices, & Zimbabwe's unrefined blood diamonds for our jewelry. In return, China provides its own resources, labor, & equipment to not just build roads, bridges, & airports to extract the commodities, but entire ports with oil refineries to export their petroleum, hydro-electric dams to provide most sub-Saharan Africa's electricity, & even the African Union's new $200 million skyscraper headquarters in Ethiopia. China does not stop extracting when juntas take over in countries like Niger, a landlocked nation on the southern fringe of the Sahara Desert that has two-thirds of its population living on less than one dollar a day, yet controls the richest deposits of uranium ore used to fuel three-quarters of China's growing nuclear power industry. China claims its efforts will allow sub-Saharan Africa to emerge from poverty, however in actuality the large numbers of Chinese doctors, teachers, & entrepreneurs moving to sub-Saharan Africa are worsening the Dutch Disease that afflicts even the largest economy. Imported fare has put the farmers that supplied Nigeria's local produce market out of work, smuggled cheap Chinese counterfeit clothing with Made in Nigeria labels caused their textile industry to collapse, & the illegal transshipment of contraband has overtaken neighboring Benin's economy denying the much needed revenue from duties.

Despite Nigeria's fertile lands, abundant natural resources, & highly educated ex patriots, flaring off the top of oil rigs across the Niger Delta symbolizes not only the continent's largest oil producer, but the entire region where only half as much electricity is produced as North Korea, diesel generators are cost prohibitive, & the siphoning of oil from pipelines to illegally bunker waiting tankers is a $3 billion industry. Masses of unemployed youth listen to their unaccomplished officials fault rival tribes or religions for their dire situations, watch their natural resources leave for foreign lands, & go hungry as climate change driven famines afflict tens of thousands. With no other prospects, many radicalize and join extremist organizations like Boko Haram, the planet's deadliest, to lay bare for all to see that the corrupt west African governments can do nothing to protect their villages from burning, cities from suicide bombers, & even their precious offshore oil rigs from being sacked. To protect our access to their resources, the United States has 6,000 uniformed personnel deployed across the continent to advise militaries, man the ever-expanding archipelago of drone bases, & show how to operate military equipment like the twelve turboprop A-29 Super Tucano light attack aircraft that were recently approved for sale to Nigeria. Despite our military buildup, the four Nigerien soldiers and their American combat advisors, that destroyed a militant bush camp in a Malian nature reserve only to be killed by former nomadic herders likely using weapons looted from Libyan armories, lacked even the minimal level of military support their counterparts receive in Afghanistan, Iraq, & Syria.

The Twelve Days of Christmas epitomize our materialistic culture that unintentionally contributes to the poverty, political upheaval, & terrorism that are causing vast populations of malnourished African refugees to crowd into nonfunctioning cities, seek refuge in eight of the world's ten largest refugee camps, or float adrift in the Mediterranean without European countries answering their prayers. Meanwhile, more American service members will be deployed every Christmas to protect our cheap natural resource supply until Congress stops abdicating their constitutional duty and repeals the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force that presidential administrations rely on for our military operations despite Niger's Islamic State in the Greater Sahara, Somalia's Al Shabaab, & Boko Haram not even existing when we invaded Afghanistan to pursue Al Qaeda. Given that Africa loses more revenue from extraction contracts than it receives from all foreign aid combined, if you can afford giving a handheld device made from African ore this Christmas, also consider giving to a Non-Governmental Organization that directly micro-finances impoverished Africans to set up small enterprises, insure their crops, or save for the future.