West Scrambles for Africa’s Diamonds

U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas
Pickering announced Aug. 9 that the United States will send
several hundred Special Forces troops from Ft. Bragg, N.C.,
to Nigeria. The U.S. bill will be $20 million. It is the biggest
commitment of U.S. troops to Africa since Pentagon forces
were routed from Somalia in 1993.

U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas
Pickering announced Aug. 9 that the United States will send
several hundred Special Forces troops from Ft. Bragg, N.C.,
to Nigeria. The U.S. bill will be $20 million. It is the biggest
commitment of U.S. troops to Africa since Pentagon forces
were routed from Somalia in 1993.

Their mission is to train and equip 4,000
Nigerian soldiers to fight against an insurgent movement in
Sierra Leone. The U.S. forces will also train smaller
numbers of troops from Ghana, and possibly from Mali and
Senegal.

Pickering said that Washington has "gone through an
agonizing reappraisal" of its policy toward Sierra Leone.
Trying to justify U.S. military involvement, he reiterated
charges that the Revolutionary United Front, the force
fighting the government, had chopped off the limbs of
civilians.

Pickering said nothing about the casualties inflicted by
British troops, who carried out an offensive last month in
their former colony. Nor did he remind world public opinion
of the Nigerian naval blockade and aerial bombardment of the
capital, Freetown, in 1997, after the government favored by
Britain and the United States had been overthrown in a
military coup.

For over a century, the imperialist powers have used charges
of atrocities to corral public support for their own bloody,
interventionist schemes.

Sierra Leone, a West African nation of 4.8 million people,
was an outright colony of Britain until 1961. 75 percent of the people live in extreme poverty.
The country’s gross domestic product is one of the lowest in the world.

A civil war has raged there since 1991. During that time
military factions have carried out several coups.

In April of this year, RUF forces captured 500 UN troops.
There was heavy fighting in northern Sierra Leone, driving
350,000 refugees into neighboring Guinea.

In May the RUF seized several diamond mines.

Britain, the former colonial power in Sierra Leone, sent
several hundred paratroopers into the capital of Freetown,
accompanied by an aircraft carrier and other ships,
supposedly to evacuate British nationals. A U.S. Navy
warship was also sent to the area.

The UN Security Council has voted to ban
diamond sales from Sierra Leone until a certification system
is put in place by the government. Holbrooke charged that
the diamonds were fueling the RUF in the civil war and
enriching officials from neighboring Liberia.

Holbrooke says not a word about the diamonds having enriched
foreign imperialists for years.

Capitalists at the helm of firms like Shell Oil, De Beers
and Oppenheimer have had many restless nights. De Beers,
whose interest is diamonds, is deeply involved in Sierra
Leone, Liberia and Guinea.

Clinton’s visit to Nigeria in September will be another
great unequal exchange. Nigeria will go back to war. The
United States will train its troops. In exchange, Washington
will assist in rescheduling about 80 percent of Nigeria’s
debt, according to InterPress Service.

In Lagos, U.S. Under Secretary of State for Business and
Agricultural Affairs Alan Larson said the United States
would like Nigeria to use "only" $1.5 billion annually for
debt service.

This is Clinton’s Africa Growth and Opportunity Act in
living color. The U.S. working class should show the African
people solidarity by demanding: U.S. out of Africa and hands
off Sierra Leone.

Author: Johnnie Stevens

News Service: Workers World News Service

URL: http://www.workers.org

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