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Indybay FeatureRelated Categories: International | Global Justice and Anti-Capitalism
Water is an Issue in Africa
It is like when a refugee dies in Europe, mindless brutality erupts in America, a rape occurs in India or a sack of rice drops in China - in the window of perception the human psyche is used to maintain on the flow of history, these things are just a bit too regular to be attributed any significance beyond a warning against an eruption of denial that the fire is in the husk in every possible interpretation of the language. It has been so for a long time without terminal escalation, so why would anything be different now?
Indeed - Africa has been suffering for generations and everyone could see the vultures of the world markets. It almost appears as if the permanent misery is so bad that no foreseeable worsening can constitute the proverbial red line at which the exploitation finally is too much and fundamental change becomes inevitable. And yet, while there is worsening, somehow not even this is crystallising much attention. Apparently the categorical separation between tragedy and farce is no longer at effect, and what is taking place in Africa rarely combines anything else than the worst of both. On one hand there is radical awareness that the future will be totally different from the crazy business days of current capitalist kleptomania, and on the other hand there is extreme vulnerability against malevolent and violent intrusions by the materialised madness of a dying system. The old colonialism of surplus populations exported as occupiers has made room for a dangerous habit of exporting surplus security forces, which later can be reimported against successful revolutions in their respective countries of origin. But while in the last days of WWI the war entry of Unitedstates aborted this development, now it is in the role of its patron. Some African nations have already lost their independence to such systematic abuse, and in the worst case the black continent could be the dumping ground for the failing states of colonialism that would rather mess around there than follow the will of populations at home.
Haile Selassie, the once proudly presented icon of African exiles, remains a grim reminder that all this has been happening before: Although fascism as a political system and ideology originated in Germany, the word derives from Italian and the metaphor in the expression refers to the Roman empire. The, in the most unflattering sense of the word, democratic despotism of the ancient robber and slave state, which sustained vast militarism from little more than looting foreign territories, in an attempt that can be seen as typical for its barbarian approach to any culture of resistance and self-determination, as the symbol of its executioners took a bundle of sticks, which only as a whole can withstand a pressure trying to break it. In review it is a paradox irony that the in its self-perception biggest strength of the empire, it sick ambition to culturally absorb these it killed, became the cause of its failure - so badly that the 20th century attempt to restore its former glory found little more to restore than the icon of its madness. But that went at the expense of Africa, with fascist Italy waging a war that would allow its regime, which had few other ideas than plagiarising from Germany, to generate the nationalism it needed to keep up its domestic oppression (and that like so many wars never ended, only the frontline was renamed into the border with Eritrea). Had the Italians not been shipped to Ethiopia and indoctrinated they were fighting for "civilisation" they might have come to the idea to topple their failing regime. It took until recently for this type of colonial war, which takes no direct interest in the affected place and its resources but is an empty purpose in itself, to reappear, but once it did it quickly spread across the continent with no apparent counter voice.
It is precisely this grotesque scenario of war without conflict that is most challenging to any analysis of what the vanguard of African unity left behind after he had failed as a politician because he was so respected that nobody would bother him with anything (and too honest to compensate that dilemma with a totalitarian police state which would have made him so disrespected that nobody would bother about him any more). There has not been any successor reaching the same historical level ever since. This does not mean that the role had been empty, most of the time it had been occupied by Gadhafi, but although nothing has become any better since, in too many ways he was like the imperialist police states he pretended to contrast with. There is no realistic expectation of improvement but only a scene of barbarianism when a gang of bandits are sacrificing their most exposed member to their imagination to share the stolen lifetime among themselves. Instead it means that the war against Libya was fought as the pathological expansion of a conflict within the imperialist apparatus in Unitedstates over the opening of ranks to killer robots. The so-called "drones" have taken over the American regime like a foreign investor, and micromanage its wage slaves even in the most pathetic details of their failed policies, based on an historically suicidal death toll, while Libya and with it due to Gadhafi’s role all of Africa once again found itself with its oppression renewed and its independence stolen.
What started as an "Arab Spring", in Africa and not on the Arab subcontinent, but with a focus outside Africa and not within it, in Arabia found itself massacred by imperialist domination even before the latter deprived Libya of the chance to abolish its regime in sovereignty. It may turn out to have been decisive for this movement that its start required oppressors with no such role to fall out with the imperialists, while Gadhafi with a record of antiimperialist conflict (even though not waterproof) saw it as unwise and ill-perceived to make room for intrusion (and rightly so, because the voluntary disarmament of his uranium enrichment to Unitedstates had not been able to trigger the promised policy change, so someone had to hold up a veto for Africa). This is probably why the imperialists decided they would not like to have him around as a witness when history turns against them.
The matter of African unity illustrates why it must be called a distortion if resistance against imperialist intrusion is being labeled as reaction towards it. It is precisely the other way round. The continent has been focused on unification even before the intrusions began, and this process is what is externally being reacted to by economic and military meddling in the context of capitalist exploitation. To put it differently: Fragmentation, that what is to be overcome by unity, is not only a legacy as an one-dimensional imagination of history would suggest. Once there is risk of intrusion the entire challenge becomes radically different because it is no longer about fragmentation being bad and unity good. With the consideration of this external factor the basic pattern of the process is that overcoming fragmentation in self-determination is good while losing fragmentation in oppression is bad. For that reason the conclusion below the red line of the old demographic colonialism is that the respect of independence is the prerequisite for everything else, such as spring is the precondition for the flowers to unfold themselves.
Since there have not been revolutions in the former colonialist states after the formal recognition of independence (except in Germany - the coloniser of the colonialists - where it was shot down in 1919) no significant change in policy has taken place, and it also would be dangerous to assume Unitedstates had learned from their history of bogus claims for independence. Instead, the fascism which has caused the extension of the rotten colonialist legacy is now once again coming to Africa, and this third wave thereof finds no limit in any external circumstances. That could already be said about its second wave if it had not been for the personality of the Ethiopian with the exiles gravitating around his vision. But in this bitter age of overstretched empires and big lies, the vacancy of the role of the vanguard of African unity is the defining circumstance of its condition.
And yet it remains decisive that these facts are not just being consumed as an affirmation how wrong and dangerous the imperialist project is, but also have an effect to avoid a reproduction of the destructive patterns from within, all the more as far as such are concerned which have occurred since the two Arab-African despots resigned. The most significant case of this is the grotesque hybrid variety of fascism and Leninism that can be found in Ethiopia in the form of the project of a dam coming close to, or reaching beyond technical construction limits, financed by the old colonialist and fascist oppressor Italy and decorated with European ideological antics. This would allow Italy to entrap Ethiopia in a false sense of getting its sovereignty back at the expense of downstream nations who then depend on the whims of the water regulation, like barbarian parasite states use to do with their state religions. Of course the precondition is that in the river mouth running through the Italian capital one more dead body would not make much of a visible difference, so where would respect of a higher level of water quality grow from? Maybe the scope of speculation why Ethiopia would make such a mistake can be approached in the most technical way: Why would one want to produce large amounts of electricity at a bigger distance from the demand than technically necessary? Why would one intervene big into a river flow when small power stations better serve the proclaimed purpose? Why would a project that creates so much dependency and vulnerability that it might be rejected in the colonialist nations if proposed there be praised as if all the experience of the 20th century got lost?
In a historical sense, the "grand renaissance" dam drama is a farce reflecting a past tragedy which preceded the construction of the first big dam on rive Nile and the huge environmental problems it created. The water games being played in Ethiopia appear like a late repercussion of the death of Herbert Norman, the North American researcher on the political effects of irrigation systems, due to persecution in the so-called "Red Scare." In fact his death in Egypt 1957 is the result of treason by these interested to mould his research into a biased theory of cultural antagonism pretending it would only apply outside their realm of power. As history knows, Norman died and obituaries were written, natural structural vulnerabilities became an issue left to the next generation, and the consequences of the imperialism are still to be determined. The theory of hydraulic despotism became subordinated to the ideology of orientalism and was marginalised.
Now there is a blatant attempt to install such a hydraulic despotism in practice, with the most advanced technologies currently available, as it was done in its era. If it was only about electricity, decentralised solutions would be more effective both in regard to consumption of natural landscape and in comparison with other renewable and fossil energy sources. Was it for ideology alone, there would be an open attempt to unite Africa behind the approach, but there is not. Was it all about nationalism, the role of the external investor would be weighed differently. But the question of why also can be approached from an entirely different direction: With Egypt trying to take back sovereignty, imperialists are tempted to find an instrument to dictate it the conditions for the passage of the Suez canal, and the water of the Nile is that weapon.
The natural structural vulnerability is just so basic, that in the worst case a colonialist/militarist/fascist power exercising influence over the regime which controls the dam could blackmail Egypt to allow atomic weapons to pass through the canal. It is not the fault of the Egyptian protesters that Mursi is too weak (or more precisely, that his only strength is taking from others) to unite even only the nations along that one river against this military abuse of territorial waters, although it should be a matter of concern for all of Africa whether the robber caravans pass through the Asian land bridge or around the entire continent. It can also be pondered that this is significant for breaking the deadlock at the horn of Africa which is attracting ever more arms trade and hypocrisy - only when the routing issue is openly addressed for the most dangerous cargo of all, piracy can cease to be a never ending threat. With that issue Africa has a question at hands that matters far beyond its shores. Whether atomic weapons can be paraded around the Arab subcontinent depends on Africa. In this sense, the Arab spring depends on African water, such as African unity in self-determination depends on the fall of the Arab despotism, and the imperialism behind it which corrupted these nations before it looted them (it was the other way round in the case of Africa).
In a deeper existential sense, all humans are exiles of Africa, but for these who feel for it like for no other place it might be a matter of concern to weigh the destruction, both caused and risked, by such an attempt of textbook hydraulic imperialism on the level of the barbarianism of the ancient empires, in order to pave the way for the threat of atomic weapons to make good for the Roman expulsion of Israel. It has been argued that Africa is in a Babylonian captivity, or that the current imperialist domination does find a prototype in earlier Jewish experiences with the hydraulic empires of Asia. But once this analogy is being recognised it is also the Jews themselves, another exiled African tribe, who are in such captivity by an imperialism they neither dare to openly stand for nor against, just like in their ancient history. Preserving the status quo, in the sense of a balance of power, is the same as destroying the status quo, in the sense of a heritage of nature. The first thing to do in such a paradox emergency is to know what to avoid - in this case, pandering to militarism.
The Jewish state is being flooded with weapons by the very same regimes that also arm the Arab despots against the populations, and cannot summon up the wisdom and courage to reject such ill-intended presents, because for reasons taboo to speculation it seems to lack belief in a future without oriental despotism. Maybe this old conflict at Africa’s doorsteps will only be resolved when the continent and its exiles can unite in sovereignty - these mentioned in the opening of this statement should anyways be interested in that just as much as in their own freedom, since any infestation of militarism in the cradle of the species is at increased risk to terminally spread back into the nations involved in it. On the other hand all that it takes to prevent imperialist intrusion and domination is awareness of its causes and consequences. In the case of yet another Nile dam one long overgrown suicide is the loose brick to be pulled to start an inland tsunami of truth.
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