by Eric Margolis
NEW YORK - Last March, President Bill Clinton went hunting for
black votes back home by staging a highly-publicized safari to
Clinton, who was accompanied by a 1,000-strong entourage
more fitting to a Chinese Emperor, proclaimed ` a new
`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
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
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