Secret Wars, Secret Bases, and the Pentagon’s “New Spice Route” in Africa

Nick Turse, Middle East Online, July 12, 2012

They call it the New Spice Route, an homage to the medieval trade network that connected Europe, Africa, and Asia, even if today’s “spice road” has nothing to do with cinnamon, cloves, or silks. Instead, it’s a superpower’s superhighway, on which trucks and ships shuttle fuel, food, and military equipment through a growing maritime and ground transportation infrastructure to a network of supply depots, tiny camps, and airfields meant to service a fast-growing U.S. military presence in Africa.
Few in the U.S. know about this superhighway, or about the dozens of training missions and joint military exercises being carried out in nations that most Americans couldn’t locate on a map. Even fewer have any idea that military officials are invoking the names of Marco Polo and the Queen of Sheba as they build a bigger military footprint in Africa. It’s all happening in the shadows of what in a previous imperial age was known as “the Dark Continent.”
In East African ports, huge metal shipping containers arrive with the everyday necessities for a military on the make. They’re then loaded onto trucks that set off down rutted roads toward dusty bases and distant outposts.
On the highway from Djibouti to Ethiopia, for example, one can see the bare outlines of this shadow war at the truck stops where local drivers take a break from their long-haul routes. The same is true in other African countries. The nodes of the network tell part of the story: Manda Bay, Garissa, and Mombasa in Kenya; Kampala and Entebbe in Uganda; Bangui and Djema in the Central African Republic; Nzara in South Sudan; Dire Dawa in Ethiopia; and the Pentagon’s showpiece African base, Camp Lemonnier, in Djibouti on the coast of the Gulf of Aden, among others.
According to Pat Barnes, a spokesman for U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), Camp Lemonnier serves as the only official U.S. base on the continent. “There are more than 2,000 U.S. personnel stationed there,” he told TomDispatch recently by email. “The primary AFRICOM organization at Camp Lemonnier is Combined Joint Task Force — Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA). CJTF-HOA’s efforts are focused in East Africa and they work with partner nations to assist them in strengthening their defense capabilities.”
Barnes also noted that Department of Defense personnel are assigned to U.S. embassies across Africa, including 21 individual Offices of Security Cooperation responsible for facilitating military-to-military activities with “partner nations.” He characterized the forces involved as small teams carrying out pinpoint missions. Barnes did admit that in “several locations in Africa, AFRICOM has a small and temporary presence of personnel. In all cases, these military personnel are guests within host-nation facilities, and work alongside or coordinate with host-nation personnel.” Continue reading

Ivory Coast: Nestle’s Genetically Modified Cocoa Trees–“Benevolence” with Strings

[Nestle’s “gift” of revitalization comes with a price–Nestle will have first rights to the product. — Frontlines ed.] 

Nestle gives farmers disease-resistant cocoa trees

Wed, Jul 13 2011

By Ange Aboa

BONOUA, Ivory Coast (Reuters) – Nestle on Wednesday ramped up its distribution of disease-resistant cocoa trees to farmers in Ivory Coast, part of a plan to boost productivity per hectare and improve the notoriously poor quality of the top grower’s cocoa beans.

The world’s biggest food maker, which has distributed some 140,000 saplings since 2009, said it will hand out 600,000 saplings by the end of the month and a further one million next year in a bid to raise productivity on farms.

Diseases and aging trees mean Ivorian cocoa yields are amongst the lowest in the world at less than 500 kg per hectare compared to 2 tonnes in Indonesia and 1.5 tonnes in Ghana.

The Swiss company has a policy of giving away trees but retains the priority to buy the cocoa produced from them through exporters ADM Cocoa, Cargill, COCAF-Ivoire-Noble and Outspan-Olam. Continue reading

ECOWAS defends France’s role in Gbagbo’s arrest; Coalition Against Foreign Intervention in Africa protests

Apr 11, 2011

President of ECOWAS Commission, Ambassador Victor Gbeho, has cleared France of any wrongdoing in the capture of embattled Former President of Ivory Coast, Laurent Gbagbo.

Reports remain unclear over who actually captured Mr. Gbagbo.

Earlier reports in sections of the media had indicated that French Special Forces captured the Former Leader and handed him over to pro Ouattara forces.

But France has denied the reports. Continue reading