Dutch Royal Shell Expands Africa Footprint


Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 22:24 PM EDT, 2 February 2012

Oshie Gas Flare, Akaraolu, Nigeria, Photo by Chris HondrosTANZANIA, East Africa - When one thinks of Neo-Colonialism in emerging economies, the traditional natural resources usually come to mind – minerals, timber, water rights, and oil. The expansion in Africa by oil companies has increased in recent years as the demand for this finite resource increases.

America is still the largest consumer of crude oil and petroleum-based products. According to a PBS Special Report on the Alaskan pipeline America, followed by the two powerhouses of the emerging economic markets – China and India are now the largest consumers.

“The United States consumes an average of 20.6 million barrels of oil a day. Forty percent of that -- 9.1 million barrels -- is used to power motor vehicles. So how do these numbers measure up globally?

The most recent figures show that China, with a population more than four times that of the United States, consumes nearly seven million barrels a day. However, China's thirst for oil is growing quickly, with India coming up fast behind.

Russia uses nearly three million barrels of oil a day and Canada just over two million. Americans use more oil for their motor vehicles than the total combined amounts used by Russia, Canada, the United Kingdom and France. The U.S. represents about five percent of the human population, but it consumes a quarter of the world's oil.” (Source: PBS: The American Experience, ‘The Alaskan Pipeline.’)

Although, most people know at an intuitive level that Americans are the most gluttonous consumers of this product, to actually read the numbers is stupefying. However, we are all to blame, even I am, because I drive a truck which takes nearly $60 to fill up. I will not go into the reasons why I drive a truck because any explanation will seem self-serving. But, in the interest of full disclosure I felt that it I should accuse myself as I condemn the large oil companies that provide me with this privilege.

As a child I lived in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, and I clearly remember playing in the white sands of Bahari Beach, when my imaginary meanderings would be abruptly interrupted by a vision at the horizon. I would gape in awe at the supertankers moored off the coast in the deeper waters of the Indian Ocean that stretched before me.

What I didn’t realize then, but know now, was that the large globs of oil which washed ashore hours after their departures were a consequence of the illegal practice of oil tanker operators washing out the tanks in preparation of receiving the next cargo load. This was done by filling the tanks with water and then pumping the resulting mixture of oil and water into the sea.

Because many African nations were not in a position to enforce international rules to prevent oil pollution on their shores, many oil tanker operators would opt to empty the oil cargo or fuel tanks used for ballast water into the ocean off the coast of African nations without fear of sanction. Consequently, oil was discharged into the sea when tankers flushed out the oil-contaminated ballast water to replace it with new oil. (Source: Global Marine Oil Pollution Information Gateway)

As a child I thought of these black, bulbous balls as something to add to my list of playthings. As an adult who witnessed the carnage caused by the Exxon Valdez and most recently the BP Oil spill disaster, I cringe at the memory of my childish naiveté.

What has not changed is the continued interests by foreign oil companies in rich natural resources of East Africa and other countries of the Continent. PR Newswire recently reported that Royal Dutch Shell, the largest European oil company, has initiated a hostile takeover bid for Cove Energy.

If successful, Royal Dutch Shell which is currently active in Tanzania, could expand it holding’s in the region to include Kenya and Mozambique. Cove Energy’s presence in both of these countries would facilitate Shell’s strategic mission of sustainable growth by exploiting the recently gas discoveries in the latter two countries. In addition to this upside for Shell, the downside for Tanzania, Kenya and Mozambique is diminished control over these natural resources and a high risk of environmental pollution.

In November 2011 the Guardian UK reported that Shell must pay $1bn to deal with Niger Delta oil spills. At that time Amnesty International issued a report "to mark the 16th anniversary of the execution of environmental activist Ken Saro-Wiwa by Nigerian authorities" in which it detailed the breadth of the adverse impact the oil had on Bodo, Ogoniland.

Like the BP Oil spill off the coast of Louisiana in the US, the Royal Dutch Shell spill in Nigeria also caused environmental damage, economic damage, and health issues for the nearly 69,000 people who lived in the region. "The prolonged failure of the Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria to clean up the oil that was spilled, continues to have catastrophic consequences," according to the Amnesty International report.

I researching for this post, I discovered an incredible website for an organization called Cultural Survival. On 4 March 2010, they published an article titled ”Sharing" the Wealth? Minerals, oil, timber, and now medicines and genetic wealth - all are fair game for governments and corporations," which I felt added more depth to this post and provided an alternate view on this troubling movement.

The except which follows enumerates the complexity of this issue, and I highly recommend that you follow the link above to read the article in its entirety on their website.

The natural resources located in some of the Earth's most remote placed became open to appropriation when a number of new states sprung up in the post-World War II, postcolonial period of this century, Elites and dominant groups, empowered to maintain security and promote trade, stole natural resources from indigenous nations, igniting open conflict. These clashes led to the need to military assistance, which in turn led to debt and - full circle now - the need to appropriate more saleable resources to pay off the debts."

The report continues by stating:

States have traditionally received considerable help from other states in appropriating the resources of nation peoples. Ten World Bank - funded colonization project in sub-Saharan Africa financed the occupation of "unoccupied" areas in a number of African countries. Subsequent problems arose; in each instance the areas were already occupied by people who had been living there for generations.

This experience is the rule, not the exception, Worldwide, development industries help states to seize resources and put them up for sale on the world market - through "obvious" projects such as miming, oil exploration, and hydroelectric development, more "subtle" projects such as colonization (which takes land), transportation (which eventually takes land, timber, minerals, and/or other resources), and credit (which finances the appropriation and/or processing of saleable resources)."

The battle against Neo-Colonialism will not occur without significant collateral damages. In order to effect big changes, we each have to make small changes in our lives and actions.  It is not always easy or expeditious to take big actions like giving up one’s car when it is needed for transportation to work and to take children to school.

I do not advocate this course of action for myself or anyone else. But what is necessary is for us to take the time to become aware of these issues. To realize that though the citizens of these countries are most at risk because of the actions of these multinationals, ultimately it will impact us,because but for a happenstance of birth, we could be them.

Just because we live in America doesn’t mean that we are safe from the amoral vagaries of corporation. The last few years have should have disabused us of this belief. Whereas we thought we were different from 'others,' we need only look at the Native American culture and people who suffered great loss of land and natural resources as a direct result of  Colonialism in America. Just because we don’t have something today that is coveted by corporations, doesn’t mean this will always be the case.

It is important to remember the quote attributed to Martin Niemöller which I have referenced before:

“First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out -- Because I was not a Socialist.  Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out -- Because I was not a Trade Unionist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out -- Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me -- and there was no one left to speak for me.”

'Heart of Darkness' | DRC Holocaust

Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 20:42 p.m. EDT, 12 February 2012

Heart of Darkness by Joseph ConradDEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO, Africa - We have written several posts about the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and the war crimes that are occurring in a country also known as the heart of Africa.

Previously, we have focused on the human rights abuse of rape to control and terrorize a populace that has been severely victimized by internal and external players.

In the DRC, this heinous act has been defined by human rights group as 'weaponized rape,' because it is used like a gun to maim and kill its victims.

The DRC is the most egregious example of Neo-Colonialism on the Continent today.  Large multinationals encourage and promote destabilization to enable them to freely extract the natural resources of this mineral rich nation.

The rape of the Congo has been a long-running play first documented in the fictional story Heart of Darkness. Written by Joseph Conrad and published in 1903, the exploitation of this country and the subjugation of its people has changed little over the last 100 years.

'Heart of Darkness exposes the dark side of European colonization while exploring the three levels of darkness that the protagonist, Marlow, encounters: the darkness of the Congo wilderness, the darkness of the Europeans' cruel treatment of the African natives, and the unfathomable darkness within every human being for committing heinous acts of evil.[2]

Although Conrad does not give the name of the river, at the time of writing the Congo Free State, the location of the large and important Congo River, was a private colony of Belgium's King Leopold II.' (Source: Wikipedia)

When I was in school this book was required reading, but since we live in an increasingly digital era, I encourage readers to download a free copy of the book here.  Many consider this book racist, but within the context of its time, the prevailing view of black people and Africans, the language is consistent with that era.

Unfortunately, it is also consistent with how some people continue to think of African's today. The twenty-six minute video below provides an in-depth and informative background on the conflict in the DRC, the egregious human rights violations that occur as a consequence, and the massive collateral damage that is tantamount to an unacknowledged Holocaust.


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The Weight of First | Pres. Johnson Sirleaf


Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 17:13 PM EDT, 3 February 2012

MONROVIA - Liberia's re-elected President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf who is the first and only female President in Africa, has named the first ministers of her new cabinet on Thursday.  She appointed new finance and foreign affairs ministers but retained her defense minister.

President Johnson Sirleaf, a Nobel Laureate, has vowed to continue to implement the changes she initiated during her first term.  She was sworn in for a second term in power this week and is being watched by her countrymen and the world to see if she will be more aggressive in her efforts to eradicate the corruption which plagues Liberia and other African nations.

She has also promised to cut poverty and high youth unemployment which is rampant in a nation that has been besieged by protracted nine year civil war. U.N. peacekeepers have overseen the country's security since the end of some 14 years of war in 2003. But the world body is under pressure to end the costly, 9,000-strong mission.

Foreign investors compound the issue of high unemployment and housing shortages by importing workers and seizing control of land. Under her governance, more foreign corporations have been awarded the right to harvest trees for lumber often displacing residents and leaving the terrain vulnerable to run off and mudslides.

This type of Neo-Colonialism is spreading across the Continent as Western countries seek to openly exploit the vast natural resources of Africa. Liberia is mineral rich and since the discovery of vast oil reserves off of its Coastal shelf it is poised for exploitation and the resultant corruption that can occur when multinational petroleum companies strike deals with the government.

President Johnson Sirleaf must remain vigilant against the type of exploitation that occurs in Nigeria's oil and gas industry. In the Delta region of Nigeria, the environment is extremely polluted as the country does not enforce any environmental protections regulations. The citizenry's health and lifestyles are also adversely impacted by lax and sometimes criminal disregard for how these companies drill and dispose of the oil and gas.

We congratulate Liberia in re-electing the first female African President and look forward to seeing what she can accomplish in her second term.

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South Sudan. Newest Country. Newest Colony?

10 July 2011 - Last year we reported on Land Grabs in Ethiopia and earlier this year we featured a post on Neo-Colonialism in Africa.

Yesterday, South Sudan became an independent country poised to become the 193rd member of the United Nations.  Simultaneous to its creation representatives from multinational corporations have begun to pour into Juba, the capital of the fledgling nation.  The number of foreigners arriving is so noticeable that locals have begun to complain.

Foreign powers invading and carving up Africa in order to exploit its land and resources is well-known practice.  In the 19th Century the era of European Colonization began in Africa.  At that time, the major players were the United Kingdom, Germany, France, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Belgium. These countries arbitrarily sectioned off areas of the continent without consideration of tribal or familial connection.

In South Sudan representatives from Chinese and Lebanese multinationals and smaller companies from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, and Zambia are a few of the countries  seeking to establish a strong hold in the newly formed country.  In the wake of the announcement of the nascent state's formation these Neo-Colonialists have begun a process which will ultimately result in a transformation of the country.

Like many underdeveloped areas of Africa, Juba's dirt roads are crowded with pedestrians carrying impossibly large loads on their heads. People transporting firewood, water and produce for sale.  They traverse the country via dusty pathways and compete with large horned cows for minimal space to either side. Because inhabitants of the country have been engaged in war and survival they are ill-equipped to work the emerging economy.

Thus, it is a certainty that most of the Southern Sudanese people will be relegated to service level job as domestics, cooks, drivers or resort to criminal  activities  such as prostitution, drugs robbery and murder.  Under colonialism these were the only positions available to the indigenous people and they rarely if ever had the opportunity to advance.

While living in Nigeria as a child, I recall the slow transformation of the country as the oil wealth poured into its national coffers.  Unfortunately, the petroleum companies transferred the profits of the 'black gold' back to their countries of origin and the remainder to government official to ensure continuity of service.  Corruption in many African countries is pervasive and an expected cost of doing business.

In Nigeria bribes to government officials are used to encourage them to turn a blind eye to the adverse environmental impact of petroleum pollution to the surrounding territory. When the British Petroleum (BP) oil spill occurred off the coast of Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico the world was justifiably horrified.

However, on the Nigerian Coastal environment, large areas of the mangrove ecosystem have been destroyed. Oil spill has also destroyed farmlands, polluted ground and drinkable water and caused drawbacks in fishing off the coastal waters. There has been continuous regional crises in the Niger Delta area as a result of oil spill pollution of the coastal ecosystem.

Between 1976 and 1998 a total of 5724 incidents resulted in the spill of approximately 2,571,113.90 barrels of oil into the Delta region environment. Some major spills in the coastal zone are the GOCON’s Escravos spill in 1978 of about 300,000 barrels, Shell Petroleum Development Corporation’s (SPDC’s) Forcados Terminal tank failure in 1978 of about 580,000 barrels, Texaco Funiwa-5 blow out in 1980 of about 400,000 barrels, and the Abudu pipe line spill in 1982 of about 18,818 barrels (NDES, 1997).

Other major oil spill incidents are the Jesse fire incident which claimed about a thousand lives and the Idoho Oil spill in January 1998, in which about 40,000 barrels were spilled into the environment (Nwilo et al, 2000)." (Source: Niger Delta Today)

Despite these gross violation of human rights and environmental protection, there is rarely any outcry from the global community about these abuses.  I distinctly remember walking along the pristine beaches of Tanzania and every so often I would encounter globules of oil washed up on the shore.

As I lifted my gaze from the globules at my feet toward the horizon I saw a mirage like view of a moored oil tanker.  The captain and its crew routinely stopped off the Tanzanian coast to clean the tanks and jettisoned the waste into the Indian Ocean.  Were this to occur anywhere in the Western world there would be a cacophonous outcry but this is rarely the case in Africa.

Given this track record of egregious violations by petroleum companies operating in Africa we can only hope and watch as South Sudan develops its economy based on its most valuable resource.

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Neo-Colonialism in Emerging Economies


Ayanna Nahmias, Editor-in-ChiefLast Modified: 02:12 AM EDT, 19 May 2011

AFRICA - When I lived in Africa as a child we resided in countries previously colonized by the British and Germans. In these post-colonialist nations the vacuum left by the departing imperialist was painfully evident in the areas of energy, water, sanitation, manufacturing and the transportation trade vectors implemented to facilitate the transport and shipment of wealth from Africa to their respective countries.

The departing colonialist were particularly vindictive when they deliberately sabotaged manufacturing plants which supported these supply chain vectors.

In both Nigeria and Tanzania we experienced the deleterious effects of post-colonialism.  Daily we were confronted with the challenges of securing clean drinking water, because if it was running it had boiled; the electricity was intermittent and grocery store shelves were often empty.

These pressures coupled with the indoctrination of the populace forced to abdicate their cultural values to those of the imperialist resulted in the dissolution of family structures. The century old traditions and mores soon dissipated and without these societal controls high crime rates  ensued.

Crimes previously held in check by swift communal judgment and justice, crimes like murder, rape and organized crime.  These social ills in conjunction with the ongoing external pressures to keep many former colonial countries destabilized through war are a modern manifestation of the heinous legacy of colonialism.

By this definition, Ethiopia escaped colonialism irrespective of the brief Italian occupation. Therefore, it is noteworthy that the country seems to have fallen prey to allure of foreign investment which is the advent of a new wave of colonialism. Companies from Asia, the Middle-East and elsewhere have secured 50 year land leases for pennies on the dollar from the ruling government. A hectare of fertile land in Ethiopia’s Oromia region costs $10 and in a bitter twist of fate is subsequently farmed by the locals who once owned the land.

Some people argue that this type of investment is good for the country because the people who owned the land were “lazy” and did not do anything with it. This type of thinking is similar to the faulty “logic” employed by the European settlers who arrived in North America and claimed that the land was not being properly “utilized” by the Native Americans. Under this premise they forcibly took the land and physically removed the indigenous population to less arable parts of the country.

What large aggro-farming corporations and the early American settlers fail to comprehend is the fact that local, indigenous people have a relationship with the land and understand the rhythm of the earth and its cycles of yields. My paternal grandparents owned a 500 acre working farm which is still in our family. We often spent summers with them and through this exposure I learned about the importance of allowing the ground to lay fallow to enable vital nutrients to be replenished.

In an effort to make more money, these large aggro concerns over farm the land year after year; and in order to increase yield, chemicals, pesticides and bioengineering is employed to decrease growing time and increase yield. These practices results in increased yield with decreased nutritional value. A better use of the resources would be to subsidize small, local farmers with the necessary funding and equipment to properly use the land they own. Instead of selling the majority of arable land to large, foreign conglomerates, investment should be made in local communities to encourage the formation and growth of farming cooperatives.

To sell some of the land to outside concerns to grow flowers or coffee is by no means a bad thing. It increases the Gross National Product (GNP), which is the value of all the goods and services produced in an economy, plus the value of the goods and services imported, less the goods and services exported, which ultimately helps these countries economies to mature. However, the current land leases referenced in this post and the links below offer short-term gains in exchange for long-term losses.

This type of exchange also occurs in Nigeria where the government unilaterally leases oil/gas rights to foreign companies who reap billions of dollars at the expense of the health and welfare of the local people and the environment.  The costs of these 100 years leases is  a mere pittance by comparison to what they earn in profits.

In addition to these profits the companies operate with relative impunity because of graft, which in Nigeria is otherwise known as a "dash."  For these foreign companies there is no accountability required nor punitive action enforced when they perpetrate heinous human rights violations or flagrant environmental abuses.

The African colonialism period (1818 – 1914) as well as the last 20 years of the nineteenth century saw the transition to ‘informal imperialism.'  This form of imperialism was instigated by the same nationals who originally carved up then colonized Africa.  Thus, the continued destabilization of these countries is to their benefit.

This outside interference leveraged by the sale of arms to various factions amounts to direct military influence. The previous economic dominance of direct colonial rule has been replaced by pervasive but less visible form of conquest which still enables the imperialist to  rape these countries of precious natural resources.

The sacrifice of people and the utter disregard of the needs of the masses for the profit of a few persist in every society.  However, in Africa this disparity results in massive human suffering and is portrayed as the fault of the populace who is unable through intellect or desire to manage their countries as well as the colonialist.

This form of patriarchal disdain is continued at the hands of large corporations that generate billions of dollars despite the ability and right of the government to  demand remuneration or compensation for the local people who are most adversely impacted by the negotiations and contractual obligations entered into by their governments.

Land sold for the express purpose of growing food stock or produce that doesn't directly benefit the local populace either nutritionally or economically is another form of colonialism and is a practice that must be publicized, countered and vociferously condemned.

Visit the links below to learn more about Colonialism in Africa::

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