Apartheid & Terror in Africa's Gardens of
By Keith Harmon Snow
Keith Harmon Snow is the 2009 Regent's Lecturer in Law & Society at the
...Continued from last week
The markets in Gamba are muddy, dirty, run-down sites of suffering where a scattering of local people peddle bush-meat, manioc, cassava, little packets of salt and sugar, some traditional foods and forest products, bananas and mangos, and whatever manufactured commodities they can get their hands on and resell at a small profit. In the enclave of Sette Cama, a few miles across the estuary and down the beach, the people live by small-scale fishing and farming cassava. But for a few crumbs splashed their way—where the (mostly white) benefactors reconcile their entitlement and privilege behind assumptions that their pitiful charity is further evidence of their goodness and morality—the local people do not benefit from the itineraries and budgets of foreign eco-tourists. Misery is endemic.
|“SUFFERING PROVIDES GOOD COUNSEL”
Local villages around Sette Cama are run down, dilapidated examples of the parallel (Apartheid) economies of exploitation and oil seen widely in
In a country of approximately 1 million people, only about eight percent (80,000) have access to any kind of running water or electricity. Adding insult to injury, in 1992, the French corporation Lyonnaise des Eaux took control of the state-owned Societé d’Electricté et d’Eaux du Gabon (SEEG): Bongo signed on with the U.S. International Finance Corporation and IFC/Japan to privatize Gabon’s water and electricity sectors, leading “one of the first privatizations of electricity and water services in sub-Saharan Africa,” over a decade ago.102
In 2003, another beltway Maryland (U.S.A) company-Decision Analysis Partners (DAP)-won a lucrative contract ostensibly to map out the eco-tourism infrastructure for five of Bongo’s newly gazetted Gabon parks. But DAP’s deep ties to the Pentagon and intelligence networks suggest that there is, as usual, some hidden military agenda. 103
There are no accurate census figures for
There are separate schools in Gamba for white expatriate children, and for black African children: Shell and Elf back the expatriate schools. 105 The housing and levels of health and community development are also unequal. Whites hire blacks as maids, nanny’s and housekeepers, and blacks are used for the most grueling and dangerous physical labor. The educational books that are produced in
Companies like Shell, Elf and Total are deeply tied into dictating public policy through their control of advertising, schools, arts venues, TV news and wildlife programming—both in Gabon and the USA, Europe and Japan—and funding for all of these: their corporate logos are branded everywhere.
Education is also privatized: Shell is partnered with WWF and the Ministry of Education through the Shell program “L’Ecole Que J’Aime” [“The School I Like”]. Further, the basic commodities (and luxury goods) available to expatriates connected to the oil industry are denied to poor Gabonese, and the black slave sector couldn’t afford them if they were, and there are stores (pools, clubs, etc.) where most blacks are not allowed.
This is Apartheid. It is also environmental racism.
“It’s family living in an African Paradise,” wrote expatriate Louise Tasker in a Royal/Dutch Shell magazine for expatriates, “Apart from wildlife and beaches, Gamba offers children a chance to really enjoy childhood rather than grow up too fast… Flights in
Just as there is Apartheid on the ground, you won’t see the average Gabonese flying on Air
All air travel in Gabon was for more than 45 years controlled by the so-called “government-owned” national airline whose financial interests were also held by Air
Amongst the greatest causes of sickness in
Does the World Health Organization challenge Shell, Elf, Total or Mobil for the massive and devastating carbon footprint of gas flaring? No. Of course, next to Shell’s support for dictatorships where petroleum flows are insured through rape, torture, and murder—the case of the Niger River Delta offering the most thoroughly documented example—Shell’s gas-flaring is perhaps one of the less troublesome aspects of petroleum operations in Africa.112 Meanwhile. In 1999, Shell flared some 25.6 million standard cubic feet of gas per day, in the Gamba complex Rabi concession alone—and this in a year where Shell—as supposed evidence of their benevolence—reported ‘reductions’ in their flaring footprint from 30 mmscf/d in 1998. 113 On this basis, and given the past six decades of their operations, Shell’s contribution to global climate mayhem is unimaginable.
The evidence that multinational corporations and their government, academic, scientific and ‘philanthropic’ partners are decimating cultures and landscapes is overwhelming.114 What is underwhelming is the extent to which the general public—U.S., Canadian, European, Australian and Japanese citizens, ostensibly concerned about human rights and the environment, for example—are unable to recognize and name these rich-man poor-man relationships for what they are: genocide.115 An agent of predatory western capitalism, Omar Bongo played a major role in that, too.
On the cutting edge of this massive project of conquest over people and places of color are people like J. Michael Fay, with their mega-transects and mega-flyovers,116 and their Pentagon connections, and the agendas they serve, even as they deny that they are in any ways involved and peddle the new white power projects of saving the earth, protecting human rights, defending wilderness, and securing the biodiversity that is, supposedly, everyone’s world heritage. This is the nature of white supremacy, with all its attendant obliviousness, and assumptions of innocence, and this is the true face of the globalization of terror.117 The history of Gabon is the history of slavery, alive and well in Africa’s gardens of
102 “Lyonnaise to Manage SEEG,” Africa Intelligence, December 10, 1992.
103 “decision/analysis partners Awarded National Park Transportation Development Study for
104 Draft Country Programme Document for
105 Kees Cline, Tracey Cripps and Terry Boyle, “Schooling in Camp Yenzi, Gabon,” Destinations, a Royal/Dutch Shell public relations expatriate magazine, Issue 39, Vol. 11, No. 2, June 2006, p. 7: http://www.outpostthehague.com/destinprotect/pdfissues/destinations39/Destinations_39_01.pdf.
106 Interview in Libreville: Elaine Muerat (Responsable Librairie), SOGAPRESSE,
107 Louise Tasker, “Family Living in an African Paradise,” Destinations, a Royal/Dutch Shell “OUTPOST” public relations document, Issue 39, Vol. 11, No. 2 June 2006, p. 13: http://www.outpostthehague.com/destinprotect/pdfissues/destinations39/Destinations_39_01.pdf.
108 Flight International, March 29, 1986.
109 Committee to Protect Journalists, Country Report:
110 Ike Okonta and Oronto Douglas, Where Vultures Feast: Shell, Human Rights, and Oil, Verso, 2003.
111“Breathing Space,” Shell Foundation web site, http://www.shellfoundation.org/pages/core_lines.php?p=corelines_content&page=breathing.
112 Documentation of Royal/Dutch Shell involvement in repression and genocide in
113 Royal /Dutch Shell statistics, 1998, 1999.
114 See, for example: Ike Okonta and Oronto Douglas, Where Vultures Feast: Shell, Human Rights, and Oil, Verso, 2003; Gerald Colby and Charlotte Dennett, Thy Will Be Done: The Conquest of the Amazon, Harper Collins, 1995; Max Liniger-Gourmaz, Small is Not Always Beautiful: The Story of Equatorial Guinea, 1988; and Bruno Manser Fonds, http://www.bmf.ch.
115See: Ward Churchill, A Little Matter of Genocide, City Lights, 2001.
116 See: David Quammen, “Views of the Continent,” National Geographic, September 2005; and J. Michael Fay, “Ivory Wars: Last Stand in Zakouma,” National Geographic, March 2007.
117 See: keith harmon snow, Towards an Anthropology of White Man in Africa: A Call to Explore the Militarized White Project of Dark Continentalism, Paper presented at the American Anthropological Association Annual Meeting, December, 2007.