Thursday, May 10, 2012
It is election time in many parts of Africa. Advocates will disappear or suddenly die mysteriously or are just murdered. A recent example is the West African nation of Mali.
An election was scheduled and the incumbent was favored to win. A faction didn’t like the odds and hired the military to engineer a coup. Now this peaceful, democratic nation is in turmoil. Tranquility shifted to chaos in several weeks.
Let’s look at the eastern region of the Horn of Africa – Eritrea, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya and South Sudan. This area could blow up into chaos. In addition to the usual political shenanigans, add huge riches and the overwhelming love of money.
First, let’s talk about pirates – really organized crime. When people are candidates for kidnapping, their identities are vetted by the criminal information technology department. Their net worth is computed with the help of public websites and other investigative techniques. Then a ransom value is assigned to them.
When the ransom money (insurance money, if a commercial ship is involved) comes in, it goes into established bank accounts for money laundering – just like drug smugglers. One bank in Kenya was receiving $1.5 million per day in such transactions. The money, after laundering, is probably sitting in the biggest banks in Europe and America.
Next, let’s talk about big oil sitting under the soil in South Sudan. It is the purest oil on earth and the quantities exceed all that of Saudi Arabia. We’re talking trillions of dollars that will last generations. There are many in power or aspiring for power that anticipate personally profiting from this. This is why Sudan is bombing South Sudan daily. They want the oil back and won’t let it go peacefully.
Some of this oil is located in Kenya, Ethiopia and Uganda. The powerbrokers there are salivating over the prospects of a windfall and are conniving on a daily basis. These nations are already being courted by China, which is considering bringing troops into South Sudan to protect the oil and make sure they will be among the first to cash in. The U.S. has blown a perfect opportunity to influence a happy ending here.
Then, there’s the "no man’s land" land of Somalia. Besides being a launching pad for the pirates, it is a hotbed of locally-based Al Qaeda-leaning terrorists. Somalia has no functioning national government.
Kenya has had enough of these terrorists hurting its tourism and threatening economic development. Ethiopia, to the north, has always wanted a seacoast for shipping, and has fought with Eritrea in an attempt to annex their coastline. Kenya may seize the southern half of Somalia with Ethiopia seizing the northern sector. The capital, Mogadishu, may become an independent sovereignty.
There will be blood and atrocities. The penalties are light. Charles Taylor, the butcher of Liberia, killed more than 50,000 civilians and stole more than $200 million. He was just convicted by the International Court. There is no death penalty and he will keep the money hidden.
Taylor has to spend time in a British jail. His family will remain wealthy forever and he will find a legal way to get out before he dies a natural death. Many would-be tyrants look at this and say, "It is worth the tyranny."
Harry C. Alford is the co-founder and president/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce.