Nobel Prize-winner Barack Obama meditates on the horrors of human destiny in the House of Slaves, and finds a source of strength for his humanitarian engagement. (Museum of Gorée, Senegal, 27th June 2013).
© Official White House Photo by Pete Souza.

Obama had his photo taken in the House of Slaves, on the island of Gorée in Senegal, gazing thoughtfully at the Atlantic Ocean, across which millions of Africans were transported in chains to the Americas. He declared that, as an "Afro-American president," he was inspired by the site which " ... gives me even greater motivation to defend human rights throughout the world."

This is the tone that the president used to begin his trip to Africa. But in South Africa, he was confronted by thousands of workers and students who called him a "slave-trader," and accused him of war crimes and the betrayal of his electoral promises. Obama couldn’t even organise a photo-op at Nelson Mandela’s bedside, a symbolic image he had counted on.

So everything didn’t go too well on the "Africa Trip 2013." It was a propaganda tour which cost a hundred million dollars – the president brought with him from the USA hundreds of secret service agents, 56 special vehicles including 14 armoured limousines, and three trucks loaded with bullet-proof windows, plus an aircraft carrier from which fighter planes controlled the air space thoughout the presidential journey.

The real reason for the trip became apparent when Obama declared that " ... China is paying a lot of attention to Africa" and that it is " ... in the interest of the United States to augment and extend its partnerships with the African nations." But there is a problem – the USA can’t compete with China, whose investments are much more useful and advantageous for the African nations than those of the USA, which are aimed at maximum profit, and concentrate their efforts on the exploitation of energy and mineral resources.

To counter Chinese influence and reinforce US presence in Africa, the Obama administration has principally favoured its political and military instruments. Amongst these, " … the Young African Leaders Initiative," whose objective is to " ...develop a prestigious network of young leaders in fundamental sectors, and to forge even stronger links with the United States." Through these "high-level forums," and more than 2000 "youth programmes" which are financed to the tune of millions of dollars, Washington is attempting to create an elite of new pro-USA leaders in Africa.

At the same time, by way of AfriCom, they are reinforcing US military presence on the continent. The main base for this operation is in Sigonella (Sicily). It’s from this base that the Special-Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) of the Marine Corps is deployed, equipped with tilt rotor MV-22 Ospreys and C-130 flying tankers, sending regular squadrons to fly over Africa. Since January, from Sigonella, the MAGTF has been training special African forces in Uganda, Burundi, Cameroon, Ghana, Burkina Faso, the Seychelles, Mozambique, Tanzania, Senegal and Liberia. The Sigonella task force also collaborates with the Military Intelligence Basic Officer Course-Africa, forming officers for the African secret services in Kenya, Ethiopia, Southern Sudan, Nigeria and other countries. The MIBOC-A course is defined as " … one of hundreds of security operations carried out by US military personnel in Africa." This is how the US military network is extended in Africa, by way of multiple links, recruiting officers and local special forces. The operation is directed by AfriCom, which, a few days ago, installed its first "advanced command post" on the African continent, with the combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa and Djibouti . A new version of the old instruments of colonial domination.

But Obama would do well to pay attention – as he himself stated " … Africa is rising."

Pete Kimberley