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The US, Globalization, and Natural Resource Wars in Africa: An Illustration from the Sudan

By Lako Tongun; Pitzer College; Claremont Colleges; Claremont, California

For Presentation at the Conference on New Patterns of Strategic Encounter: U.S. Africa Relations in the Era of Globalization, at the Globalization Research Center-Africa, University of California, Los Angeles, Friday, April 30 Saturday, May 1, 2004

Work in Progress



In the immediate advent of post-cold war order, an influential number of Africanists were quick to relegate Africa to the dustbin of global insignificance and marginalization. Others, especially African intellectuals, interpreted the end of the cold war as an opportunity for Africa to chart its own destiny and a genuine or authentic development project, without the stifling interference from the East-West ideological rivalry. Both perspectives are inaccurate readings of the then emerging African conditions in the post-cold war regime.

First, the official African visits by the two US Presidents, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, belie any meaningful claim to global marginalization of Africa. Indeed, the visits are explained by a plethora of US technical and foreign policy reports, which put Africa as one of the top US strategic global concerns. Why? Oil. Currently, US imports 15% of its energy needs from Africa. It is estimated to rise to 25 %, by the end of 2005. US attempts to diversify its oil imports, and less dependence on the Middle East, have made Africa, with its enormous reserve estimates, a vital strategic region.

Second, the brutal and genocidal civil wars, and the devastating HIV/AIDS, have largely rendered meaningless any claims for Africa to chart its own course of actions or solutions to these acute crises. The civil wars, driven by greed and grievance, and often fought over natural resource control, have resulted in millions of casualties. They have also created unprecedented general instability and human insecurity in such resource rich countries like DR Congo, Sudan, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Somalia, Ivory Coast, and so on. The state has been rendered ineffective in its role to secure political and economic stability, human survival, and equitable natural resource control and use.

The purpose of this paper is to explore the following: 1) the seeming convergence of US and African interests in the age of globalization; 2) the specifics of US policies in securing its interests in Africa, especially as to the achievement of stability and security, necessary for the exploitation of natural resources, i.e., the how of US management of globalization and its promotion of democracy, free enterprise economies, and free trade in Africa; 3) theoretical perspectives on the causes of the Africas natural resource wars or new wars, which have raised and manifested both normative and empirical questions about the consequences of globalization; and the two policy positions within the US foreign agenda: a) the multilateralistor transnational globalist approach, and b) the unilateralist or international hegemonist approach; and 4) the case of Sudan, which challenges US policies and interests, at two levels: a) how to secure a just and permanent peace, in order to attract American investments in the oil sector, and b) competition from other countries like China, India, and Malaysia, which have invested in Sudans oil sector, and apparently have no moral qualms in supporting the National Islamic Front regimes genocidal policies. Conclusion: the consequences of globalization and the challenges against it will bedevil US-African relations for a long to come. Security and stability may require militarization of global intervention, so as to end the acute crises facing Africa.

Globalization Research Center - Africa