The New Economic Plan for Emerging African States
Dr. Jonathan Levy, PhD*
Africa once had a long diplomatic and trade history of equality and parity with the European powers. This comity with Europe ingloriously and sadly met its final doom at the 1885 Congress of Berlin which carved up much of sub Saharan Africa. The African states and empires of long standing were soon to be erased from the map and their histories as regional powers obliterated from the history books. The protectorate and trade agreements they signed as equals with European powers are now studiously ignored by legal scholars and international tribunals as if they never happened.
It was economic policies not political motivation that led to the demise of the traditional African states and their erasure from legal and diplomatic history. Imperialism demanded that Africa be subdivided and destroyed by the likes of Belgium’s bloody King Leopold in Congo Free State to provide the raw materials to feed the industrial revolution.
Fast forward to 2012 and some things have not changed. The borders imposed by the colonial powers still bedevil Africa. Economics not ideology is the main determinant. The demise of Muammar Gaddafi, self appointed king of kings, put an end to that brief chapter in African history. No longer may emerging African states, what some call secessionists, look to Communism or Pan Africanism to combat neo-colonialism and tyranny. Especially when today the oppressors are African dictators backed by multi national corporations.
In December 2010, the Southern Cameroonian youth leader Ebenezer Akwanga and I sat down in the lobby of the venerable Willard Hotel across from the White House in Washington DC. Ebenezer Akwanga had been a political prisoner of the Biya regime in République du Cameroun and had been imprisoned and tortured for his political views on self determination. I was attorney for the Front for the Liberation of the State of Cabinda (FLEC), trying to find new strategies to promote the civil and political struggle for Cabinda, the former Portuguese Congo, now and an occupied exclave of Angola and the main producer of its oil wealth.
We came up with a plan, a regional organization of emerging African states to promote diplomacy, lawfare and economic warfare against the neo-colonial regimes and their corporate backers. Akwanga pointed out that liberation movements seldom worked together and suffered from internal dissension. Their biggest enemies were often their own erstwhile supporters. We thought that perhaps on a regional basis these groups could come together and lend each other strength through unity. However, we had no illusion, there was going to be a tough road ahead given the track record discord among liberation movements.
Akwanga did however agree to become the Secretary General of the new organization, the Organization of Emerging African States or OEAS. Over the next two years the charter members of the OEAS: Cabinda, Biafra, Southern Cameroons, Mthwakazi (Matabeleland), Vhavenda , Lunda (the people of the old Lunda empire in Congo and Angola), Dagara (Southwest Burkina Faso ), and UMMOA (an environmental stewardship representing unpopulated French islands off the coast of Africa) worked together and have made a great beginning.
In its short history, the OEAS has drawn the fire of the Angolan Foreign Ministry for supporting FLEC in Cabinda. OEAS Secretary General Akwanga was the target of two assassination attempts in South Africa now under investigation by the Director of Prosecutions in KwaZulu-Natal. The OEAS has also provided legal assistance to its members in communications to the International Criminal Court and UN Human Rights Council.
However, the OEAS’ main accomplishment is a new economic plan for emerging states – economic warfare. By this we do not mean sabotage on the ground but emerging nations partnering with private enterprise to obtain financing, oppose the looting of their resources by occupiers and more importantly demonstrating that they are “open for business.”
The OEAS did not invent this method of economic warfare, the credit goes to POLISARIO and the Saharawi Arab Democratic (SADR) which lays claims to much of the former Spanish Sahara from refugee camps in Algeria. Western Sahara is occupied by Morocco, a neo-colonial power that exploits the regions fisheries and phosphate wealth with the support of the Arab League. The UN and African Union tepidly support the SADR’s claims but provide little in the way of help besides endless negotiations.
Since 2004 the SADR has been successfully selling oil and gas licenses that vest upon decolinialization. Several junior oil companies on the London AIM have purchased rights. Likewise a private company, Jarch Capital, lays claim to vast leaseholds in Darfur and contested oil claims in Somaliland and South Sudan prior to independence based n grants by local governmental entities. Brisk business also also been done with disputed oil and mineral claims in the unrecognized countries of Somaliland and Puntland. A single public company, Range Resources Ltd. acquired all mineral and oil rights in Puntland and has successfully farmed out interests to other companies.
The breakthrough for OEAS was the three recently announced acquisitions by the private Canadian company Kilimanjaro Capital Ltd. Kilimanjaro Capital acquired a Puntland style deal for Biafra and Southern Cameroons and the rights to the offshore oil blocks in Cabinda. Actual consideration changed hands but the real promise lies in royalties from future deals brokered by Kilimanjaro Capital. Kilimanjaro Capital is currently in the process of raising serious funds, the royalties from which will assist in the legal, civil and diplomatic struggle for self determination.
Kilimanjaro Capital’s CEO , Zulfikar Rashid, is a man with a mission. Yes he wants to make a profit for his investors but he also sincerely supports the goals of the OEAS. Rashid as a young man was a refugee from Idi Amin’s Uganda and witnessed first hand the wrong side of decolinialization. Rashid who took some of his inspiration from the Aga Khan Foundation believes that by assisting in the struggle for self determination his company can also participate in the economic redevelopment that will follow eventual independence. Rashid also is a successful businessman in Calgary, Canada and has participated in financing several junior oil companies in the past.
Given the immense oil and mineral rich resources in Biafra, Cabinda, and Southern Cameroons, the strategy is a bold one that could reap a huge independence dividend. All three states have strong legal claims to self determination. The Biafra Republic was internationally recognized 1967-1970 before succumbing to a Nigerian inspired genocide. Southern Cameroons, a former British UN trust territory, was supposed to be an autonomous partner in the Federal Republic of Cameroun but instead was absorbed into the francophone regime of La Republique du Cameroun. And Cabinda was never part of Angola. It was a separate Portuguese protectorate originally called the Portuguese Congo and was gifted by the fleeing colonial government of Portugal to the Angolan MPLA in 1975.
Currently, I am working with closely with Cabinda, Southern Cameroons, and Biafra as a legal advisor. I am also assisting UMMOA, a hybrid creation of Cesidio Tallini who also serves as the OEAS Director of Communications in seeking an investigation by the International Criminal Court of the Diego Garcia secret prison. Other African projects include working with the Global Alliance for Justice – the Ethiopian Cause (GAJEC) which is seeking restitution from Italy and recognition of the genocide and war crimes perpetrated in Ethiopia 1935-1941.
Africa is but a part of my international law practice but an important one. One day soon I hope to see an independent and democratic Cabinda, Biafra, and Southern Cameroons but I have no illusions, the United States, the African Union, the United Nations and the European Union are no friends to those they deem secessionists. However against all odds and conventional wisdom, Lenin, the originator of the modern concept of self determination, Mandela, Gandhi and even Washington prevailed. And so can the members of the OEAS.
*About the Author: Dr. Jonathan Levy holds a PhD in Political Science and is a LLD candidate at the University of South Africa and practices international law through his law firm Brimstone & Co. in Washington DC. He also is on the faculty at two US based universities and instructs courses in International Law, Counter Terrorism and Public Administration. He was a security consultant to the 2008 Beijing Olympics and is the Chief Administrative Officer of the Organization of Emerging African States.