(2) Even after acknowledging abuses, the U.S. continued to employ notorious proxy forces in Cameroon in 2019, as a 2022 report exposed11cial Operations forces are involved in a low-profile proxy war program in Africa on a far greater scale than previously known and involve indiscriminate violence16
|2017 (disclosed in July 2022)||A 2017 airstrike in Nigeria killed more than 160 civilians; the United States played a secret role, as a 2022 report exposed||Nigeria|
|2019 (disclosed in March2022)||Even after acknowledging abuses, the U.S. continued to employ notorious proxy forces in Cameroon in 2019, as a 2022 report exposed||Cameroon|
|2017 to 2020(disclosed in July 2022)||A 2022 report shows small teams of U.S. Special Operations forces are involved in a low-profile proxy war program in Africa on a far greater scale than previously known and involve indiscriminate violence||Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Niger,Mali, Cameroon, Somalia|
|May 2022||Biden approved plans to redeploy hundreds of ground troops to Somalia||Somalia|
|January, September 2022||US military infiltration leads to Burkina Faso instability in 2022 and provides a breeding ground for extremism||Burkina Faso|
As the United States Africa Command became operational in 2008 and the number of officers trained by the US Department of Defence on the continent and in the US increased, the actual security situation on the continent declined sharply. There are recorded at least 25 Islamist militant groups on the continent, up from about five before the United States Africa Command was established.
In recent years, the media has repeatedly revealed the hidden role of United States Special Operations Forces in African “counter-terrorism operations”, pointing out that special operations forces play a more direct role than the Pentagon has publicly acknowledged. They planned and participated in raids by African forces in Somalia, Kenya, Tunisia and Niger under a series of classified plans.
Although military spokesmen have said in numerous public statements that the U.S. role in Africa is limited to“Advising and assisting” other forces. But the Green Berets, SEALs and other commandos, acting under a secretive authority, planned and controlled certain missions and directed their African counterparts.
In July 2022, Niko Tus, a journalist of The Intercept,obtained a document showing that The US played an unacknowledged role in the 2017 bombing of an internally displaced persons’ camp in Nigeria that killed more than 160 civilians, many of them children.
The attack on a camp in Rann, Nigeria, near the border with Cameroon and Chad, was allegedly part of a long-running counter-insurgency campaign against the terrorist group Boko Haram. The attacks destroyed at least 35 buildings, including shelters for victims of the war who had been forced to leave their homes.
A surveillance plane circled above the Rann IDP camp, which housed 43,000 people and was controlled by the Nigerian military, before a jet arrived and bombed the area where people draw water from a borehole, survivors of the attack said. The jet then circled and dropped another bomb on the tents of displaced civilians sheltering there. The airstrike also killed nine aidworkers and seriously wounded more than 120 people.
Exactly how many people were killed in the bombing remains unknown. Callamard, the U.N. special rapporteur, was provided a list with the names of 127 victims, two-thirds of them children. Witnesses involved in the burial say 167 victims were interred in Rann cemetery, while a local government official put the number at 236 dead.
Witnesses described finding large numbers of ball bearings following the bombing. Photos of the dead and wounded, according to Callamard’s report, also “showed both massive and smaller wounds, consistent with firing of ball bearings-based ammunitions.” The allegations that such munitions were used are “extremely serious,”Callamard noted, and “should have been independently investigated.”
The attack was referred to as an instance of “U.S.-Nigerian operations” in a formerly secret U.S. military document obtained exclusively by The Intercept.
Evidence suggests that the U.S. launched a near unprecedented internal investigation of the attack because it secretly provided intelligence or other support to the Nigerian armed forces, a contribution hinted at by Nigerian military officials at the time. The U.S. inquiry, the existence of which has not been previously reported, was ordered by the top American general overseeing troops in Africa and was specifically designed to avoid questions of wrongdoing or recommendations for disciplinary action, according to the document.
The Nigerian Air Force bombed the internally displaced persons’ camp — which had been set up by the Nigerian military — because “the location was not reflected in the operational map as a humanitarian base,” according to Maj. Gen. John Enenche, Nigeria’s director of defense information. “Hence, it appeared as a place that could equally be used for enemy activities.”
Nigerian human rights activists questioned how the military could be unaware of the camp and alleged a cover-up. The tents were visible from the air, according to satellite imagery. Last year, Agnès Callamard — then-United Nations special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary, or arbitrary executions — noted the absurdity of the strike. “The military presence in Rann, its role in establishing the camp and their facilitation of the humanitarian distribution on the day, raise many questions,” she wrote in a 2021 report. “No independent investigation was carried out.”
Just days after the attack, U.S. Africa Command secretly commissioned Brig. Gen. Frank J. Stokes to undertake an “investigation to determine the facts and circumstances of a kinetic air strike (‘strike’) conducted by Nigerian military forces in the vicinity of Rann, Nigeria.” Its findings were never made public.
AFRICOM did not answer The Intercept’s questions about the results of Stokes’s investigation or the extent of U.S. involvement in the attack.
The formerly secret document directed Stokes — deputy director of AFRICOM’s directorate for strategy, engagements, and programs — to be “sensitive” regarding the assessment of materials “maintained within special access programs,” often referred to as SAPs. Sometimes called “black programs,” SAPs are highly classified with strictly enforced security measures and need-to-know access requirements. Certain SAPs are unacknowledged: their funding hidden within the federal budget and their existence formally denied.
U.S. surveillance and intelligence-gathering operations have often been employed near Nigeria, including a Predator drone flown from neighboring Chad, in addition to a longer-range Global Hawk and a manned, turbo prop plane, deployed over Nigeria beginning in 2014, ostensibly to search for children kidnapped by Boko Haram.
Cahalan, the spokesperson, insisted that AFRICOM had no “additional information” on the Rann airstrike but did not respond to a question of how this was possible given that then-AFRICOM commander, Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser, had ordered a top AFRICOM officer to conduct a formal investigation that included “gathering accounts of the strike or information … from witnesses,” inspecting documents, and collecting “information which will support any subsequent reviews of the strike … and shape the manner in which any future coalition or partner nation operations are conducted.”
Redactions to the document, obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, make it impossible to ascertain the full extent of U.S. involvement in the 2017 airstrike, but Stokes’s official instructions suggest that the U.S. provided intelligence or other support to the Nigerian military. “You will gather and preserve any background information that is relevant to a complete understanding of U.S.-Nigerian operations such as this strike,” reads the document. Stokes’s mandate included an inquiry into how the U.S. shares information with Nigeria’s military, protocols concerning its use, and “after action reporting procedures when shared information is used in a strike (e.g., battle damage assessment reports).”
The formal investigation of an African partner’s airstrike was rare, if not unprecedented, and indicates this was no ordinary Nigerian bombing gone wrong. A former Pentagon official with expertise in investigations of civilian casualty incidents, who spoke to The Intercept on the condition of anonymity, said that he had never encountered a U.S. investigation of an ally’s airstrike.
In a 2017 special investigative project for Nigeria’s The Cable — a news outlet supported by the MacArthur Foundation — journalist Mayowa Tijani reported that the regional military commander, Gen. Lucky Irabor (now Nigeria’s defense chief), “admitted that he ordered the attacks in Rann, based on intelligence received.” While Irabor did not disclose the source of the intelligence, Tijani wrote that a “senior military source” suggested it had originated with “one of the powerful countries in the west.”
No Americans were held accountable for the civilian deaths in the Hawija strike, in keeping with a litany of attacks from Somalia to Libya and from Syria to Yemen that the Pentagon has failed to investigate or reinvestigate despite civilian casualty allegations. Earlier this year, Rep. Sara Jacobs, D-Calif., asked whether the Defense Department was planning to revisit civilian harm allegations for cases in which new evidence has come to light.
Regarding the Nigerian attack on the IDP camp, Stokes was instructed not to focus “on any person or organization which took part in this strike” nor to “make recommendations as to any disciplinary actions to be taken.” He was also officially handcuffed in terms of accountability. “You do not have any authority to compelpotentially incriminating evidence from any Service member, civilian employee of the U.S., contractor personnel supporting U.S. operations, or foreign military personnel,” reads his mandate.
“The timeline is striking,” Lauren Woods, director of the Security Assistance Monitor at the Center for International Policy, told The Intercept. “The strike on the IDP camp happened in January 2017, and already by August of the same year, the U.S. government had approved the sale of more aircraft — the Super Tucano aircraft and weapons — to the Nigerian government.”
Neither the weapons sales nor the killing of civilians were Trump-era anomalies. In April 2021, a Nigerian military helicopter reportedly launched indiscriminate attacks on homes, farms, and a school in an effort to strike at “bandits.” Last September, following an initial denial, the Nigerian Air Force admitted that it attacked a village in Yobe State, killing 10 civilians and injuring another 20. But this spring, the U.S. approved a possible $1 billion sale of 12 attack helicopters and related training and equipment to Nigeria.
“I think this example raises the question of, when the U.S. provides weapons and equipment that can be used for attacks, and when it provides intelligence that inform those attacks, what responsibilities should it have to make sure those capabilities and that information is used responsibly and carefully?” the former Pentagon official told The Intercept. “The U.S. provides more arms internationally than anyone and we provide training and advising on their use, but we still provide very little advisory support or capabilities to help partners to avoid harm to civilians.”
In March 2022, an exclusive document obtained by the Intercept revealed a confidential partnership between U.S. Special Forces and a Cameroonian force involved in atrocities.
Months after the head of U.S. Africa Command announced that funding for Cameroon’s armed forces would be slashed due to “human rights concerns”, the Pentagon continued employing members of an elite Cameroonian military unit long known for committing atrocities — including extrajudicial killings — as proxies through a classified Special Operations counterterrorism program.
Until late 2019, members of the unit — known as the Rapid Intervention Battalion or by its French acronym BIR — conducted the missions against groups U.S. officials designated as VEOs, or violent extremist organizations, to “degrade” their ability to “conduct terrorist acts against U.S. interests,” according to a formerly secret Pentagon document obtained through a public records request. At least some of the operations were “planned and coordinated … with input from U.S. counterparts,” the memorandum notes.
Those operations occurred under a program called 127e,which was intended to carry out counterterrorism missions with minimum deployment of U.S. personnel. 127e programs are named after the budgetary authority that allows U.S. Special Operations forces including Army Green Berets, Navy SEALs, and Marine Raiders to use foreign military units as proxies. They differ from other forms of assistance, training, or equipping of foreign forces because they allow the U.S. to employ foreign troops to do its own bidding — often in countries where the U.S. is not officially at war and the American public does not know the military is operating. In some cases, U.S. troops even engage in combat.
A heavily redacted Pentagon document reveals details about the U.S. partnership with a unit of the Cameroonian military known as the Rapid Intervention Battalion, or by its French acronym BIR.
The 2019 document, which is heavily redacted and not scheduled to be declassified until 2044, references two 127e operations in which the BIR was not accompanied by U.S. troops. Details such as the location of the operations are redacted, but the document notes that they yielded “no strategic value,” and the Pentagon ended the partnership on September 30 of that year.
The termination of the program came eight months after the U.S. announced a drastic cut to security assistance to Cameroon, and one of the operations mentioned in the document took place nearly a month after that announcement. Those cuts followed revelations by The Intercept and Amnesty International of torture and murder by the BIR at a military base frequented by American personnel, as well as a drumbeat of subsequent reports of human rights abuses, including the cold-blooded execution of women and children.
Following that reporting, “there were discussions about the unsustainability of the Americans’ military involvement in Cameroon,” said Arrey Ntui, a senior analyst at the International Crisis Group. It was “surprising,” he added, that U.S. assistance was not cut off for several months after evidence of those abuses became public. The BIR continues to receive support from the United States through other security assistance programs.
It’s unclear how many missions BIR forces operating under the aegis of the 127e program may have carried out in 2019 but that partnership was one of 20 active 127e programs that year, according to the document, which also reveals that partnerships were underway in Africa, the Middle East, and the Asia-Pacific region at the time. Previous reporting, including by The Intercept, documented the existence of 127e operations in multiple African countries, but the memo offers the first official confirmation that the authority was employed in the Indo-Pacific Command area of operations.
U.S assistance to Cameroon’s military was intended to support its fight against the Islamist militant group Boko Haram, and later the Islamic State’s West Africa affiliate, in the far north of the country. But in recent years, Cameroon’s government has also fought its own war against Anglophone separatists in the northwest and southwest regions. Some Cameroonian troops previously operating in the north have redeployed to the Anglophone regions, raising questions about the indirect U.S. involvement in a conflict well outside the scope of its stated objectives.
The revelations about the 127e program in Cameroon come as pressure mounts on the U.S. to cut ties with its longtime ally. In a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, shared exclusively with The Intercept, Reps. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn.; Sara Jacobs, D-Calif.; and Karen Bass, D-Calif., this week asked both officials to clarify the status of U.S. support for the BIR.
“We are particularly concerned about whether U.S. security assistance may be contributing to serious human rights abuses,” the legislators wrote. “We are particularly concerned in U.S. support for the Rapid Intervention Battalion (BIR), some elements of which have been accused by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, among others, as having been directly implicated in atrocities in the Anglophone region. As you are aware, the State Department has reprogrammed some security assistance since 2019, but our understanding is that other assistance — including to the BIR — continues.”
The 127e authority, “127-echo” in military parlance, is exempt from a safeguard required of other U.S. programs supporting foreign forces known as the “Leahy law”: the scrutiny of recipients’ human rights records named after Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt. A legislative effort to close that loophole by requiring 127e partners to undergo human rights vetting made it into the House version of the annual defense bill last year but was cut during negotiations with the Senate.
Critics of the 127e authority warn that it allows the Defense Department to essentially bypass oversight. Stephen Semler, co-founder of the Security Policy Reform Institute, a grassroots-funded U.S. foreign policy think tank, described 127e as an effort by the Pentagon to find “a different way to wage war.” Brian Finucane, a senior adviser at the International Crisis Group and former legal adviser to the State Department, echoed that sentiment. “The concern is that the executive branch may be sliding into war,” he said, “without adequate consideration by Congress and the public about whether use of military force is justified and adequate.”
U.S. officials have touted 127e as crucial to conducting missions in areas otherwise inaccessible to U.S. troops. “These are hand-selected partner forces. We train them and we equip them. They specifically go after high-value counterterrorism targets. And they are used to support U.S. objectives and achieve U.S. aims,” retired Army Brig. Gen. Donald Bolduc, who served at U.S. Africa Command, or AFRICOM, and led Special Operations Command Africa, or SOCAFRICA, told The Intercept in an interview.
Codenamed “Obsidian Cobra,” according to Bolduc, the 127e program in Cameroon was approved by then-Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel in September 2014 and ran alongside a series of efforts to assist Cameroon’s fight against Boko Haram and the local Islamic State affiliate. Some 300 U.S. military personnel were also deployed to Cameroon, where they remained until early 2020.
U.S. support for the Cameroonian military faced growing scrutiny in recent years as graphic evidence of atrocities committed by the BIR and other units came to light in a series of reports by human rights groups and journalists. The U.S. State Department has also mentioned allegations of BIR abuses, including arbitrary arrests, torture, or extrajudicial killings in every annual report on Cameroon since 2010.
The Defense Department made a concerted effort to continue funding Cameroonian forces but the reports of their abuses became impossible to ignore, according to a U.S. official familiar with the deliberations who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the press. While he did not specifically address the 127e program, the official said that the battle had less to do with abuses by specific units receiving U.S. funding and more with the overall relationship with Cameroon. “The bigger fight was on the broader policy issue,” he told The Intercept. “As a legal matter, AFRICOM was saying that they were in the clear. But as a policy matter the Cameroonian government was allowing these abuses to happen, so how could we keep working with them?”
In early 2019, when the U.S. announced that it would withhold $17 million in planned security assistance to Cameroon, AFRICOM chief Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser told Congress the Cameroonians “have been a good partner with us counterterrorism-wise” but conceded that U.S. officials couldn’t “neglect the fact that … there are alleged atrocities in what’s gone on there.”
Since then, the House and Senate have passed separate resolutions on atrocities in Cameroon. In 2020, the Senate called on U.S. officials to ensure that U.S. training and equipment was not being used to facilitate human rights abuses in the Anglophone regions.
But U.S. tax dollars continue to support the BIR. A State Department spokesperson confirmed that since 2019, the U.S. has aided the unit through the maintenance and operation of “command-and-control equipment,” training in the coordination of air and ground operations, and assistance to maintain and operate drones. The spokesperson said that “subunits within the BIR” that have received funding since 2019 “were formally vetted before receiving assistance to ensure they are not credibly implicated in a gross violation of human rights.”
Meanwhile, new reports of atrocities committed by the Cameroonian military in the Anglophone regions continue to emerge. Last December, BIR troops conducted house-to-house searches in Chomba village, accusing residents of harboring separatists and threatening to kill them, according to Human Rights Watch. The soldiers disappeared four residents who were later found dead, with gunshot wounds to the head. The same month, Cameroonian soldiers killed a 3-year-old girl and injured a 17-year-old girl in the town of Bamenda. Members of the BIR have also been accused of rape and the looting and burning of homes.
“They kill randomly, they arrest randomly, they arrest children, they open fire on the civilian population,” Emma Osong, an Southern Cameroonian-American human rights advocate and founder of Women for Permanent Peace and Justice, a victims-based organization, said of the BIR. “The crimes are piling up. … And they are being done by a military whose funding partly comes from America.”
(3) A 2022 report shows small teams of U.S. Special Operations forces are involved in a low-profile proxy war program in Africa on a far greater scale than previously known and involve indiscriminate violence
In July 2022, the Intercept reported that small teams of U.S. Special Operations forces are involved in 127e, a low-profile proxy war program, on a far greater scale than previously known, according to exclusive documents and interviews with more than a dozen current and former government officials. In Africa, it involves Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Niger, Mali, Cameroon, Somalia, etc.
While The Intercept and other outlets have previously reported on the Pentagon’s use of the secretive 127e authority in multiple African countries, a new document obtained through the Freedom of Information Act offers the first official confirmation that at least 14 127e programs were also active in the greater Middle East and the Asia-Pacific region as recently as 2020. In total, between 2017 and 2020, U.S. commandos conducted at least 23 separate 127e programs across the world.
Separately, Joseph Votel, a retired four-star Army general who headed both Special Operations Command and Central Command, which oversees U.S. military efforts in the Middle East, confirmed the existence of previously unrevealed 127e “counterterrorism” efforts in Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen.
Another former senior defense official, who requested anonymity to discuss a classified program, confirmed that an earlier version of the 127e program had also been in place in Iraq. A 127e program in Tunisia, code-named Obsidian Tower, which has never been acknowledged by the Pentagon or previously identified as a use of the 127e authority, resulted in combat by U.S. forces alongside local surrogates in 2017, according to another set of documents obtained by The Intercept. A third document, a secret memo that was redacted and declassified for release to The Intercept, sheds light on hallmarks of the program, including use of the authority to provide access to areas of the world otherwise inaccessible even to the most elite U.S. troops.
The documents and interviews provide the most detailed picture yet of an obscure funding authority that allows American commandos to conduct counterterrorism operations “by, with, and through” foreign and irregular partner forces around the world. Basic information about these missions — where they are conducted, their frequency and targets, and the foreign forces the U.S. relies on to carry them out — are unknown even to most members of relevant congressional committees and key State Department personnel.
Through 127e, the U.S. arms, trains, and provides intelligence to foreign forces. But unlike traditional foreign assistance programs, which are primarily intended to build local capacity, 127e partners are then dispatched on U.S.-directed missions, targeting U.S. enemies to achieve U.S. aims. “The foreign participants in a 127-echo program are filling gaps that we don’t have enough Americans to fill,” a former senior defense official involved with the program told The Intercept. “If someone were to call a 127-echo program a proxy operation, it would be hard to argue with them.”
Retired generals with intimate knowledge of the 127e program — known in military parlance as “127-echo” — say that it is extremely effective in targeting militant groups while reducing risk to U.S. forces. But experts told The Intercept that use of the little-known authority raises grave accountability and oversight concerns and potentially violates the U.S. Constitution.
One of the documents obtained by The Intercept puts the cost of 127e operations between 2017 and 2020 at $310 million, a fraction of U.S. military spending over that time period but a significant increase from the $25 million budget allocated to the program when it was first authorized, under a different name, in 2005.At that time, this project was licensed under a different name.
While critics contend that, due to a lack of oversight, 127e programs risk involving the United States in human rights abuses and entangling the U.S. in foreign conflicts unbeknownst to Congress and the American people, former commanders say the 127e authority is crucial to combating terrorism.
“I think this is an invaluable authority,” Votel told The Intercept. “It provides the ability to pursue U.S. counterterrorism objectives with local forces that can be tailored to the unique circumstances of the specific area of operations.”
The 127e authority first faced significant scrutiny after four U.S. soldiers were killed by Islamic State militants during a 2017 ambush in Niger and several high-ranking senators claimed to know little about U.S. operations there. Previous reporting, by The Intercept and others, has documented 127e efforts in multiple African countries, including a partnership with a notoriously abusive unit of the Cameroonian military that continued long after its members were connected to mass atrocities.
For more than a year, the White House has failed to provide The Intercept with substantive comment about operations by U.S. commandos outside conventional war zones and specifically failed to address the use of 127e programs. Asked for a general comment about the utility of the 127e authority and its role in the administration’s counterterrorism strategy, Patrick Evans, a National Security Council spokesperson, replied: “These all fall under the Department of Defense.” The Pentagon and Special Operations Command refuse to comment on the 127e authority. “We do not provide information about 127e programs because they are classified,” SOCOM spokesperson Ken McGraw told The Intercept.
Critics of 127e warn that in addition to the risk of unanticipated military escalation and the potential costs of engaging in up to a dozen conflicts around the world, some operations may amount to an unlawful use of force. Because most members of Congress — including those directly responsible for overseeing foreign affairs — have no input and little visibility into where and how the programs are run, 127e-related hostilities can lack the congressional authorization required by the U.S. Constitution, argued Katherine Ebright, counsel at the Brennan Center for Justice.
“There’s reason to suspect the Department of Defense has used 127e partners to engage in combat beyond the scope of any authorization for use of military force or permissible self-defense,” Ebright told The Intercept, noting substantial confusion at the Pentagon and in Congress over a stipulation that 127e programs support only authorized ongoing military operations. “That kind of unauthorized use of force, even through partners rather than U.S. soldiers themselves, would contravene constitutional principles.”
127e is one of several virtually unknown authorities granted to the Defense Department by Congress over the last two decades that allow U.S. commandos to conduct operations on the fringes of war and with minimal outside oversight. While 127e focuses on “counterterrorism,” other authorities allow elite forces — Navy SEALs, Army Green Berets, and Marine Raiders among them — to conduct clandestine intelligence and counterintelligence operations or assist foreign forces in irregular warfare, primarily in the context of so-called great power competition. In April, top Special Operations officials unveiled a new “Vision and Strategy” framework that appears to endorse continued reliance on the 127e concept by leveraging “burden sharing partnerships to achieve objectives within an acceptable level of risk.”
Gen. Richard D. Clarke, the current Special Operations commander, testified before Congress in 2019 that 127e programs “directly resulted in the capture or killing of thousands of terrorists, disrupted terrorist networks and activities, and denied terrorists operating space across a wide range of operating environments, at a fraction of the cost of other programs.”
Votel confirmed that the 127e in Lebanon was code-named Lion Hunter. He also acknowledged previously unknown 127e programs in Syria; Yemen, known as Yukon Hunter; and Egypt, code-named Enigma Hunter, where U.S. Special Operations forces partnered with the Egyptian military to target ISIS militants in the Sinai Peninsula. He said that the chief of the Egyptian military intelligence service provided “strong support” for Enigma Hunter and that American troops did not accompany their local partners into combat there, as is common in other African countries.
The U.S. has a long history of assistance to both the Egyptian and Lebanese militaries, but the use of Egyptian and Lebanese forces as proxies for U.S. counterterrorism missions marked a significant development in those relationships, several experts noted.
The situation is more complex in Egypt, where the military has for decades relied on billions of dollars in U.S. security assistance but resisted U.S. efforts to track how that assistance is used.
While Sinai is subject to a near-total media blackout, human rights groups have documented widespread abuses by the Egyptian military there, including “arbitrary arrests, forced disappearances, torture, extrajudicial killings, and possibly unlawful air and ground attacks against civilians.”
“There are legitimate issues with the U.S. partnering with some units of the Egyptian military,” said Seth Binder, director of advocacy at the Project on Middle East Democracy. “There has been great documentation, by Amnesty and Human Rights Watch, of numerous human rights abuses in the Sinai by the Egyptian military. Are these the same units we’re partnering with to carry out operations? That’s a real concern.”
The Egyptian Embassy in the United States did not respond to a request for comment, but in a joint statement last fall, U.S. and Egyptian officials committed to “discussing best practices in reducing civilian harm in military operations” — a tacit admission that civilian harm remained an issue. Requests for interviews with the embassies of Iraq, Tunisia, and Yemen, as well as Lebanon’s Ministry of Defense, went unanswered.
While the documents obtained by The Intercept offer clues about the scope and contours of the 127e program, much remains unknown to both the public and members of Congress. Relevant reports required by law are classified at a level that prevents most congressional staffers from accessing them. A government official familiar with the program, who requested anonymity to discuss it, estimated that only a handful of people on Congress’s armed services and intelligence committees read such reports. Congressional foreign affairs and relations committees — even though they have primary responsibility for deciding where the U.S. is at war and can use force — do not receive them. And most congressional representatives and staff with clearance to access the reports do not know to ask for them. “It’s true that any member of Congress could read any of these reports, but I mean, they don’t even know they exist,” the government official added. “It was designed to prevent oversight.”
But it is not just Congress that’s largely kept in the dark about the program: Officials at the State Department with the relevant expertise are also often unaware. While 127e requires signoff by the chief of mission in the country where the program is carried out, detailed information is rarely shared by those diplomats with officials in Washington.
The lack of oversight across levels of the U.S. government is in part the result of the extreme secrecy with which defense officials have shielded their authority over the program — and of the scant pushback they have faced. “It’s State not knowing what they don’t know, so they don’t even know to ask. It’s the ambassadors being sort of wowed by these four-star generals who come in and say, ‘If you don’t let us do this, everyone’s going to die,’” the government official said. “DOD views this as a small, tiny program that doesn’t have foreign policy implications, so, ‘Let’s just do it. The less people get in our way, the easier.’”
President Biden has signed an order authorizing the military to once again deploy hundreds of Special Operations forces inside Somalia — largely reversing the decision by President Donald J. Trump to withdraw nearly all 700 ground troops who had been stationed there, according to four officials familiar with the matter.
In addition, Mr. Biden has approved a Pentagon request for standing authority to target about a dozen suspected leaders of Al Shabab, the Somali terrorist group that is affiliated with Al Qaeda, three of the officials said. Since Mr. Biden took office, airstrikes have largely been limited to those meant to defend partner forces facing an immediate threat.
Together, the decisions by Mr. Biden, described by the officials on the condition of anonymity, will revive an open-ended American counterterrorism operation that has amounted to a slow-burn war through three administrations. The move stands in contrast to his decision last year to pull American forces from Afghanistan, saying that “it is time to end the forever war.”
Mr. Biden signed off on the proposal by Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III in early May, officials said. In a statement, Adrienne Watson, the National Security Council spokeswoman, acknowledged the move, saying it would enable “a more effective fight against Al Shabab.”
Ms. Watson did not indicate the number of troops the military would deploy. But two people familiar with the matter said the figure would be capped at around 450. That will replace a system in which the U.S. troops training and advising Somali and African Union forces have made short stays since Mr. Trump issued what Ms. Watson described as a “precipitous decision to withdraw.”
The Biden administration’s strategy in Somalia is to try to reduce the threat from Al Shabab by suppressing its ability to plot and carry out complicated operations, a senior administration official said. Those include a deadly attack on an American air base at Manda Bay, Kenya, in January 2020.
Burkina Faso experienced two military coups in 2022, and behind the political turmoil was military infiltration operations by the United States, France, and other countries in the country. The power vacuum created by the U.S. military intervention consolidated the political will and power of terrorist groups. In January 2022, then-President Roch Kabore was removed in a coup by military leader Paul-Henri D’Amiba. Damiba had received several military and intelligence training from the United States.
On September 30, 2022, yet another military coup toppled the government of Burkina Faso, with protesters surrounding and vandalizing the French embassy in the capital of Ouagadougou. The demonstrators’ anger centered on the French, and behind them, their American allies, for their failure to stop a ceaseless wave of Islamist militant attacks around the country.Over the years, the Muslim-majority country of Burkina Faso has endured hundreds of terror attacks, which were blamed on offshoots of al-Qaeda and ISIS. Parts of the population protested against the government’s perceived failure to end the attacks.The Grayzone, a U.S. news site, points out that the extremist infiltration was a ricochet effect of US and NATO interventionism in the region.
Under US President George W. Bush, Burkina Faso was removed from the list of prohibited countries, allowing US military aid to flow to the country. Under US President George W. Bush, Burkina Faso was removed from the list of prohibited countries, allowing US military aid to flow to the country.
In 2012, US Special Operations Forces reportedly set up small bases in Burkina
Faso, designed to support reconnaissance flights and so-called counterterrorism operations against Islamists operating in neighboring countries and regions, such as Mali, Mauritania, and the Sahara.
Following protests, President Compaoré finally resigned in 2014. At the time, the military seized power under Lt. Col. Isaac Zida, former deputy commander of the Presidential guard. Zida had been trained at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, as part of courses run by the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations University. In 2015, chief of intelligence, General Gilbert Diendéré, who had been trained by the US under Flintlock as part of its so-called war on terror, led an ultimately failed coup.
Burkina Faso began to experience a wave of attacks by Islamist militants in2016. The Grayzone, a U.S. news site, points out that the extremist infiltration was a ricochet effect of US and NATO interventionism in the region. Similarly, the U.S.-led NATO waged a regime change war against Libya in 2016 that eventually led to unrest in neighboring Mali, where al-Qaeda ally Boko Haram seized parts of its territory using weapons looted from Libyan military depots, and the Islamism began attacking the country.
In 2019, the DC National Guard trained the country’s Armed Forces. Agents from Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the Drug Enforcement Agency, FBI, Marshals, and Secret Service contributed to the training.
In 2020, the US Embassy confirmed in a fact sheet entitled “Expanded US Engagement in Burkina Faso”that “over 3,000 Burkinabe soldiers and gendarmes are direct recipients of U.S. training and equipment programs each year, including peacekeeping training.”
2. Diplomatic coercion, bullying and arbitrary sanctions
|Sep. 2020||The US cut aid to Ethiopia over the Nile dam dispute||Ethiopia|
|October 2021||Arbitrary sanctions on Zimbabwe during the Covid-19 pandemic seriously jeopardized its economic security and human rights (2021 December)||Zimbabwe|
|April 2022||The U.S. House of Representatives passed Countering Malign Russian Activities in Africa Act and coerce African countries into complying with U.S. foreign policy||Africa|
|May 2022||The US warned African countries facing a food crisis not to buy grain from Russia||Somalia, Benin, etc.|
|New US strategy for sub-Saharan Africa aroused international discontent||Sub-Saharan Africa|
At its annual summit in June 2022, NATO referred to Africa and the Middle East together as “NATO’s southern neighbours”. On top of that, the NATO secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg referred to “the growing influence of Russia and China in our southern neighbour” as a “Challenge”. The following month, the outgoing United States Africa Command Commander, General Stephen J. Townsend, called Africa “NATO’s southern flank.”. The comments are uncomfortably reminiscent of the neocolonialism 1823 Monroe Doctrine, when the US declared Latin America its “Backyard”.
This paternalistic view of Africa appears to be widely held in Washington. In April, the US House of Representatives overwhelmingly passed the Countering Malign Russian Influence Activities in Africa Act by a vote of 415-9. The bill, which aims to punish African governments for not aligning with US foreign policy on Russia, has been widely condemned across the continent for disrespecting the sovereignty of African nations, with South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor calling it ‘absolutely disgraceful’.
In mid-May 2022, the United States sent an alert to 14 countries, mostly in Africa, that Russian cargo vessels were leaving ports near Ukraine laden with what a State Department cable described as “stolen Ukrainian grain.”The cable identified by name three Russian cargo vessels it said were suspected of transporting it.
The American alert about the grain has only sharpened the dilemma for African countries, many already feeling trapped between East and West, as they potentially face a hard choice between, on one hand, benefiting from possible war crimes and displeasing a powerful Western ally, and on the other, refusing cheap food at a time when wheat prices are soaring and hundreds of thousands of people are starving.
The alarm sounded by Washington reinforced Ukrainian government accusations that Russia has stolen up to 500,000 tons of Ukrainian wheat, worth $100 million, since Russia’s invasion in February. Much of it has been trucked to ports in Russia-controlled Crimea, then transferred to ships, including some under Western sanctions, Ukrainian officials say.
But many African nations are already ambivalent about the punishing Western campaign of sanctions against Russia for reasons that include their dependence on Russian arms sales, lingering Cold War-era sympathies and perceptions of Western double standards. On top of that, the continent is suffering badly.
Russia and Ukraine normally supply about 40 percent of wheat needs in Africa, where prices for the grain have risen 23 percent in the past year, the United Nations says. In the Horn of Africa region, a devastating drought has left 17 million people hungry, mostly in parts of Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya, according to the United Nations. More than 200,000 people in Somalia are on the brink of famine.
Faced with such pressing need, many African countries are unlikely to hesitate before buying Russian-supplied grain, no matter where it comes from, said Hassan Khannenje, director of the HORN International Institute for Strategic Studies, a research body in Kenya.
According to the report, most of the 14 African countries warned by the U.S. are among the most distressed countries in the immediate food crisis. African wheat imports are heavily dependent on Russia and Ukraine. Somalia and Benin’s wheat imports even come exclusively from Russia and Ukraine, and both African countries are now in severe famine.
Carrying huge banners reading “We have suffered enough” and “Sanctions affect Zim’s fight against COVID-19,” locals gathered near the US embassy in Zimbabwe in the capital Harare on October 25，2021. In a march to protest against sanctions, they said they don’t believe in American-style democracy, strongly criticizing the US for using so-called “democracy” to plunder resources and bully other countries.
“In Zimbabwe, people don’t agree with the bullying practices being carried out by the United States… Let Zimbabwe adopt American democracy, whether for the sake of it. Nobody’s interests will work,” said Sally Ngoni, spokesperson for the Zimbabwe’s Broad Alliance Against Sanctions, the Xinhua News Agency reported.
This outrage in Zimbabwe began in 2000. When the Zimbabwean government introduced land reforms that nationalized land that had long been in the hands of white farmers and distributed it to landless local natives, the US and other Western countries ended all economic aid to Zimbabwe and began imposing sanctions on it. The US Senate passed the “Zimbabwe Democracy Act of2000” to “legitimize” the US government’s support for Zimbabwe opposition in the US and then listed Zimbabwe as one of the six “outposts of tyranny” in the world in January 2005.
According to Zimbabwean newspaper the Herald, the illegal economic sanctions since 2002 have caused losses to the Zimbabwean economy to surge to $100 billion, with borrowing costs up more than 1,000 percent higher than the average for most countries.
On October 28, the United Nations special rapporteur on the negative impact of unilateral coercive measures on human rights Alena Duhan, noted that these sanctions have had a devastating impact on the country’s economy especially during the COVID-19 outbreak. The sanctions prevented the Zimbabwean government from obtaining adequate medical supplies, which adversely affected the country’s fight against the epidemic.
The Zimbabwean people’s outcry is just one of the countless protests to the economic coercion imposed by the US under the guise of “American democracy.”The US and its allies have repeatedly launched attacks against different countries using economic sanctions and wars, and the number of afflicted countries is staggering, said a recent report titled “Democracy summit, undemocratic practices” in Pakistan’s The News International.
During the 46th session of the UN Human Rights Council held in March, human rights experts criticized the US for its long-standing violation of the international law and imposing sanctions on other countries, which have seriously violated a wide range of human rights in Cuba, Haiti, Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Zimbabwe, and other countries around the world.
“In the process of making such decisions, the US shows its own loss of human rights and democracy. The US clearly knows that it is not dictators who are targeted by economic sanctions, but ordinary people who ultimately suffer, and it still indulges in economic sanctions for its own gain,”Qi Kai, an expert on international political economy at China University of Political Science and Law, said in the Global Times.
On the guidance of President Trump, the State Department said Wednesday that the United States was suspending some aid to Ethiopia over the “lack of progress” in the country’s talks with Egypt and Sudan over a disputed dam project it is completing on the Nile River.
It was an unusual example of Mr. Trump’s direct intervention on an issue in Africa, a continent he hasn’t visited as president and rarely mentions publicly. The dam dispute centers on two of Africa’s most populous and powerful nations, Ethiopia and Egypt, and some have feared it could lead to military conflict.
A State Department spokesperson told The Associated Press the decision to “temporarily pause” some aid to a key regional security ally “reflects our concern about Ethiopia’s unilateral decision to begin to fill the dam before an agreement and all necessary dam safety measures were in place.”
It is not clear how many millions of dollars in aid are being affected, or for how long. The decision was taken by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo “based on guidance from the president,” the spokesperson said.
There was no immediate comment from Ethiopia’s government. Ethiopia’s ambassador to the United States, Fitsum Arega, this week tweeted that his country was determined to complete the dam, saying that “we will pull Ethiopia out of darkness.”
Africa’s largest hydroelectric dam has caused severe tensions with Egypt, which has called it an existential threat and worries that it will reduce the country’s share of Nile waters. Ethiopia says the $4.6 billion dam will be an engine of development that will pull millions of people out of poverty. Sudan, in the middle, worries about the effects on its own dams though it stands to benefit from access to cheap electricity.
Years of talks among the countries have failed to come to an agreement. Key remaining issues include how to handle releases of water from the dam during multiyear droughts and how to resolve future disputes.
The United States earlier this year tried to mediate the discussions, but Ethiopia walked away amid accusations that Washington was siding with Egypt. Now the three countries are reporting any progress to the African Union, which is leading negotiations.
Ethiopia had said it would fill the dam with or without a deal with Egypt and Sudan. The dam’s 74 billion-cubic-meter reservoir saw its first filling in July, which Ethiopia’s government celebrated and attributed to heavy rains, while a startled Egypt and Sudan hurriedly sought clarification and expressed skepticism.
A former U.S. ambassador to Ethiopia, David Shinn, had warned against an aid cut, writing that “playing political hardball with Ethiopia will not only fail to obtain Washington’s desired result but will probably ensure that the Ethiopian diaspora in the United States rallies against Trump.”
At the launch of “The Biden administration and Africa in the changing global order” report by the South African Institute for Global Dialogue, Mthembu, lead author of the report and head of the think tank, said the American Strategy for sub-Saharan Africa showed that the US still viewed Africa in a fragmented way, the African continent is not seen as an organic whole. This caused widespread dissatisfaction and doubts on the African side.
Speaking at the conference, Meng Dawei, Director of the South African Centre for the study of Africa and China, University of Johannesburg points out that historically, the United States has treated Africa as its backyard, racially discriminating against people of African descent. During the Covid-19 pandemic in recent years, African tourism has been hit hard by the over-stockpiling of vaccines in the United States and Western countries, as well as by discriminatory travel bans against Africans. Now the launch of a U.S.-African summit by the U.S. hard to escape the suspicion of putting on a show.
He noted that two consecutive Africa-U.S. Summits have been held in the United States and that American leaders have never been to Africa, which is not in line with the spirit of partnership of mutual respect and equality.
Naidu, a senior fellow at the South African Institute for Global Dialogue, has also criticised US companies for their high level of corruption in Africa; much of the losses of Africa from unfair trade are caused by US companies. The U.S. government, however, has turned a blind eye to this, and instead judging other countries’ businesses in Africa; U.S. companies also store the vast amount of user information they collect in Africa on U.S. soil, treating Africa with data colonialism.
Campbell, a professor of American Syracuse University, says there is nothing new in the US’s so-called new policy towards Africa: for nearly 20 years, the US has been waging war under the banner of “Counter-terrorism” and forcibly exporting “Democracy”, the result had not been the elimination of terrorism, but had been a profound disaster for many regions and peoples, including African countries. During the Ukraine crisis, the United States has been asking Africa to take sides, while it increased trade with Russia. The US has hyped up debt-trap conspiracy theories, but it is adding to Africa’s debt by frantically printing money and raising interest rates. The US has used Africa as a bargaining chip to appease French anger at the US-UK-Australia trilateral security partnership, promising resources for French “Counter-terrorism” operations in Africa, which is naked neocolonialism.
A Ugandan political analyst is quick to point out that Western powers have colonised Africa for centuries, Africa’s resources have played a crucial role in modernizing the United States and the West. African countries must be aware of the fact that the United States is attempting to continue exploiting Africa in the face of enormous economic pressures.
3. Environmental Racism and Discrimination
|March 2020||Dumping of toxic waste in Gulf of Guinea by Western countries should be considered as environmental racism, a March 2020 scholarly paper says||Nigeria, Ghana, Côte d’ivoire|
|April 2020||The American Chemical Council lobbied to export large quantities of plastic waste to Kenya (April 2020)||Kenya|
|June 2020||Aid groups accused the United States of inadequate aid to the African pandemic, which led to delay of the rescue time||Africa|
|October 2020||UN reports that most used cars exported from developed countries to developing countries are pollutive vehicles||Africa|
|2021||The US hoarded vaccines and sold or “Donated” near-expired doses to Africa, which had to destroy the expired doses||Nigeria, Senegal, DR Congo, Malawi|
According to a New York Times report in August 2020, American Chemistry Council, an industry group representing the world’s largest chemical makers and fossil fuel companies, is lobbying to influence United States trade negotiations with Kenya, one of Africa’s biggest economies, to reverse its strict limits on plastics–including a tough plastic-bag ban. It is also pressing for Kenya to continue importing foreign plastic garbage, a practice it has pledged to limit.
The New York Times says U.S. plastics makers are looking well beyond Kenya’s borders. “We anticipate that Kenya could serve in the future as a hub for supplying U.S.-made chemicals and plastics to other markets in Africa through this trade agreement,” Ed Brzytwa, the director of international trade for the American Chemistry Council, wrote in an April 2020 letter to the Office of the United States Trade Representative.
The American Chemistry Councill’s plastics proposals would “inevitably mean more plastic and chemicals in the environment,” said Griffins Ochieng, executive director for the Centre for Environmental Justice and Development, a nonprofit group based in Nairobi that works on the problem of plastic waste in Kenya. “It’s shocking.”
Daniel Maina, the founder of the Kisiwani Conservation Network in Mombasa, Kenya, said the trade talks were coming at a particularly vulnerable time, as Kenya was starting to feel the economic effects of the pandemic. “If they were to force this sort of trade agreement on us, I fear we will be easy prey,” he said.
“Africa is at the forefront of the war on plastics, with 34 out of 54 countries having adopted some regulation to phase out single-use plastic,” said Fredrick Njehu, Greenpeace Africa Senior Political Advisor. “The Kenyan government should not backslide on the progress made in its plastic-free ambitions by folding to pressure from fossil fuel giants, because it stands to derail the progress made across the entire continent.”
“Kenya has made great strides to reduce plastic pollution–there is a ban on the use and manufacture of single-use plastic carrier bags and recently a ban on plastic in protected areas. This trade deal could turn Kenya into a dumpsite and diminish what the country has achieved. We are petitioning the Ministry of Trade to say no to this deal,” continued Njehu.
Three scholars from the UK, Nigeria, and the US published a paper in 2020 entitled Toxic waste dumping in the Global South as a form of environmental racism: Evidence from the Gulf of Guinea, which noted the following:
Toxic waste and electronic waste (e-waste) is generated from a wide range of industries – such as health, hydrocarbon or manufacturing – and can come in many forms, such as sludges or gas. E-waste is used electronic items that are nearing the end of their useful life, and are discarded or given to be recycled. If these types of waste aren’t properly discarded they can cause serious harm to human health and the environment.
This makes the proper disposal of toxic and e-waste expensive. Because of this a market has been created and some companies and independent waste brokers circumvent laws. They disguise toxic waste as unharmful and e-waste as reusable electronics. It is then exported to countries in West and Central Africa where it is often disposed of unethically at dump-sites.
The paper of three scholars show how Western companies and businesses (primarily those in Europe and the US) target countries in the Gulf of Guinea – we covered Nigeria, Ghana, and Côte d’Ivoire – as a dump for their toxic waste. This, despite the knowledge of the physiological and environmental effects of this waste.
These African countries do not have the facilities to enable the safe disposal of hazardous and toxic waste. And the true contents of the waste are almost always unknown to them. Exporters label unsalvageable electronic goods as reusable. This allows them to circumvent international laws which prohibit the transboundary transport of this waste.
Drawing on examples from Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria and Ghana, the paper argues that toxic waste dumping in the Gulf of Guinea amounts to environmental racism. This is a term that’s used to describe a form of systemic racism – manifested through policies or practices – whereby communities of colour are disproportionately burdened with health hazards through policies and practices that force them to live in proximity to sources of toxic waste.
Three scholars looked at waste dumping in Nigeria and Ghana because they are both identified by the United Nations Environmental Programme as among the world’s top destinations for e-waste. This includes discarded computers, television sets, mobile phones and microwave ovens.
In Nigeria, each month an estimated 500 container loads, each carrying about 500 000 pieces of used electronic devices (many of which can’t be used again), enter Nigeria’s port from Europe, the US and Asia. Similarly in Ghana, hundreds of thousands of tons of used electronics, mainly from Europe and the United States, are delivered in huge containers.
Because the electronics aren’t properly recycled, this waste has caused huge amounts of pollution to enter the environment. Communities in both countries are also exposed to toxic chemicals such as mercury and lead. Burning e-waste can increase the risk of respiratory and skin diseases, eye infections and cancer for those that work on and live close by.
Nigeria has recently had to destroy more than 1.06 million doses of expired AstraZeneca vaccines. Faisal Shuaib, head of Nigeria’s National Primary Health Care Development Agency, condemned that “We had developed countries that procured these vaccines and hoarded them. At the point they were about to expire, they offered them for donation.” He also announced recently that Nigeria would no longer accept such donations. Previously, some media outlets had disclosed that through the WHO’s COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX), some of the doses arrived in Nigeria from Europe within four to six weeks of expiry, and could not be used in time.
This is not an isolated case. Reports showed that Senegal is likely to destroy approximately 400,000 doses of expired COVID-19 vaccines by the end of this year. Malawi burned nearly 20,000 doses of expired COVID-19 vaccines in May, and the Democratic Republic of Congo also returned in April 1.3 million doses of vaccines for the same reason. The African Vaccine Acquisition Trust, the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and COVAX recently issued a joint statement, calling for the improvement of the quality of COVID-19 vaccine donations to African countries.
To a large extent, this is the result of the early crazed hoarding of vaccines by the US and its partners. They rushed to order a variety of vaccines in 2020 when the vaccines were still in the development stage. By June 2021, the total number of vaccines hoarded in the US had far exceeded its domestic demand. According to statistics, the US and its partners also hold about 240 million COVID-19 vaccine doses that are about to expire. They would rather leave the surplus vaccines in warehouses than provide them to countries that really need them. These countries will not think of selling or “donating” them to developing regions such as Africa until the vaccines are about to expire. In this way, the US and its partners “fulfill” the promises they made about vaccine donation, squeezing out the very last value of the vaccines about to expire.
The WHO-led vaccine distribution mechanism has disclosed that the majority of the vaccine donations made to date to African countries have been ad hoc, provided with very short notice and even shorter shelf lives. The result is that many developing countries not only do not receive the much-needed help, but also have to instead become “large-scale vaccine waste treatment plants” for the US and the West. The US and its partners’ hypocritical strategy against the pandemic is hampering the world’s COVID-19 fight. Many experts have warned that the emergence of Omicron is the consequence of the over-hoarding of vaccines by and in wealthy countries, and the emergence of new variants has made these countries continue to hoard vaccines, leading the COVID-19 fight into a vicious circle.
The US and its allies have some nerve playing “saviors” despite their obvious selfishness. US President Joe Biden has proclaimed, “Just as in World War II America was the arsenal of democracy, in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic, our nation is going to be the arsenal of vaccines for the rest of the world.” But it turns out that both “arsenals” constitute massive lies and hypocrisy from the US to the world. As the US emphasizes its renewed “leadership” in the fight against the pandemic, its “leadership” has been destroyed along with the expired vaccines to African countries.
If the US and its allies really want to contribute to this fight, they should stop treating Africa as a “large vaccine waste treatment plant,” stop putting geopolitics above science, and stop the “vaccine nationalism” that harms both others and themselves.
According to the Associated Press, more than two dozen international aid groups have told the U.S. government they are “increasingly alarmed” that “little to no U.S. humanitarian assistance has reached those on the front lines” of the coronavirus pandemic, as the number of new cases picks up speed in some of the world’s most fragile regions.
The letter obtained by The Associated Press and signed by groups including Save the Children, CARE USA, World Vision and others says that “in spite of months of promising conversations with USAID field staff, few organizations have received an executed award for COVID-19 humanitarian assistance.”
The letter to U.S. Agency for International Development acting administrator John Barsa is dated June 4 — the same day that other USAID officials were touting the U.S. government’s “global leadership” in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“To date, we have committed more than $1 billion to benefit the global COVID response,” Kenneth Staley, the leader of the USAID COVID-19 task force, told reporters covering Africa.
But much of that aid has been tied up in “uncharacteristic delays” nearly three months after the passage of the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, the letter from aid groups says.
The letter called the delay “devastating” and said the window for the United States to help other countries fight the outbreak before it hits the world hardest is closing.
“The long delays in COVID-19 awards — and as a result, U.S. response to a dynamic global emergency —stands in stark contrast to our experience in crises where (the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance) is known to turn around funding in a matter of weeks, if not days,” the letter says.The letter makes clear the aid problem is a global one.
According to the report，for months while promoting U.S. coronavirus assistance, U.S. officials have not given details on the number of crucial items — such as ventilators and testing kits — delivered to countries in Africa, where such equipment has been in short supply for months. And the need is growing.
U.S. President Donald Trump in recent weeks has spoken of deliveries of ventilators to African countries, saying 1,000 of the machines were being sent to Nigeria alone. But Nigeria’s government said none has arrived.In fact, just 50 ventilators have arrived in Africa from the U.S. government, all of them going to South Africa in recent days.Some African officials have expressed open dismay or signaled quiet frustration over the U.S. response.
Some have called for a “Made in Africa” push to reduce reliance on imports, amid efforts to create homemade ventilators and repurpose factories.
The Africa Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has been quick to praise assistance from the Jack Ma Foundation and others for deliveries of ventilators, testing kits and other badly needed items.
But asked about just how many of those items the U.S. has delivered, Africa CDC chief John Nkengasong on the 11th said that “unfortunately, I cannot give you a number … It has been a challenging time for many countries to fight their own pandemic.”
A report released by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) on October 26, 2020, states that Millions of used cars, vans and minibuses exported from Europe, the United States and Japan to the developing world are of poor quality, contributing significantly to air pollution and hindering efforts to mitigate the effects of climate change, according to a new report by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP).
Used Vehicles and the Environment – A Global Overview of Used Light Duty Vehicles: Flow, Scale and Regulation shows that between 2015 and 2018, 14 million used light-duty vehicles were exported worldwide. Some 80 per cent went to low- and middle-income countries, with more than half going to Africa.
“Cleaning up the global vehicle fleet is a priority to meet global and local air quality and climate targets,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of UNEP. “Over the years, developed countries have increasingly exported their used vehicles to developing countries; because this largely happens unregulated, this has become the export of polluting vehicles.”
“The lack of effective standards and regulation is resulting in the dumping of old, polluting and unsafe vehicles,” she added. “Developed countries must stop exporting vehicles that fail environment and safety inspections and are no longer considered roadworthy in their own countries, while importing countries should introduce stronger quality standards”
The report, based on an in-depth analysis of 146 countries, found that some two-thirds of them have ‘weak’ or ‘very weak’ policies to regulate the import of used vehicles. However, it also shows that where countries have implemented measures to govern the import of used vehicles – notably age and emissions standards – these give them to access high-quality used vehicles, including hybrid and electric cars, at affordable prices. For example, Morocco only permits the import of vehicles less than five years old and those meeting the EURO4 European vehicles emission standard; as a result, it receives only relatively advanced and clean used vehicles from Europe.
The report found that African countries imported the largest number of used vehicles (40 per cent) in the period studied, followed by countries in Eastern Europe (24 per cent), Asia-Pacific (15 per cent), the Middle East (12 per cent) and Latin America (nine per cent).
UNEP, with the support of the UN Road Safety Trust Fund and others, is part of a new initiative supporting the introduction of minimum used vehicles standards. The initiative’s first focus will be countries on the African continent; a number of African countries have already put in place minimum quality standards – including Morocco, Algeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana and Mauritius.
|June 2021||US Supreme Court exonerated Nestle, Cargill which enslaved child laboursin Africa||Mali, Côte d’ivoire|
|November 2021||US court exonerated Apple, Google, and Tesla which were involved inexploiting child labour to mine cobalt||Democratic Republic of the Congo|
Nestlé USA and Cargill, the leading U.S. makers of chocolate and other food products, have long been embroiled in lawsuits over allegedly exploitative child labor, and on June 17, 2021, they finally won a long-awaited victory: the justices of the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 8-1 that Nestlé USA and Cargill were “forced to pick cocoa beans thousands of miles away from the company’s headquarters, working up to 14 hours a day for little pay. Nestlé USA and Cargill are not liable for forcing children thousands of miles away from the company’s headquarters to pick cocoa beans and work up to 14 hours a day for little or no pay.
Earlier, six African men filed a lawsuit in court alleging that they were trafficked from Mali to Côte d’Ivoire, West Africa, as children and forced to grow the cocoa beans used to produce chocolate. According to the plaintiffs, the use of forced labor allowed Nestle (USA) and Cargill to maintain low prices for their goods. The plaintiffs allege that they were forced to work 12 to 14 hours a day on the farms, with armed guards at night to prevent them from escaping. And they were paid little to nothing except for some basic food.
Even if slavery did occur, the court could not hold the company liable because the alleged forced labor occurred outside the United States. The judge added that Nestle (USA) and Cargill provided the African population with technical and financial opportunities to earn money. There was no evidence that the farm work was accompanied by slavery.
The question before the Supreme Court is, can an 18th-century Alien Tort Statute be invoked to hold a multinational company accountable for certain parts of its supply chain, including those that occur far away and are out of sight of executives.
Ultimately, the judges ruled that the companies were not actually liable for what happened in Ivory Coast – even though it appeared to constitute an internationally prohibited form of child labor slavery. A fatal weakness, they said, was that the case failed to prove that many of the business decisions that led to abusive child labor occurred on U.S. soil.
“Nestle (USA) and Cargill are both U.S.-based companies engaged in the business of buying, processing and selling cocoa beans.” The ruling, written by Justice Clarence Thomas, states. “They do not own or operate farms in the Ivory Coast. They did, however, purchase cocoa beans from farms there.” He wrote. “They also provided those farms with technical and financial resources – such as training, fertilizer, tools and money – in exchange for the exclusive right to buy cocoa beans.” But even so, he argues that the Alien Tort Statute does not apply to situations that occur outside the UnitedStates.
In October 2020, a report commissioned by the U.S. Department of Labor estimated that some 1.56 million children, some as young as 5 years old, work picking cocoa beans in the Ivory Coast and Ghana, two countries that provide a large portion of the world’s cocoa. Even more alarming is the fact that the number of child laborers in the cocoa picking industry has increased by about 14 percent compared to estimates made a decade ago.
On December 16, 2019 IRAdvocates filed a federal class action lawsuit using the Trafficking Victims Protection Reauthorization Act (“TVPRA”), 18 U.S.C.§1595 et. seq. against major tech companies on behalf of 14 Doe Plaintiffs who are either guardians of children killed in tunnel collapses while mining cobalt in the Democratic Republic of Congo (“DRC”) or children who were maimed in such accidents.
Apple, Google, Tesla and other companies have received class action lawsuits on behalf of multiple plaintiffs from the Democratic Republic of Congo, alleging that the tech companies are intentionally exploiting child labor to mine cobalt locally for use in lithium-ion batteries, according to Appleinsider.
Apple, Google, Dell, Microsoft and Tesla are named in the lawsuit alleging exploitation of underage labor in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), where the companies all knew that the cobalt they purchased for battery technology was mined by child laborers.
At our July 8, 2021 hearing on the companies’ motion to dismiss, Microsoft’s lawyer, on behalf of Microsoft and all of the defendants, stressed repeatedly that the company does not have a sufficient relationship to its suppliers to be responsible for what happens in the DRC cobalt mines.
These tech companies claim they have “policies” against child labor while arguing in court that they merely buy cobalt and have no ability to control what goes on in the cobalt mines. This is a bald-faced lie. They do have contacts and contracts with their mining companies, they just fail to enforce their child labor policy.
The five defendant companies, Apple, Alphabet (Google), Dell, Microsoft, and Tesla, filed a Motion to Dismiss . Plaintiffs responded with an Opposition to the Motion. The defendants filed a Reply Brief and closed the pleadings on December 16, 2020. The Court held a hearing for several hours on July 8, 2021. The Court issued a decision on November 2, 2021 dismissing the case. The ruling ignored dozens of other federal decisions and was the first decision to hold that the TVPRA does not extend extraterritorially in civil cases.
The court also applied an extremely narrow definition of “venture” under the statute and found that the five defendants were not in a “commercial enterprise” with the mining companies. The decision represents an extreme narrowing of the TVPRA, and if upheld on appeal, will severely limit this essential tool for fighting trafficking and forced labor in the DC Circuit.
5. Illegal Economic Activities
|April 2022 report||Bain & Company colludes with former South African president Jacob Zuma, which resulted in corruption in tax authorities||South Africa|
|September 2022report||US companies plunder African wealth through illicit financial flows||Zimbabwe and other African countries|
For years, every year, nearly $90 billion of African resources are lost to the Global North in Illicit Financial Flows, or IFFs. It isn’t just the Russians—U.S.-based corporations and others throughout the Global North are also complicit in this theft.
IFF activity always involves trampling on human rights.According to the Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association, the extractive industry there is fertile ground for IFFs. Human rights violations manifest as a lack of fair and adequate compensation during involuntary relocations and a lack of access to remedy for rights violations, as well as harassment, threats, and prosecution of environmental human rights defenders.
People in these plundered communities do not have a voice. They face harm to local biodiversity, loss of their livelihoods, and a lack of meaningful benefits.
Currently, there are no consequences for the U.S.-based companies involved in IFF activities. In other words, they profit from corruption with impunity.
A recent case involves Bain & Company and then-President Jacob Zuma of South Africa. They colluded to decimate the country’s ability to collect tax revenue, redirected funds to Mr. Zuma and his friends, and crafted a procurement process designed to benefit the U.S.-based firm.
According to a New York Times report on April 23, 2022, a new judicial inquiry found that corruption at South Africa’s tax agency was because of “collusion”between Bain & Company and South Africa’s former president.
A team from the American consulting firm Bain & Company had been hired in 2015 to overhaul the revenue service, even though the agency had been regarded as effective by the International Monetary Fund and other international organizations. Consultants with Bain, empowered to make personnel decisions, soon told her that she and her entire team were being demoted — stripped of their ability to go after tax cheats.
An investigative report on former President Jacob Zuma, published in January 2022, noted that the above reflected Zuma’s attempts to take control of South Africa’s tax agencies. During Mr. Zuma’s tenure as president, corruption seeped into nearly every facet of South Africa’s government, the inquiry has found, and the corruption of the tax collection agency stymied the country’s ability to provide basic services, like housing and electricity.
The report, which followed a series of hearings over four years, said that Bain & Company worked in “collusion”with Mr. Zuma in “one of the few instances where President Zuma was himself directly and personally involved in the activities and plans to take over a government entity.”
Bain was one of several international companies, including McKinsey and KPMG, that helped facilitate that corruption, according to the report, which was overseen by Raymond Zondo, the deputy chief justice of South Africa’s Constitutional Court at the time. (He has since become the chief justice.) The first part of the report covered Bain’s role at the tax agency.
Bain, according to the report, struck up a “collaboration”with Ambrobrite, a local communications and project management company that had little experience in the public sector but a direct link to Mr. Zuma. Ambrobrite was co-founded by a soap-opera producer, Duma ka Ndlovu, who produced a telenovela with one of Mr. Zuma’s daughters.
Bain’s managing partner in South Africa, Vittorio Massone, hired Ambrobrite in 2013 to help expand Bain’s business with government agencies. Ambrobrite eventually became Bain’s second-highest-paid local “adviser” out of 53 worldwide, according to the judicial commission’s report, which relied on a trove of emails.
Bain said that a forensic investigation of its work at the South African Revenue Service by the law firm Baker McKenzie found that while the company had made mistakes, it had not “intentionally harmed” the tax agency.
In a statement to The New York Times, Bain singled out Mr. Massone for wrongdoing. Bain said that he had set up meetings with Mr. Zuma on his own time, and that he had developed that relationship without the approval of the firm’s leadership.
Mr. Massone, who left Bain in 2018, did not respond to a request for comment.
In the emails submitted as evidence to the inquiry, Mr. Massone’s colleagues, fearing a political scandal, raised concerns about Ambrobrite’s poor track record. Mr. Massone dismissed his colleagues’ warnings, according to those emails.
An employee in the Johannesburg office alerted her colleagues in London to what she believed was Ambrobrite’s fraudulent tax compliance certificate. “This whole situation seems very dodgy,” read one email from Geoff Smout, Bain’s director of finance in London.
Ambrobrite did not respond to requests for comment, and it did not testify before the commission, either. It was never charged with fraud.
Wendy Miller, Bain’s global head of marketing at the time, wrote to Mr. Massone as concerns over the Ambrobrite deal reached the head office in Boston. She feared that by hiring a virtually unknown local company with ties to Mr. Zuma, it would look like Bain was just trying to buy influence.
“I am concerned that we are trading off short term access for long term issues,” Ms. Miller wrote in an internal email in 2014.
She wrote that Bain was trying to recover its reputation after the presidential election in 2012, when the Republican candidate, Mitt Romney, was criticized for his work at the consulting firm. Ms. Miller, who has since left Bain, did not respond to a request for comment.
Internal presentations by Bain, handed over to the commission as evidence, show that the company pitched proposals to Mr. Zuma to restructure other state-owned agencies, like the ones that oversee communications and energy, so that Mr. Zuma would have direct oversight of them. This, the judicial commission said, could break South African laws that forbid the head of state from directly controlling state enterprises.
Mr. Massone and Mr. Zuma met 17 times from 2012 to 2014. The commission’s report suggested that those meetings, and the fact that Bain knew who would become the new head of the tax agency — Tom Moyane — before it was made public, were evidence of a plan between the consulting firm and the presidency to infiltrate the revenue service “and cause damage to the institution.”
Bain helped to prepare Mr. Moyane, a Zuma loyalist, to take over the tax agency as its new commissioner. Mr. Moyane is blamed for destabilizing the agency and losing millions of dollars in tax revenue.
At the time, Mr. Zuma was facing accusations of tax evasion, and the first order of business was to “neutralize” revenue service employees seen as obstacles, according to evidence presented during the inquiry. The inquiry report described Bain’s work with Mr. Moyane as “one of the clearest demonstrations of state capture,” a term used to describe politically connected individuals and businesses getting rich off state agencies.
Mr. Zuma was forced to step down in 2018, after Cyril Ramaphosa became head of the governing African National Congress. Promising to root out graft, Mr. Ramaphosa soon fired Mr. Moyane. Mr. Moyane did not respond to a request for comment.
It is not clear to what extent Bain had a direct role in the day-to-day running of the tax agency during the two years it was under contract. But tax agency executives who left told the commission that once Bain arrived, officials stopped holding town hall-style meetings and instead made big decisions behind closed doors.
Under a new commissioner appointed after Mr. Moyane, the revenue service filed a criminal case against Bain in August 2019 for contravening South Africa’s financial laws because its annual contract was renewed several times without the proper public process. That case is still open. The judicial commission also suggested that prosecutors investigate Bain’s conduct, and that all of its contracts with the South African government be reviewed.
In January, Bain was forced to resign from Business Leadership SA, an association of corporations in South Africa.
Criminally prosecuting Bain may be difficult partly because of South Africa’s weakened prosecution authority, also a victim of years of corruption, said Karam Singh, the executive director of Corruption Watch, an independent watchdog.
Vittorio Massone, the former managing partner of Bain in South Africa, in August 2018 testifying about the botched restructuring at the South African Revenue Service.
Bain’s work at the South African Revenue Service was first scrutinized during an inquiry in 2018 that led to Mr. Moyane’s firing. This latest report, however, accuses Bain of a lack of transparency and cooperation with South African investigators.
Bain has sought to make amends, apologizing to South Africans and paying back its fees. The consulting firm also launched two internal investigations into its conduct in South Africa, including the inquiry by Baker McKenzie.
The other investigation backfired on Bain.
In 2018, the company hired Athol Williams, a former employee who was from South Africa, to review what happened in its South African operations. But Mr. Williams quickly turned against the company, saying that Bain officials ignored his questions about gaps in the internal investigation. His role felt ceremonial, he said in an interview.
Mr. Williams became a whistle-blower and was the source of many of the emails and other information that the judicial commission relied on to produce its report. He has written a book about Bain’s work at the tax agency and has been very critical of the company on social media.
“It was only one consulting firm sitting at the table, with Jacob Zuma and his cronies, designing the state capture plan,” he said.
Ms. van Wyk, the tax fraud investigator, said that after she was demoted, she was threatened by criminals emboldened after they learned that the tax agency’s policing and investigations units were paralyzed by internal strife.
She was subjected to seven internal investigations at the revenue agency in what she believes were attempts to push her out as she tried to press on with sensitive investigations. She later had two mild strokes, and said she still struggles to recover from the physical and mental effects of what happened to her on the job.
“You start questioning yourself and your own decisions, and you see conspiracies everywhere,” she said. “But then you realize, after five years, that it was not conspiracies. You were right. And nobody wanted to listen to us.”
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