Tucson, AZ Dec. 21, 1999 SolarQuest® iNet News Service
The name Liberia invokes a sense of freedom and liberty; the very same qualities the United States associates with itself. How very fitting it is that the only African country associated with the United States would have such a name.
However, in more recent times, Liberia has come to elicit more memories of warfare and internal animosity than freedom and liberty. In fact, the country has had one of the most disturbing histories of violence and instability in Western Africa. During the years between 1989 and 1996, Liberia suffered one of the most devastating wars in its history. Its entire energy infrastructure, ranging from dams to oil and gas plants, was destroyed. These events resulted in an extreme shortage of energy and necessitated a rebuilding effort which is still underway. More unfortunate is the fact that this civil war killed a tenth of the population of the small country. Now, during this mayhem and mass destruction, where was the United States?
The US claimed it was an internal issue in which it could not get involved, however, many Liberians claim that the war was instigated and backed by the United States, so as to install a government that could further US interests in Liberia.
In the 150 years before 1980, the US had invested $50 million or less in the country; however, since 1980, US investment increased to over $500 million. So why did investment increase from an average of $300,000 per annum to about $50 million?
Answer: The Cold War.
During the eighties, the US used Liberia as a strategic operational position; however, once the cold war was over, so was major US investment in Liberia. Therefore, with this history of exploitation, there is no wonder that Liberia's representatives are attending the US-Africa Energy Ministers Conference in Tucson, AZ with slight skepticism about the intentions of the United States.
In speaking with Liberia's Minister of Land, Mines and Energy, Dr. Jenkins Dunbar, and his associates, Drs. Richardson and Massaquai, one gets varying levels of enthusiasm about this conference. However, the consensus is that the US has again found another use for Africa for its own benefit. Considering the fact that most of the energy resources in the Western Hemisphere are on their way to total depletion, what better way is there to ensure continued provision of energy than to develop a relationship with the leaders of the continent with the largest potential for natural resources on earth? Also, why not make huge fanfare about US dedication to Africa's progress and development so that they may look favorably upon US needs in the future? One really must credit the machiavellian brilliance of the United States.
The Representatives are also highly skeptical about the prospect of US investment due to their experience in the past. It seems that past US investments in Liberia came with major strings attached resulting in much benefit to Americans and very little benefit to the people of Liberia. So, with this negative frame of reference, why are they here? If they believe that this is another move by the US to ensure the perpetuation of its own existence at the expense of their people, why would they even show up? Aren't Africans tired of being used by all the developed nations in the furthering of their national propaganda?
Well, here's one answer: The conference is a great idea. It is the first gathering of African Energy Ministers to discuss the progress of their countries. Unfortunately, there has not been much cooperation between countries in the past, which is understandable since the countries are totally separate entities. No one expects England and Norway to do much collaboration on anything; however, because most Non-Africans still think of Africa as a country, they expect more collaboration. But Nigeria and Liberia should cooperate, where England and Norway do not have to, because of their under-developed states. Why should Nigeria shell out $5 million in researching an area in which Liberia is quite proficient? Our West African countries need to get over selfishness and pride and help each other achieve their goals.
That is the most promising part of this conference to the Liberian contingent -- the opportunity to network with their peers and work for the success of their countries. Already, Dr. Dunbar has expressed interest in the Nigeria-to-Ivory Coast Pipeline to the minister from Ghana and plans to attend the next meeting in Abuja, Nigeria.
Already, one can feel an atmosphere of camaraderie amongst the ministers and hopefully, this will last into the future.
So, is the US a saint whose main desire is to orchestrate the progress of under-developed nations, or a snake who will eventually destroy its victims? This is debatable depending on where you are from and what your experiences are.
My opinion: The US is a corporation whose main motivation is profit for its shareholders, and other countries exist, either to further profitability through alliances, or be destroyed in the path to market dominance. Therefore, other countries need to see the US as such, and hence protect their own interests. So isn't that the essence of capitalism ?