SEPTEMBER 11 has become a date of global relevance, based on two significant events that took place in the Americas – one in South America and the other in North America. The latter was in the aftermath of the daring murder-suicide and brutal, coordinated terrorist attacks on the United States in 2001. An estimated 3,000 people died at the World Trade Centre twin buildings in New York, at the Pentagon in Washington DC and in Pennsylvania, all involving hijacked aircraft that crashed in different placed on that day in what is now also often interchangeably referred to as 9/11 on a tragic event that occurred on the US soil, carried out by terror actors from Saudi Arabia. But, there had been another notable 9/11 event that happened in a South American country some 28 years earlier. That event, which changed so many things in Chile, reportedly had the imprimatur of the US top government officials and Washington DC politicians in one of such cases of meddling in the affairs of other nations in which they caused chaos where there was none.
The US event might have been given more attention for a number of reasons. First is that the Chilean experience is now half a century old and many who witnessed it first hand as adults may no longer be alive today to tell the story. Those actively remembering the event now are most likely to have been children or adolescent then, with shallow or faint knowledge of what transpired then. Additionally, Chile has not been enjoying the same level of global visibility as the US, in which case most people outside the Latin America may not have been too keen to know, remember or consider the event as remarkable or relevant. Quite significant is the emergence of cable network TV services that have already become a commonplace in the US and most developing countries in 2001, which did live broadcast of the US attack, thus widening the news spread and broadening the people’s consciousness of the event.
Last Monday, Chileans trooped out to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the coup d’état that toppled the regime of the democratically elected president Salvador Allende. Its significance was less about the removal of Allende, but more about the atrocious regime of Augusto Pinochet that ruled Chile for the following 17 years and the damage he did to Chile during his regime. Pinochet ruled with iron fist and inflicted suffering on his countrymen and women. Thousands of Chileans were tortured, killed and forcibly disappeared over the period of his rule. His rise, ascendancy and the ouster of Allende had the imprimatur of the US, with Henry Kissinger’s active involvement as National Security Adviser to President Richard Nixon. Kissinger was involved in the policies that created the conditions for the removal of Allende and of support for dictatorial regime of Pinochet in subsequent years. Declassified documents reportedly revealed Kissinger’s active role in undermining Allende’s government and democracy itself, dating back to September 12, 1970, just days after Allende’s election. He reportedly pushed Nixon to support the policy of regime change in Chile after Allende’s inauguration as president in November of 1970. A Kissinger’s declassified secret memo to Nixon revealed this statement: “The election of Allende as president of Chile poses for us one of the most serious challenges ever faced in the hemisphere.” And that was the bottom line.
Kissinger remains iconic on questions of accountability in the cultural, legal, moral and political sense. His well-documented role in undermining democracy and establishing dictatorship in Chile and in other countries across the globe, particularly Africa, stood out in the wave of coups then. Such interventions serve as one of the great injustices and outrage of that time. Many military leaders in Africa toppled democratically elected governments and established themselves as despots in civilian garbs. And many democratically elected presidents became despots by tweaking the constitution of their countries to remain in power beyond the constitutionally approved term limits. They looted their countries’ resources and stashed away huge fortunes in American and European banks, a pointer to collusion, connivance and self-enrichment at the expense of their countries, with some becoming even richer than their own countries. Rather than building strong institutions that would outlast them, they ended up building strong leaders that faded away soon after their deaths.
Instances abound in Africa. Mobutu Sese Seko removed Patrice Lumumba from office, impoverished DR Congo while enriching himself at the expense of his country, without any Western intervention to curb his excesses. Félix Houphet-Boigny ruled Côte d’Ivoire for over three decades, meddled with African countries’ affairs and helped to sustain wars and atrocities there. Moamar Gaddafi of Libya – a celebrated dictator – was meddlesome in his involvement with other African countries during his regime, obviously falling out of favour from the West only because of his outwardly Pan-Africanism fervour. More recent examples are the deposed Alpha Condé of Guinea Conakry and Alassane Ouattara of Côte d’Ivoire who succeeded in getting themselves into office for the third term beyond the constitutional provisions. Between then and now, the very idea of long period of stay in power without any challenge and without any real national development is intriguing.
Any doubt about the consistency of claims on the US commitment to true democracy outside its own borders? The US has been notorious for distabilising regimes that do not align with its own foreign policies and egging on those who are in their good books. The outcomes have been mostly and consistently disastrous for those countries. They are left in worse social, political and economic conditions after each intervention by the US. Of the many countries where the US has had hands in destabilising their regimes, Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq and Libya are among the most recent. These four countries have not only been divided since the US involvement, their major challenge now is insecurity as they have become hotspots for regional instability, with the armed militants becoming more emboldened. The Washington DC politicians have not changed their approach. Central to their thinking is whatever agrees with their thinking.
Seymour Hersh, a veteran journalist familiar with the operations in Washington DC wrote in a 2023 report that “one answer is that it is now an accepted reality that presidents in the post-9/11 era do not hesitate to manipulate and lie about even the most competent intelligence reports if they do not fit into their political agenda.” Covertly or overtly, it does not seem to matter even if their political agenda causes wars, hunger, social upheavals, political crisis or economic collapse elsewhere as long as their parochial interests are served. Yet they sound sanctimonious while talking of democracy, foreign aid or immigration, whereas much of the humanitarian crises they claim to be responding to are caused directly or indirectly by their own policies. They ship tonnes of aid materials to countries that have fallen into chaos after their selfish interventions. Or, take immigration. Majority of migrants from Sub-Saharan Africa would not need to emigrate if the political and economic conditions in their countries were favourable, hope-inspiring and reassuring. Ghanaian president, Nana Akufo-Addo, alluded to this while hosting President Emmanuel Macron in Ghana.
While answering questions, Nana Akufo-Addo said to the hearing of the visiting President Macron that “migration as a movement of people is being presented in a manner which suggests that somehow, it is a new phenomenon. There is nothing new about it. It is as old as man. The movement of people has always been linked to the same thing, the failure of where you are to provide you with an opportunity. So you move somewhere else.” Generation of Italians and Irish people left their countries to seek the American paradise, largely because Ireland was not working, Italy was not working. Today, you don’t hear it. Italian young people are in Italy. Irish young people are in Ireland. We want young Africans to stay in Africa.” He said we can no longer continue to plan for ourselves, our countries, our region and our continent “on the basis of whatever support the Western world, or France or European Union can give us. It will not work. It hasn’t worked. Our responsibility is to chart a path which is about how we can develop our nations ourselves.”
Akufo-Addo expressed dissatisfaction with the state of Africa’s economy despite its rich resources, saying that “this continent, with all that has happened, is still today the repository of at least 30 per cent of the most important minerals in the world. It is a continent of vast arable, fertile land. It has the youngest population of any of the continents of the world. So, there is the energy and the dynamism.” He was concerned that “these young men, showing much resilience and ingenuity in crossing the Sahara, are finding ways to go across with rickety boats across the Mediterranean to Europe.” In an apparently tacit admission of the moral burden on African leaders and the selfish motives of the Western countries on foreign assistance, Akufo-Addo said: “We want to have those energies working inside our countries. And we are going to have those energies working in our countries if we begin to build systems that tell the young people of our countries that their hopes, their opportunities are right here with us. We have to get away from this mind set of dependence. We will have institutions that work and will allow us to have good governance, accountable governance and to make sure that the monies that are placed at the disposal of the leaders are used for the interest of the state and not for those of the leaders. When you look at the resources, African continent should be giving money to other places. We have huge wealth on this continent.”
Unfortunately, however, Africa is still being short-changed on its material and human resources. The wealth of Africa is still being discounted in many other ways, following the Western hegemonic playbook in position assigned to Africa’s commodity in the global value chain, particularly in global trade in which exports of primary commodities from Africa attract very little revenue with most of the revenues accruing to the industrialised countries. Cocoa is an example, fetching Africa paltry sum compared to the overall in the value chain.
Africa’s credit ratings remain at the mercy of the West. The Big Three ratings agencies – Fitch, Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s (S &P) have not been fairly assessing the risks of lending to African countries due to negative risk perception. Out of the 55 African Union member countries, 22 are not rated by any of the Big Three. This is aside from the municipalities and corporate institutions that cannot afford the ratings from the Big Three because of pessimism, huge premium on loans and prohibitive costs of ratings. The huge market and lots of potential for expansion of credit prospects are thus missed while placing the Western countries at a greater advantage – to set the rules, determine penalties and reap greater gains at Africa’s expense. It is hoped that the AU’s plan to launch its own credit rating agency next year to address the group’s concerns about the unfair ratings the continent will correct the anomaly. In addition to the understanding that such a ratings agency will be based on the continent, add context to information that investors consider when choosing to buy African bonds or lending to the countries and further support the thinking that outsiders will not go out of their way to help Africa. Africans must be ready to do everything needed and possible to turn the tide in their own favour.