Africa under WikiLeaks' Searchlight: At the End of November, WikiLeaks - the Nationless, Internet-Based, Whistle-Blowing Organisation - Began Placing Secret Cables, Sent between the US and Its Embassies around the World, into the Public Domain. Some of These Cables Deal with Africa. What Do They Reveal? Anver Versi and Richard Seymour Report

By Versi, Anver; Seymour, Richard | African Business, January 2011 | Go to article overview

Africa under WikiLeaks' Searchlight: At the End of November, WikiLeaks - the Nationless, Internet-Based, Whistle-Blowing Organisation - Began Placing Secret Cables, Sent between the US and Its Embassies around the World, into the Public Domain. Some of These Cables Deal with Africa. What Do They Reveal? Anver Versi and Richard Seymour Report


Versi, Anver, Seymour, Richard, African Business


At the time of going to press, WikiLeaks' founder, Julian Assange was fighting Swedish legislators who seemed determined to extradite him to Sweden to face rape charges. But even while he was detained in prison in London, his website continued to cause huge embarrassment around the world as secret briefings by ambassadors on their host countries flooded the Internet.

The contents of some of the cables expose the often-corrupt reality behind the public statements made by government officials and provide evidence that the 'truth' is often anything but.

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Perhaps the one to cause the greatest shock and stir relating to Africa was an apparent admission by a top executive of Shell to US diplomats that the oil company, already under heavy fire over its operations in the Delta region, had 'seconded' employees to every relevant department in the Nigerian government and that the company knew 'everything that was being done in those ministries'. The secret dispatches from Washington's embassy also revealed that Shell exchanged intelligence with the US. This included providing the US with names of Nigerian politicians it suspected of supporting militant activity.

Ben Amunwa of the oil industry watchdog, Platform, said: "Shell claims to have nothing to do with Nigerian politics but in reality it works deep inside the system and has long exploited political channels in Nigeria to its own advantage."

How the leaking of these cables will play in the forthcoming Nigerian elections is anybody's guess but given the huge public and media outcry, the revelations are unlikely to be quietly brushed under the carpet.

The leaked cables also reveal US fears that Kenya could descend into worse violence than the 2008 post-election crisis unless "rampant corruption" in the ruling elite is tackled. The US ambassador, Michael Ranneberger, according to WikiLeaks, wrote: "Whilst some positive reform steps have been taken, the old guard associated with the culture of impunity continues to resist fundamental change." He added that the culture has existed since independence and that President Mwai Kibaki, Prime Minister Raila Odinga and most members of the cabinet "and political leaders" are part of it.

The Kenyan government reacted quickly. Spokesman Alfred Mutua described the corruption allegations as baseless; they were "preposterous and out of sync with reality," he said. "We can only conclude that the cable was based on assumptions or manufactured analysis and has no bearing as far as we can ascertain."

The cables also reveal that the US is very worried about China's growing economic influence. The US consulate in Nigeria said, "China is a very aggressive and pernicious economic competitor with no morals. China is not in Africa for altruistic reasons. China is in Africa for China primarily."

One set of cables, involving Libya and Colonel Muammar Ghaddafi, has been causing a storm in Britain and the US. It involves the release of Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, convicted as one of the Lockerbie bombers and serving a life-sentence in a Scottish jail. He was released by the Scots on humanitarian grounds as he has cancer and had been given a short time to live. The release caused outrage in the US.

Now it appears that Ghaddafi had warned the British government that unless al-Megrahi was released, there would be "enormous repercussions" involving contracts worth billions of dollars. Was this the lever that was used to secure al-Megrahi's release? The US ambassador to Libya at the time, Gene Cretz, seemed to think so. He said the British were braced to take "dramatic" steps for self-protection. He even urged the US government to remain quiet on the subject lest their own interests suffer.

Meanwhile, other cables indicate that many sub-Saharan African states were worried about Libya's intentions and Uganda's President Yoweri Museveni feared that Libya would invade his country.

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Africa under WikiLeaks' Searchlight: At the End of November, WikiLeaks - the Nationless, Internet-Based, Whistle-Blowing Organisation - Began Placing Secret Cables, Sent between the US and Its Embassies around the World, into the Public Domain. Some of These Cables Deal with Africa. What Do They Reveal? Anver Versi and Richard Seymour Report
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