International media are reporting that the Ugandan government has turned over Entebbe airport to a Chinese bank in order to make payment on a loan. “Museveni to surrender Uganda’s only international airport over Chinese loan,” claimed The Guardian. Similar headlines have appeared widely and all repeat as fact an allegation that Uganda will lose its airport to Exim bank.
Uganda has not defaulted on the $200 million loan yet the false bad news continues to be reported. Despite denials from China and Uganda the story continues to circulate and is now accepted as being true.
The bad journalism resonates despite inaccuracies in these accounts because they repeat a now familiar trope, that China offers “debt traps” to African nations and has become the 21st century colonizer of the continent. In reality, Africa is colonized by the same nations which began their exploitation by carving up the continent at the 1884 Berlin Conference.
It is a French billionaire, Vincent Bolloré , who controls 16 West African ports through bribery and influence peddling. France also controls the CFA currency of its former colonies. Canadian companies control gold mining in Burkina Faso, Mali and Democratic Republic of Congo. Decades after the struggle for independence, British soldiers are still stationed in Kenya .
The U.S. and its allies have little to offer except exploitation in the form of extraction and military control through the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM). It is China that pursues development projects with new railroads in Nigeria and Angola, and a highway in Kenya. The only narrative that makes the colonizers look good is a smear against China. The U.S./EU/NATO formation still has a hold on African nations and corporate media continue to act as governmental spokespeople and endlessly repeat whatever they are told.
The terms on Chinese loans are better than those of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF). China doesn’t demand austerity in return for project funding, interference is not the goal. The difference is well known and clear and explains why news about China and Africa is so negative and why falsehoods are so readily accepted.
This particular fake news broke just days before the Forum on China-African Cooperation (FOCAC) was scheduled to take place in Dakar, Senegal. Secretary of State Antony Blinken traveled to Senegal just weeks earlier and repeated the usual anti-Chinese screeds. The most basic journalistic standards are not followed with these stories which appear at opportune moments. Allegations of Chinese debt traps should be viewed with great skepticism.
Black/African people are very much interested in the condition of their brothers and sisters all over the world. This dynamic is generally a positive one but it also creates a susceptibility to believe in lies when they are spun well enough. The Chinese as colonizer trope has been repeated too often and information about Africa is too scant for most people to analyze these news stories correctly. We are left with nothing but “China is bad” tales that are accepted because of well-meaning but misdirected concerns for Africans.
The story of Uganda is particularly complex. The Ugandan government is a U.S. puppet, a full fledged participant in the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), and a terrorist nation which invaded the Democratic Republic of Congo and killed millions of people. While it is important to dispel myths about China it is also important to do so without covering up for Uganda and nations like it.
That is why the Black radical tradition must be nurtured and revived. Without it, the world is viewed through the eyes of imperialism’s lackeys and media manipulators. All the truth about African nations and their relations with the rest of the world must be known and clearly understood. Africa is a key part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The BRI certainly benefits China and its involvement in African countries is obviously a benefit to them. What is needed are impartial journalistic standards free of state run falsehoods and political discernment that reveals useful information.
While the airport story was told and retold, China announced a plan to provide African nations with 1 billion doses of COVID vaccines. The project involves donations and joint ventures which will waive the intellectual property rights that have hampered vaccinations in Africa. Neither the United States or its allies have attempted to do anything similar on behalf of the countries we are told live under Chinese subjugation.
The media do indeed have the power to make the innocent look guilty and the guilty appear innocent. The intricacies of international financing cannot be left to scribes for powerful countries. Events taking place at this juncture in history require far more.
Margaret Kimberley’s column appears weekly in BAR, and is widely reprinted elsewhere. She is the author of Prejudential: Black America and the Presidents. Her work can also be found at patreon.com/margaretkimberley. Ms. Kimberley can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgendaReport.com.