Friday, April 17, 2015

O is for Ouagadougou

Deepest darkest Africa. "Doctor Livingstone, I presume?"-type of place. Or is it? Maybe it's Containerized Living Units with air-conditioners going full bore, the slow roar of jets landing overhead, and the smell of smoldering garbage? the Congo of classic old explorer's Africa or the heat and stench of poverty-encrusted new Africa?

A world dominating Britain sending individual explorers and missionaries into Africa is the classic view of Africa, a place turned inward, unaware of an external world, trying only to survive. Now we have a sullen Africa loaded with years of external aid as crops and water fail year after year. Now an overpopulated continent can no longer support itself. Too many people are living and not enough food is growing. Refugee camps become cities where kids grow up and boredom breeds the brains of the next generation of terrorism.

Livingstone's Congo is the Africa of old. CLUs making their own city next to the airport on the edge of Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso is one real view of current Africa. A continent still largely dark, still the birthplace of humanity, and increasingly broken. A place in need of aid and a location that is increasingly viewed as the birthplace of the next round of extremists wishing ill upon the rest of the world.

All of this is true by the way. Ouagadougou does exist in Burkina Faso and there are many other sad stories of broken lives in a famine-ridden continent. But there is also another true story, that of China's fast growing presence on the African continent, seeking to exploit natural resources for its own ravenous maw. China's on the dark continent now, offering guns and money in exchange for access and those resources. And America is intent on being there as well, if not to stop, then at least to monitor the many ruthless ills that China seeks to foist on a long suffering population. That is, if you believe the western view of what China is doing.

Ouagadougou is a big location for American military. Camp Lemonnier remains the only OFFICIAL presence of US military on the dark continent, but there's a host of other places as well.

All of that and then some is the background of what Cale and Lane have been immersed in for the last decade, as their small group of Special Operations Forces monitors China's ruthless scramble across Africa.

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