The Ivory Coast government has just thumbed its nose at the efforts by the U.S. to expand its role in assisting in the development of the Ivory Coast infrastructure. Over the last several years the U.S. has made sustained efforts to assist the Ivory Coast in health programs for the Ivory Coast people under the President�s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR); it has set up a Transition Assistance Program to support the Government of Cote d�Ivoire through programs and diplomatic engagement during its post-crisis period as the country recovers and works to establish conditions that will once again make it a stable and prosperous nation. it has brought serious U.S. industries to invest in the expansion and growth of the Ivory Coast�s electrical power generation industry through its Power Africa program; and has paid over forty percent of the UNOCI mission costsin the country since 2011 which has restored order to the country.
In return for the U.S. attention and benevolence towards the Ivory Coast the Ouattara Government has initially accepted the assistance from the U.S. and then turned this assistance to benefit the French neo-colonial businesses that have preyed upon the Ivory Coast since colonial days. The Ouattara government has taken major international investment programs which were operating under IMF, World Bank and OPIC �best practice� rules of transparency and competition through tenders and awarded contracts to the French neo-colonial businesses without tenders, without regard to existing contractual obligations and in a thoroughly underhand and corrupt manner.
Perhaps the best example of this perfidious behaviour can be seen in the systematic efforts of Ouattara�s Government, and its Energy Minister Adama Toungara, to pervert the course of business in the Songon Project. It was supported by the U.S. through its Power Africa program designed to bring U.S. support for African power generation using U.S. financing, expertise and technology to the Ivory Coast.
The Houston-based Endeavor announced on May 25, 2015 that it had entered into a joint venture agreement with local firm Starenergie2073 �to develop the thermal power plant (TPP) Songon Project, which included an LNG import infrastructure and a floating storage and regasification unit (FSRU). Endeavor had arranged the finance for the project through the energy-focused private equity firm Denham Capital, as well institutions such as the US Overseas Private Investment Corp. (OPIC), the World Bank�s International Finance Corporation and the African Development Bank (AfDB).
In the agreement, Richard Amon of Starenergie entrusted to Endeavor the exclusivity in the construction and all the services of the Songon Project. Several millions of dollars were invested in the preparatory work and Starenergie was given a series of benchmark actions that it would need to complete so that more Endeavor money could be invested in the development process, the tenders for specialist subcontractors, and the creation of the FSRU and the supply of the LNG fuel. Endeavor controlled 51% of the joint venture. Starenergie failed to complete any of the benchmark actions that would trigger the development processes.
Despite the contracts in place with Endeavor, Amon and Starenergie announced they were searching for new partners for the Songon Project. Starenergie obviously did not have the money itself and was unable to complete the benchmark activities that would release further funds. The initial tender for the Engineering, Procurement, and Construction (EPC) of Songon (that is an arrangement where the EPC Contractor is made responsible for all the activities from design, procurement, construction, to commissioning and handover of the project to the End-User or Owner) was announced and several companies prepared to bid to be the EPC contractor.
Suddenly, on August 20, 2016 Starenergie, with the connivance and support of the Ivory Coast government, publicly disavowed its contract with Endeavor and travelled to Beijing where Starenergie unilaterally awarded the EPC contract to China Energy Engineering Corporation (CEEC) to build the power plant. Under the agreement, CEEC will raise 75 percent of the 500 million euro ($558 million) cost of the facility via China Construction Bank. �a Chinese corporation. This was done without a tender even though one has been prepared and underway.
Starenergie announced that this was all perfectly all right because it said it had informed Endeavor in January 2016 that the joint venture was dissolved. Endeavor has challenged this and the matter is in arbitration. Starenergie then dismembered the rest of the project with government approval and delivered the balance of the project, including the supply of natural gas, to the faithful neo-colonial stalwarts of Fran�afrique, Bouygues, Bollore, Vinci and Total without any tender or notice.
How much of this raid on U.S. interests has been the work of the black Frenchmen who were installed in power by the French soldiers and UN �peacekeepers� after Gbagbo is not yet clear. Presumably the Ivorian leadership has been working hard to protect France�s commercial interests in the country as it always has. The commercial competition between the French and U.S. business has a long history. The military competition also still carries on. There was a recent incident when the U.S. military sent a delegation to the Ivory Coast in August 2016 to see if they could build an AFRICOM naval security base in the Ivory Coast. Four senior U.S. naval officers visited the country and the head of operations in Ivory Coast�s navy, Amara Kone, visited the U.S. for several weeks. They suggested that they might use the Ivory Coast naval base as a logistical centre for the April 2017 multilateral training exercise. �The French immediately objected to any U.S. presence. They sent two French warships, the Dixmude helicopter carrier and the Ducuing fast patrol ship to Ivory Coast and engaged the Ivoirian navy in urgent training exercises with the French Nany. This was followed by the sale by France to the Ivoirian Navy of the patrol boat Sekongo and the additional purchase of the warships L�Emergence and Le Bouclier. The Ivory Coast is now �doubtful� if AFRICOM will be able to use Abidjan as a logistical base in 2017.
After the disenfranchising of Endeavor by Starenergie, Toungara and Total felt that the lawsuit by Endeavor alleging a tortious interference in its contracts was inevitable after the ruling on the arbitration is settled, This led them to offer to Endeavor a 5% share in the LNG project which Total had purloined from the project. On October 4, 2016 Ivory Coast signed a partnership pact to create a consortium headed by France's Total to build a liquid natural gas (LNG) import terminal that could begin receiving gas shipments by mid-2018 for Songon. Total was supposed to be the main shareholder with 34% and it will be the project's operator. Other members invited into the consortium included Royal Dutch Shell, Houston-based Endeavor Energy, Ivory Coast state oil company Petroci, CI-Energies, Azerbaijan's SOCAR and Golar LNG. Most of the invitees have declined to proceed and only Petroci and CI_Energies are joining Total. It is very doubtful that this project will proceed further as no one other than Total has the funds to proceed.
This description of the Ivory Coast refusal to behave properly in dealing with the rights and opportunities of U.S. business is an indicator that the country�s leadership does not read the newspapers. In a few weeks, the U.S. Government will be under the control of President Trump and his team, dedicated to protecting and advancing the interests of U.S. business and its military. The major cabinet posts are to be in the hands of former generals and much of U.S. policy will be shaped by U.S. security concerns. One of the most powerful agencies of change towards Africa will not be the State Department which has, under Obama and Secretary Clinton, looked with benign neglect on U.S. commercial and military interests in Africa. The budgets and planning of U.S. involvement with Africa will be focussed on fighting Islamic terrorists like AQIM and Boko Haram.
One of the most important committees which will deal with Africa is the Senate Armed Services Committee which deals with the Pentagon budget and policies. Ivory Coast has very few friends in the U.S. military. Indeed, some of those with the deepest antipathy towards the Ivory Coast can be found on that committee.
One of the most outspoken of these critics is Senator James Imhofe of Oklahoma, the Ranking Republican on the committee. He was one of the key men in the U.S. opposing Ouattara in his treasonous rebellion against the legitimate government of his country under Gbagbo. �His comments on Ouattara in the Congressional Record are there for all to see; they are not tainted by diplo-speak.
Just after the Massacre at Duekoue he reported to the Senate, �
You can identify them. They are in there killing people. We don't know how many tens of thousands of people have been murdered in cold blood. Amnesty International came out the other day and criticized the U.N. mission for ignoring pleas for help and failing to prevent the massacre in the town of Duekoue. That is the town of Duekoue. See the charred bodies. People are saying they had hogs eating the bodies. This is what Ouattara did in a little town called Duekoue. I have another picture of what is happening. It is really criminal. These are all Ouattara's people. These are the ones our State Department supported, and it is serious. Amnesty reports that a manhunt was launched against Gbagbo loyalists in Abidjan, and several senior officials close to him were beaten in the hours after his arrest. Those are the death squads of Ouattara.�
�I have talked to close friends of mine who are in Abidjan now. Abidjan is where the bad things are happening. I hope anyone who questions the fact that it is Ouattara's forces that are creating the problems in Abidjan access my Web site and pull up the YouTube video that was taken of what happened on what I call ``Black Monday,'' Monday night, when they went out with helicopters and they mowed down thousands of people. We don't have a death count of how many people have been murdered in the last 5 days.�
If the Ivoirians think that they can continue to interfere with and frustrate the efforts of the U.S. corporations in their pursuit of African development and the U.S. military seeking the interdiction of terrorists operating in Africa by blindly following the demands of their French masters, they have a poor perception of the new realities in Washington. A major focus of the new administration is business.
France has never been the favourite partner of the U.S. military and has worked at cross purposes with the U.S. military for years. France withdrew from being a full member of NATO in 1966, and remained separated for decades. The reason for French withdrawal was that France believed that NATO was not militarily supportive enough.� France's effort to develop its own non-NATO defence capability, including the development of its own nuclear arsenal in the 1960s, was to ensure that the French military could operate its own colonial and post-colonial conflicts more freely. Under de Gaulle, France had attempted to draw NATO into France's colonial conflicts (on France's side). De Gaulle claimed that Algeria was part of France and thus was part of NATO. Therefore, NATO must intervene to assist France in putting down Algerian independence movements. After the British and Americans refused to assist with French colonialism, de Gaulle expelled NATO troops from France and set up a more independent French military. Now that France is back in NATO it is making the same request of its partners as De Gaulle but it is still unwilling to pay its way. It wants U.S. subsidies for its neo-colonial occupation of francophone Africa but is unwilling to pay its fair share. This will not continue under the new administration.
So, the times are changing for the Ivory Coast. The rise of the Far Right in French politics does not bode well for the francophone area. Still less does the parlous state of the Euro to which the CFA franc is pegged. It is time that Ouattara�s Ivory Coast acts to support the interests of the country rather than the interests of the French and the Ivoirian elite. The most secure way is to treat foreign companies fairly, obey the rules of international commerce, and value the legitimacy of contracts. That would certainly be a good start.