US, France, Cameroon, exercise in the Gulf of Guinea, March 2007

I happened to be flipping through channels before I went to sleep last night and came across a Charlie Rose interview with General Kip Ward, head of AFRICOM. I’d like to find the transcript to get the words right, but could not find it on the Charlie Rose website, though they should post the video eventually. In the course of the interview Rose asked General Ward to imagine Rose was the head of an African country, saying he had heard a lot about what AFRICOM was not, could the General tell him what it is? (something that a lot of inquiring minds would like to know.) General Ward had his answer ready. I can’t remember his exact words, which is why I was looking for the transcript, but it was a completely meaningless answer, pure bureaucratese, meaning anything you want it to mean, the kind of answer that is a wall rather than a window.

Sokari asks questions about AFRICOM that need to be asked, and need to be answered:

  • Why does the US feels it needs a military presence in Africa?
  • What will the US military presence consist of in terms of military hardware and numbers of personnel?
  • How does the US intend to operate and in what circumstances will it’s forces be mobilized?
  • In what way will the US military presence dictate or determine the price of Africa’s natural resources and who gets access to them?
  • In what way will the US military presence infringe on the internal affairs of independent African countries and determine their foreign policy towards other AU members?
  • How will the US military presence influence the foreign policy of independent African states towards non AU countries such as China?
  • How will the US enhanced military presence infringe of the rights of African citizens?
  • How will Africom impact on continental migration and the rights of the millions of Africans without citizenship and the rights of refugees?

This blog has discussed the role of the Heritage Foundation in the creation of AFRICOM. One fear they are trying to stir is fear of the influence of China in Africa. As Sokari points out:

The US has always been at the forefront of Free Trade Agreements. Now it finds itself in $billions of dollars trade deficit with China it is crying, forgetting that China’s industrial growth and huge export market is part of the same globalisation that the US is itself the main proponent. The difference is simply that China is in the driving seat and not the US.

And as to China I think she is absolutely on target:

China is doing to Africa what Europe and the US have been doing for 100s of years. Instead of joining in Western economic paranoia we should recognise this is merely an extension of colonialism / neo-colonialism and economic exploitation and deal with it as such. The US and the West have their own issues with China and to some extent this is played out on our soil. We should be seizing the time and using this as a weapon to ensure we get the best deal for our resources and citizens.

Unfortunately, one of the questions she asks, excellent as far as it goes, is not complete – What will the US military presence consist of in terms of military hardware and numbers of personnel? We also need to ask: what kind of military personnel? How and how much does the US plan to employ private military and intelligence corporations.

I don’t think the greatest immediate danger posed by AFRICOM is from US soldiers and sailors. One of the things that worries me is that I suspect the mercenaries and mercenary corporations are what the US plans to use in Africa, in addition to training African military as US surrogates. These mercenaries may be employees of the US State Department, or some other US government department, as they are in Iraq. Or they may be the employees of giant corporations, such as oil companies. Whatever US objectives, arms and mercenaries can only destabilize. The presence of actual US military personnel may just be window dressing. The dirty work will be done by private armies and private CIAs. Already in the US these are taking over the functions of the military and intelligence. I am hoping a change in US administration may change the direction of this trend, but there are no guarantees.

African Loft asked the question in an open forum: Does Africa need AFRICOM? This is the question that Sokari answered by asking her questions.

Kunle comments:

I feel sad that Africa is still some “distant treasure island” to be fought over and protected for selfish interests by foreign powers. It was Britain and France some decades ago (colonial era 1) now its the USA and China (colonial era 2?).

Ginger comments:

As already stated, almost everything the US does is based on self-interest. Nothing wrong with that, but that fact is worth keeping in mind by the so-called ‘beneficiaries’ of the current ‘magnanimity’ by the US.
. . .
Now I will not be surprised if they get their way, because in the final analysis, all they have to convince is just one man in each country. In Pakistan, they convinced Musharaf who become an ally in America’s War, even against the wishes of some of his own people. It is no surprise that Liberia is offering itself as a base: no better way to ensure the country does not return to its previous chaos. Now Nigeria… Nigeria is the big prize!

And that is where the ordinary enlightened person comes in. To ensure that no one man at the top mortgages his country for ‘personal’ gains.

What’s the conclusion of this rambling of mine? No to AFRICOM.

Another reason given for AFRICOM is combating terrorism. Ginger also makes an excellent point in regard to terrorism, particularly as that word is being used in context with Nigeria. His summary analysis is as clear and concise a description as I have seen of the problem:

And nobody should dismiss contrary opinions by simply labeling them as “America-bashers”, no sir! There are facts that stare us in the face.

AFRICOM or whatever does not make America bad, OK, so I am not making any judgment on their intentions. My take is simply as an African who thinks that my sovereignty should be respected by all. If you wanna visit my country, by all means you’re welcome, but first, apply for a visa, but I remain in command!

Islamic radicals? Thank you sir! As far as labels go, America applies them as it suits their purpose. Here in Nigeria, the government calls the ‘militants’ “Restless Youths”, when they want to be magnanimous but otherwise, “Terrorists”. Little does the public know that these youths were armed by politicians who used them to fight their political battles, but failed to mop up the weapons after the operation: nor pay for ’services’ rendered. The targets have simply been changed.

Same thing happened with America. The renegade and heartless Osama Bin Laden was an ally of America during the Russian incursion into Afghanistan. The Taliban and their likes used weapons that America provided through the CIA station agents in times past. When allies were changed, labels were changed. Terrorists yes, but it sure makes my hair stand to see people use labels for their convenience.

The militant youth of the Niger Delta are employed as armed gangs by the politicians when it suits political expediency. They are discarded and treated as criminals or “terrorists” when they are no longer needed, or when they represent the opposition. And all the while huge and dangerous stockpiles of arms are accumulating all around.