February 2008

President Umaru Yar’Adua met with China’s Hu Jintao in Beijing to discuss oil and other economic agreements.

Details of the deals signed were not immediately available.
. . .

Trade between Nigeria and China reached 3.13 billion dollars in 2006, up from 1.1 billion dollars in 2001, according to the latest data from China’s commerce ministry.

Aside from oil deals with Nigeria, China has helped the country build railways and hydroelectric dams, while last year it launched a telecommunications satellite for the nation.

Chinese media last month also reported that state-controlled China Development Bank was in talks to buy a five-billion-dollar stake in Nigeria-based United Bank for Africa.

In Cameroon there were riots over fuel prices in the port city of Douala and around the country. In addition to fuel prices, many people were angry that:

(President) Biya announced eight weeks ago he might change the constitution to stay in power when his term ends in 2011. Critics say Biya, 75, could use his party’s majority in parliament to make the constitutional modifications.
. . .
“Biya has gone too far, he must go,” shouted one demonstrator in Yaounde.

Others chanted: “We’re fed up”.

The USS Fort McHenry, AFRICOM’s African Partnership Station, is in the neighborhood in Cameroon training and partnering with the Cameroonian military. This training could be just in time to help “stabilize” the situation in Cameroon. On whose behalf might potential “stability operations” be engaged?

Back in the United States, Immanuel Wallerstein writes a note of cautious optimism about the possibility of an Obama presidency.

view over the opium fields

Russia is accusing:

. . . the U.S. military of involvement in the heroin trafficking from Afghanistan to Europe. The Vesti channel’s report from Afghanistan said that drugs from Afghanistan were hauled by American transport aircraft to the U.S. airbases Ganci in Kyrgyzstan and Incirlik in Turkey.

. . .

Russia today has about six million drug-users – a 20-fold increase since the collapse of the Soviet Union and a huge figure for a country of 142 million people.
. . .
Narco business has emerged as virtually the only economy of Afghanistan and is valued at some $10 billion a year. Opium trade is estimated by the U.N. to be equivalent to 53 per cent of the country’s official economy and is helping to finance the Taliban.
. . .
One of the best-informed Russian journalists on Central Asia, Arkady Dubnov, recently quoted anonymous Afghan sources as saying that “85 per cent of all drugs produced in southern and southeastern provinces are shipped abroad by U.S. aviation.”

This is something that needs to be watched very carefully. As Mahmood Mamdani writes in Good Muslim, Bad Muslim, in the words of David Musto, White House advisor on drug policy, regarding the opium crop in Afghanistan back when the Soviets invaded:

“Are we erring in befriending these tribes as we did in Laos when Air America (chartered by the Central Intelligence Agency) helped transport crude opium from certain tribal areas.”

. . . “we were going into Afghanistan to support the opium growers in their rebellion against the Soviets. Shouldn’t we try to avoid what we had done in Laos?”

. . . Musto’s concerns went unheeded.

. . . as the CIA knew too well from experience, nothing could rival the drug trade as a reliable source of big money for covert warfare.
. . . “so the agency’s aid to the mujahideen guerrillas in the 1980s expanded opium production in Afghanistan and linked Pakistan’s nearby heroin laboratories to the world market.”

The heroin economy literally poisoned Afghani and Pakistani life. The figures who thrived in this cesspool had been hailed by Ronald Reagan as “moral equivalents of America’s founding fathers.”
(Good Muslim, Bad Muslim, ISBN 978-0385515375, p.140-3)

Drugs are the quickest easiest way to fund covert operations. If the US military is once again involved, it is only a matter of time before covert military operations are expanded around the globe, based on available revenues. With the militarization of US policy in Africa that AFRICOM represents, this is a very worrying development. US officials and employees have been involved in the drug trade in Latin America, in Southeast Asia, and in Afghanistan. With the current problems West Africa is facing with drugs, mostly the transshipment of cocaine, it would not be a great leap for military, or for mercenary corporations in Africa to fund their activities, and look for profits in the drug trade in Africa. Drugs and guns are the same trade, used as currency for each other.

Bush slashed UN peacekeeping money for Africa just before visit is up at the African Loft.

UN/AU soldiers in Darfur

Just before Bush left to play at being benevolent uncle in Africa, his administration cut funding for UN peacekeeping in African countries.

From ABC news:

On the eve of President Bush’s trip to Africa, his administration has decided to drastically cut money for United Nations peacekeeping missions in war-torn countries there.
. . .
In war-torn Liberia, which President Bush will visit on his trip, the White House has proposed spending $56 million less on the U.N. peacekeeping mission there than it did last year. Bush . . . visit(ed) Rwanda, which is still struggling to right itself after a devastating, years-long civil war took the lives of millions. His administration’s budget proposes cutting $5 million (from the UN tribunal in Rwanda.) . . .

The administration’s 2009 budget also cuts millions for U.N. peacekeeping efforts in Sudan; Democratic Republic of Congo, where a decade-long war still claims thousands of lives a month; Chad, where rebels attempted a violent overthrow of the government Feb. 2; and Cote d’Ivoire, whose stability the Bush administration says “is a critical element in restoring peace to the entire West African region.”

Obviously peace is way too important to pay to restore it.

Why did Bush cut funding for UN peacekeeping? The Bush administration is still planning on spending rivers of money on “nation building”, “stability operations”, and “peacekeeping”, just not with the UN. The Department of State just issued AFRICAP Program Recompete, looking for contractors to:

. . . undertake a wide range of diverse projects, including setting up operational bases to support peacekeeping operations in hostile environments, military training and to providing a range of technical assistance and equipment for African militaries and peace support operations.

And the mercenaries are salivating at the Bush administration plans to hire more and more mercenaries, private military and security contractors, to accomplish Bush aims in Africa.

In October (2007), leaders in the private military security industry — ArmorGroup, DynCorp, MPRI, and several others — gathered at the Phoenix Park Hotel near the Capitol for the annual three-day summit of their trade group, the International Peace Operations Association. Panel speakers and members of the audience debated the future of nation-building efforts in failed states.
. . .
. . . handing out his business card that day, Army Lt. Col. James Boozell, a branch chief of the Stability Operations/Irregular Warfare Division at the Pentagon, said that the U.S. military was in fact experiencing a “watershed” moment in its 200-plus-year history — nation building was now a core military mission to be led by the Army.

Boozell adds, however, that the Army can’t possibly raise up failed states without . . . of course, private security contractors . . . — boom times for nation building are here to stay.

They may need a lot more states to “fail” in order to keep the PMCs busy with new contracts.

Vijay Prashad and Mahmood Mamdani tell us how the US and the EU previously cut funding for African Union peacekeeping efforts in Sudan and Darfur. The AU was actually having some success in reducing violence. Bush does not want that success. By cutting UN peacekeeping funds now, Bush is trying to prevent an indigenous African force, or an international agency, from succeeding in peacekeeping.
In Darfur:

For a time the African Union was able to stabilize the situation, although it did not succeed in crafting a political solution to the problem. The African Union, created in 1999, has neither the financial ability to pay its troops nor the logistical capacity to do its job. The European Union, who paid the troop salaries, began to withhold funds on grounds of accountability, and it gradually killed off the peacekeeping operations. Columbia University Professor Mahmood Mamdani (who is one of the world’s leading experts on contemporary Africa) says of this, “There is a concerted attempt being made to shift the political control of any intervention force inside Darfur from inside Africa to outside Africa.” In other words, the U.S. and Europe are eager to control the dynamic of what happens in Africa and not allow an indigenous, inter-state agency to gain either the experience this would provide or the respect it would gain if it succeeds. The African Union has been undermined so that only the U.S. can appear as the savior of the beleaguered people of Darfur, and elsewhere.

Undermining the UN, and paying mercenaries instead of the UN, does not save money. This is not frugality. Private military contractors, PMCs, are in business to make money, and they are still very much on the Bush agenda.
cost + profit = increased cost

Of course the costs for PMCs can be reduced by using conscripts and child soldiers. And PMC profits can be increased by dealing in contraband. There are plenty of precedents.

I see these possible reasons why the Bush administration has cut UN peacekeeping funding.

  • Prevent African or international solutions to African problems.
  • Maintain the US as the only ones capable of solving violent unrest in African countries by preventing indigenous or alternative solutions.
  • Provide more jobs and contracts for corporate cronies, the private military contractors.
  • Prevent oversight, avoid US law and international law that might apply to US activities in African countries.
  • Continue an intentionally destructive policy of undermining the UN.
  • Incompetence (does not preclude any of the above.)
Photo from a demonstration against Bush in Tanzania. I always get a laugh or a smile when I look at this sign.

See pictures of Bush in Ghana here

Lots of stories coming out in the last few days about how AFRICOM headquarters will stay in Germany. In many ways this is a huge win for Africa. In other ways this is just point one for Africa in a preliminary skirmish. I think the Bush people have been watching too much western media coverage of Africa and did not realize how canny and tough their target is. And they certainly did not confer with anyone in Africa before creating AFRICOM.

The US press was all about how much Africans love Bush. The African press has not been quite so flattering. And I’m not hearing it from anyone I talk to in Ghana. A lot of Africa has been pro American in the past. Bush and his policies have really turned that around. There is good writeup A Critique of Bush’s Africa Agenda over at the African Loft.

Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa writes:
It is Bush who desperately needs us:

Contrary to the propaganda from the Whitehouse, their embassy in Accra and their surrogates in the Osu Castle that President Bush is here as the benevolent father who cares about us and is here to show concern about malaria, HIV/Aids and his Millennium Challenge Account – all these are but a smoke screen.
. . .
As Bush comes for our oil, he has the added PR advantage with the huge CNN and Fox networks behind him of being portrayed as the Bush who has a human side and cares about victims of malaria and HIV/Aids as he attempts a last minute face saving. The gullible ones may believe this PR stunt but not the majority of people around the world who have now read through the lines of America’s selfish foreign policy and will take to the streets in wild jubilation the day President Bush hands over not only as president of America but also as the tormentor-in-chief of our world.
. . .
Under the circumstance, it is he who needs us badly. Help will only come from within when we take the right decisions, break off from our present neo-colonial mentality and demand of our leaders not to sell us to the highest bidder.

In Ghana Bush arrived about 7pm Tuesday. Heads of state are generally greeted in Ghana by playing the guest national anthem and the Ghana national anthem. There was a band, an honor guard, a 21 gun salute planned, and the drama troupe and a dance troupe to greet him. Bush skipped them all and rushed off to where he was staying, and mostly kept away from people throughout his visit. One person remarked that an executioner is always afraid to sleep with his head up. In comparison, as everyone said, when Clinton visited, everyone could greet and touch him.

Pictures from the USS Fort McHenry, the African Partnership Station,
you will find discussion of AFRICOM, bases, and US military programs in Ghana and Africa below the photos.

TEMA, Ghana (Nov. 20, 2007) Rear Adm. Tony Kurta, director for Policy, Resources and Strategy, United States Naval Forces Europe, and Ghanaian navy Commodore Matthew Quashie, Eastern Ghana Naval Command, meet with Africa Partnership Station (APS) staff at the Tema Naval Base. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class RJ Stratchko, 071120-N-8933S-015 Released)

TAKORADI, Ghana (Feb. 8, 2008) Staff Sgt. Franklin Davis, of East Brunswick, N.J., a Marine assigned to Africa Partnership Station (APS) begins the first day of martial-arts instruction for the 2nd Infantry Battalion of the Ghanaian Army. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brian A. Goyak, 080208-N-0577G-140 Released)
SEKONDI, Ghana (Feb. 13, 2008) Africa Partnership Station (APS) Sailors load Project Handclasp medical supplies onto a supply truck for donation to the Ghanaian Navy Western Command hospital. Teams from various U.S. and European military commands, as well as governmental and non-governmental organizations, are embarked aboard the amphibious dock landing ship USS Fort McHenry and the high-speed vessel (HSV) 2 Swift for a seven-month deployment to enhance cooperative partnerships with regional maritime services in West and Central Africa and the Gulf of Guinea. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brian A. Goyak, 080213-N-0577G-010 Released)
TAKORADI, Ghana, (Nov. 28, 2007) Lt. j.g. Erica Goodwin visits the children going to school next door to Essikado Hospital in Takoradi, Ghana. Members of Africa Partnership Station (APS) visited the school while working at the hospital to assess the possibility of working on the school during a future community relations project. The APS volunteers spent three days at the hospital building shelves, benches, laying concrete, painting and fixing the ambulance. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Elizabeth Merriam, 071128-N-0193M-401 Released)

APOWA, Ghana (Feb. 8, 2008) Utilitiesman 2nd Class Jeffery Ladd and Utilitiesman 2nd Class Paul J. Kuntz help a child drill a hole in part of a wall for a classroom at the Orphans Cry International Orphanage. Seabees and other volunteers worked on several projects at the orphanage in one of many Africa Partnership Station humanitarian projects in the region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Eddie Harrison, 080208-N-4044H-113 Released)
SEKONDII, Ghana (Feb. 12, 2008) Damage Controlman 1st Class Adam Burg explains to Ghananian sailors the proper way to walk with the nozzle of a hose during a damage control exercise provided by Africa Partnership Station aboard a Ghananian Navy vessel. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Eddie Harrison, 080212-N-4044H-086 Released)

You can find these pictures and more at the

Photo Gallery – African Partnership Station

For the present, the headquarters of AFRICOM will remain in Stuttgart Germany. It is a triumph that African countries have held the line, and successfully opposed an AFRICOM headquarters on the continent. However, AFRICOM is just as dangerous without an actual headquarters in Africa. With Bush visiting Ghana this week, it is worth looking at exactly what Bush, AFRICOM, and US intentions are in Ghana and West Africa.

Oil is the main source of US interest. The US already gets more oil from Africa than from Saudi Arabia, and wants even more. The quality and quantity of African oil, and the ease of working on offshore deep water rigs, away from the population, make African oil particularly desirable.

Ghanaians should make no mistake. There is already a US military presence in Ghana. It occupies what the US military sometimes calls “lily pads” or “cooperative security locations”. You probably know where some of these are. And this presence will grow. It is already growing through interactions with the African Partnership Station, the APS, the USS Fort McHenry that has been visiting Ghana and sailing along the Gulf of Guinea in 2007 and 2008.

The way it works:

“A cooperative security location can be a tucked-away corner of a host country’s civilian airport, or a dirt runway somewhere with fuel and mechanical help nearby, or a military airport in a friendly country with which we have no formal basing agreement but, rather, an informal arrangement with private contractors acting as go-betweens … The United States provides aid to upgrade maintenance facilities, thereby helping the host country to better project its own air and naval power in the region. At the same time, we hold periodic exercises with the host country’s military, in which the base is a focus. We also offer humanitarian help to the surrounding area. Such civil-affairs projects garner positive publicity for our military in the local media… The result is a positive diplomatic context for getting the host country’s approval for use of the base when and if we need it.”

We have already been seeing this in action with the activities of the APS, the USS Fort McHenry. The reason USAID and diplomatic functions are subsumed under the Pentagon with AFRICOM is that:

Economic aid, development projects, or other forms of indirect compensation . . . may also be given with military considerations in mind. For example . . . constructing dozens of roads, piers, wharfs, bridges, and other infrastructure projects in the very areas where US troops have been deployed. . . . many of these infrastructure projects support US military mobility; at the same time, they have also proven very useful in gaining local public acceptance for US military presence. For the Special Forces, especially, the infrastructure and humanitarian projects are seen as instrumental in “winning hearts and minds” in the aim of getting what they call “actionable” intelligence.

We have seen cooperative military activities in Ghana, and we can see them in Djibouti, where –

CJTF-HOA (Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa) is positioned to serve as a model for AFRICOM

In Djibouti there is a great deal of humanitarian assistance, joint training, and other friendly and cooperative efforts going on. There is also a Special Forces team. From Djibouti the US assisted the Ethiopian government to invade Somalia in January 2007, and overthrow the only functioning government that Somalia had in 15 years, replacing it with the hated warlords, and creating a humanitarian crisis that dwarfs Darfur. Supposedly the US was fighting “terrorism”. However, whoever is out of favor with the US is likely to be labeled a terrorist. This is not something new, historically:

The collapse of the Portuguese colonial forces in Mozambique, Angola, Guinea and Sao Tome and the collapse of the white racist military forces in Rhodesia gradually led to a rethinking by the US military. During this period the US had labeled all African freedom fighters as terrorists. When the US was allied with Osama Bin Laden and Jonas Savimbi, Nelson Mandela had been branded a terrorist.

In fact –

there are scholars who have argued and presented evidence that the government of the United States has been “fabricating terrorism” in Africa.

The Bush administration plans to employ mercenaries to do much of the business of AFRICOM, follow the link for more details. The “private contractors” mentioned above mean mercenaries. And the “partnerships” AFRICOM is promoting are intended to coopt African militaries so that they will do the dirty work in any fighting the US wants conducted in Africa.

That said, the US military provides the best military training you can find anywhere in the world. It is worthwhile to take the opportunity to learn from it. Most of the US soldiers and sailors are good people with excellent intentions. This does not necessarily apply to the contractors. At the same time it is important to keep in mind, that when you train with them, they will be learning a lot of information about you, your country, and your military organization. The intentions of Bush and his cronies, who give the orders, are not benign, and they intend to use the military to impose their goals by force where they see the “need”, and impose a 21st century version of colonization. You can read here for the documentary trail of their plans and intentions.

. . . the Bush Family and their allies and cronies represent the confluence of three long-established power factions in the American elite: oil, arms and investments. These groups equate their own interests, their own wealth and privilege, with the interests of the nation – indeed, the world – as a whole. And they pursue these interests with every weapon at their command, including war, torture, deceit and corruption. Democracy means nothing to them – not even in their own country.

And this is the danger in dealing with them. They are a powerful force for corruption and exploitation, even as they preach democracy and “free” markets.

Below is a list of US military programs in Africa that will come under AFRICOM, and countries where they are active. You may have already encountered some of these in action. I know ACOTA has already been active in Ghana. For more detail about these see Africom: The new US military command for Africa.

    • Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Initiative/Partnership (formerly Pan Sahel Initiative) (TSCTI) Targeting threats to US oil/natural gas operations in the Sahara region Algeria, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Senegal, Tunisia, Nigeria, and Libya.
    • TSTCI Africa Contingency Operations Training and Asssistance Program (ACOTA) (formerly African Crisis Response Initiative) (ACRI)) Part of “Global Peace” Operations Initiative (GPOI). Areas of Operation: Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia.
    • International Military Training and Education (IMET) program brings African military officers to US military academies and schools for indoctrination.
      Top countries: Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa.
    • Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) (formerly Africa Center for Security Studies) Part of National Defense University, Washington.
      Provides indoctrination for “next generation” African military officers. This is the “School of the Americas” for Africa.
      All of Africa is covered under the Foreign Military Sales Program which sells US military equipment to African nations via Defense Security Cooperation Agency.
      Top recipients: Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Zimbabwe.
    • African Coastal and Border Security Program Provides fast patrol boats, vehicles, electronic surveillance equipment, night vision equipment to littoral states.
    • Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) Military command based at Camp Lemonier in Djibouti. Aimed at putting down rebellions in Ethiopia, Somalia, and Somaliland and targets Eritrea. Ethiopia, Kenya, Djibouti.
    • Joint Task Force Aztec Silence (JTFAS) Targets terrorism in West and North Africa. Joint effort of EUCOM and Commander Sixth Fleet (Mediterranean) Based in Sigonella, Sicily and Tamanrasset air base in southern Algeria Gulf of Guinea Initiative.
    • US Navy Maritime Partnership Program Trains African militaries in port and off-shore oil platform security Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Congo-Brazzaville, Congo-Kinshasa, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ghana, Nigeria, Sao Tome & Principe, Togo.
    • Tripartite Plus Intelligence Fusion Cell Based in Kisangani, DRC to oversee “regional security,” I.E. ensuring U.S. and Israeli access to Congo’s gold, diamonds, uranium, platinum, and col-tan. Congo-Kinshasa, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda.
    • United States Base access for Cooperative Security Locations (CSLs) and Forward Operating Locations (FOLs) U.S. access to airbases and other facilities Gabon, Kenya, Mali, Morocco, Tunisia, Namibia, Sao Tome & Principe, Senegal, Uganda, Zambia, Algeria.
    • Africa Regional Peacekeeping (ARP) Liaison with African “peacekeeping” military commands East Africa Regional Integration Team: Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Uganda, Kenya, Madagascar, Tanzania.
    • North Africa Regional Integration Team: Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya.
    • Central Africa Regional Integration Team: Congo (Kinshasa), Congo (Brazzaville), Chad.
    • South Africa Regional Integration Team: South Africa, Zimbabwe, Angola.
    • West Africa Regional Integration Team: Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Niger, Western Sahara.
    • Africa Partnership Station (APS) Port visits by USS Fort McHenry and High Speed Vessel (HSV) Swift. Part of US Navy’s Global Fleet Station Initiative. Training and liaison with local military personnel to ensure oil production security Senegal, Liberia, Ghana, Cameroon, Gabon, Sao Tome & Principe.

(To all the readers of this post, I copied this list from here. The guy who posted is strikes me as a nutter, and names himself after a cartoon character, but his factual information appears to be good. It is available publicly in part or in full in a number of places. This covers some of it.)


Daniel Volman has written an updated overview of AFRICOM published at Pambazuka News, AFRICOM from Bush to Obama.  Volman lists the various programs that are part of AFRICOM, or are being folded into AFRICOM. There are a number of bilateral and multilateral joint training programs and military exercises (excerpted from his article):

FLINTLOCK 2005 AND 2007 – Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) exercises … Algeria, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Tunisia, Burkina Faso, France, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.

TRANS-SAHARAN COUNTER-TERRORISM PARTNERSHIP (TSCTP) – links the United States with eight African countries: Mali, Chad, Niger, Mauritania, Nigeria, Senegal, Tunisia, Morocco, and Algeria.

EAST AFRICA COUNTER-TERRORISM INITIATIVE (EACTI) – the EACTI has provided training to Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Djibouti, Eritrea, and Ethiopia.

AFRICA CONTINGENCY OPERATIONS TRAINING AND ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (ACOTA) – training to African military forces. … By FY 2007, nineteen African countries were participating in the ACOTA program (Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia).

INTERNATIONAL MILITARY EDUCATION AND TRAINING PROGRAM (IMET) – brings African military officers to military academies and other military educational institutions in the United States for professional training. Nearly all African countries participate in the program.

U.S. PRIVATE MILITARY CONTRACTORS IN AFRICA – [mostly] as part of the GPOI and ACOTA programs.

FOREIGN MILITARY SALES PROGRAM (FMS) – This program sells U.S. military equipment to African countries … The U.S. government provides loans to finance the purchase of virtually all of this equipment through the Foreign Military Financing Program (FMF), but repayment of these loans by African governments is almost always waived, so that they amount to free grants.

DIRECT COMMERCIAL SALES PROGRAM (DCS) – the Office of Defense Trade Controls of the Department of State licenses the sale of police equipment (including pistols, revolvers, shotguns, rifles, and crowd control chemicals) by private U.S. companies to foreign military forces, paramilitary units, police, and other government agencies.

AFRICAN COASTAL AND BORDER SECURITY PROGRAM (ACBS) – provides specialized equipment (such as patrol vessels and vehicles, communications equipment, night vision devices, and electronic monitors and sensors) to African countries to improve their ability to patrol and defend their own coastal waters and borders from terrorist operations, smuggling, and other illicit activities … No dedicated funding was requested for FY 2008

EXCESS DEFENSE ARTICLES PROGRAM (EDA) – ad hoc transfers of surplus U.S. military equipment to foreign governments. Transfers to African recipients have included the transfer of C-130 transport planes to South Africa and Botswana, trucks to Uganda, M-16 rifles to Senegal, and coastal patrol vessels to Nigeria.

ANTI-TERRORISM ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (ATA) – provide training, equipment, and technology to countries all around the world to support their participation in America’s Global War on Terrorism. … [includes] Kenya, Tanzania, Mauritius, Niger, Chad, Senegal, Mali, Liberia, Ethiopia, Botswana, Djibouti, Malawi, Uganda, Zambia, Angola, Mozambique.

SECTION 1206, 1207, AND 902 PROGRAMS – Section 1206 program—known as the Global Equip and Train program—was initiated in FY 2007 and permits the Pentagon—on its own initiative and with little congressional oversight—to provide training and equipment to foreign military, police, and other security forces to “combat terrorism and enhance stability.” …
The Section 1207 program—known as the Security and Stabilization Assistance program—was also started in FY 2007. It allows the Defense Department to transfer equipment, training, and other assistance to the State Department to enhance its operations. …
The Section 902 program—known as the Combatant Commanders’ Initiative Fund— can be used by the commanders of Africom and other combatant commands to fund their own relief and reconstruction projects, rather than relying on the State Department or the Agency for International Development to undertake these efforts.

COMBINED JOINT TASK FORCE-HORN OF AFRICA (CJTF-HOA) – designed to conduct naval and aerial patrols in the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, and the eastern Indian Ocean as part of the effort to detect and counter the activities of terrorist groups in the region.
… provided intelligence to Ethiopia in support of its invasion of Somalia in January 2007 and used military facilities in Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Kenya to launch air raids and missile strikes in January and June of 2007 and May of 2008 against alleged al-Qaeda members involved in the Council of Islamic Courts in Somalia.

JOINT TASK FORCE AZTEC SILENCE (JTFAS) – carry out counter-terrorism operations in North and West Africa and to coordinate U.S. operations with those of countries in those regions.
… constitutes a major extension of the U.S. role in counter-insurgency warfare and highlights the dangers of America’s deepening involvement in the internal conflicts that persist in so many African countries

NAVAL OPERATIONS IN THE GULF OF GUINEA – Africom will also help coordinate naval operations along the African coastline.
… The U.S. Navy has been steadily increasing the level and pace of its operations in African waters in recent years …
… the United States—conducted what were described as “presence operations” in the Gulf of Guinea …

BASE ACCESS AGREEMENTS FOR COOPERATIVE SECURITY LOCATIONS AND FORWARD OPERATING SITES – Over the past few years, the Bush administration has negotiated base access agreements with the governments of Botswana, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Morocco, Namibia, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Sierre Leone, Tunisia, Uganda, and Zambia. Under these agreements, the United States gains access to local military bases and other facilities so that they can be used by American forces as transit bases or as forward operating bases for combat, surveillance, and other military operations. They remain the property of the host African government and are not American bases in a legal sense, so that U.S. government officials are telling the truth—at least technically—when they deny that the United States has bases in these countries.

Go and read the article, AFRICOM from Bush to Obama. There is a great deal more information there than I have included here, including the amounts of money involved in many of these programs.

I posted Bush in Africa 2 over at the African Loft.

In true democratic fashion (Bush version) they have been preparing for Bush’s visit to Rwanda by jailing people, assisted by the US Secret Service:

As Rwanda braces up for President Bush’s visit . . . the security agencies have detained hundreds of people in a security operations mounted across the country ahead of the visit, APA learns here Saturday.
. . .
The military source said the operation is being mounted by the national police force and military police with the help of the United States secret service.
. . .
The patrols are targeting congested areas like churches, trading centers and nightspots. “Life is simply not easy for ordinary people in Rwanda especially in Kigali”

And I cannot help feeling, much like Hamza Mustafa Njozi:
. . . for some of us, it is a huge embarrassment when the number one war criminal in the world, who should be facing charges in the Hague, showers praises on our leader.

I posted a couple of quotations reacting to Bush’s visit to Africa over at the African Loft. CareTaker added a video of protests in Tanzania that included the sign above.

The Strategist tagged me with the 123 blogger meme. The rules are pretty simple:

  • look up page 123 in the nearest book around you;
  • find the fifth sentence;
  • post the three sentences that follow; and
  • tag five people.

I had two books within equidistant easy reach when I read the post. I checked Poisoned Wells, but page 123 was about what happened to political opposition in Equatorial Guinea, and I did not wish to dwell on it. So here are 3 sentences from page 123 of Blood and Oil, not exactly good news, but worth noting:

But to stay productive, they will need investment, and lots of it. Massive amounts of capital are also the key to exploiting new and undeveloped reserves. According to a recent study by the International Energy Agency, the world community will need to invest $3 trillion over the next thirty years to raise global oil production to a level adequate to meet worldwide demand in 2030.

I’m not going to tag anyone, some of my friends might take it amiss. If you read this, and want to give it a go, please do, consider yourself tagged. It is an entertaining diversion.

MAS peasants arrive in La Paz after 190km march in 2005
Picture: Indymedia Bolivia

When the proponents of AFRICOM talk about stability operations, one can look at Bolivia and Venezuela to see examples of how these operations work. With AFRICOM, USAID will be subsumed under the Department of Defense. In Bolivia USAID is using taxpayer money to destabilize the Bolivian government. AFRICOM intends increased use of mercenaries by US and corporate employers. In Venezuela US and Columbian mercenaries are contracted by large landowners, business owners, and other elites to control local populations and destabilize the central government. Much of the funding for the mercenaries comes from drug dealing. Many of the mercenaries come from AUC, a right wing terrorist organization from Columbia.

Undermining Bolivia by Benjamin Dangl:

Declassified documents and interviews on the ground in Bolivia prove that the Bush Administration is using U.S. taxpayers’ money to undermine the Morales government and coopt the country’s dynamic social movements—just as it has tried to do recently in Venezuela and traditionally throughout Latin America.

Much of that money is going through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
. . .

Morales won the presidency in December 2005 with 54 percent of the vote, but five regional governments went to rightwing politicians. After Morales’s victory, USAID, through its Office of Transition Initiatives, decided “to provide support to fledgling regional governments,” USAID documents reveal.

Throughout 2006, four of these five resource-rich lowland departments pushed for greater autonomy from the Morales-led central government, often threatening to secede from the nation. U.S. funds have emboldened them, with the Office of Transition Initiatives funneling “116 grants for $4,451,249 to help departmental governments operate more strategically,” the documents state.
. . .
“The U.S. Embassy is helping this opposition,” agrees Raul Prada, who works for Morales’s party. __ . . . “USAID is in Santa Cruz and other departments to help fund and strengthen the infrastructure of the rightwing governors.”

USAID has funded the regional right wing governors, allowing them to oppose democratic distribution of resources, giving them more political strength and clout to defy the central government. It has undermined youth movements, and other local political activities.

“USAID always took advantage of the poverty of the people,” Mamani says. “They even put up USAID flags in areas alongside the Bolivian flag and the wiphala.”

In the one demonstration project USAID invited Mr. Dangl to view, workers would not give their names, and said they would be beaten if they told the truth. And Fulbright scholars are being asked to report political information to the US embassy, in violation of Fulbright guidelines.

And this week from the Washington Post:

President Evo Morales declared a U.S. Embassy security officer to be an “undesirable person” on Monday after reports that the officer asked an American scholar and 30 Peace Corps volunteers to pass along information about Cubans and Venezuelans working in Bolivia
. . .
Fulbright scholar Alex van Schaick told The Associated Press that Cooper, the embassy’s assistant regional security officer, asked him to pass along the names and addresses of any Venezuelan and Cuban workers he might encounter in the country. “We know they’re out there, we just want to keep tabs on them,” Schaick quoted Cooper as telling him on Nov. 5.
ABC News reported that Cooper made a similar request to 30 newly arrived Peace Corps volunteers on July 29

The US embassy came out with the usual, why we would never consider doing such a thing, we only do good. They also made the following laughable statement:

Peace Corps volunteers had been mistakenly given a security briefing meant only for embassy staff, asking them to report “suspicious activities.”

In Venezuela:

Azzellini (Caracas-based German Political Scientist Darío Azzellini, author of a study of Columbian paramilitary activity titled The Business of War) reported that paramilitary operations are carried out by mercenaries from the U.S. and Latin America who are recruited by private military companies but pose as civilian employees. Beyond government oversight, they are contracted by large landowners, business owners, and other elites to control local populations.

A principal source of paramilitary income is their control of 100% of Colombian heroine exports and 70% of Colombian cocaine exports, Azzellini claimed. In Colombia, giant drug cartels manage large quantities of the drugs, but in Venezuela paramilitaries deal smaller amounts in local communities to increase their leverage within the populations they are contracted to control. Chavez and Azzellini publicized this “open secret” at a time of heated opposition accusations that Chávez does not sufficiently cooperate in combating drug trafficking through Venezuelan territory.

Azzellini explained that the groups now in Venezuela are descendents of the United Self-defense of Colombia (AUC), a brutal paramilitary force formed in the 1980s by Colombian elites to assume the dirty work of the government, which was seeking to improve its dismal international human rights reputation. While the AUC tactic of “total terror” has been used in Colombian cities such as Medellín, paramilitaries now in Venezuela leverage local economic and political power more than sheer violence, according to Azzellini.

Nonetheless, paramilitaries in Venezuela are known for “social cleansing,” or the hired killing of local community members, says the Ezequiel Zamora National Farmers’ Front (FNCEZ), an organization that defends the rights of rural communities. Since an agrarian reform law favorable to rural workers was passed by the Chávez administration in 2001, paramilitaries have murdered 190 rural community members who dared to stand up to the owners of plantations, milk factories, and mines.

The most recent killings were last month, when Municipal Legislator Freddy Ascaño and Community Council Federation President Alfredo Montiel were executed by paramilitaries in their municipality of Tucaní, south of Lake Maracaibo in western Venezuela, the local population reported

I don’t generally write about issues in Latin America. But the way the US deals with Latin America, historically, and especially under the Bush administration, has many parallels and lessons for African countries.

AFRICOM brags about engaging in stability operations and nation building.
Nation building and stability operations mean:

  1. Destabilize the current government (unless it is already a compliant or puppet government, in which case, undermine the opposition).
  2. Call opponents terrorists.
  3. Stabilize, engage in “nation building”, by supporting or installing a government that will follow US corporate bidding, rather than democratic principles.

This is imperialism.
“Stability” and “nation building” follow a Bush pattern of naming things the opposite of what they are and what they do.

Africa has already experienced some of these “stability operations”, in Somalia, destroying the only functioning government in 15 years, and creating an overwhelming humanitarian crisis, and in the Kenya election fiasco, being the most recent and dramatic. There are ongoing “stability operations” in other places in Africa and around the world.

Mercenaries, military contractors in Iraq rape their colleagues, as reported in the New York Times, and by ABC News. If the women who are raped complain, they get fired. The perpetrators of the assaults and rapes face no penalties. No law applies to them, and the employment contracts force employees who have been raped into secret arbitration, with an arbitrator picked by the company, no law, no justice.

If mercenaries are doing this to colleagues who share the same citizenship, and can get away with it, how do you suppose they will treat the citizens of African countries when they operate in Africa? Under AFRICOM, both the Department of Defense and the Department of State employ military contractors in Africa, and both have indicated they plan to employ more. Mercenary corporations in Africa have already been implicated in physical abuse, sexual slavery, paedophilia, and human traffiking.

You can read my article: The Rising Mercenary Industry and AFRICOM over at the African Loft.

The US State Department has issued AFRICAP Program Recompete:

The Department of State, Bureau of African Affairs now seeks sources for the recompete of the AFRICAP program contract. The program encompasses logistics support, construction, military training and advising, maritime security capacity building, equipment procurement, operational deployment for peacekeeping troops, aerial surveillance and conference facilitation. Potential contractors must possess a broad range of functional regional expertise and logistics support capabilities. The intent is to have contractors on call to undertake a wide range of diverse projects, including setting up operational bases to support peacekeeping operations in hostile environments, military training and to providing a range of technical assistance and equipment for African militaries and peace support operations. These tasks will be implemented in countries throughout the African continent, as designated by the DOS, and in conjunction with specific DOS programs and policies.

The part in bold means military confrontations, fighting. The budget estimate is a billion dollars over 5 years. This is another example of the State Department becoming an arm of the Department of Defense. If DoS is subsumed under DoD, where can genuine diplomacy come from? This is very bad news for African countries. The big danger on the ground from AFRICOM is more likely to come from the military and security contractors, rather than US soldiers and sailors. Over at Moon of Alabama, Bernhard has a good writeup and followup discussion about the import of this.

I just came across a harvest of information, the Business and Human Rights Resource Centre, Tracking the positive and negative impacts of over 4000 companies worldwide. If you put a search query in the search box on the left, for example ‘angola diamonds’, you can discover a lot of documentation. Many of the linked articles will be in MicroSoft Word. h/t to Sokari for the link.

And Human Security Gateway links a Database of Researchers on International Private Security.

Not much time to write this week, I hope to be back with more soon, and to look at some of these in a bit more depth.

Blackwater mercenary in New Orleans

Chatham House held a discussion of private military and security companies in January. You can read the report in pdf form here: Chatham House International Law Discussion Group: Private Military and Security Companies – PDF.

And the Miskolc Journal of International Law, from Miskolc University in Hungary, just published this article:

Károly VÉGH: ‘Warriors for Hire?’ – Private military contractors and the international law of armed conflicts _
the article in pdf format

These articles discuss the legal definition of mercenaries, the inadequacies of the definition, and related legal issues.

You can read my article on mercenaries in Africa over at the African Loft: The Rising Mercenary Industry and AFRICOM.


The vigilante country club

A friend sent this earlier from the AlterNet: FBI Deputizes Private Contractors With Extraordinary Powers, Including ‘Shoot to Kill’.

Today, more than 23,000 representatives of private industry are working quietly with the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. The members of this rapidly growing group, called InfraGard, receive secret warnings of terrorist threats before the public does — and, at least on one occasion, before elected officials. In return, they provide information to the government . . .
. . .
InfraGard is not readily accessible to the general public. Its communications with the FBI and Homeland Security are beyond the reach of the Freedom of Information Act under the “trade secrets” exemption, its website says. And any conversation with the public or the media is supposed to be carefully rehearsed.
. . .
One business owner in the United States tells me that InfraGard members are being advised on how to prepare for a martial law situation — and what their role might be.
. . .

“The meeting started off innocuously enough, with the speakers talking about corporate espionage,” he says. “From there, it just progressed. All of a sudden we were knee deep in what was expected of us when martial law is declared. We were expected to share all our resources, but in return we’d be given specific benefits.” These included, he says, the ability to travel in restricted areas and to get people out. But that’s not all.

Then they said when — not if — martial law is declared, it was our responsibility to protect our portion of the infrastructure, and if we had to use deadly force to protect it, we couldn’t be prosecuted,” he says.

This sounds like the Bush administration is putting together a cadre of people who see themselves as privileged insiders, with a duty to spy on, and if necessary, kill, their fellow citizens. They don’t have the training, discipline, structure, or mission of police or soldiers. A group like this can be easily manipulated if they think they are protecting their country. There is no oversight or protection in place to control the kind and quality of information they receive. And no accountability or protection regarding the information they provide. A bunch of people who think they are responsible for guarding the country, who are hopped up on patriotic fervor and fear, thinking they have the right to kill people who frighten them, is something no country needs.

This looks like a country club of vigilantes, using the country club model for membership. You have to be recommended by a member in order to “join”, and are then vetted. This means that there will be an ideological similarity among the members. They are also more likely to look like each other, and less likely to look like a representative cross section of the US population. Open and inclusive are not words that describe this vigilante country club arm of government. How will they decide who looks dangerous?

The claim that Its communications with the FBI and Homeland Security are beyond the reach of the Freedom of Information Act under the “trade secrets” exemption should send a chill down the spine of anyone who loves the United States and values the US Constitution. This extra judicial, extra constitutional privatized spying and law enforcement takes the US another step down the road to the privatized model of government found in Congo Brazzaville.

Courtesy of Human Security Gateway, we learn that the Harvard International Law Review has published a report on mercenaries in international law and human rights:

Mercenarism 2.0? The Rise of the Modern Private Security Industry and Its Implications for International Humanitarian Law Enforcement-(PDF)

Abstract :
In response to reports of frequent criminal misconduct, aggressive behavior, and human rights abuses committed with impunity by private contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan, some have argued that private military and security companies (“PMSCs”) are no more than modern mercenaries, and that they should therefore be banned under the standing international prohibition on mercenarism. However, the existing instruments prohibiting mercenarism would be difficult to apply to most PMSCs, making it easy for states that want to continue to use these companies to evade such a ban. In contrast, given market forces pushing PMSCs to be more compliant and emerging state practices that favor regulation, coordinated international regulation of PMSCs might feasibly be enforced. This article proposes that many of the issues with private military and security companies could be addressed by creating an international humanitarian law (“IHL”) principle that recognizes state use of PMSCs as a means of warfare. The availability of advanced, independent security and military capabilities-for-hire enables states or nonstate actors to get around political or resource constraints that otherwise might limit the use of force, and may undermine IHL enforcement. These threats might be addressed if IHL established a stronger state responsibility link between states and the PMSCs they hire. International humanitarian law should provide that states who outsource government security or military functions in support of any combat or humanitarian operations that would otherwise trigger IHL must establish internal oversight, accountability, and liability mechanisms to ensure that these actors comply with international and domestic legal norms and regulations.

It is an interesting report as far as it goes. It begins to describe the issues and dangers posed by PMSCs employed by sovereign states, which is critical. It only briefly mentions the existence of private or corporate employers of PMSCs, it does not specify any of the dangers they pose, or suggest how privately employed PMSCs might be regulated or held accountable for their actions. Nevertheless, it is a good idea to start some study and discussion of the PMSCs, their roles, what kind of regulation is needed, and how to enforce it.

Check my article on the private security industry in Africa over at the African Loft: The Rising Mercenary Industry and AFRICOM.


Next Page »