From AFRICOM’s FAQ:
What is U.S. Africa Command designed to do?
U.S. Africa Command will better enable the Department of Defense and other elements of the U.S. government to work in concert and with partners to achieve a more stable environment in which political and economic growth can take place . . .
From the report of an international conference held in Accra in October 2007 PDF: Democratization in Africa – What Progress Toward Institutionalization, I looked up what it had to say about Senegal, since General Ward mentioned it.
General Ward, Commander of AFRICOM, testified before Congress in March, PDF Ward Testimony. He mentioned Senegal several times. I wondered if he had Senegal in mind for a West African regional HQ for AFRICOM. So I thought I would look at what he had to say about Senegal, and compare it to what was said in the report on Democratization. From the report on democratization:
The re-emergence of political monopolistic practices—for example in Senegal and Nigeria—can also lead to severe setbacks in democratic fairness and probity, out of proportion to their institutional capabilities.
. . .
When Senegal’s longtime opposition leader, Abdoulaye Wade, won the presidency in 2000, ending four decades of Socialist Party rule, there were high hopes for a new era of democracy, built on some of the continent’s oldest traditions of pluralism and liberal thought. But increasingly, the aging President Wade drew power and resources into his own hands and those of his family. In the years leading up to Wade’s reelection in 2007, journalists, political activists, singers, and marabouts (Muslim spiritual leaders) who criticized Wade or supported the opposition were subjected to physical intimidation and violence. Critics charge the election was marred by vote-buying, multiple voting, and obstruction of opposition voting.Despite a lackluster economic performance, Wade was able to mobilize support with corruption—coopting religious figures, civil society leaders, local administrators, military officers, and members of with money, loans, diplomatic passports, and other favors. Now, it is alleged, the octogenarian president is preparing to hand power to his chosen successor—his son. “He has destroyed all the institutions, including political parties. He has taken opposition with him and manipulated the parliament,” a Senegalese democratic activist told me. “People are so poor and Wade controls everything. If you need something, you have to go with him.” The reaction from Europe and the United States (without whose aid Wade’s government could hardly function) has been muted. The activist lamented, “We expected more from the donors,” referring to the defense of principles, not the gift of money. (p.8-9)
. . .
For African leaders, penalizing rural groups or the urban poor is less hazardous than cutting the military budget or divesting state enterprises, which may create large job losses among urban constituencies.
On March 13 General Ward testified to Congress:
IMET funding for Senegal allowed that country to host a regional seminar on Defense Resource Management and conduct a Military Justice Seminar. The IMET program has also contributed to the excellent reputation the Senegalese military has earned during numerous peacekeeping deployments, and continues to contribute to the military’s positive and responsible involvement in civil affairs. Returning Senegalese IMET graduates are immediately assigned to key leadership or staff positions, and their professional attributes make them well-suited to assume leadership positions in international military operations. Sustained support for a robust IMET program is a long-term investment in the future and directly supports long-term U.S. interests.[[International Military Training and Education (IMET) program brings African military officers to US military academies and schools for training (some say indoctrination.) Top countries: Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa.]]
. . .A lack of FMF (Foreign Military Financing) funding or inconsistent year-to-year distribution can compromise long range objectives, turn our partners towards other sources, and inhibit peacekeeping operations. Senegal, for example, would not have been able to meet its Darfur commitment without ACOTA equipment and help from France.
Granted, AFRICOM is a military combatant command. Still, I don’t see anything in what General Ward says that indicates plans to help achieve a more stable environment in which political and economic growth can take place. The only thing the AFRICOM activities in Senegal that he describes seem likely to do is to facilitate military government, as he speaks of military leadership and positive involvement in civil affairs. If the US cared about stability, and particularly about positive political and economic growth in Senegal, it seems that some pressure on Wade to support and strengthen democratic institutions might be appropriate, along with some measurements to gauge actions and progress.
Instead, I suspect Wade seems like an extremely convenient tool, or “partner”, for AFRICOM to engage.
The report on Democratization also includes these observations:
Few countries, however, have developed an autonomous domain of civil society that can effectively press politicians for better policies or economic performance. In such countries as Mali, Senegal, Mozambique, Malawi, Benin, Ghana, or even Nigeria, we commonly find that many associations are small, focused in urban areas, reliant on donor funding, or fragmented regionally and ethnically.
. . .The re-emergence of political monopolistic practices—for example in Senegal and Nigeria—can also lead to severe setbacks in democratic fairness and probity, out of proportion to their institutional capabilities.