Map of global arms transfers

Map of US global arms transfers

The New America Foundation has issued a report describing US arms transfers around the world: US Weapons at War 2008. They include a section on arms transfers to Africa, U.S. Arms Recipients, 2006/07: Africa.

They write:

U.S. arms transfers to Africa are being carried out against the backdrop of a major strategic shift in U.S. attention toward the continent, as embodied in the creation of the Africa Command. … with the growing U.S. interest in curbing terror and expanding access to oil in Africa, the Pentagon moved to create a dedicated military command for Africa.

AFRICOM has ambitions to be the point of contact for all U.S. assistance to the continent, both civilian and military. In addition to the danger of underutilizing civilian expertise and mismanaging major projects–as happened when the Pentagon was running U.S. reconstruction efforts in Iraq–this approach could contribute to the militarization of overall U.S. policy toward Africa, undermining diplomatic and cooperative approaches to the region’s conflicts.

In the narrative they select three countries where US arms transfers are particularly counterproductive and destructive.

Ethiopia, which is engaged in military actions in the Ogaden, in Eritrea, and has invaded and occupied Somalia at US behest, is a major recipient of arms transfers:

So far, the Bush administration has not responded to Ethiopia’s crimes against humanity in the Ogaden with any restrictions on U.S. assistance, presumably because of Addis Ababa’s role in helping to fight alleged terrorist groups in the Horn of Africa. This may be a false tradeoff, however. As Sam Zarifi of Human Rights Watch noted in his testimony before the subcommittee on Africa of the House Foreign Affairs Committee in October 2007, “U.S. support for Ethiopia in its conflicts in the Somali region and inside Somalia is ineffective and counterproductive.… The current U.S.-backed Ethiopian approach will lead to a mountain of civilian deaths and a litany of abuses.… This approach will only strengthen the hand of the extremist minority in Somalia [and] could lead to the escalation and spread of conflicts in the region and may well help to radicalize the region’s large and young Muslim population.”

This ineffective and counterproductive policy that destroys so many lives is what I wrote about in my previous post. It is effective only in killing and hurting people, and in poisoning US relations with countries in the Horn of Africa

Major U.S. Security Assistance Programs to Ethiopia FY 2002 through FY 2009 (dollars in thousands) $54,360

Kenya has also been a major recipient of arms transfers. Since the disputed/stolen elections there has been ongoing internal violence, and the police and military have strongly overreacted.

Georgette Gagnon of Human Rights Watch has urged the United States and the United Kingdom to “suspend military assistance until there is an independent investigation of the war crimes. They shouldn’t be supporting the military until Kenyan authorities commit to prosecuting those responsible for torture and war crimes.”

Major U.S. Security Assistance Programs to Kenya FY 2002 through FY 2009 (dollars in thousands) $84,032

And in Nigeria:

“Widespread government corruption, political and intercommunal violence, police torture and other abuses continue to deny ordinary Nigerians their human rights. During 2007, Nigerian actors including the police, military and elected officials committed serious and persistent abuses against Nigerian citizens with near-complete impunity.”

… Militancy has become a cloak for all forms of criminality in the Niger Delta …

… Rather than attempting to curb this multi-sided violence, more often than not the Nigerian government and Nigerian politicians are complicit in it.

Nigeria has plenty of money, although the vast amount is stolen and misspent:

To give some sense of how much money is available to Nigeria’s various corrupt entities, the country’s top anticorruption official has determined that over $380 billion was stolen or wasted between 1960 and 1999, almost equaling the country’s $400 billion in oil revenues over the same time period.

Nigeria could use some assistance in developing an accountable and responsive government. Arms transfers seem likely only to strengthen the military, to assist it to become a default government, and to continue and expand its abuses.

Major U.S. Security Assistance Programs to Nigeria FY 2002 through FY 2009 (dollars in thousands) $49,564

These three countries stand out for the amount of arms transfers to them from the US, and for the misuse of those transfers. But they are hardly alone. What is needed is support for government and civilian institutions across the continent. The overwhelming emphasis on arms transfers and military assistance is an incitement to create military governments wherever it occurs.

All of this comes at a time when the citizens of African countries are trying to move beyond military coups and military governments.

Development cannot occur or thrive without local business and local agriculture. Both of these perish in a war zone.