Gone at last is the fig leaf of humanitarianism … American diplomacy in Africa is less about serving the good of African people than it is about securing the interests of private American capital. Nowhere has this been more flagrantly clear than on the lips of Michael Battle, the US ambassador to the AU. (Jason Hickel)

U.S. Ambassador to the African Union Michael Battle (speaking) and Chairman of the African Union Jean Ping Briefing at the Washington FPC on ''Forging a Dynamic Partnership Between Africa and the U.S.''

Jason Hickel attended a speech by Michael Battle, USAU, US ambassador to the AU, at the University of Virginia. Hickel writes:

… the two primary objectives of the USAU rose quickly to the surface: security and trade.

In terms of security, Battle confirmed America’s dedication to working with the AU and the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) to militarise the continent’s coastlines. While he claimed that the goals of this mission include responding to increased maritime piracy and breaking cartels that traffic illegally in drugs and humans, he made it clear that the primary military objective is to protect US oil interests in the Gulf of Guinea, suppress local resistance movements like MEND in Nigeria, and secure a favourable climate for returns on investment for American corporations. When pressed, Battle justified his call for militarisation by invoking the vague and poorly substantiated spectre of ‘terrorism’.

In terms of trade, Battle spoke excitedly about the partnership between the US, the AU, and the Corporate Council on Africa (CCA) to integrate and liberalise the continent’s national economies. Battle’s explicit vision is to facilitate the efforts of US corporations such as Chevron, Delta, and GE (which he mentioned explicitly by name) to expand investments across multiple African nations by ‘harmonizing trade rules’ and ‘simplifying regulations’.

He praised the AU for developing ‘free trade’ across the continent at a faster rate than the EU was able to accomplish over a similar period of time, and hailed USAU’s vision for an Africa that is increasingly open for business to American companies.

One student asked him why he focused so much on capital investment and economic liberalisation, but never once discussed fairer labour standards or protective environmental policies or regulatory mechanisms designed to benefit the poor. Indeed, any astute observer of African affairs understands that poverty and instability arise not from too much regulation and too little foreign direct investment, but from too little regulation and foreign direct investment that plunders and exploits without meaningfully benefiting the public. What Africa needs is not investment for its own sake, but investment within a framework that will protect workers and the environment and ensure that common people receive a just share of the resources that are their birthright. But Battle refused to answer the question

Battle was entirely prepared to defend his role as facilitator of American military intervention in the service of private American capital. And this without even the usual claims to altruism: he didn’t even gesture to the pressing problems of poverty, inequality, and exploitation in Africa.

Hickel points out that the African Union gets a lot of its funding from the US and USAID. The AU:

… has been thoroughly co-opted by the US government and multinational capital.

Read the entire article to get the full import of the acquisitive views of USAU Battle: The US, the AU and the new scramble for Africa.

In terms of security, Battle confirmed America’s dedication to working with the AU and the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) to militarise the continent’s coastlines. While he claimed that the goals of this mission include responding to increased maritime piracy and breaking cartels that traffic illegally in drugs and humans, he made it clear that the primary military objective is to protect US oil interests in the Gulf of Guinea, suppress local resistance movements like MEND in Nigeria, and secure a favourable climate for returns on investment for American corporations. When pressed, Battle justified his call for militarisation by invoking the vague and poorly substantiated spectre of ‘terrorism’.

Roger Pociask has been doing a superb job of following developments with AFRICOM, and with how it is understood by Africans in relation to how it represents itself. AFRICOM, the US Africa Command is the main engine of US foreign policy in Africa. It has far greater funding and personnel than the State Department. State does have the ACOTA program, but that is also a military program employing military contractors, mercenaries as a part of training African proxies.

More from Roger Pociask who provides us with an African perspective:

The U.S. must therefore come clean and clear, if it wants to be taken serious by Africans. The U.S. needs to disclose fully its interests in Africa through AFRICOM and not assume the people of Africa are unaware of the possibilities of any hidden agenda.”
Selorm Kofi Dake
(Presentation to the School of Global Studies University of Sussex on the 26th January 2010)

And AFRICOM continues its efforts at explaining itself, with different messages for different audiences:

A quote from General “Kip” Ward July 2010:
U.S. Africa Command …“is about one thing and it’s about pursuit of American interest. And if anyone thinks that what Kip Ward does, having worn this uniform for 39 years is about anything else than that, then you’re probably smoking something that you ought not be smoking.” (video here) (and here)

Contrast that with this:

Now, the needs, concerns and priorities of the African nations are not only our lone priority, they are our number one priority. With the establishment of the command, we are now in a position to do that. We are totally focused on what matters to them.”
Vice Adm. Robert T. Moeller, Deputy to the Commander for Military Operations
January 20, 2010 from: The official blog of AFCEA International and SIGNAL Magazine

Or this tweet:

Feb 12, 2010 “In global world, US interests & African interests strong overlap. Obvsly US mil promotes US interests. Wrldwide.” Vince Crawley, Deputy Public Affairs Officer, U.S. Africa Command.

Of as Roger Pociask points out regarding one speech given by General Ward:

Sir, you have not shed any light on the real issues at hand. No one is fooled by your rhetoric. Maybe mentioning the word “Oil” one time in your speech would be a start…

And from the Department of Defense we get a fairly clear indication of the direction of DoD policy in Africa including increased funding for bases: (PDF):

Establish AFRICOM as a viable Combatant Command by providing additional manpower, airlift, and communications support ($263 million)

The GDP initiatives generally require robust Military Construction funding to reflect changes in the Department’s footprint overseas. The FY 2010 Base budget request includes $1.8 billion for GDP, a significant increase over previous years that is primarily due to the following:

• Replacing or upgrading of facilities at enduring U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) and U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) locations ($451 million)

Another highly relevent quote collected by Roger Pociask. As he points out, this is a:

Typical African View of AFRICOM: A Quote from a South African Political Scientist

The threat of Africom, the United States superior military command set specifically to deal with Africa is real and must never be taken lightly by all reasoning Africans.”
“African leaders can ignore that Americanisation of the continent at their own peril
and formations such as the Sadc standby brigade might look small but are the way to go and will in the long run; develop into serious military forces able to contain any situation on the continent. Hence there will be no need to involve Africom.” (original reprinted here)

Representing the views of many Africans, Selorm Kofi Dake has summed up the situation eloquently:

;

let us ask ourselves why a great nation like America seems to be more interested in Africa’s security, than ourselves as Africans. Is it for the sheer love of our continent or it is for a strategic purpose? Is it in our interest, in their interest or both?

Today, Africa has a combined GDP of about US $ 1.5 trillion (World Bank, 2008 GDP Estimates). Nevertheless, our contribution by volume to world trade is less than 5% and most of the goods exported from Africa remain raw, unprocessed commodities such as Cocoa, diamond, gold, bauxite, timber, vegetables and fruits. Africa remains highly endowed with natural resources which hardly get processed into finished products which explain our weak position in the world today. Also, a staggering 33 out of the 53 countries in Africa are classified as Least Developed Countries (LDCs) by UN.

Again, Africa, as chronicled by David Lamb, the renowned American Journalist who travelled across Africa in the 80s, holds the following economic potential: 40 percent of the world’s potential hydroelectric power supply; the bulk of the world’s diamonds and chromium; 30 percent of uranium in the non-communist world; 50 percent of the world gold; 90 percent of cobalt; 50 percent of phosphate; 40 percent of its platinum; 7.5 percent of its coal; 8 percent of its known petroleum reserves,12 percent of its natural gas; 3 percent of its iron ores; 70 percent of the World’s cocoa; 60 % of its coffee; and 50% of its oil palm

These discoveries led David Lamb to conclude, arguably “there is not another continent blessed with such abundance and diversity”. I therefore, very much agree with an observer who said “Africa is not poor, it is only poorly managed”. President Obama, addressing Africa from the floor of the Ghanaian parliament in July 2009 rightly said “Africa needs strong institutions, not strong men”. Africa needs therefore to develop the institutions that will create the basis for sustainable socio-economic development.

Once again, all of a sudden, Africa has become the center stage for the great powers in the world to flex their economic and military muscles. In a fashion akin to that of the 1884 scramble for Africa, the continent is now inundated by competing interests from China, USA, Russia and the EU. Chinese flow of FDI into Africa has overtaken World Bank investments and rivaled that of US. The gold of South Africa and the former Gold Coast, the diamonds of Botswana, Liberia, Namibia and Sierra Leone; the timber and uranium of the Congo; the oil reserves of Sudan, Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, Libya, Angola and lately Ghana; the Cocoa of the Ivory Coast and Ghana have witnessed increased attention by investors from these very powerful countries. The irony of the situation is that whiles this inward flow of FDI on the surface looks promising for us in Africa; unfortunately, they seldom come on a win-win basis.

It is incontrovertible that Africom creates synergy and harmonises US Military Operations in Africa. All-Africa Students Union is aware the Africa Partnership Station (APS) of Africom (Ghanaweb, 21st January 2010) is already in the implementation phase in many regions of Africa. This position is well understood by us. However, the reception and response from many African citizens to AFRICOM have been that of suspicion and mistrust as is reflected by the on-going campaign against Africom by many members of civil society. These fears are not far-fetched, knowing clearly the role played by the CIA in the overthrow of the likes of Ghana’s Kwame Nkrumah, the support for dictators like Mobutu Sesekou and the indifference of US towards deviants like the late Idi Amin and Jonas Savimbi. Africans are also reminded of the failure of the UN (of which US plays the most significant role) to protect the life of Patrice Lumumba – the first democratically elected leader of the Congo- and to avert or mitigate the Rwandan genocide and nip the Liberian civil war in the bud. Again, let us not forget Liberia was a creation of the US government for freed African slaves, a situation which therefore imposed a moral obligation on America’s conscience to act when it was most needed.

As much as Africom, as argued by the US government, seeks to help establish and promote peace in Africa, it cannot be divulged from America’s awakened interest in protecting its own interest in Africa, especially the rich oil and gas reserves the continent holds. The US must therefore come clean and clear, if it wants to be taken serious by Africans. The US needs to disclose fully its interests in Africa through Africom and not assume the people of Africa are unaware of the possibilities of any hidden agenda. Though Africom undoubtedly can build the capacities of any AU Stand-by force to respond effectively to the threats of terrorism and conflicts on the continent, let us ponder over the question “Whose war are we fighting, what price are we to pay and for how long?”.

The US is like the big-brother in the comity of nations which has imposed on itself the task of policing the world. It is exceptionally a great nation, which many of us admire. Also, history is replete with the intervention of US in many wars across the globe. We know over 57,000 gallant US military personnel sacrificed their lives to save what is today South Korea. We know thousands more sacrificed their lives to end the World War II. But we also know of America’s failure in the Vietnam, of its inability to stop rogue North Korea from acquiring nuclear power and its prolonged, protracted on-going war in Iraq and Afghanistan. As President Harry Truman once observed, “what price should America pay to defend its freedom?”. Whatever the answer may be, history has taught us that militarization is definitely not the answer and not so even in Africa.

The All-Africa Students Union stands opposed to any attempts whatsoever to establish any military base in any part of Africa. We belief the militarization of Africa will not only pose danger to our peace but also create conditions of fear and rivalry amongst our people. As Dr. Kwame Nkrumah once said “Africa is not an extension of any other colony”. We do not want to be drawn into the conflict of powers which seek to out-maneuver one another in pursuit of “super-powership”. To the contrary, Africa needs democratization, not militarization, more than ever now!

“The decisiveness of the short period of colonialism and its negative consequences for Africa spring mainly from the fact that Africa lost power. Power is the ultimate determinant in human society, being basic to the relations within any group and between groups. It implies the ability to defend one’s interests and if necessary to impose one’s will by any means available. In relations between peoples, the question of power determines maneuverability in bargaining, the extent to which people survive as a physical and cultural entity. When one society finds itself forced to relinquish power entirely to another society, that in itself is a form of underdevelopment”, Rodney, Walter (1972).

On the way forward, All-Africa Students Union asserts the need for Africa to regain power, one that is of the people, for the people and by the people. AASU does not blame other countries for Africa’s current woes, but so are we not oblivious to the dangers of interference, of not controlling our own destiny and spearheading our own initiatives. However, we still regard the UN as the most credible international institution to partner Africa to meet the challenges of the 21st century. The unilateralism and the imposition of foreign crafted policies will never save Africa, unless there is ownership from the African people themselves.

Conclusion

The All-Africa Students Union reaffirms her belief that the creation of equal opportunities for all Africans to realise their full potential, the consolidation of democratic institutions such as independent electoral commissions; a vibrant and responsible media; a functional and independent judiciary that upholds the rule of law; the guarantee of universal adult suffrage and the ability of the greatest majority of citizens to elect and change their own governments at will as the best guarantees for security and sustainable development in Africa. AASU also calls for the redemption of the ideals of the founding fathers of African political independence- a strong and united Africa- without which we remain vulnerable to the vagaries of the politics of our world.

In the words of Kwame Nkrumah, may Africa continue to march Forward Ever, Backwards Never in the face of all these challenges!

Thank you for your attention.

By Selorm Kofi Dake

(Presentation to the School of Global Studies University of Sussex on the 26th January 2010, read the entire presentation here)

Roger Pociask Has done an excellent job of recording the contradictory and confusing statements coming from AFRICOM in its attempts to explain and define itself. Much of the material here was featured in his October and November postings.