The crab does not bite, it is the handshake that hurts. – Proverb
Somalia belongs to HOA Phase Zero of AFRICOM’s activities in Africa according to a CJTF-HOA slideshow. You don’t see any mention of partnerships or listening to African partners on this list of Phases from the beginning of the slideshow. If you look at the Phases listed on the slide, Phase 1 is to Deter, Phase 2 is Seize. Anything the US is seizing in Africa does not belong to the United States. Phase 3 is to Dominate, followed by Phase 4, Stabilize. That is what stability operations are, keeping the dominated stabilized and under control, aka peacekeeping, and then, Phase 5, Enabling them to serve the dominant, or enabling them to get out of the way of dominant interests. For all these Phases in Africa, AFRICOM needs proxies, proxy soldiers and proxy governments. That is what Africans solving Africa’s problems means. It means solving local and continental problems to the advantage of the United States, and arranging the business of government to serve the US and the West through the use of proxies and client governments.
Roger Pociask linked to the DTIC pdf slideshow from his blog. He has some important observations for the US Africa Command, he says:
In spite of the good things that AFRICOM has accomplished across the continent, by and large you have been viewed by the natives as nothing but an embarrassment to be mistrusted across Africa. Your self-declared benevolence (or security cooperation) is absolutely NOT believed by anyone. They smile and nod and readily accept millions of U.S. dollars.
Above you see a list of CJTF-HOA strategic objectives over the banner Africans Solving Africa’s Problems. Nothing on the itemized list is specifically African other than The middle item, Engage African Union. The items are all about the Africa Command. To what purpose does the Africa Command engage the African Union? The US has certainly done its best to marginalize and ignore the African Union on the subject of Libya, AFRICOM’s first war in Africa. The US also made quite cynical use of the African Union in the post electoral conflict in Ivory Coast this year.
Mark Fancher at Black Agenda Report writes With Friends Like AFRICOM, Who Needs Enemies?
Beware of Americans bearing gifts, guns, and an AFRICOM patch; their embrace can turn fatal. “One minute, Gadhafi was America’s best friend in northern Africa and in the next minute he was an evil menace.” The turnabout can be sudden.
Public statements issued by U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) frequently refer to Africa’s governments and military forces as “our African partners.” The following AFRICOM website excerpts are typical:
“An important part of this approach is that we learn from our African partners what is important to them.”
“Our African partners have expressed four common, defense-oriented goals that are consistent with U.S. interests and AFRICOM objectives…”
“U.S. AFRICOM’s programs and activities support the development of capable, professional partner military forces…”
Partnerships typically involve trust, mutual respect and shared decision-making. These may be hard to find in relationships that AFRICOM has with Africa’s armies because history and circumstances have determined that Africa’s true, best interests and U.S. interests will always diverge. Consequently, in any relationship between Africa and the U.S., one set of interests will likely dominate the other.
For its part, AFRICOM has declared: “As a military organization, our responsibility to the American people is to support U.S. national security priorities.” Africa’s security priorities were forced to yield to so-called U.S. national security priorities when AFRICOM initiated military attacks against Libya at the same time that the African Union was calling for dialogue as a means of resolving conflicts in that country. This provides the best clue that if an African “partner” were to attempt to give African interests priority over U.S. objectives, the partnership would be short-lived.
Historically U.S. imperialism has embraced selected governments as “allies,” or “friends,” or “partners” when there is something to be gained from the relationship. But when these “friends” in some way jump ship, the U.S. turns on them like an enraged schizophrenic. Libya is the latest example.
… when it comes to fickle friends, the U.S. has no peer, and this should give pause to any African country considering a relationship with AFRICOM.
Lest any would-be AFRICOM “partner” assume that Libya is an aberration, it is important to recall that Gadhafi is not the only African leader to be kicked to the curb. Robert Mugabe too has been romanced by imperialism and then jilted.
Mobutu in the Congo was a long time client of the US until it turned against him. Saddam Hussain in Iraq was another US client the US turned against. Uganda’s Museveni and Rwanda’s Kagame are currently US favorites for their military cooperation, and for their incursions into the Congo that advantage US, Canadian, and other Western mineral and mining interests. This has led to the deaths of millions of citizens in the Congo, as Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, the Congolese Army, and various militias vie for control of the mineral trade. It has led to the use of rape on an unimaginble scale as a weapon of terror and war. Recent oil discoveries and projected discoveries are likely to exacerbate the violence and conflicts. The US spends a lot of money on training the Ugandan and Rwandan militaries. And the US has recently begun training the DRC Congo military as well.
African countries considering “partnerships” would do well to engage in sober analysis when AFRICOM arrives bearing gifts of humanitarian assistance and military training. Given the treatment accorded other U.S. “friends” who have fallen out of favor, it is worth contemplating the dangers of having to tell AFRICOM “no” if one day a request is made to participate in a mission that is clearly contrary to Africa’s best interests. This is not a far-fetched potential dilemma.
AFRICOM announced that one of its exercises for this summer is called “Shared Accord.” Its purpose is to train “… U.S. and African forces to conduct peacekeeping operations in sub-Saharan Africa.” Once trained, who will be the targets of these “peace keepers”? Will they include the Movement to Emancipate the Niger Delta (MEND)? According to reports, MEND recently vowed to attack facilities of an Italian company that MEND accuses of theft of Nigeria’s oil. MEND claims its attacks are in solidarity with Libyans enduring imperialist attacks by Italy and others.
Or then again, perhaps AFRICOM will decide to move militarily against Robert Mugabe. Whatever the target, if prospective “partners” don’t have the stomach for anti-African imperialist missions, or the wherewithal to resist U.S. retaliation for refusing to cooperate, they should probably refuse to answer the door when AFRICOM comes a knocking.
The US has clearly and frequently taken sides in internal conflicts in African countries, Libya, Ivory Coast, Somalia, are just a few of the most recent. The DJTF-HOA slideshow pictures the post election violence in Kenya as one of the things it wishes to protect against. It ignores the US role in subverting the counting of the votes that led to the violence.
And the US fear of Shabab in Somalia is not really about growing terrorism but about a political threat to what the US sees as its interests. As Johnnie Carson told us last July in Kamapala”
It is important that the TFG be strengthened, for if it is not, Shabaab will continue to emerge as a significant political threat not only in the south, but also throughout the region.
Even as U.S. militarization of the Horn of Africa has contributed massively to the threatened starvation of millions, the Americans have announced an escalation of drone attacks against Somalia and the establishment of a Marine task force for the region. A United Nations spokesman describes the food and refugee emergency in Somalia as the “worst humanitarian crisis in the world,” with millions at immediate risk. Not coincidentally, the epicenter of the disaster is the area where Somalia, Kenya and Ethiopia meet – which is also a focus of U.S. Special Forces, surveillance and logistics activity.
Whenever the U.S. rachets up its armed interventions in Somalia, disaster follows.
In addition to the famine in which 3.7 million people are in crisis and more than 10 million affected, two current major stories about Somalia are Jeremy Scahill’s The CIA’s Secret Sites in Somalia and the creation of AFRICOM Marine task force to help train militaries fighting al-Qaida-linked groups in Somalia, Maghreb region For more background and analysis on these two stories and Somalia’s situation in general, please see africa comments.
AFRICOM continues its incursions into Africa. Roger Pociask calls our attention to a brief article in the Indian Ocean Newsletter, for which he provides a screenshot:
South Sudan is on the western borders of Ethiopia and Kenya while Somalia is on their eastern borders. South Sudan is the target of intense US military interest and part of the reason for military buildup in the region. There is significant oil there. South Sudan is also where US investors have been making highly questionable purchases of large tracts of land without much or any reference to the people who are actually living on and using the land, who are its ancestral owners. For the new colonial “landowners” to enforce their purchases, they intend to use force. As the head of Jarch Capital LLC said:
“You have to go to the guns, this is Africa,” Mr Heilberg said by phone from New York.
[He is] backed by former CIA and state department officials
AFRICOM will be getting busy training proxies in South Sudan to look after Mr. Heilberg’s land acquisitions as well as those of other US investors such as Nile Trading. The proxy armies it is training can evict any of the present local inhabitants from their ancestral land if they object or are in the way, in Sudan, or in other countries.
The government of South Sudan barely exists, there is little or no infrastructure and little or nothing in the way of government institutions, as this report from AlJazeera English describes. If AFRICOM comes in for “partnering” and training, the armed forces will be by far the strongest institution in the country, unless there are other equally well funded efforts to build the institutions that do the real business of government. I don’t see any signs of that at present. It should be fairly easy to install a US client military government and keep it starved for anything other than more military buildup. The people who worked and voted for independence may discover they have brought themselves a harsh colonial client dictatorship instead. They may stand to lose more than they have gained.
Returning to AFRICOM’s CJTF-HOA slide show, take a look at the last two slides in succession:
The Summary looks more about AFRICOM than Africa, but the banner says Africans solving Africa’s problems. The Africans pictured are all children. It looks like there may be one US soldier at the back of a classroom holding up a child. The children are huddled together in order to be in the shot, but they look huddled together. Are these children supposed to be Africa’s problems? Or are they supposed to solve Africa’s problems? There are no African adults pictured as problem solvers. If you look at just the graphics in the two slides below you will see how the US and AFRICOM see Africans and the US role in Africa, a bunch of children facing the military might of the United States arrayed before them, perhaps I should say arrayed against them. Questions?