In Dogs of War: Back to Africa, David Isenberg asks and answers:

Where does the future lie for the private military industry? (When) Iraq, the mother of all private military contracting opportunities … draw(s) to a close

Most likely they will return to their point of origin, Africa. In fact, some are already there.

US contracts for PMCs in Africa are being set up and renewed now.

AFRICAP contracts have a ceiling of approximately $500 million, or $1 billion total. In February the State Department sent out a notice that it was looking to re-complete the contracts.

In Iraq the Bush administration is trying to extend the conflict by extending multi year contracts with the PMCs, as reported by Walter Pincus in the Washington Post:

The depth of U.S. involvement in Iraq and the difficulty the next president will face in pulling personnel out of the country are illustrated by a handful of new contract proposals made public in May. … The proposals reflect multiyear commitments.

And in Africa Dyncorp is already training the Liberian Army under US contracts, and as Isenberg points out:

A more serious concern was noted by the U.S. Army’s Strategic Studies Institute. In a study released in March, the institute concluded that “the image of DynCorp creating an armed elite is disconcerting to many Liberians.”

The existence of an armed elite is alarming to many people in Africa across a variety of countries. Armed elites already exist. To make them better armed, better trained, and more elite, is a huge threat to security and safety. The money invested by the US in African militaries makes them elites. There is no similar financial investment in any other sector of African societies or economies. Money spent on capacity building for civilian government would be a positive investment, instead we have this destructive investment in militarization.

AFRICOM plays a major role in this privatized militarization:

The establishment of the U.S. military’s latest regional command, the new Africa Command, has also played a role in opening up the market. Private contractors have been seen as an integral part of AFRICOM since its inception. This is not surprising, considering that in October 2003 James Jay Carafano and Nile Gardiner, both from the conservative Heritage Foundation think tank, proposed to the Bush administration the creation of a centralized Africa command for the U.S. military. Their proposal made clear that the objective was to preserve U.S. access to African oil and other natural resources on the continent. The Heritage report also points to the strategic importance of Africa in the global “war on terror.”

A study published in spring 2007 by the Industrial College of the Armed Forces noted that “Africa may do for the (private military) industry in the next 20 years what Iraq has done in the past four, provide a significant growth engine.”

Sarah Meyer has cataloged the activities and the histories of PMC involvement in Iraq:

Iraq: Security Companies and Training Camps

and updated at:

She quotes:

Dirk Adriaensens has been involved with Iraq for 17 years. He is on the executive committee of the BRussels Tribunal and is the coordinator of SOS Iraq. He writes:”

Security guys and gals don’t have to abide by the Geneva Conventions. They do as they wish. No rules, no regulations. They can operate with impunity.

As such these “security companies” can be called “death squads”. Not “Angels of Death” but “Devils of Death”. For this, they make a lot of money. Privatization of war is big, big business.”

This makes security companies uniquely unqualified to help build stability and provide peacekeeping. There are problems enough with legitimate peacekeepers with reports of child abuse by UN peacekeepers. But with PMCs, there is no accountability.
AFRICOM was dreamed up by the same people who promoted “Constructive Engagement” with South Africa to shore up and continue apartheid. In a brilliant article on the battle of Cuito Cuanavale, Horace Campbell writes:

In the second term of Ronald Reagan (1984-1988), and with help from the Thatcher government in Britain, [US] support was stepped up for the SADF, UNITA, Mobutu and the anti-communist forces in Southern Africa. It should be stated here that at this time all African freedom fighters had been deemed terrorists. Both Osama Bin Laden and Jonas Savimbi were at this time allies of the USA in the fight against communism. While Savimbi was called a freedom fighter, Nelson Mandela had been branded a terrorist by the USA and the South Africans. … This period is most important in so far as the very same forces in Washington that supported Jonas Savimbi and Osama Bin Laden are the same political forces seeking to mobilize the world against today’s so called war on terror.

The Heritage Foundation, which initially proposed AFRICOM to Donald Rumsfeld, were the same people who supported and promoted Renamo in Mozambique, promoted funding them through apartheid South Africa, and and promoted funding and support for Savimbi in Angola. Both Renamo, and Savimbi’s UNITA maintained long and brutal campaigns of terror. Considering the violence against civilians that characterizes the current involvement of the US and US contractors in Somalia and in the Great Lakes Region, there is no reason to think AFRICOM will be any improvement. A larger investment just means more harm.

UPI Correspondent
BRUSSELS, Feb. 1 (UPI)China’s growth and close economic ties with Africa are affecting the ability of the United States and the European Union to influence politics on the continent, experts say.

Europe became aware of its new secondary role in Africa during the latest round of trade negotiations at the EU-Africa summit last month. The EU, which had grown accustomed to getting what it wants from Africa, was fiercely rebuffed by the majority of African nations that refused the terms proposed by the European Commission.

The reason African countries could now stand up to their former colonizers was an alternative and more attractive Chinese market, which has been offering African countries better prices and more investment.

“China’s own economic growth has allowed it, and forced it, to accelerate engagement with Africa pretty much across the board in a way that the EU and the U.S. just don’t,” said Fredrik Erixon, director of the European Center for International Political Economy, an economic think tank in Brussels.
. . .
Africa supplies a third of China’s oil, and trade between China and Africa has risen by 6,000 percent since 1990, according to Erixon.
. . .
“The EU most certainly overplayed its hand in trade negotiations,” Erixon said. “They pushed Africa into China’s hands. They just asked for too much. They demanded reforms from African nations that they would never be able to do.”
. . .
China’s dispensing of soft loans to Africa makes it easy to plummet the continent back into the debt crisis that it’s just starting to crawl out of. “A buildup of new debt and a new debt crisis could occur one or two decades down the road,” Erixon said.
. . .
“There’s at the margin some erosion of U.S. economic leverage because China is a new alternative market,” Setser said. “When it comes to bidding on the right to develop Africa’s oil fields Africa will sell it to the highest bidders and it will have no qualms of going to Chinese companies instead of EU or U.S. ones.”

The Chinese oil companies routinely overpay in order to secure oil fields, according to Setser. “Growing exports from Africa to China might interfere with exports from Africa to Europe,” Erixon said.

Some are saying Angola may surpass Nigeria as Africa’s biggest oil producer soon, especially since militant political activists and guerilla entrepreneurs in the Delta have cut Nigerian production by around 25%. This is not good news for the west. The US past involvement in Angola’s civil war, and actions that helped prolong that war an extra 10 years give the US very little leverage when dealing with Angola.

I’ve wondered about the debt issue. The west has used debt as a weapon to keep developing countries weak and dependent. Will the Chinese loans do the same?

The Chinese do not care about good governance and human rights, so long as the projects get done and the goods delivered. Of course the west has mostly paid minimal lip service to good governance and human rights, tolerating and supporting ruthless dictators and extreme horrors if the deal is right and corporate interests advantaged.

The Chinese prefer to bring in Chinese workers, so they are not helping much with creating jobs in the countries where they operate. This causes resentment. And flooding those countries with cheap subsidized goods, particularly textiles, clothing and shoes, are putting local manufacturing out of business, or preventing it from getting established. It was distressing to me that the textiles bought for the Ghana@50 celebrations in 2007 were bought from China, and not from Ghanaian textile and clothing producers. Ghana has beautiful textiles.

Nigeria and the US have generally had fairly good relations. And now Yar’Adua is calling for one of the goals of AFRICOM, partnering with African militaries:

01/02/2008 12:40

Nigerian President Umaru Yar’Adua has called for a joint security force in the oil-rich Gulf of Guinea amid an upsurge in violence in the Niger Delta, a presidential statement said Friday.

“The establishment of the Gulf of Guinea Guard Force will address emerging security concerns at the region”, the statement quoted Yar’Adua as saying during talks with Equatorial Guinean President Obiang Nguema Mbasogo in Addis Ababa.

Both leaders met on the sidelines of the ongoing African Union summit in the Ethiopian capital, the statement said.

Yar’Adua called for a meeting of members of the Gulf of Guinea Commission to approve the modalities for setting up the force.

The commission comprises Nigeria, Angola, Cameroon, Republic of Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Democratic Republic of Congo and Sao Tome and Principe.

Yar’Adua said he discussed the proposed force with US President George W. Bush during his recent visit to the United States and hoped that Washington would assist with training and logistics.

The statement said Mbasogo raised security concerns in the volatile Niger Delta with Yar’Adua, who assured him of his government’s resolve to stem the unrest and criminality in the region.

The Niger Delta has seen an upsurge in violence in the past two years as militant gangs renewed their attacks on oil facilities and personnel, slashing Nigeria’s daily output by a quarter.

In 1986 Mr Reagan welcomed Savimbi to the White House and talked of Unita winning “a victory that electrifies the world and brings great sympathy and assistance from other nations to those struggling for freedom”.

In Darfur, before we talk of genocide or terrorism, we need to look at the US role in the beginnings of state sponsored terrorism in Africa. What is below is some background necessary to understand the situation in Sudan and Darfur, and necessary for understanding many African reactions to AFRICOM. In the words of Mahmood Mamdani regarding Darfur:

We need to keep in mind . . . the history of state-sponsored terrorism in that part of Africa begins with the US providing a political umbrella to South Africa to create a state-sponsored terrorist movement in Mozambique: RENAMO. And it is after a full decade of that impunity that others learn the experience, and Charles Taylor begins it in Liberia, and the Sudanese government begins it in the south.

Mamdani tells us more about RENAMO in Good Muslim, Bad Muslim: Renamo: Africa’s First Genuine Terrorist Movement:

Renamo was created as a terrorist outfit by the Rhodesian army in the early 1970s and was patronized by the South African Defense Forces after the fall of Rhodesia in 1980 . . . it never ceased to use terror with abandon.

(The alliance of UNITA) . . . with apartheid South Africa opened it (Unita) to learning the tactics of (Renamo’s) terrorism by example. . . . In sharp contrast to its unabashed support for Unita, the US government never openly supported Renamo. But this did not rule out collaboration between the political right in the United States and representatives of Renamo: “Renamo’s Washington office shared an address with the Heritage Foundation” and by 1987, right-wing pressure “brought Senate Minority Leader Robert Dole into the pro-Renamo camp.”
. . .
(The reason for US sponsored terrorism, backing Unita in Angola, was) . . . if only the level of collateral damage could be made unacceptably high, the people would surely vote the terrorists into power as the price of peace.
. . .

Political terror had brought a kind of war never before seen in Africa. The hallmark of the terror was that it targeted civilian life: blowing up infrastructure such as bridges and power stations, destroying health and educational centers, mining paths and fields, and kidnapping civilians – particularly children – to press-gang them into recruits. Terrorism distinguished itself from guerrilla struggle by making civilians its preferred target . . . What is now termed collateral damage was not an unfortunate by-product of the war; it was the very point of terrorism.

. . .

America’s role when it came to perpetuating the reign of terror that Renamo unleashed in Mozambique and that Unita periodically resorted to in Angola was one of political support.

. . .
The Reagan administration called that embrace “constructive engagement,” . . . Without American political support, the South African government could not have continued to prop up a terrorist movement in a newly independent African country for more than a decade and done so with impunity.
(from Good Muslim, Bad Muslim by Mahmood Mamdani, pp 89-92, hardback ISBN#:0-375-42285-4)

Proponents and opponents of AFRICOM, and interested parties, need to look at this history. People in Africa have not forgotten it. Many are still living it.

Those who have positive intentions in Africa need to understand, as Mamdani also tells us:
(cached version)

. . . peace cannot be built on humanitarian intervention, which is the language of big powers. The history of colonialism should teach us that every major intervention has been justified as humanitarian, a ‘civilising mission’.

Oil in Sudan (click map to enlarge)

Darfur – It’s about the oil.

The US started the current conflict in Darfur over oil, by funding military aggression, a proxy war, using Chad. As part of this proxy war, the US has continued to arm the larger of two rebel groups, the SLM. China needs oil, and now possesses 1.2 trillion US dollars in its banks. The oil business is done in dollars, and China has plenty. China has been making loans to African governments with no strings attached. This has shored up authoritarian rulers. But China has also funded and helped build schools, roads, and other infrastructure projects in the African countries with which it is dealing.

Over the last 3 decades, the United States and the big oil companies have completely wasted the opportunities they had to build and cement long term positive relationships in Africa. The US government and Big Oil have preferred arrogance, neglect, and single minded exploitation. They have used “military assistance” to deal with anyone who they think may stand in their way.

With the Nigerian government unwilling to build infrastructure in the Niger Delta, Shell could have done this relatively cheaply on its own, in partnership with local communities. Shell should have been less arrogantly careless about polluting the land and the water. It would have cost more. But if Shell had been willing to think long term, it would have paid off more. US support for the grotesque government in Equitorial Guinea is both foolish for long term US interests, and morally inexcusable. And former support for Savimbi and Unitas in Angola was another moral abomination that achieved nothing but death and suffering.

F William Engdahl details the history and describes the present situation in Darfur and Sudan:

(The) present concern of the current Washington administration over Darfur in southern Sudan is not, if we look closely, genuine concern over genocide against the peoples in that poorest of poor part of a forsaken section of Africa.

Instead, we now have:

. . . a new Cold War over oil, where the dramatic rise in China’s oil demand to fuel its booming growth has led Beijing to embark on an aggressive policy of – ironically – dollar diplomacy.
. . .
China is using no-strings-attached dollar credits to gain access to Africa’s vast raw material wealth, leaving Washington’s typical control game via the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) out in the cold. Who needs the painful medicine of the IMF when China gives easy terms and builds roads and schools to boot?
. . .
China has been generous in dispensing its soft loans, with no interest or as outright grants, to some of the poorest debtor states of Africa. The loans have gone into infrastructure, including highways, hospitals, and schools, a stark contrast to the brutal austerity demands of the IMF and World Bank.
. . .
This oil-related Chinese diplomacy has led to the bizarre accusation from Washington that Beijing is trying to “secure oil at the sources”, something Washington foreign policy has itself been preoccupied with for at least a century. No source of oil has been more the focus of China-US oil conflict of late than Sudan, home of Darfur.
. . .
With its oil demand growing by an estimated 30% a year, China will pass the US in oil import demand in a few years. That reality is the motor driving Beijing foreign policy in Africa.
. . .

Merchants of death –

The United States, acting through surrogate allies in Chad and neighboring states has trained and armed the Sudan Peoples’ Liberation Army, headed until his death in July 2005 by John Garang, trained at the US Special Forces school at Fort Benning, Georgia (the notorious School of the Americas).
By pouring arms into first southeastern Sudan and since discovery of oil in Darfur into that region as well, Washington fueled the conflict that led to tens of thousands dying and several million driven to flee their homes.
. . .
The Pentagon has been busy training African military officers in the US, much as it has trained Latin American officers for decades. Its International Military Education and Training program has provided training to military officers from Chad, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Cameroon and the Central African Republic.

Much of the arms that have fueled the killing in Darfur and the south have been brought in via murky, protected private “merchants of death” such as the notorious former KGB operative, now with offices in the US, Victor Bout, who has been cited repeatedly in recent years for selling weapons across Africa. US government officials strangely leave his operations in Texas and Florida untouched despite the fact he is on the Interpol wanted list for money laundering.
US development aid for all Sub-Saharan Africa, including Chad, has been cut sharply in recent years while its military aid has risen. Oil and the scramble for strategic raw materials is the clear reason. The region of southern Sudan from the Upper Nile to the Chad border is rich in oil. Washington knew that long before the Sudanese government.
. . .

Chad oil and pipeline politics –

Condoleezza Rice’s Chevron is in neighboring Chad, together with the other US oil giant, ExxonMobil. They’ve just built a $3.7 billion oil pipeline carrying 160,000 barrels per day from Doba in central Chad, near Darfur, via Cameroon to Kribi on the Atlantic Ocean, destined for US refineries.

To do it, they worked with Chad “President for life” Idriss Deby, a corrupt despot who has been accused of feeding US-supplied arms to the Darfur rebels.
. . .
Supplied with US military aid, training and weapons, in 2004, Deby launched the initial strike that set off the conflict in Darfur. . . . The US military support to Deby in fact had been the trigger for the Darfur bloodbath. Khartoum reacted and the ensuing debacle was unleashed in full, tragic force.
. . .
The Chinese economic presence in Chad, ironically, may be more effective in calming the fighting and displacement in Darfur than any AU or UN troop presence ever could. That would not be welcome for some people in Washington and at Chevron headquarters, as they would not secure the oil.

Chad and Darfur are but part of the vast China effort to secure “oil at the source” across Africa. Oil is also the prime factor in US Africa policy today. George W Bush’s interest in Africa includes a new US base in Sao Tome/Principe, 124 miles off the Gulf of Guinea, from which it can control Gulf of Guinea oil fields from Angola in the south to the Democratic Republic of Congo, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon and Nigeria. That just happens to be the very same areas where recent Chinese diplomatic and investment activity has focused.
. . .
Darfur and Chad are but an extension of the US Iraq policy “with other means” – control of oil everywhere. China is challenging that control “everywhere”, especially in Africa. It amounts to a new undeclared Cold War over oil.

There is much more information in the article, and it is well worth reading. The information in this article is available in bits and pieces in a variety of sources. Mr. Engdahl has put it together with succinct precision.

I think two of the particularly telling quotes from the article are:

US development aid for all Sub-Saharan Africa, including Chad, has been cut sharply in recent years while its military aid has risen.
The Chinese economic presence in Chad, ironically, may be more effective in calming the fighting and displacement in Darfur than any AU or UN troop presence ever could.

The cuts in US development aid, with increased military aid, is exactly the wrong way for the US to go, both in terms of US interests, and African interests. This is what the US did in the Cold War, and accomplished nothing good. This will cause enormous harm. In this context, the Africa Command appears to be an extension of the disastrous Iraq policy. I hope the US can find more positive ways to make friends and secure markets. The Iraq approach is an obvious and miserable failure. The American brand could become popular and successful again, but only if the US is willing to act in mutually beneficial fashion. So far the Cheney hand on foreign policy has steered relentlessly in the wrong direction.

In 1986 Mr Reagan welcomed Savimbi to the White House and talked of Unita winning “a victory that electrifies the world and brings great sympathy and assistance from other nations to those struggling for freedom”.

I remember back in the 80s and early 90s my friends and I would joke about getting US military assistance to back us up in our petty arguments with each other. Military assistance seemed to be readily available to anyone who claimed to be anti-communist. Reagan and Bush Senior didn’t care about your goals or behavior if you said you were anti-communist. But our joking was also a cover for our shock at the suffering and destruction US military assistance created.

In 1988 Ronald Reagan said:

In a region as underdeveloped as Africa, which has relatively little access to private sources of capital, our ability to achieve our objectives depends in very significant measure on effective economic and security assistance programs. Too often security assistance is portrayed as a tradeoff against support for development. In Africa, this distinction is particularly ill-founded. Our security assistance programs promote a stable political and economic environment that permits the exercise of individual choice and the development of human talent. Without that environment, sustained development is not possible.
. . .
U.S. military training programs are an invaluable instrument for promoting professionalism and respect for human rights. The exposure to Western values that comes from such programs may foster a respect for the United States and democratic institutions among individuals who play a key role in determining the level of freedom and stability in African countries. Many of these programs also contribute to economic security.

Just how well did that turn out? Can we point to a single country in Africa that benefitted from Reagan’s military assistance? Is there a single country in Africa that Reagan “assisted”, either overtly or covertly, whose people are more successful and better off now than they were then? Has respect for human rights improved? In fact the opposite of his words has proven true, and security (military) assistance has been a huge tradeoff for development. And development, and respect for human rights, have suffered or died all over as a result.

Before Bush Junior the US had moral authority in the world, despite the actions of some US governments. Bush Junior has thrown that all away.

Compare Reagan’s words to the words of Theresa Whelan the deputy assistant secretary of defense for African affairs announcing the creation of the Africa Command:

A U.S. Africa Command would work at “preventing problems from becoming crises and crises from becoming catastrophes,” Whelan said. “Instead of the United States being reactive, … we want to be more proactive in promoting security, to build African capacity to build their own environments and not be subject to the instability that has toppled governments and caused so much pain on the continent.”

Her words sound very much like Reagan’s. They may be very well intentioned, but the approach is wrong. The result will be far different from what the words describe, just as Reagan’s results were far different than the sunny vision he described, witness the work of “Dr.” Savimbi in Angola.

When Jimmy Carter was elected president, he announced that support for fundamental human rights would be the foundation of US foreign policy. The US shone as an example for all the world as a country who takes seriously the rights of human beings everywhere. But this genuine commitment to human rights was lost when Reagan was elected. And commitment to human rights has been missing in every Republican government since. People talk about human rights, but only to cover their less benign intentions and behavior.

Carter sought to spread democracy through diplomacy, while the neoconservatives now seem to embrace aggressive and unilateral intervention in foreign affairs.'”
(Conservatives Without Conscience, by John Dean, ISBN 0-670-03774-5, p.100)

And that is the chief problem with Africom, it was created by people who have an aggressive authoritarian view of the world, and who do not believe in equality. No matter how good and well intentioned US soldiers are, Africom is military assistance. With Africom, what we get is military policy, not diplomacy. Without genuine diplomacy, it is not possible to foster stability or development.