Bush administration

The Bush administration lied the US and the world into war in Iraq, and lied into opening a second front of its GWOT in the Sahara that continues going strong today. The Bush administration went bananas over the banana theory that terrorists would spread out into over north Africa from Afghanistan, west across the map in the pattern of a bunch of bananas. So far the Obama administration seems to be buying right in and continuing the fiction. (Remember the domino theory and what it did for the US and southeast Asia?) Since 2003 there has been a huge amount of US military action in north Africa in and around the Sahara. In 2004:

U.S. military commanders were describing terrorists as “swarming” across the Sahel and the region as a “Swamp of Terror.” The area was, in the words of European Command’s deputy commander General Charles F. Wald, a “terrorist infestation” that “we need to drain.” Stewart M. Powell, writing in Air Force Magazine, claimed that the Sahara “is now a magnet for terrorists.”

In the africom.mil picture gallery there are plenty of pictures of US military activity in north Africa. Here are two recent examples:

CAP DRAA, Morocco - Marine radio operators from the ground combat element of Task Force African Lion observe the smoke-filled battlefield of the final training exercise as they relay information from the commanders to the units in the field May 29, 2009. The annually scheduled, combined U.S. -Moroccan exercise, AFRICAN LION, is designed to improve interoperability and mutual understanding of each nation's tactics, techniques and procedures and is scheduled to run until June 4. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sergeant Rocco DeFilippis)

CAP DRAA, Morocco - Marine radio operators from the ground combat element of Task Force African Lion observe the smoke-filled battlefield of the final training exercise as they relay information from the commanders to the units in the field May 29, 2009. The annually scheduled, combined U.S. -Moroccan exercise, AFRICAN LION, is designed to improve interoperability and mutual understanding of each nation's tactics, techniques and procedures and is scheduled to run until June 4. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sergeant Rocco DeFilippis)

MALI - Malian commandos advance with a member of the U.S. 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) during training rehearsals May 13, 2009, at a military training area north of Bamako, Mali. Building on specialized skills previously acquired during joint exercises such as Flintlock, which is Special Operations Command-Africa's premier Special Operations Forces exercise in the Trans-Saharan region, the "Warrior-Ambassadors" of the 3rd SFG (A) were continuing their Africa-focused security forces assistance mission to enhance African Partner Nation capabilities to help achieve regional cooperation and security. The 3rd SFG (A) is based in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. (Photo by Max R. Blumenfeld, JSOTF-TS PAO)

MALI - Malian commandos advance with a member of the U.S. 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) during training rehearsals May 13, 2009, at a military training area north of Bamako, Mali. Building on specialized skills previously acquired during joint exercises such as Flintlock, which is Special Operations Command-Africa's premier Special Operations Forces exercise in the Trans-Saharan region, the "Warrior-Ambassadors" of the 3rd SFG (A) were continuing their Africa-focused security forces assistance mission to enhance African Partner Nation capabilities to help achieve regional cooperation and security. The 3rd SFG (A) is based in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. (Photo by Max R. Blumenfeld, JSOTF-TS PAO)

In December 2008 the New York Times described:

… a five-year, $500 million partnership between the State and Defense Departments includes Algeria, Chad, Mauritania, Mali, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Tunisia, and Libya is on the verge of joining.

This effort is aimed at a small force, maybe 200 fighters, they call Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb

The GWOT activity in Africa was begun by EUCOM, the European Command, long before AFRICOM, the US Africa Command, was even announced as a plan. There were no terrorist incidents in north Africa, unless you count the Algerian government actions in the dirty war against their own people, which were estimated to have left 200,000 dead. Algeria was worried about being cut off from arms supplies, and the US interest in fighting terror came along just at the right time. Jeremy Keenan described the creation of the Saharan war on terror in a 2006 article:

The “why” has much to do with Washington’s “banana theory” of terrorism, so named because of the banana-shaped route Washington believed the dislodged terrorists from Afghanistan were taking into Africa and across the Sahelian countries of Chad, Niger, Mali, and Mauritania to link up with Islamist militants in the Maghreb. Hard evidence for this theory was lacking. There was little or no Islamic extremism in the Sahel, no indigenous cases of terrorism, and no firm evidence that “terrorists” from Afghanistan, Pakistan, or the Middle East were taking this route.

Washington appears to have based its notion on some unpublished sources and Algerian press reports on the banditry and smuggling activities of the outlaw Mokhtar ben Mokhtar. It also misconstrued the Tablighi Jama`at movement, whose 200 or so members in Mali are nicknamed “the Pakistanis” because the sect’s headquarters are in Pakistan. Finally, local government agents told U.S. officials what they wanted to hear.

Notwithstanding the lack of evidence, Washington saw a Saharan Front as the linchpin for the militarization of Africa

Washington’s interest in the Sahel and the flimsiness of its intelligence were extremely propitious for Algeria’s own designs. As western countries became aware of the Algerian army’s role in its “dirty war” of the 1990s against Islamic extremists, they became increasingly reluctant to sell it arms for fear of Islamist reprisals and criticism from human rights groups. As a result, Algeria’s army became progressively under-equipped and increasingly preoccupied with acquiring modern, high-tech weapon systems, notably night vision devices, sophisticated radar systems, an integrated surveillance system, tactical communications equipment, and certain lethal weapon systems. Whereas the Clinton administration kept its distance, the Bush administration invited Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika as one of its first guests to Washington. Bouteflika told his American counterpart that Algeria wanted specific equipment to maintain peace, security, and stability.

September 11 was a golden opportunity for both regimes, especially Algeria, which sold its “expertise” in counter-terrorism to Washington on the basis of its long “war” against Islamists through the 1990s that left 200,000 people dead.

The two governments created terrorism together. It started with:

… the hostage-taking of 32 tourists in the Algerian Sahara. The United States attributed their capture in March 2003 to Algeria’s Islamist “terrorist” organization, the Groupe Salafiste pour la Prédication et le Combat (GSPC). The presumed mastermind of the plot was the GSPC’s second-in-command, who goes by many aliases, including El Para after his stint as a parachutist in the Algerian army.

The GSPC held the hostages in two groups approximately 300 kilometers apart in the Algerian Sahara. An Algerian army assault liberated one of the groups. The captors took the other group to northern Mali and finally released the hostages following the alleged ransom payment of five million Euros. The hostage-taking confirmed U.S. suspicions. Even before the hostages were released, the Bush administration was branding the Sahara as a terror zone and El Para as a top al-Qaida operative and “bin Laden’s man in the Sahel.”

By the end of January, Algerian and Malian forces, reportedly with U.S. support, were said to have driven the GSPC from northern Mali. Then, in a series of engagements, a combined military operation of Niger and Algerian forces, supported by U.S. satellite surveillance, chased El Para‘s men across the Tamesna, Aïr, and Tenere regions of Niger into the Tibesti Mountains of Chad. There, thanks to the support of U.S. aerial reconnaissance, Chadian forces engaged the GSPC in early March in a battle lasting three days, reportedly killing 43 GSPC. El Para managed to escape the carnage but fell into the hands of a Chadian rebel movement. This group held him hostage until October 2004 when he was returned to Algeria, allegedly with the help of Libya. In June 2005, an Algerian court convicted him in absentia of “creating an armed terrorist group and spreading terror among the population.” It sentenced El Para to life imprisonment.

Within a year, the United States and its allies had transformed the Sahara-Sahel region into a second front in the global “war on terror.” Prior to the hostage-taking in March 2003, no act of terror, in the conventional meaning of the term, had occurred in this vast region. Yet, by the following year, U.S. military commanders were describing terrorists as “swarming” across the Sahel and the region as a “Swamp of Terror.”

But the incidents used to justify the launch of this new front in the “war on terror” were either fiction, in that they simply did not happen, or fabricated by U.S. and Algerian military intelligence services. El Para was not “Bin Laden’s man in the Sahara,” but an agent of Algeria’s counter-terrorist organization, the Direction des Renseignements et de la Sécurité. Many Algerians believe him to have been trained as a Green Beret at Fort Bragg in the 1990s. Almost every Algerian statement issued during the course of the hostage drama has now been proven to be false. No combined military force chased El Para and his men across the Sahel. El Para was not even with his men as they stumbled around the Aïr Mountains in search of a guide and having themselves photographed by tourists. As for the much-lauded battle in Chad, there is no evidence that it happened. Leaders of the Chadian rebel movement say it never occurred, while nomads, after two years of scratching around in the area, have still not found a single cartridge case or other material evidence.

They were able to fabricate this war because:

First, the Algerian and U.S. military intelligence services channeled a stream of disinformation to an industry of terrorism “experts,” conservative ideologues, and compliant journalists who produced a barrage of articles. Second, if a story is to be fabricated, it helps if the location is far away and remote. The Sahara is the perfect place: larger than the United States and effectively closed to public access.

The Bush administration fabricated an entire front in the “war on terror” for its own political purposes. Its obsession with secrecy is not for reasons of national security but to conceal falsehood.

And this is still going on. President Obama has continued to support many of Bush’s secrecy policies that continue to conceal falsehoods. Obama has embraced AFRICOM, and made Gen. James Jones his National Security advisor. Gen. Jones was Commander of the US European Command during the first Bush administration and played an enthusiastic and crucial role in initiating the lie based second front of the GWOT in north Africa.

Police violence following Kenya election, inset Ambassador Ranneberger

Police violence following Kenya election, inset Ambassador Ranneberger

The energetic continuation of Bush administration policies in East Africa and the Horn of Africa are damaging the United States. Though far less well known, these policies are as mishandled and misbegotten as the Iraq war, the handling of the Katrina disaster, and the global financial meltdown.

US Ambassador to Kenya Michael Ranneberger bears much responsibility for the disasterous handling and direction of these policies. He actively undermined democracy in the Kenya elections a year ago. As a result Kenya is less democratic, and less safe and secure. Extra judicial murders are on the rise.

The New York Times finally wrote some of this up in A Chaotic Kenya Vote and a Secret U.S. Exit Poll. Much of this was reported at the time in a variety of places, you can read an account with links in this article, including the comment thread: The Coup in Kenya.

What the NYT article makes clear is that Ranneberger had determined Kibaki should win the election before the election occurred.

Heading the institute’s Kenya operations in 2007 was Mr. Flottman, on leave from his job as a senior counsel for a major defense contractor. … Mr. Flottman said he was surprised when, before the election, Mr. Ranneberger made public comments praising Mr. Kibaki and minimizing Kenyan corruption.

Behind the scenes, Mr. Flottman recalled, the ambassador was even more direct. A few months before the election, Mr. Ranneberger proposed releasing a voter survey showing Mr. Kibaki ahead and trying to block a roughly simultaneous one favoring Mr. Odinga, according to Mr. Flottman, who said he witnessed the episode during a meeting at the ambassador’s office. The suggestion was dropped, he said, after the embassy learned that the pro-Odinga results were already out.

“It was clear, in my opinion, that the ambassador was trying to influence the perceptions of the Kenyan electorate, and thus the campaign,” Mr. Flottman said.

Many of us watched the polling in Kenya and felt the soaring optimism that democracy might really be working. It was quite clear to any observer that the trend was strongly in favor of Mr. Odinga, and the polling was reasonably orderly and peaceful. As the ballots were being counted, President Kibaki and his cronies made a coup, seized control, and declared Kibaki the winner. Ambassador Ranneberger was quick to congratulate Kibaki on his win, although in the face of international opinion he had to retract this later. Then the US through Ambassador Ranneberger and Jendayi Frazer did its best to prevent completion of the vote count, and prevent a recount. Terrible violence followed the elections, and it was clear the security forces were responsible for a majority of the killings. Since it was clear and could not be denied that Odinga had won a lot of votes, the US pressed for a coalition government. That is not what Kenyans voted for. And now Kenyans say government failing them 1 year later.

During the Kenya election the IRI, was conducting an exit poll, which Mr. Flottman was supervising. Since the votes were not counted, Kenyans really wanted to see the results of the exit poll. but the results were supressed. From the NYT:

Under its contract, the institute was expected to consult with the Agency for International Development and the embassy before releasing the exit poll results, taking into account the poll’s technical quality and “other key diplomatic interests.”

Quality was not expected to be a concern. …

When the voting ended and ballot-counting began, Mr. Gibson and others involved in the exit poll said they expected its results to be announced soon.

But senior institute officials decided to withhold it. Most opposed to releasing the numbers, Mr. Flottman said, was Constance Berry Newman, … Mr. Flottman said Ms. Newman opposed “any kind of release from the outset — essentially suggesting it would be inflammatory and irresponsible.”

Ms. Newman, who had worked with Mr. Ranneberger when she was the Bush administration’s assistant secretary of state for African affairs, declined to comment.

Mr. Gibson said he told the institute that its technical concerns were baseless, to no avail. His contract barred him from publicly disclosing the polling data for six months, and in March of last year the institute asked him to sign a new contract that would have restricted him from speaking publicly about the institute’s polling program without written permission.

I think they were trying to shut me up,” he said. “I refused to sign it.”

In July, after his contract expired, Mr. Gibson and one of his doctoral students presented their analysis of the data at a seminar in Washington. A month later — one day before Mr. Gibson was to testify before Kenyan investigators — the institute announced that, after the outside review, it “now had confidence” in the poll and released the results.

When Mr. Kibaki claimed victory on Dec. 30, 2007, the State Department quickly congratulated him and called on Kenyans to accept the outcome, even though international observers had reported instances of serious ballot-counting fraud. American officials backed away from their endorsement the next day and ultimately pushed the deal that made Mr. Odinga prime minister.

After insisting for months that the poll was flawed, the institute released it last August — long past the point of diplomatic impact — after outside experts whom it had hired determined that it was valid. It showed Mr. Kibaki losing by about six percentage points.

Michael Ranneberger led an active fight against democracy in Kenya. But it is not just in Kenya. As his State Department bio says:

Michael E. Ranneberger is currently serving as U.S. Ambassador to Kenya and is also responsible for U.S. relations with Somalia.

He has been ambassador to Kenya since mid 2006, when the Islamic Courts Union took control of Somalia. This brought the first functioning government Somalia had in 15 years. Under the ICU, piracy by Somalis stopped completely. Peace was restored, businesses sprang up, Somalis abroad returned home. But the US claimed that the Islamic government was allied with al Qaeda, even though many people knew, and a West Point study told them that:

“Al Qaeda found more adversity than success in Somalia,” states the report by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. “In order to project power, al Qaeda needed to be able to promote its ideology, gain an operational safe haven, manipulate underlying conditions to secure popular support and have adequate financing for continued operations. It achieved none of these objectives.”

At the end of 2006, the US supported an invasion of Somalia by Ethiopia, contrary to international law. The US helped install a (non) government by the hated Ethiopians allied with the hated Somali warlords, restoring civil war, exploitation, and insecurity to the Somali people. The US arranged with Kenya to rendition refugees of that disaster, who crossed the Kenya border, to be tortured in Ethiopia as “terrorists”. When asked about the US participation in the invasion, and killing Somalis, Ranneberger just ignores the truth and repeats lies:

Question [Dom]: Ever since the last attack by US to Somalia near Kenyan Border, which killed more than 20 innocent civilians. No word of apology has been spelled out yet. Was that not a mistake?

Answer [Ambassador Ranneberger]: I appreciate your question, because there has been a lot of rumors and misinformation, and I am happy to clarify what happened. No innocent civilians have been killed in U.S. attacks. U.S. efforts are solely directly against known terrorists.

This despite the fact that the US was:

running U.S. death squads in Somalia to “clean up” after covert operations. (The latter is no deep dark secret, by the way; officials openly boasted of it to Esquire Magazine.)

But Ambassador Ranneberger blithely continues to support the violent and corrupt TFG he helped install, and innacurately condemn the ICU government he helped overthrow:

Q [Abdalla]: … Somali people were able to say enough is enough and they established a government free from the warlords. The international community instead of forcing the warlords to accept the government it sided with the warlords and allowed the government to be dismantled and Ethiopia succeeded in establishing a client government led by warlords. Somali people again as usual and eager to have law and order they accepted the TFG with it is short comings and the past/present records of its members. The Warlords instead of working for their people they become dysfunctional and started harming the Somali people. Fortunately, in June 2006 the Somali people plus Islamic courts succeeded in getting rid the south-central part from the warlords. The only city they remained was in baidabo with the protection of their Ethiopian master. The international community blatantly ignored the presence of Ethiopian soldiers in a sovereign country. During the reign of the Islamic Courts Union (ICU) the Somali people were able to forget the clan mentality and corrupt clan elders. For the first time the minority and un-armed Somali communities felt that they are part of the Somali society. They had a voice thanks to Sheikh Sharif Ahmed and Sheikh Dahir aways who was able to control former militias.

Also, we Somalis in the Diaspora were able to invest in the country in my case I built a house for my mum and planned to visit her in January 2007. Unfortunately, the American justice is with us and our old enemy plus the warlord government is back to Mogadishu. America rewarded the warlords and punished the ICU who brought peace and tranquility to their people. …

All of these good things are destroyed now and we are back to 1991.

A [Ambassador Ranneberger]: I recognize that the Islamic Courts did manage to establish a degree of order in Mogadishu. However, the Islamic Courts never had broad support among the Somali people and, importantly, the Islamic Courts were moving in a very radical direction, which would not have been to the benefit of the Somali people. The Transitional Federal Institutions were developed, with the assistance of Kenya, as the legitimate representatives of the Somali people. With the ousting of the Courts, the TFG now has an opportunity to establish its credibility in order to become an effective, inclusive government. Our objective is to support this process.

I want to emphasize our commitment to an inclusive process that truly bring together all Somalis who reject violence and extremism. This is the only way forward for Somalis to achieve lasting stability and security. I believe that the Somali people are tired of the chaos and conflict that has plagued their country and want to participate in an inclusive political process. This will, in turn, lead to a smooth transition to an elected government in 2009.

You can not appeal to people who reject violence and extremism if you have just overthrown their government by violence and extremism. There is no path to “security and stability” that way. Overthrowing the Somili government with Ethiopian proxies meets no definition of the word inclusive. It works against any possibility for democracy.

Ranneberger is telling the Somalis that he knows better what is good for them than they do. Whatever else this is, it is NOT democracy. The TFG brought violence, exploitation, and insecurity. It has been beaten and discredited since then. The 2009 elections were held by a small group of Somalis in Djibouti, arranged by the US, and then called “representational”. They elected Sheikh Sharif, the handpicked choice of Ambassador Ranneberger. Sheikh Sharif has been “persuaded” by Ranneberger to become an ally of the United States. Sheikh Sharif is supposed to give a new face to the TFG, but so far, there is not much evidence he will be accepted, or that things will change for the better. Any solution to the governance or the piracy problems in Somalia must involve Somali communities. Ranneberger’s actions continue to actively harm any possibility for democratic processes or participation. Inviation only “elections” in Djibouti will not help Somalia.

As b real points out, Ranneberger:

… has had official capacity wrt sudan during the early part of this decade, possessing a cv that intertwines w/ a history of cia hotspots & covert arms transfers

  • country officer in angola (1981-84) while the u.s. was overtly supporting the “proto-terrorist” Unita
  • then constructively engaged as deputy chief of mission in mozambique from ’86-9 while the u.s. was covertly supporting the outright terrorist mvmt Renamo
  • then paraguay for the ’89 coup and on through 1992
  • then ’92-94 around el salvador & guatemala for who knows what
  • a brief stint as deputy chief of mission in mogadishu around ’94
  • then some work in haiti
  • then coordinator for cuban affairs (’95-99)
  • on to ambassador to mali from ’99-2002
  • in sudan from 2002-4 for a civil war while the u.s. supporting the south
  • then on to the african bureau
  • sudan again, as senior representative for sudan
  • and, since 2006, ambassador to kenya & responsibility for u.s. relations w/ somalia

One of the things that has distressed me for decades is how negative and counter productive US policy has been towards the developing world, particularly during the Cold War. This is not just in Africa, but in Asia and Latin America as well. Look at the ravages that military coups wrought on Latin America under the training and aegis of Southcom and US Cold War policy. Cheney, with Rumsfeld and Bush, has done his best to lock Cold War patterns and thinking into place, and to lock Bush’s successors into misguided and counter productive policies going forward, policies that ultimately hurt the United States. So far Obama has slipped right into that trap.

In an interview Mahmood Mamdani speaks about the:

way in which the Cold War almost seamlessly morphed into the war on terror.

We see that in action in the work of Ambassador Ranneberger. He opposed democracy when it was actually working. By doing so he hurt the United States by harming people in countries that would like to be our friends, by denying democracy, and by damaging trust, and the reputation and integrity of the United States.

Somali pirates

Somali pirates

Just who can stop the Somali pirates? We may not know who can stop them, but we know who did stop them. According to this report from Chatham House:

PDF: Piracy in Somalia – Threatening global trade, feeding local wars

Piracy has been a problem in Somali waters for at least ten years. However, the number of attempted and successful attacks has risen over the last three years. … The only period during which piracy virtually vanished around Somalia was during the six months of rule by the Islamic Courts Union in the second half of 2006. This indicates that a functioning government in Somalia is capable of controlling piracy. After the removal of the courts piracy re-emerged. (p3)

Piracy returned and has increased since the US/Ethiopian invasion of Somalia at the end of December 2006.  A Somali government with some support from Somali people can actually govern.   But the US and the Ethiopians decided  to crush it, resulting in humanitarian disaster and the return of piracy.

There is no question that piracy is a serious problem off the coast of Somalia. It is also a problem that is being hyped by western media resulting in certain inconsistencies in the story, some described in these three September posts from Kotare: Somali pirates and their lair, Pirates in Puntland, and The Bullshit Files: Pirates of Puntland.

It looks like the upsurge of piracy in Somalia is another result of the failure of Bush administration strategic thinking, and failed US foreign/military policy.

As AFRICOM stands up, it might be worth looking at the short essay by Thomas Palley featured on RGE Monitor from Nouriel Roubini, The Origins of the American Corporate Predator State (also here).

Jamie Galbraith’s recent book describes modern (Bush-Cheney) Republicanism as creating a “predator state”. Its predatory aspects are starkly visible in the gangs of corporate lobbyists who roam Washington DC, the Halliburton Iraq war procurement scandal, and the corruption and incompetence that surrounded the Hurricane Katrina relief effort.

However, the broad concept of a predator state needs qualification as we are really talking of an “American corporate” predator state. Thus, the predatory nature of contemporary US governance is quintessentially linked to corporations, and it is also a uniquely American phenomenon.

… [The] origins clearly trace back to the military – industrial complex that President Eisenhower warned about in his final televised address to the nation on January 17, 1961.

That complex has captured politics and corrupted the business of government, including of course the conduct of national security policy. The fact that it has wrapped itself with the flag and entwined itself with the military makes it impossible to confront without being charged as unpatriotic. Worst yet, its enormous enduring profitability has provided a model for imitation by other industrial complexes like Big Pharma and Big Oil.

Another feature … is a tendency to conflate profit with free markets. That means the distinction between fair competition (which is good) and fat profits (which are bad) is lost, thereby providing cover for predators.

The Africa Command is a creation of the Bush Cheney American corporate predator state. It was conceived by people who were focused on Africa’s oil, other natural resources, and on opposing China. These are the same Bush Cheney cronies that have done the most to convert American democracy into a corporate predator state, and destroy American democracy in the process. I have tried to document these origins since February 2007 when the command was announced. For another excellent introduction to AFRICOM, see: Understanding AFRICOM:
A Contextual Reading of Empire’s New Combatant Command Part I
, part II , part III.

Look at the AFRICOM logo. It bears an unfortunate metaphorical resemblance to female genitalia, with target Africa in the middle. In the metaphorical context of the phallic shapes of the military weaponry being shopped to Africa, it is additionally unfortunate. Intentional or not, it speaks to the underlying motives for creating the command.

In his essay Why AFRICOM has not won over Africans Samuel Makinda divides the questions about AFRICOM into three areas, paraphrased here:

  • The lack of any clear explanation or rationale for creation of the command.
  • The complete lack of transparency in creation and presentation of the command.
  • The creators of AFRICOM discount or disparage the advances Africa has made with respect to African security through the African Union as well as regional organizations.

Although there is a lot of talk from AFRICOM about partnerships, there has been little real consultation with Africans. Most of the Africans consulted have been those trained, one might say indoctrinated, in US military training programs such as IMET. Regarding the lack of transparency, Makinde says:

African analysts and policy makers point out that in Africa today there is little or no transparency in discussions of AFRICOM or of U.S. military relations with African states generally. They note that . . . it has not been freely and openly discussed by the legislatures of the African states, even in countries that have been mentioned as possible sites for AFRICOM’s headquarters.

This prompts the question: what governance ethos would AFRICOM foster in the future if its current relationships with African governments are shrouded in secrecy?

AFRICOM is a major manifestation of the militarization of US foreign policy. The Pentagon is swallowing the traditional diplomatic and foreign assistance programs of the United States. The process and budget are described in the report from Refugees International: U.S. Civil Military Imbalance for Global Engagement

And most important of all Makinda points out:

Africans know that the militarization of political and economic space by African military leaders has been one of the factors that has held Africa back for decades. While African states are trying to put the culture of military rule behind them, the United States appears determined to demonstrate that most civilian activities in Africa should be undertaken by armed forces. To some African policy makers, this suggests that the U.S. Government lacks sympathy for what Africans so deeply want today, namely democratic systems in which the armed forces remain in the barracks.

What is needed is energy, focus, and money to strengthen civilian democratic political, economic, and social institutions, so that democracy, participation of all the people, can grow and flourish.

The Human Security Report Project has just released the Human Security Brief 2007 PDF. It contained two most compelling pieces of information:

Fatalities from terrorism have declined by some 40 percent, while the loose-knit terror network associated with Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda has suffered a dramatic collapse in popular support throughout the Muslim world.

This is directly contradictory to the fear mongering of the Bush administration. Every day it seems to be adding new states to the list that either harbor or sponsor al Qaeda. This is particularly true in African countries where the US has an interest in oil, natural resources, or in blocking Chinese access. We constantly hear about al Qaeda threats in a variety of African countries.

The Brief also describes and analyses the extraordinary, but largely unnoticed, positive change in sub-Saharan Africa’s security landscape. After a surge of conflicts in the 1990s, the number of conflicts being waged in the region more than halved between 1999 and 2006; the combat toll dropped by 98 percent.

The Brief (PDF) contains the following regarding Africa:

° There has been a major decline in the scope and intensity of conflicts.
° Refugee numbers have shrunk substantially.
° The share of global humanitarian assistance going to Africa doubled between 1999 and 2006—from 23 percent to 46 percent
. . .
Between 2002 and 2006 the number of campaigns of organized violence against civilians fell by two-thirds.

Why the Sharp Increase in Conflict Numbers in the 1990s?

The increase in new state-based conflicts in sub-Saharan Africa in the 1990s was not unique to the region and was clearly related to the end of the Cold War. Regimes and rebel groups that had long been propped up by the assistance given by one or the other of the two superpowers suddenly found that this support—political as well as economic—had disappeared. The result in many cases, not just in sub-Saharan Africa, was regime change and ongoing political instability.

However, in sub-Saharan Africa something else was happening: The countries of the region, to a greater degree than in other parts of the world, were undergoing profound and wrenching political change. In 1988 nearly 90 percent of sub-Saharan African states had autocratic governments. By 2006 there were just two autocracies in the region, while the number of democracies had increased sixfold, from three to 18.

Had the only change been a decrease in autocracies and an increase in democracies, it would likely have enhanced regional security, since democracies tend to experience fewer armed conflicts than do autocracies. But these were not the only changes.

[There were] trends in “anocracies”—a third regime type, one that is neither fully democratic nor fully autocratic, but a mix of both systems.

The increase in the number of anocracies in sub-Saharan Africa between 1988 and 2000 is startling—far greater than in any other region of the world. In 1988 there were two anocracies and 37 autocracies in sub-Saharan Africa. By 2000 there were just four autocracies, but 30 anocracies. This change is an important part of the explanation for the sharp increase in conflict numbers in the 1990s.

So what then does explain the sharp increase in the number of conflicts that have been brought to an end since the early 1990s? A major part of the answer lies with the extraordinary upsurge in international activism in the region directed towards stopping ongoing wars and seeking to prevent them from starting again. From the early 1990s, the international community— including the African Union (AU)—was bringing real pressure to bear on warring parties to negotiate an end to hostilities rather than to fight on to the bitter end. The big increase in negotiated settlements during this period suggests that this strategy has been effective. with the UN, to help stop wars and prevent them from starting again.

Postconflict peacebuilding missions also expanded rapidly and have played a positive role in helping prevent negotiated peace settlements from breaking down. From 1950 to 1999 there were just 18 negotiated settlements—and nearly half broke down within five years. From 2000 to 2005 there were 10 such settlements—thus far not one has broken down. Postconflict peacebuilding’s critical security role lies in helping to make negotiated settlements more stable.

It looks like negotiated settlements, followed up by some peacebuilding activity works, particularly those efforts of the UN and the AU.

Before visiting Africa Bush proposed major cuts in the US contribution to UN peacekeeping.

ABC News: U.S. Slashes Africa Peacekeeping Funds

The Bush administration will request no more funding for United Nations peacekeeping efforts, leaving in place proposed cuts expected to be as deep as 25 percent, according to officials and budget documents. Among the programs facing sharpest cuts are efforts to quell violence in Africa.

When ABC News first reported the proposed cuts in February, the administration contended that it might seek additional funding later in the year. But officials confirmed last week that they requested no additional funding in their supplemental budget recently submitted to Congress.

“Unless you are expecting the emergence of peace worldwide,” the cuts are hard to understand …
[Before Bush’s trip to Africa] White House officials talked up the trip and Bush’s commitment to the continent, telling reporters how the president “really cares about Africa.”

U.S. funding for U.S. peacekeeping operations this year could reach $2.1 billion, but the administration had requested less than $1.5 billion to cover its share of the costs of U.N. peacekeeping efforts for 2009.

But “US peacekeeping” in Africa is not necessarily the same as peacekeeping. Under George Bush, “US peacekeeping” is more about controlling oil and other resources for US needs. In fact, Bush’s intentions have been described as trying to undermine and circumvent both the UN and the AU, and replace them with AFRICOM, using the US military, mercenary corporations, and African surrogates to protect US corporate interests, the latest colonial occupation.

Mercenaries in New Orleans – “nation building” at home

David Isenberg at Dogs of War writes:

When it comes to issues of accountability, oversight and transparency in the private military and security industry . . . there is actually a fair degree of consensus that, yes, there should actually be such a thing: not just in words, but deeds as well.

The companies themselves, industry trade associations, and even various governments, are working together to try and hammer out standards that would apply to the industry globally.
. . .
But there is one government that should be in the lead on this issue, considering it is both the largest user of such firms and the country where the majority of them are based. Guess who it is. That’s right, the United States.
. . .
The dollar value of Army contracts quadrupled from $23.3 billion in 1992 to $100.6 billion in 2006, according to a recent report by a Pentagon panel. But the number of Army contract supervisors was cut from 10,000 in 1990 to 5,500 currently.

And one can bet that the contract supervisors who are left vividly remember the case of Bunnatine H. “Bunny” Greenhouse. (story here) She was the senior contracting officer for the Army Corps of Engineers who objected — first, internally, and then publicly — to a multibillion-dollar, no-bid contract with Halliburton for work in Iraq. She was then removed from the senior executive service, the top rank of civilian government employees, allegedly because of poor performance reviews.
. . .
Not having provided the oversight that any half-wit would know is necessary when dealing with tens of billions of dollars in contracts is bad enough.

But turning a blind eye to possible criminal behavior is far worse. And yet that is what the Bush administration is doing.
. . .
Finally, as recently reported in the National Journal there was this head-scratching revelation. When President Bush signed the 2008 National Defense Authorization in January his approval support came with a catch: a signing statement in which he wrote that various provisions of the act, including language that would create a commission to examine “waste, fraud, and abuse” in wartime contracting in Iraq and elsewhere, “impose requirements that could inhibit” his “ability to carry out his constitutional obligations to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, to protect national security, to supervise the executive branch, and execute his authority as Commander in Chief.”

Only in Bush-World can protecting the American taxpayer against graft and fraud be seen as endangering national security.

I doubt the IPOA is as interested in accountability as it claims. I suspect it may be more analagous to the steps the baseball players union took to prevent drug abuse, minimal, insincere, and ineffective. Although PMC, mercenary, accountability is becoming an issue around the world.

The definition of mercenaries is key. As of now, the definition excludes most of the people employed as PMCs. Step one needs to be an inclusive definition.

Bush slashed UN peacekeeping money for Africa just before visit is up at the African Loft.

Just before Bush left to play at being benevolent uncle in Africa, his administration cut funding for UN peacekeeping in African countries.

From ABC news:

On the eve of President Bush’s trip to Africa, his administration has decided to drastically cut money for United Nations peacekeeping missions in war-torn countries there.
. . .
In war-torn Liberia, which President Bush will visit on his trip, the White House has proposed spending $56 million less on the U.N. peacekeeping mission there than it did last year. Bush . . . visit(ed) Rwanda, which is still struggling to right itself after a devastating, years-long civil war took the lives of millions. His administration’s budget proposes cutting $5 million (from the UN tribunal in Rwanda.) . . .

The administration’s 2009 budget also cuts millions for U.N. peacekeeping efforts in Sudan; Democratic Republic of Congo, where a decade-long war still claims thousands of lives a month; Chad, where rebels attempted a violent overthrow of the government Feb. 2; and Cote d’Ivoire, whose stability the Bush administration says “is a critical element in restoring peace to the entire West African region.”

Obviously peace is way too important to pay to restore it.

Why did Bush cut funding for UN peacekeeping? The Bush administration is still planning on spending rivers of money on “nation building”, “stability operations”, and “peacekeeping”, just not with the UN. The Department of State just issued AFRICAP Program Recompete, looking for contractors to:

. . . undertake a wide range of diverse projects, including setting up operational bases to support peacekeeping operations in hostile environments, military training and to providing a range of technical assistance and equipment for African militaries and peace support operations.

And the mercenaries are salivating at the Bush administration plans to hire more and more mercenaries, private military and security contractors, to accomplish Bush aims in Africa.

In October (2007), leaders in the private military security industry — ArmorGroup, DynCorp, MPRI, and several others — gathered at the Phoenix Park Hotel near the Capitol for the annual three-day summit of their trade group, the International Peace Operations Association. Panel speakers and members of the audience debated the future of nation-building efforts in failed states.
. . .
. . . handing out his business card that day, Army Lt. Col. James Boozell, a branch chief of the Stability Operations/Irregular Warfare Division at the Pentagon, said that the U.S. military was in fact experiencing a “watershed” moment in its 200-plus-year history — nation building was now a core military mission to be led by the Army.

Boozell adds, however, that the Army can’t possibly raise up failed states without . . . of course, private security contractors . . . — boom times for nation building are here to stay.

They may need a lot more states to “fail” in order to keep the PMCs busy with new contracts.

Vijay Prashad and Mahmood Mamdani tell us how the US and the EU previously cut funding for African Union peacekeeping efforts in Sudan and Darfur. The AU was actually having some success in reducing violence. Bush does not want that success. By cutting UN peacekeeping funds now, Bush is trying to prevent an indigenous African force, or an international agency, from succeeding in peacekeeping.
In Darfur:

For a time the African Union was able to stabilize the situation, although it did not succeed in crafting a political solution to the problem. The African Union, created in 1999, has neither the financial ability to pay its troops nor the logistical capacity to do its job. The European Union, who paid the troop salaries, began to withhold funds on grounds of accountability, and it gradually killed off the peacekeeping operations. Columbia University Professor Mahmood Mamdani (who is one of the world’s leading experts on contemporary Africa) says of this, “There is a concerted attempt being made to shift the political control of any intervention force inside Darfur from inside Africa to outside Africa.” In other words, the U.S. and Europe are eager to control the dynamic of what happens in Africa and not allow an indigenous, inter-state agency to gain either the experience this would provide or the respect it would gain if it succeeds. The African Union has been undermined so that only the U.S. can appear as the savior of the beleaguered people of Darfur, and elsewhere.

Undermining the UN, and paying mercenaries instead of the UN, does not save money. This is not frugality. Private military contractors, PMCs, are in business to make money, and they are still very much on the Bush agenda.
cost + profit = increased cost

Of course the costs for PMCs can be reduced by using conscripts and child soldiers. And PMC profits can be increased by dealing in contraband. There are plenty of precedents.

I see these possible reasons why the Bush administration has cut UN peacekeeping funding.

  • Prevent African or international solutions to African problems.
  • Maintain the US as the only ones capable of solving violent unrest in African countries by preventing indigenous or alternative solutions.
  • Provide more jobs and contracts for corporate cronies, the private military contractors.
  • Prevent oversight, avoid US law and international law that might apply to US activities in African countries.
  • Continue an intentionally destructive policy of undermining the UN.
  • Incompetence (does not preclude any of the above.)
Photo from a demonstration against Bush in Tanzania. I always get a laugh or a smile when I look at this sign.

See pictures of Bush in Ghana here

Lots of stories coming out in the last few days about how AFRICOM headquarters will stay in Germany. In many ways this is a huge win for Africa. In other ways this is just point one for Africa in a preliminary skirmish. I think the Bush people have been watching too much western media coverage of Africa and did not realize how canny and tough their target is. And they certainly did not confer with anyone in Africa before creating AFRICOM.

The US press was all about how much Africans love Bush. The African press has not been quite so flattering. And I’m not hearing it from anyone I talk to in Ghana. A lot of Africa has been pro American in the past. Bush and his policies have really turned that around. There is good writeup A Critique of Bush’s Africa Agenda over at the African Loft.

Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa writes:
It is Bush who desperately needs us:

Contrary to the propaganda from the Whitehouse, their embassy in Accra and their surrogates in the Osu Castle that President Bush is here as the benevolent father who cares about us and is here to show concern about malaria, HIV/Aids and his Millennium Challenge Account – all these are but a smoke screen.
. . .
As Bush comes for our oil, he has the added PR advantage with the huge CNN and Fox networks behind him of being portrayed as the Bush who has a human side and cares about victims of malaria and HIV/Aids as he attempts a last minute face saving. The gullible ones may believe this PR stunt but not the majority of people around the world who have now read through the lines of America’s selfish foreign policy and will take to the streets in wild jubilation the day President Bush hands over not only as president of America but also as the tormentor-in-chief of our world.
. . .
Under the circumstance, it is he who needs us badly. Help will only come from within when we take the right decisions, break off from our present neo-colonial mentality and demand of our leaders not to sell us to the highest bidder.

In Ghana Bush arrived about 7pm Tuesday. Heads of state are generally greeted in Ghana by playing the guest national anthem and the Ghana national anthem. There was a band, an honor guard, a 21 gun salute planned, and the drama troupe and a dance troupe to greet him. Bush skipped them all and rushed off to where he was staying, and mostly kept away from people throughout his visit. One person remarked that an executioner is always afraid to sleep with his head up. In comparison, as everyone said, when Clinton visited, everyone could greet and touch him.

Pictures from the USS Fort McHenry, the African Partnership Station,
you will find discussion of AFRICOM, bases, and US military programs in Ghana and Africa below the photos.

TEMA, Ghana (Nov. 20, 2007) Rear Adm. Tony Kurta, director for Policy, Resources and Strategy, United States Naval Forces Europe, and Ghanaian navy Commodore Matthew Quashie, Eastern Ghana Naval Command, meet with Africa Partnership Station (APS) staff at the Tema Naval Base. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class RJ Stratchko, 071120-N-8933S-015 Released)

TAKORADI, Ghana (Feb. 8, 2008) Staff Sgt. Franklin Davis, of East Brunswick, N.J., a Marine assigned to Africa Partnership Station (APS) begins the first day of martial-arts instruction for the 2nd Infantry Battalion of the Ghanaian Army. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brian A. Goyak, 080208-N-0577G-140 Released)
SEKONDI, Ghana (Feb. 13, 2008) Africa Partnership Station (APS) Sailors load Project Handclasp medical supplies onto a supply truck for donation to the Ghanaian Navy Western Command hospital. Teams from various U.S. and European military commands, as well as governmental and non-governmental organizations, are embarked aboard the amphibious dock landing ship USS Fort McHenry and the high-speed vessel (HSV) 2 Swift for a seven-month deployment to enhance cooperative partnerships with regional maritime services in West and Central Africa and the Gulf of Guinea. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brian A. Goyak, 080213-N-0577G-010 Released)
TAKORADI, Ghana, (Nov. 28, 2007) Lt. j.g. Erica Goodwin visits the children going to school next door to Essikado Hospital in Takoradi, Ghana. Members of Africa Partnership Station (APS) visited the school while working at the hospital to assess the possibility of working on the school during a future community relations project. The APS volunteers spent three days at the hospital building shelves, benches, laying concrete, painting and fixing the ambulance. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Elizabeth Merriam, 071128-N-0193M-401 Released)

APOWA, Ghana (Feb. 8, 2008) Utilitiesman 2nd Class Jeffery Ladd and Utilitiesman 2nd Class Paul J. Kuntz help a child drill a hole in part of a wall for a classroom at the Orphans Cry International Orphanage. Seabees and other volunteers worked on several projects at the orphanage in one of many Africa Partnership Station humanitarian projects in the region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Eddie Harrison, 080208-N-4044H-113 Released)
SEKONDII, Ghana (Feb. 12, 2008) Damage Controlman 1st Class Adam Burg explains to Ghananian sailors the proper way to walk with the nozzle of a hose during a damage control exercise provided by Africa Partnership Station aboard a Ghananian Navy vessel. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Eddie Harrison, 080212-N-4044H-086 Released)

You can find these pictures and more at the

Photo Gallery – African Partnership Station

For the present, the headquarters of AFRICOM will remain in Stuttgart Germany. It is a triumph that African countries have held the line, and successfully opposed an AFRICOM headquarters on the continent. However, AFRICOM is just as dangerous without an actual headquarters in Africa. With Bush visiting Ghana this week, it is worth looking at exactly what Bush, AFRICOM, and US intentions are in Ghana and West Africa.

Oil is the main source of US interest. The US already gets more oil from Africa than from Saudi Arabia, and wants even more. The quality and quantity of African oil, and the ease of working on offshore deep water rigs, away from the population, make African oil particularly desirable.

Ghanaians should make no mistake. There is already a US military presence in Ghana. It occupies what the US military sometimes calls “lily pads” or “cooperative security locations”. You probably know where some of these are. And this presence will grow. It is already growing through interactions with the African Partnership Station, the APS, the USS Fort McHenry that has been visiting Ghana and sailing along the Gulf of Guinea in 2007 and 2008.

The way it works:

“A cooperative security location can be a tucked-away corner of a host country’s civilian airport, or a dirt runway somewhere with fuel and mechanical help nearby, or a military airport in a friendly country with which we have no formal basing agreement but, rather, an informal arrangement with private contractors acting as go-betweens … The United States provides aid to upgrade maintenance facilities, thereby helping the host country to better project its own air and naval power in the region. At the same time, we hold periodic exercises with the host country’s military, in which the base is a focus. We also offer humanitarian help to the surrounding area. Such civil-affairs projects garner positive publicity for our military in the local media… The result is a positive diplomatic context for getting the host country’s approval for use of the base when and if we need it.”

We have already been seeing this in action with the activities of the APS, the USS Fort McHenry. The reason USAID and diplomatic functions are subsumed under the Pentagon with AFRICOM is that:

Economic aid, development projects, or other forms of indirect compensation . . . may also be given with military considerations in mind. For example . . . constructing dozens of roads, piers, wharfs, bridges, and other infrastructure projects in the very areas where US troops have been deployed. . . . many of these infrastructure projects support US military mobility; at the same time, they have also proven very useful in gaining local public acceptance for US military presence. For the Special Forces, especially, the infrastructure and humanitarian projects are seen as instrumental in “winning hearts and minds” in the aim of getting what they call “actionable” intelligence.

We have seen cooperative military activities in Ghana, and we can see them in Djibouti, where –

CJTF-HOA (Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa) is positioned to serve as a model for AFRICOM

In Djibouti there is a great deal of humanitarian assistance, joint training, and other friendly and cooperative efforts going on. There is also a Special Forces team. From Djibouti the US assisted the Ethiopian government to invade Somalia in January 2007, and overthrow the only functioning government that Somalia had in 15 years, replacing it with the hated warlords, and creating a humanitarian crisis that dwarfs Darfur. Supposedly the US was fighting “terrorism”. However, whoever is out of favor with the US is likely to be labeled a terrorist. This is not something new, historically:

The collapse of the Portuguese colonial forces in Mozambique, Angola, Guinea and Sao Tome and the collapse of the white racist military forces in Rhodesia gradually led to a rethinking by the US military. During this period the US had labeled all African freedom fighters as terrorists. When the US was allied with Osama Bin Laden and Jonas Savimbi, Nelson Mandela had been branded a terrorist.

In fact –

there are scholars who have argued and presented evidence that the government of the United States has been “fabricating terrorism” in Africa.

The Bush administration plans to employ mercenaries to do much of the business of AFRICOM, follow the link for more details. The “private contractors” mentioned above mean mercenaries. And the “partnerships” AFRICOM is promoting are intended to coopt African militaries so that they will do the dirty work in any fighting the US wants conducted in Africa.

That said, the US military provides the best military training you can find anywhere in the world. It is worthwhile to take the opportunity to learn from it. Most of the US soldiers and sailors are good people with excellent intentions. This does not necessarily apply to the contractors. At the same time it is important to keep in mind, that when you train with them, they will be learning a lot of information about you, your country, and your military organization. The intentions of Bush and his cronies, who give the orders, are not benign, and they intend to use the military to impose their goals by force where they see the “need”, and impose a 21st century version of colonization. You can read here for the documentary trail of their plans and intentions.

. . . the Bush Family and their allies and cronies represent the confluence of three long-established power factions in the American elite: oil, arms and investments. These groups equate their own interests, their own wealth and privilege, with the interests of the nation – indeed, the world – as a whole. And they pursue these interests with every weapon at their command, including war, torture, deceit and corruption. Democracy means nothing to them – not even in their own country.

And this is the danger in dealing with them. They are a powerful force for corruption and exploitation, even as they preach democracy and “free” markets.

Below is a list of US military programs in Africa that will come under AFRICOM, and countries where they are active. You may have already encountered some of these in action. I know ACOTA has already been active in Ghana. For more detail about these see Africom: The new US military command for Africa.

    • Trans-Sahara Counterterrorism Initiative/Partnership (formerly Pan Sahel Initiative) (TSCTI) Targeting threats to US oil/natural gas operations in the Sahara region Algeria, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Senegal, Tunisia, Nigeria, and Libya.
    • TSTCI Africa Contingency Operations Training and Asssistance Program (ACOTA) (formerly African Crisis Response Initiative) (ACRI)) Part of “Global Peace” Operations Initiative (GPOI). Areas of Operation: Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia.
    • International Military Training and Education (IMET) program brings African military officers to US military academies and schools for indoctrination.
      Top countries: Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa.
    • Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) (formerly Africa Center for Security Studies) Part of National Defense University, Washington.
      Provides indoctrination for “next generation” African military officers. This is the “School of the Americas” for Africa.
      All of Africa is covered under the Foreign Military Sales Program which sells US military equipment to African nations via Defense Security Cooperation Agency.
      Top recipients: Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Zimbabwe.
    • African Coastal and Border Security Program Provides fast patrol boats, vehicles, electronic surveillance equipment, night vision equipment to littoral states.
    • Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) Military command based at Camp Lemonier in Djibouti. Aimed at putting down rebellions in Ethiopia, Somalia, and Somaliland and targets Eritrea. Ethiopia, Kenya, Djibouti.
    • Joint Task Force Aztec Silence (JTFAS) Targets terrorism in West and North Africa. Joint effort of EUCOM and Commander Sixth Fleet (Mediterranean) Based in Sigonella, Sicily and Tamanrasset air base in southern Algeria Gulf of Guinea Initiative.
    • US Navy Maritime Partnership Program Trains African militaries in port and off-shore oil platform security Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Congo-Brazzaville, Congo-Kinshasa, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Ghana, Nigeria, Sao Tome & Principe, Togo.
    • Tripartite Plus Intelligence Fusion Cell Based in Kisangani, DRC to oversee “regional security,” I.E. ensuring U.S. and Israeli access to Congo’s gold, diamonds, uranium, platinum, and col-tan. Congo-Kinshasa, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda.
    • United States Base access for Cooperative Security Locations (CSLs) and Forward Operating Locations (FOLs) U.S. access to airbases and other facilities Gabon, Kenya, Mali, Morocco, Tunisia, Namibia, Sao Tome & Principe, Senegal, Uganda, Zambia, Algeria.
    • Africa Regional Peacekeeping (ARP) Liaison with African “peacekeeping” military commands East Africa Regional Integration Team: Sudan, Ethiopia, Somalia, Uganda, Kenya, Madagascar, Tanzania.
    • North Africa Regional Integration Team: Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya.
    • Central Africa Regional Integration Team: Congo (Kinshasa), Congo (Brazzaville), Chad.
    • South Africa Regional Integration Team: South Africa, Zimbabwe, Angola.
    • West Africa Regional Integration Team: Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Niger, Western Sahara.
    • Africa Partnership Station (APS) Port visits by USS Fort McHenry and High Speed Vessel (HSV) Swift. Part of US Navy’s Global Fleet Station Initiative. Training and liaison with local military personnel to ensure oil production security Senegal, Liberia, Ghana, Cameroon, Gabon, Sao Tome & Principe.

(To all the readers of this post, I copied this list from here. The guy who posted is strikes me as a nutter, and names himself after a cartoon character, but his factual information appears to be good. It is available publicly in part or in full in a number of places. This covers some of it.)


Daniel Volman has written an updated overview of AFRICOM published at Pambazuka News, AFRICOM from Bush to Obama.  Volman lists the various programs that are part of AFRICOM, or are being folded into AFRICOM. There are a number of bilateral and multilateral joint training programs and military exercises (excerpted from his article):

FLINTLOCK 2005 AND 2007 – Joint Combined Exchange Training (JCET) exercises … Algeria, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Tunisia, Burkina Faso, France, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom.

TRANS-SAHARAN COUNTER-TERRORISM PARTNERSHIP (TSCTP) – links the United States with eight African countries: Mali, Chad, Niger, Mauritania, Nigeria, Senegal, Tunisia, Morocco, and Algeria.

EAST AFRICA COUNTER-TERRORISM INITIATIVE (EACTI) – the EACTI has provided training to Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Djibouti, Eritrea, and Ethiopia.

AFRICA CONTINGENCY OPERATIONS TRAINING AND ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (ACOTA) – training to African military forces. … By FY 2007, nineteen African countries were participating in the ACOTA program (Benin, Botswana, Burkina Faso Ethiopia, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia).

INTERNATIONAL MILITARY EDUCATION AND TRAINING PROGRAM (IMET) – brings African military officers to military academies and other military educational institutions in the United States for professional training. Nearly all African countries participate in the program.

U.S. PRIVATE MILITARY CONTRACTORS IN AFRICA – [mostly] as part of the GPOI and ACOTA programs.

FOREIGN MILITARY SALES PROGRAM (FMS) – This program sells U.S. military equipment to African countries … The U.S. government provides loans to finance the purchase of virtually all of this equipment through the Foreign Military Financing Program (FMF), but repayment of these loans by African governments is almost always waived, so that they amount to free grants.

DIRECT COMMERCIAL SALES PROGRAM (DCS) – the Office of Defense Trade Controls of the Department of State licenses the sale of police equipment (including pistols, revolvers, shotguns, rifles, and crowd control chemicals) by private U.S. companies to foreign military forces, paramilitary units, police, and other government agencies.

AFRICAN COASTAL AND BORDER SECURITY PROGRAM (ACBS) – provides specialized equipment (such as patrol vessels and vehicles, communications equipment, night vision devices, and electronic monitors and sensors) to African countries to improve their ability to patrol and defend their own coastal waters and borders from terrorist operations, smuggling, and other illicit activities … No dedicated funding was requested for FY 2008

EXCESS DEFENSE ARTICLES PROGRAM (EDA) – ad hoc transfers of surplus U.S. military equipment to foreign governments. Transfers to African recipients have included the transfer of C-130 transport planes to South Africa and Botswana, trucks to Uganda, M-16 rifles to Senegal, and coastal patrol vessels to Nigeria.

ANTI-TERRORISM ASSISTANCE PROGRAM (ATA) – provide training, equipment, and technology to countries all around the world to support their participation in America’s Global War on Terrorism. … [includes] Kenya, Tanzania, Mauritius, Niger, Chad, Senegal, Mali, Liberia, Ethiopia, Botswana, Djibouti, Malawi, Uganda, Zambia, Angola, Mozambique.

SECTION 1206, 1207, AND 902 PROGRAMS – Section 1206 program—known as the Global Equip and Train program—was initiated in FY 2007 and permits the Pentagon—on its own initiative and with little congressional oversight—to provide training and equipment to foreign military, police, and other security forces to “combat terrorism and enhance stability.” …
The Section 1207 program—known as the Security and Stabilization Assistance program—was also started in FY 2007. It allows the Defense Department to transfer equipment, training, and other assistance to the State Department to enhance its operations. …
The Section 902 program—known as the Combatant Commanders’ Initiative Fund— can be used by the commanders of Africom and other combatant commands to fund their own relief and reconstruction projects, rather than relying on the State Department or the Agency for International Development to undertake these efforts.

COMBINED JOINT TASK FORCE-HORN OF AFRICA (CJTF-HOA) – designed to conduct naval and aerial patrols in the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, and the eastern Indian Ocean as part of the effort to detect and counter the activities of terrorist groups in the region.
… provided intelligence to Ethiopia in support of its invasion of Somalia in January 2007 and used military facilities in Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Kenya to launch air raids and missile strikes in January and June of 2007 and May of 2008 against alleged al-Qaeda members involved in the Council of Islamic Courts in Somalia.

JOINT TASK FORCE AZTEC SILENCE (JTFAS) – carry out counter-terrorism operations in North and West Africa and to coordinate U.S. operations with those of countries in those regions.
… constitutes a major extension of the U.S. role in counter-insurgency warfare and highlights the dangers of America’s deepening involvement in the internal conflicts that persist in so many African countries

NAVAL OPERATIONS IN THE GULF OF GUINEA – Africom will also help coordinate naval operations along the African coastline.
… The U.S. Navy has been steadily increasing the level and pace of its operations in African waters in recent years …
… the United States—conducted what were described as “presence operations” in the Gulf of Guinea …

BASE ACCESS AGREEMENTS FOR COOPERATIVE SECURITY LOCATIONS AND FORWARD OPERATING SITES – Over the past few years, the Bush administration has negotiated base access agreements with the governments of Botswana, Gabon, Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Morocco, Namibia, Sao Tome and Principe, Senegal, Sierre Leone, Tunisia, Uganda, and Zambia. Under these agreements, the United States gains access to local military bases and other facilities so that they can be used by American forces as transit bases or as forward operating bases for combat, surveillance, and other military operations. They remain the property of the host African government and are not American bases in a legal sense, so that U.S. government officials are telling the truth—at least technically—when they deny that the United States has bases in these countries.

Go and read the article, AFRICOM from Bush to Obama. There is a great deal more information there than I have included here, including the amounts of money involved in many of these programs.

I posted Bush in Africa 2 over at the African Loft.

In true democratic fashion (Bush version) they have been preparing for Bush’s visit to Rwanda by jailing people, assisted by the US Secret Service:

As Rwanda braces up for President Bush’s visit . . . the security agencies have detained hundreds of people in a security operations mounted across the country ahead of the visit, APA learns here Saturday.
. . .
The military source said the operation is being mounted by the national police force and military police with the help of the United States secret service.
. . .
The patrols are targeting congested areas like churches, trading centers and nightspots. “Life is simply not easy for ordinary people in Rwanda especially in Kigali”

And I cannot help feeling, much like Hamza Mustafa Njozi:
. . . for some of us, it is a huge embarrassment when the number one war criminal in the world, who should be facing charges in the Hague, showers praises on our leader.

I posted a couple of quotations reacting to Bush’s visit to Africa over at the African Loft. CareTaker added a video of protests in Tanzania that included the sign above.

The vigilante country club

A friend sent this earlier from the AlterNet: FBI Deputizes Private Contractors With Extraordinary Powers, Including ‘Shoot to Kill’.

Today, more than 23,000 representatives of private industry are working quietly with the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security. The members of this rapidly growing group, called InfraGard, receive secret warnings of terrorist threats before the public does — and, at least on one occasion, before elected officials. In return, they provide information to the government . . .
. . .
InfraGard is not readily accessible to the general public. Its communications with the FBI and Homeland Security are beyond the reach of the Freedom of Information Act under the “trade secrets” exemption, its website says. And any conversation with the public or the media is supposed to be carefully rehearsed.
. . .
One business owner in the United States tells me that InfraGard members are being advised on how to prepare for a martial law situation — and what their role might be.
. . .

“The meeting started off innocuously enough, with the speakers talking about corporate espionage,” he says. “From there, it just progressed. All of a sudden we were knee deep in what was expected of us when martial law is declared. We were expected to share all our resources, but in return we’d be given specific benefits.” These included, he says, the ability to travel in restricted areas and to get people out. But that’s not all.

Then they said when — not if — martial law is declared, it was our responsibility to protect our portion of the infrastructure, and if we had to use deadly force to protect it, we couldn’t be prosecuted,” he says.

This sounds like the Bush administration is putting together a cadre of people who see themselves as privileged insiders, with a duty to spy on, and if necessary, kill, their fellow citizens. They don’t have the training, discipline, structure, or mission of police or soldiers. A group like this can be easily manipulated if they think they are protecting their country. There is no oversight or protection in place to control the kind and quality of information they receive. And no accountability or protection regarding the information they provide. A bunch of people who think they are responsible for guarding the country, who are hopped up on patriotic fervor and fear, thinking they have the right to kill people who frighten them, is something no country needs.

This looks like a country club of vigilantes, using the country club model for membership. You have to be recommended by a member in order to “join”, and are then vetted. This means that there will be an ideological similarity among the members. They are also more likely to look like each other, and less likely to look like a representative cross section of the US population. Open and inclusive are not words that describe this vigilante country club arm of government. How will they decide who looks dangerous?

The claim that Its communications with the FBI and Homeland Security are beyond the reach of the Freedom of Information Act under the “trade secrets” exemption should send a chill down the spine of anyone who loves the United States and values the US Constitution. This extra judicial, extra constitutional privatized spying and law enforcement takes the US another step down the road to the privatized model of government found in Congo Brazzaville.

There were two stories about African oil in the Financial Times today.

The new scramble for Africa’s resources:

The rise of Africa as an energy region is not a short-term trend
. . .
Yet the effect of increased corporate interest has not always translated to economic well-being for African countries. (an almost comic understatement)

Soaring oil prices have threatened to wipe out recent economic gains on what is both the world’s poorest continent and its fastest-growing oil and gas exploration zone of the past decade. According to the International Energy Agency, the increase in the cost of oil in 13 non-producing countries, including stable economies such as South Africa, Senegal and Ghana has since 2004 been equivalent to 3 per cent of their combined gross domestic product. This is more than the debt relief and foreign aid received during the same period.
. . .

The contrast between the multi-billion dollar international oil industry and the grinding realities of Africa is nowhere more apparent than in Nigeria’s Niger Delta, the most prolific zone in the Atlantic basin, from where the US expects to source up to a quarter of its oil imports in the next decade. There, armed militants using an anti-poverty rhetoric have cut a quarter of Nigeria’s production in pre-dawn raids on oil facilities and kidnapped scores of oil workers in the past two years, a potent symbol of the kind of disorder that can occur on the doorstep of huge investments.

Much of the capacity being added on the continent may be too far offshore to be affected by the kind of militancy seen in the delta. But US policymakers nevertheless remain deeply concerned about stability in oil-producing zones. In response to this concern, President Bush last year ordered the creation of Africom, a dedicated US military command centre for Africa which is expected to be situated in a yet-to-be chosen country on the continent.

The US military has recently started focusing on West Africa, with a $500m plan to help Saharan states eradicate Islamist cells linked to al-Qaeda that could otherwise threaten stability in oil-producing countries in the region, particularly Nigeria. The co-operation has drawn criticism from human rights groups which say the US is repeating its Middle East mistakes by cosying up to despotic and corrupt regimes on the continent.

Indeed, Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, typified US confusion on Africa policy when she described Teodoro Obiang Nguema, the president of oil-rich Equatorial Guinea where US supermajors Chevron and ExxonMobil have interests as a “good friend”, despite widespread concern over human rights abuses and corruption.. . .

Where Africa’s resources are becoming hot property, big energy producing countries are beginning to push for greater control of their own oil and gas industries, much to the chagrin of the traditional oil majors.

As you see above, the Financial Times flatly states that African oil is the reason Bush created AFRICOM, and the reason for the US military focus.

Energy producing countries should push for greater control of their resources and industries. Of course they also need to push for a more equitable distribution of the profits. How, and how much, will AFRICOM be used to push back and maintain US control?

The second article, Plenty of room for minnows discusses the proliferation and role of small oil companies in Africa.

With many of the oil majors in the past few years focused on the multibillion dollar deepwater investments in the Gulf of Guinea, and oil prices so high, the past few years have seen plenty of incentives for smaller companies to try to make it big in Africa.
. . .
If they develop their assets cleverly, or even discover significant oil finds, the rewards may be a lucrative takeover bid from a big company.
. . .
. . . “Essentially, the creation of a secondary market is just beginning to happen on the continent.”

Companies that are interested in Africa range from small start-ups that have snapped up speculative oil licences, to the likes of Tullow Oil, which has booked a relatively large discovery in Ghana and which today has a market capitalisation of more than £3.7bn. Medium- sized companies from the Arab world have also started expressing an interest in holding African oil and gas assets.

Some of the more successful companies have built up their reputations by leveraging their insider contacts in government circles.

Indeed, Afren’s founding board members include Rilwanu Lukman, the former president of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and Nigerian presidential adviser, which probably goes some way towards explaining why Afren was able to secure a $200m non-recourse facility from BNP Paribas, the largest loan the bank has ever made to a company with no cashflow.
. . .
But the share price volatility of such companies remain high because their assets are often concentrated in a small number of countries. Indeed half of small oil companies trading on Aim are now below their issue price.
. . .
But the share price volatility of such companies remain high because their assets are often concentrated in a small number of countries. Indeed half of small oil companies trading on Aim are now below their issue price.
. . .
In the meantime, some companies, detecting wider investor scepticism, are busy looking to tie themselves more closely with African investors who may also have clout in government circles.

This is not the kind of situation that makes fighting corruption easy.

I ran across a blog that was new to me that has some interesting things to say:
ijebuman’s diary: The online ramblings of an Ijebu man in London
I found what he has to say interesting, and his style entertaining.

His post Criminal Politics – a report by HRW took me to this October 2007 report: Human Rights Watch has released an extensive report on the political situation in Nigeria, called Criminal Politics: Violence, “Godfathers” and Corruption in Nigeria, click here for the Pdf version

I’ve been reading in the report, and it does not paint a promising picture. Most of the governors are utterly corrupt and unaccountable to anyone. The youth are being manipulated and betrayed by their leadership. Just one example of this betrayal is youth training and employment programs being used to pay young men to act as political thugs on behalf of politicians. Considering the fact that a number of US Department of Defense and Pentagon planners consider Nigeria well on the way to being a failed state, and these same planners want Nigeria’s oil, prospects for the future are doubly discouraging. There has even been talk about redrawing African borders, and this from people who went into Iraq without knowing there is a difference between Sunni and Shia.

AFRICOM is already hanging around offshore, and partnering in the neighborhood. The HRW report makes a number of excellent recommendations, but it is hard to see how they might be implemented. There are a number of people in Nigeria who would like to turn the corruption around. But too many of the people who have the power and authority to do it, are enriched and advantaged by corruption. There may be some hope with the courts, which the report indicates are still for the most part trying to do their jobs. But courts alone can’t do it because their activities are by nature largely reactive. The situation also needs proactive measures.

Another post lists suggestions for How to keep your job (Naija style), which, with some slight alterations, applies just as well to all the corrupt and criminal cronies around Bush. I’ve certainly seen US versions of all 10 of these ploys in the news. I’ve copied some below. Substitute “the United States” for “Nigeria”, and there are only slight differences.

So you’ve been caught with your hands in the till (or in this case indicted for not following due process by awarding a contract to an unregistered company run by one of your aides).
No worries, here are a few tips on how to save your job;

1. The best form of defence is an attack, start by turning the tables on your opponents by accusing them of similar crimes.

2. Play the victim. Claim you’ve been set up and you know nothing about the allegations.

3. Employ a powerful Godfather to apply pressure on those in power
. . .
6. Employ Spiritual methods. Call on all pastors and imams to pray for you and Nigeria. If you attend a Pentecostal church, you can organise night vigils, prayer requests or make a large donation to your pastor to ensure he is on your case 24/7.
. . .
9. Set up a fictional group called “concerned citizens of Nigeria“, get the “group” to put out a full page ad in the news papers claiming there is a conspiracy against you. They should also list your “accomplishments” and declare you’re the best ***** Nigeria ever had.

10. Employ good old “shakara“. Declare that “it’s God’s will” that you got to your current position and by “God’s grace” no one can remove you


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