ECOWAS


ECOWAS HQ

An article in the US Defense News quotes the Chief of Air Staff of the Ghana Air Force, Air Vice Marshal Julius Otchere Boateng:

But a military official from Ghana, an African nation that had serious doubts about AFRICOM, now says American officials have done enough to resolve his concerns.

“I have had the chance to hear [U.S. officials] explain what is the reasoning behind the command, and it’s all about partnership,” Ghana Air Vice Marshal Julius Boateng said.

The biggest problem, Boateng said, is that his countrymen have not been well enough informed by Washington and government officials in Ghana about the specifics of U.S. plans for AFRICOM.

I think Air Vice Marshal Boateng is quite correct that his countrymen have not been well enough informed about the specifics of AFRICOM. IF he is being quoted correctly, Air Vice Marshal Boateng is still not sufficiently well informed himself. He may have heard sweet words from US officials that soothed his fears, he has not looked at the history, or the larger picture. If he actually believes the talk of partnership, he is easily fooled.

When AFRICOM is covered by the US news media, which is rare, the explanation for it is always oil, terrorism, and China. When US officials speak about AFRICOM to African leaders they say it is not about any of these, it is about aid, stability, and partnerships.

There has been no public explanation for AFRICOM that makes sense. Calling it an aid organization is laughable. There are already aid organizations, including USAID, that work quite well if they are funded. Nobody needs AFRICOM for diplomacy. Diplomacy has long established institutions in place.

The Bush administration think the only persuasion they need is the right marketing approach. They don’t seem to be aware that people can see the truth of what is going on if they are willing to look. The concept of truth may be a bit alien to the Bush administration. At the AEI forum on September 20, Bushco seemed to think their marketing of AFRICOM had been flawed, and that was the reason African nations are hostile to the command. It did not seem to occur to them that several decades of pouring arms into Africa, and not much else, makes people skeptical about your good intentions. During the Bush administration humanitarian aid has decreased, and the tide of arms has increased exponentially, especially to countries with oil.

While the U.S. ranks number one in global weapons exports, it falls dead last among industrialized nations in providing non-military foreign aid to the developing world.

More arms do not mean more stability.

At the same time the US has been pouring arms into Africa, US and European, and now Chinese, trade policies have undercut African farmers and businesses, dumping heavily subsidized agricultural and other products on Africa, while maintaining tariffs and trade policies that kill any possibility of African competition. The west piously preaches to Africa about “free” trade, and how Africa (but only Africa) must have “open markets”.

In addition to US arms, Europe and China have also poured cheap arms into Africa. And US activities in Iraq do not win friends anywhere. Africa does not need the US bringing terrorism into African countries again.

Both the President and Vice President of Liberia have endorsed AFRICOM. But Liberia has always been a US client state, and this looks like a continuation of that relationship. You can look at recent decades of Liberian history to see how well that special relationship with the US has worked for Liberia.

And it also looks like the US is trying to entice Nigeria as a host by dangling membership in the UN Security Council.

The United States (US) Government has said Nigeria has the possibility of becoming a permanent member of the United Nations (UN) Security Council if it follows through electoral reforms, strengthens the institutions of democracy, ensures stability and contributes to international peace and security.

The Bush administration is certain to continue a combination of threats and enticements, divide and conquer, to get African countries to accept AFRICOM. Unless US foreign policy and military policy turn in a dramatically different direction than they have taken for the last half century, any country that hosts AFRICOM surrenders its own sovereignty, and threatens the sovereignty and stability of its neighbors. AFRICOM will become the new colonial master. Military bases ARE American colonies.

As Isdore Guvamombe writes:

Stories about the army being set up to step up humanitarian assistance to Africa are mere rhetoric meant to hoodwink African governments into accepting a force that will eventually destabilise the whole continent.

Events in Kenya and Somalia are cases in point.

Africom must not be touched with a 10-foot pole by all in Africa

. . . if allowed to establish their permanent military force in Africa, the continent will be left stinking with endless conflicts.

Whichever country will be tricked into accepting to host Africom will automatically lose its sovereignty and integrity and will be judged harshly by history.

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From Stratfor comes this assessment:

Nigeria is moving to block AFRICOM, the U.S. combat command for Africa, from establishing itself in the Gulf of Guinea region. A few countries will go along with Nigeria, but oil and natural gas newcomers Equatorial Guinea and Sao Tome and Principe probably will resist the move.

And Uzodinma Iweala asks:

I just wonder if YarAdua and his foreign/defense policy people are savvy enough to actually thwart this. What would it take?

1.) Security agreements with all of the major players (probably even a security agreement with the US). When our navy can’t even deal with oil bunkerers or the Niger Delta we’re going to go and patrol X thousand square miles of Open Ocean.

2.) Economic inducements (which we can do with Sao Tome and some of the smaller countries but we can’t hope to compete with the coercive economic power of the US)

3.) Pan African solidarity (almost laughable)

4.) A MAJOR arms/security deal with China (bingo! lets further sell ourselves to the Chinese).

I pray to God the US keeps out of this… otherwise you’ll see our leaders make some really foolish decisions perhaps more so than they’ve done in the past.


Nigeria seems to have come to the same conclusion I did, that the US is using terrorism to blackmail Nigeria into hosting a military base. There may be other reasons for the US playing the terror card.

There are plenty of other problems for the countries bordering the Gulf of Guinea, including devastating amounts of illegal fishing by European and Asian countries, drug and arms and other contraband smuggling, and plenty more. I know I read somewhere, but don’t know if it is true or exaggerated for humor, that the Nigerian Navy has more admirals than ships.

Also, Kufuor is due to be in the US this week. It seems likely the US will ratchet up the pressure on him. He also owes a lot to Nigeria.

At last West Africa speaks up! Nigeria says NO to AFRICOM.

From This Day:

The Federal Government has begun moves to frustrate the plan by the United States to establish a military base in the Gulf of Guinea.
. . .

“Nigeria is not taking the issue lightly at all and the government is not going to allow the US establish any military base anywhere in the ECOWAS region. The interest of the US government in the Gulf of Guinea has reinforced the commitment of the government to intensify its efforts at providing the needed security in the sub-region,” the source said.

It was learnt that the Federal Government was worried by the terror alert raised by the US authorities last week and saw it as a ploy to label Nigeria and countries in the sub region as unsafe in order to get the opportunity to create a military base in the region.

As a first step to checkmate that plan, the FG has vowed to frustrate the campaign by the US to establish a base in the gulf.

“The government of this country is not ready for any blackmail. What they cannot get through the back doors they want to get through blackmail. We are not going to succumb to that game,” the source said.

I think this can only be good news. While Nigeria’s governments have not demonstrated any great responsiveness to the needs of her people to date, or established any reputation for good governance; letting the US recolonize the Niger Delta and the Gulf of Guinea will cause a great deal more suffering. The present US government is not capable of running the US, and has destroyed Iraq. Until the US can demonstrate both competence and good intentions, all countries should be wary in their dealings with it.

Playing on people’s fears is about the only thing the Bush administration knows how to do well. Every time Bush dipped in the polls in his first term, and before the 2004 election, a new terror threat was announced and the US would suddenly have a heightened terror alert. Now Bush cannot run again, he does not have so much need of terror alerts in the US. But it looks like they still might be useful elsewhere.

LAGOS, Sept 6 (Reuters) – U.S. and other Western interests in Nigeria are at risk of “terrorist attack”, the United States embassy in Africa’s top oil producer said on Thursday.

The official warning, in a message for U.S. citizens in Nigeria, gave few details, but said potential targets included official and commercial installations in the capital Abuja and the commercial city of Lagos.

“The U.S. Mission in Nigeria has received information that U.S. and other Western interests in Nigeria are currently at risk for terrorist attack,” the statement said.

In Washington, a U.S. official said the advisory was based on “very nonspecific threat information.”
. . .
Analysts said the alert on Nigeria, which is the fifth largest oil supplier to the United States, could be related to the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.

Or, could these “threats” be related to attempts to find a home for Africom?

If countries are truly concerned about terrorism, the US under Bush is about the last place I would think they would want to turn for advice or help. And hosting a large US military installation seems like an invitation to trouble. Bush and company have had NO successes in their “war on terror” other than keeping the American people sufficiently scared, and manipulating the vote just enough to keep Bush in office. Look at Afghanistan, where the US could have made a difference, but blew the opportunity. Or look at the needless destruction of Iraq, which is now a breeding and training ground for terrorists. Or look at the absence of successful terror prosecutions, because their cases can’t stand up in courts, even courts packed with their own judges.

Back in June North African countries signaled their unwillingness to host Africom. And Southern Africa, the SADC, has said no, with South Africa being particularly vocal. West Africa, ECOWAS, and East African countries have not sounded such a unified voice. But the press I read from every country, with the possible exception of Liberia, shows the citizens as being overwhelmingly opposed to hosting US troops on African soil.

In July, Theresa Whelan, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence for Africa tried to drive a wedge between African countries.

Answering questions about her government’s response to the outright rejection of Africom by the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Whelan said that would be fine, but that the US would simply cut off military relations with SADC as an organisation while continuing to engage with amenable countries in Southern Africa on an individual basis.

And neo-con Africa “expert” Peter Pham chimed in early August with more wedging action:

. . . smaller countries will tend to view the new command as a potential hedge against the aspirations of their larger neighbors to regional hegemony, while larger nations may conversely come to view AFRICOM as a potential obstacle to those ambitions. That certainly appears to be case with South Africa.

As the previous South African article concludes:

It is apparent that there is a considerable gap to be closed between African and US perceptions of each other’s legitimate security interests and how these should find expression in military and security co-operation.

I have no doubt South Africa wants to flex its muscles. And I have some reservations about their actions in Ghana at times. But I am terrified at the thought of Bush messing up Ghana, or any other African country, calling anyone who gets in the way of US oil interests a terrorist. In politics it is often important to avail oneself of allies where you find them. It can pay off with improvements in the long run. And South Africa is part of Africa, and has a right to speak in this regard. Africa is still vulnerable, and it is still iffy as to whether individual countries will stand up to the Africa Command.

Added September 7:
b real brings some important information and questions to the issue. I’ll excerpt from his comment below, but please read the full comment for details:

consider the following as a possible motive for the “nonspecific” terror threat in nigeria.

OPEC is meeting in vienna on 11 sept. there have been stories over the past week, quoting different OPEC representatives, that the cartel would not be increasing output at the upcoming meeting.

for instance, see tuesday’s african oil journal: OPEC Will Not Increase Production at the Next Meeting on Sept 11

Qatar’s energy minister on Tuesday declared that there were no plans to increase crude oil production at next week’s OPEC meeting in Vienna as the 12-nation cartel sees no shortages in the market.
. . .
after the announcement of the “terror” threat to production & distribution facilities in the niger delta, crude prices have increased.
Oil climbs on Mid-East tension, US inventory falls
. . .
so could this warning from the u.s. embassy in abuja be part of a tactic to help push the price of crude up so high that it puts more pressure on OPEC to increase quotas next tuesday?

or is it a ploy to push up the price in order to grab a lot of quick profits? perhaps of which some of that $$$ is needed to help stabilize the troubled financiers requiring bailout in the us?

or is it part of a campaign to justify an increased military presence in the delta? the “year-long trial deployment of a U.S. navy vessel to the region in October” is just around the corner, after all.

or has there actually been a legit threat from one of the militant groups or gangs warning specifically of the targeting of u.s. installations? definitely not enough info in the few news copies on the warning right now to determine how serious to take it, although the stuff like the former u.s. ambassador to nigeria’s story about AQ finding haven in nigeria can be dismissed out of hand for the baloney that it is. which lowers the credibility of threat itself, leading me to wonder about a connection to the OPEC meeting this tuesday.

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