proxy war

“We don’t want to see our guys going in and getting whacked . . . We want Africans to go in.”

Within the military realm, the terms proxy and surrogate are largely interchangeable.

KIGALI, Rwanda - General William E. "Kip" Ward, commander of U.S. Africa Command, reviews a Rwandan Defense Forces (RDF) honor guard upon his arrival to the RDF’s Gabiro School of Infantry April 22, 2009. Ward led a U.S. Africa Command delegation on a two-day visit to Rwanda to visit with RDF officials. Ward met with RDF soldiers and toured the Gabiro school, the primary facility for infantry, armor, artillery and engineering training of RDF officers and enlisted members. (U.S. Africa Command Photo by Kenneth Fidler)


AMISOM troups from Uganda in Mogadishu, from an article published in September 2009

'C' Company 7th Battalion Kings African Rifles (KAR) at Mogadishu, 1 June 1941, WWII Photo Album of William Henry Rogers

I have included some current pictures of partner/surrogate/proxy military in Africa, and some historic pictures as well. It is important not to forget the history and the heritage of this relationship. Uganda President Museveni’s name means “Son of a man of the Seventh”, in honour of the Seventh Battalion of the King’s African Rifles, the British colonial army in which many Ugandans served during World War II.

I found one picture of C Company of the 7th Battalion KAR taken in Mogadishu in 1941. It is interesting to note that Ugandan soldiers are currently embroiled in Mogadishu as partners/surrogates/proxies for the United States. The middle picture above is Ugandan soldiers from the current AMISOM mission in Mogadishu.

Below are pictures of the Kings African Rifles, KAR, during the riots and disturbances in Nyasaland, which marked the end of colonial rule. The KAR acted as partners/surrogates/proxies for British colonial rule. I also added a few pictures of riot control training from a recent AFRICOM partner/surrogate/proxy training exercise in Benin for visual comparison. Experience tells us that in many countries these skills are likely to be used for internal counter insurgency operations and to quell legitimate political dissent, not unlike some domestic assignments given the former Kings African Rifles, who also served heroically in World War II.

King's African rifles advance on African rioters at time of emergency. Photos: James Burke/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images, Mar 01, 1959. By 1959 (in Nyasaland) major disturbances were taking place whereby natives stoned police stations and attacked policemen. A state of emergency was declared, and military forces were brought in to handle the situation. Regiments of the Royal Rhodesian Army and platoons from Tanganyika and Northern Rhodesia imported some 2,500 soldiers. The manpower of the police force was expanded to a total of about 3,000, including 200 extra policemen from Britain. Nevertheless, all these efforts were of no avail. The political opposition to British rule, organized in the Nyasaland African Congress, grew stronger and stronger, and the British colonial administration could not but prepare the way for African self-government. After the transition of power in 1962, the new African state of Malawi inherited from its colonial past a police force of some 3,000 agents, consisting of British, Asian and African recruits."

BEMBEREKE, Benin - Beninese Army soldiers demonstrate their riot control procedures for U.S. Marines during peacekeeping training at the Military Information Center in Bembereke, Benin on June 11, 2009. SHARED ACCORD is a scheduled, combined U.S.-Benin exercise designed to improve interoperability and mutual understanding of each nation’s military tactics, techniques and procedures. Humanitarian and civil affairs events are scheduled to run concurrent with the military training. (Official Marine Corps photo by Lance Corporal Jad Sleiman)

Nyasaland Riot Control unit 1959

BEMBEREKE, Benin - A Beninese soldier practices baton strikes during peacekeeping training with U.S. Marines at the Military Information Center in Bembereke, Benin on June 11, 2009. SHARED ACCORD is a scheduled, combined U.S.-Benin exercise designed to improve interoperability and mutual understanding of each nation's military tactics, techniques and procedures. Humanitarian and civil affairs events are scheduled to run concurrent with the military training. (Official Marine Corps photo by Lance Corporal Jad Sleiman)

Kariba Dam February 1959. Kariba dam workers went on strike protesting low pay and terrible working conditions. Army riot squads flew to the dam to reinforce security troops after the striking workers stoned buildings and cars. Two special squads of European and African police were put on alert to move at a moments notice to any trouble spot in the British ruled federation of the Rhodesias and Nyasaland. Nevertheless, all these efforts were of no avail. The political opposition to British rule, organized in the Nyasaland African Congress, grew stronger and stronger, and the British colonial administration could not but prepare the way for African self-government.

Maj Shawn T. Cochran wrote Security Assistance, Surrogate Armies, and the Pursuit of US Interests in Sub-Saharan Africa published in the U.S. Air University’s Strategic Studies Quarterly Spring 2010 v.4 #1 (PDF). He is quite interesting on the subject of US surrogates and partners in Africa, and on historic and current US efforts to create and use African partners/surrogates/proxies.

In the words of a senior US military officer assigned to AFRICOM, the United States seeks to enhance regional military forces because, “We don’t want to see our guys going in and getting whacked . . . We want Africans to go in.”

One thing he points out early on is:

There is no official DoD definition for surrogate force, the second key concept. For many, the term proxy may be more familiar. Within the military realm, the terms proxy and surrogate are largely interchangeable. The use here of the latter reflects a desire to establish a degree of distance from the related, yet viscerally more contentious, concept of proxy war. Given the African experience, any allusion to proxy war will likely elicit recollections of how external powers, both in the colonial and Cold War eras, competed by initiating, escalating, and exploiting local conflicts. Today, many who wish to denigrate a given foreign policy in Africa simply apply the label “proxy war” for dramatic effect

I am one of those who uses the label proxy war not just for dramatic effect but to keep in mind an accurate historic context for viewing current US military adventurism in Africa.

… a surrogate force is defined as an organization that serves the needs or interests of a secondary actor—the sponsor—by employing military power in place of the sponsor’s own forces. Implicit within this definition is the requirement for the sponsor to fund, equip, train, or otherwise support the surrogate. The sponsor also must exercise at least some form of control or influence over the surrogate.

Cochran discusses the term partnership:

US policy makers and defense personnel alike speak regularly in terms of “building partner capacity.” The dialogue surrounding the standup of AFRICOM certainly follows this trend. This is probably more palatable than the notion of developing surrogates, but the palatability comes with a downside. Bertil Dunér outlines the three dimensions of a surrogate relationship as
compatibility of interests,
material support,and
Of the three, power, or influence, exerted by the sponsor is most critical.

… By analyzing, strategizing, and implementing security assistance in terms of a partnership instead of a sponsor-surrogate relationship, one is perhaps more likely to marginalize the critical, albeit controversial, factor of donor influence and control.

Such marginalization may affect adversely the degree to which security assistance programs achieve US objectives.

Cochran uses two case studies to explore US surrogacy in Africa, the Nigerian intervention in Liberia in 2003, and the Ethiopian invasion of Somalia in 2006 and its aftermath.

The surge in US security assistance to Nigeria from 2000 to 2003 was closely tied to the US government’s expectation of Nigeria as a lead contributor to subregional and regional peace support operations. From the US point of view, Nigeria’s hesitancy to respond to the Liberian crisis and attempt to pressure the United States into committing its own forces represented a degree of “shirking,” defined within agency theory as not doing all that was contracted or not doing the task in a desirable way.

Beyond the factor of conflicting goals, shirking is also more likely in situations where there is significant outcome uncertainty and thus significant risk.

Particularly noteworthy to the role of partner/surrogate/proxy is this point that Cochran notes:

Nigerian lack of enthusiasm for the mission stemmed in part from the inculcation of democratic practices. In a democracy, the state military ultimately serves as an agent of the people. Where Nigerian dictators had been able to employ the military whenever and however they saw fit, the democratically elected leadership, accountable to Nigerian public opinion, found it increasingly difficult to justify and garner public support for the expenditure of troops and national treasure in external conflicts.

Democracy is likely to discourage military surrogacy. When the people in a country have a say, they must see a good reason and a potentially positive outcome to be willing to spend national blood and treasure. Democracy was at work preventing Nigeria and Ghana from participating in the disastrous US exercise in Somalia. Uganda and Rwanda, being only nominally democracies, and actually run as military governments, make much better surogates and are favorites of the US Africa Command and significant recipients of US military funding. Uganda has contributed a great many soldiers to the Somali exercise. The development of military partners/surrogates/proxies is an enemy of democratic governance.

Cochran also includes the following quote, which has continent wide implications. In the Cold War you called your enemy a communist in order to get military assistance, only the word has changed.

The new game in Somalia is to call your enemy a terrorist in the hope that America will destroy him for you.”

The US put considerable pressure on Ghana and Nigeria to contribute to the Somali disaster.

… the failure of Ghana and Nigeria to respond is of particular interest. Both received substantial US security assistance funding in 2005 and 2006. Both, at the urging of the United States, pledged troops to AMISOM and in return were promised additional US training and equipment tailored specifically for the operation. The United States also agreed to provide logistical support. Still, despite significant US diplomatic pressure, neither country ever deployed its forces to Somalia, each offering a continuous litany of reasons for the delay. When asked to explain this lack of response despite previous pledges, a senior US military official in the region opined that Somalia “scared the . . . out of them” and that they had no direct interests related to the mission. In other words, “Why would Ghana care about Somalia?”

And that is the key question. There is no reason on earth that benefits Ghana why Ghana should become involved in Somalia. I think Ghana has shown great wisdom. Ghana should be wary, it has received quite a bit of “assistance” through the ACOTA program.

Why invest long term without any guarantee of return? Why not just wait until the need arises and then tailor security assistance to provide only the willing actors with what is necessary for a specific intervention? This would ostensibly eliminate some of the uncertainty inherent in screening and mitigate agency loss from shirking behavior. The United States, in fact, has moved in this direction over the past few years. ACOTA, in particular, has been utilized repeatedly for such “just in time” security assistance.

Summing up the US approach to partnerships/surrogates/proxies Cochran writes:

From the case studies, it is apparent that the United States takes two broad approaches to developing surrogate forces in Africa. The first derives from the perceived strategic potential of a key actor. It consists of a longer-term security assistance relationship not tied directly to any specific intervention. …

The second can be characterized as a “fire brigade” approach. This is more ad hoc and involves a short-term use of security assistance to generate support for a specific intervention and preparing willing participants just prior to deployment.

He has the grace and intelligence to tell us:

One should not take from this discussion that Africa’s problems or threats to US strategic interests in Africa are best dealt with through military means. In most cases, military force, even if employed by a surrogate, is not the answer but sometimes it is. Given the nature of the African security environment, it is sometimes impossible to pursue broader economic, political, and humanitarian aims without a concomitant threat or application of arms.

With the gigantic imbalance between military and civilian spending, and the huge presence and activity of the Africa Command around the continent, and the US not doing much else, all African problems as viewed by the US are likely to be treated like nails requiring a military hammer. With the present imbalance in military to civilian spending, a military hammer is about the only tool on offer from the US.

Through its various security assistance programs, the United States now seeks to build both the capability and willingness of African states to employ military force throughout the region in a manner that supports US strategic interests and precludes the requirement for direct US military intervention. The United States, in effect, is seeking to develop surrogates.

We don’t want to see our guys going in and getting whacked . . . We want Africans to go in.”

Koranteng writes:

I have many memories of the two coups I lived through in Ghana …The safe detail that lingers, however, is of the martial music that consumed the radio, and then the TV, airwaves in the ensuing days. … Suffice to say that I have a visceral reaction to military strongmen and their rhetoric – I am blinded by the accompanying blood.

The martial music of our coups all had this alien, otherworldly aura – as if to remind the listener that the military in Africa were one of the most ruinous of our colonial inheritances.

The US Africa Command and the military contractors continue that ruinous colonial tradition, the latest manifestation of that ruinous colonial inheritance.

By 1959 [in Nyasaland]


Exercise Africa Endeavor 2009 ran from September 29 until October 8 this year. This is a U.S. Africa Command-sponsored initiative designed to assist African militaries with improving their communication capabilities, and is planned to become an annual exercise.

BARAKA, Gabon - Participants of a communications exercise called Africa Endeavor conduct collaborative radio and data testing at the Gabonese Army Camp in Baraka, Gabon, October 5, 2009. Africa Endeavor is an annual, U.S. Africa Command-sponsored initiative designed to assist African militaries with improving their communication capabilities. Almost 200 people from 26 countries and three international organizations participated in this year's exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sergeant Samara Scott)

BARAKA, Gabon - Participants of a communications exercise called Africa Endeavor conduct collaborative radio and data testing at the Gabonese Army Camp in Baraka, Gabon, October 5, 2009. Africa Endeavor is an annual, U.S. Africa Command-sponsored initiative designed to assist African militaries with improving their communication capabilities. Almost 200 people from 26 countries and three international organizations participated in this year's exercise. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sergeant Samara Scott)

Of course when the US is coordinating communications between the military organizations of 25 African countries, the US has very convenient access into their communication systems. This will be very useful for the United States in developing, coordinating, and deploying proxy armies in the quest for oil and natural resources. It will also be very useful if any of these militaries is allied against the United States at a later date. The United States will find it much easier to tap into their communication systems.

In advantaging African militaries far beyond any other sector of society with money and attention in these 25 countries and more, the US is preparing a large new cadre of potential leaders for military coup governments across the continent. This will be convenient for the US military who will already be familiar with these individuals and their organizations, and well used to working with them.

As Victoria Lakshmi Hamah writes:

The basic goal of US military programmes is to provide for the security of the local political elite and economic hit men and to insulate them from the social consequences of their economic decisions. Its orientation of African military officers will also ensure that there will be no possible rise of nationalist governments that will aim at the nationalization of oil and mineral production. A political elite isolated and insulated from the prevailing social conditions will have no incentive to protect even the existing semblance of democratic culture.

DefenceWeb publishes more information about Africa Endeavor in Exercise Africa Endeavour strengthens military capabilities and communication.

Almost 200 people from 26 countries and three international organizations came together in Gabon, September 29, 2009, to participate in Exercise Africa Endeavor, an annual US Africa Command-sponsored initiative to assist African militaries with improving their communications capabilities.
The exercise focuses on two important areas of military communications: data, which includes the hardware and software of computer networks, and radio, used to send voice and data transmissions. On October 1, Zambian service members joined with Marines from US Marine Forces Africa to practice their skills with a communication check.

Marine Sergeant Zach D. Zapotoski, exercise data chief/lead planner, said the purpose of the exercise was to bring communicators from throughout the various economic regions of Africa to evaluate and standardize communication plans.

“We are testing to ensure that all of the different kinds of gear that each participant uses is compatible,” Zapotoski said “Through this process we are collecting data, identifying gaps and shortfalls, and then working to address the areas where those gaps occur.”

According to Marine Captain Dave Fuller, exercise technical director, the effort to standardize is one of the main goals of the exercise. “The first goal is to increase the interoperability with the countries that are going to be working with each other in the different African Standby Forces,” Fuller said.

Because each nation brings different capabilities, experience levels and operating methods, establishing standard operating procedures (SOPs) is key to future success, said Marine Sergeant Ryan Kish, exercise test network coordinator.

“The most important thing is that we are establishing SOPs,” Kish said. “It’s important because as the African nations work together in the future or when we work with them in the future, we can have that data to look at to see what worked and what needs a solution.”

In addition to the technical and professional aspects of the exercise, Fuller said .

“Our second goal is to pair up these nations to not only build up partner relations between us, but also to create and bolster partnerships between the African countries as well,” Fuller said.

Establishing Interoperability

The exercise is broken down into phases in order to establish the SOPs and collect all of the necessary data.

Both the radio and data portions have three phases of execution throughout the exercise.

According to Valencia, in the first phase of the radio portion of the exercise, each nation uses internal testing to ensure that everyone’s equipment is compatible and functioning properly.

“Each nation generally has the same types of gear, but brands and capabilities vary,” Valencia said. “So, in this first phase we are ironing out compatibility issues to get the ball rolling for the next phase.”

During the first phase, Valencia said all of the internal testing happens between radios on the site here.

From the testing phase, the radio communicators move to phase two where they reach back to their home nation to establish communications.

During phase three, participants communicate from the host site to sites within other countries.

“We are taking the results of the various tests and compile them into a single package that can be used for future reference,” Valencia said.

Zapotoski said the phases for the data portion of the exercise run along similar lines as the radio portion. During the first phase, each nation partnered with one other nation and constructed and tested their network.

During the second phase, the nations are building and testing a series of interconnected computers that share data within their associated economic region.

In the last phase, the regional networks will be tied together to simulate a wide area network.

“Our goal is to be able to identify and configure a routing protocol that can be used to communicate on a basic level,” Zapotoski said.

Building Strong Relationships

A quick visit to one of the tents or buildings on the site reveals that the exercise involves even more than technical exploits and data gathering.

Fuller said the exercise has provided the US and African participants with an opportunity to build professional and personal relationships.

“It’s a rare opportunity to interact with military representatives from 25 different countries at one time,” Kish said. “So there have been plenty of chances to interact with each other and share in each other’s culture.”

“The whole experience has been tremendous,” Augustine said. “In the sense that we are all Africans and we each face similar problems, being able to cooperate and work together to solve some problems is very nice.”

According to Fuller, various events designed to increase interaction and cultural sharing are built into the exercise itself, including traditional meals, social gatherings, team sports and even the exercise’s location, which is held in a different country each year to promote cultural exchange.

For this year’s exercise, even the initial and mid planning conferences were held in different countries.

“That’s what this exercise is really all about,” Fuller said. “Getting on the same sheet of music, as far as communication is concerned, and building those relationships so that either these partner nations can work together in the future.”

I like what Augustine says above, if solving problems means solving them for all of society. I very much fear most of the problem solving will be aimed at solving the problems entrenched elites and authoritarian governments face protecting their power and privilege from the rights,  needs and desires of the people they govern.

The US military is full of good people with excellent intentions and with high degrees of skill and professionalism. It is fun and a privilege to work with them. But the overall intentions of US leadership, and its corporate power brokers, may not always be so benign.

It looks like Obama is marching in zombie lockstep with Bush policy in Somalia and Honduras. It also looks like a Great Leap Backward to the days of US suported military coups in Latin America, and despots propped up by US aid in Africa. In both cases the United States provides the military training and the weapons.

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In Honduras, the leader of the coup:
… General Vasquez attended the School of the Americas and … a good part of the Honduran military were trained there and in its successor, the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation (WHINSEC).
… the U.S. has a military base in Honduras, gives the Honduran military a few million dollars each year, and … most of the military equipment used against the people was from the U.S.
… a group that openly supported the coup, “Paz and Democracia” (Peace and Democracy), received money from the USAID. (Eva Golinger reported that the USAID pumps more than 50 million dollars into the country each year.)
… the immediate response from Washington was tepid and non-committal. … Dan Restrepo, the presidential advisor for Latin American affairs, said the administration was waiting to see how things would play out. (The response has been stronger since then, but still seems to lack the strength other America nations have put forward in their demands.)
This is most unfortunate for the Obama administration, or for any US government and ongoing relations with Latin America. Like Africa, most people in Latin America want the military back in the barracks, and want democratic governments. A coup is not democracy. Supporting, or even tolerating a coup is a US blow against democracy. Eva Golinger writes:
Yes, I know Fox News is not the best way to judge the political scene in the US, but this video clip is a hint into the way US media is now beginning to portray the coup events in Honduras over the past few days. And note the NPR correspondent’s comments, very similar analysis as to mine over the past few days regarding Washington’s ambiguity regarding this coup so as to buy time and possibly recognize the coup government as “transitory” until the elections in November…….very dangerous.

Note, this will isolate the US/Obama Administration from the rest of Latin America and definitely show Obama is not an agent of change.

Meanwhile, in Somalia, the US is still trying to prop up the TFG, the Transitional Federal Government, in Somalia. As one Somali commentator put it, the only true word in that name is the word transitional. The TFG is neither federal, nor a government. The TFG only controls a few blocks in Mogadishu.
Reuters:  Al Shabaab and allied fighters control much of southern and central Somalia and have boxed the government and 4,300 African Union peackeepers into a few blocks of Mogadishu.
The US has stepped up arms transfers and training, ostensibly to the AMISOM troups, but in actual fact it is violating the UN arms embargo, US, EA gunrunners violating UN’s Somalia arms ban.  And the US is stepping up the training of troops in Somalia.

US violations are said to include a missile attack on a target inside Somalia along with “intensive and comprehensive military training” conducted inside Ethiopia for officers from the breakaway Somalia region known as Somaliland.

The previous incarnation of the TFG was an alliance of the oppressive warlords and the hated and oppressive Ethiopian army. The current incarnation of the TFG was engineered by the US ambassador to Kenya, Michael Ranneberger, in an election held in Djibouti. Because the TFG is under siege, and controls so little of Mogadishu, and none of the rest of Somalia, the TFG has invited the hated Ethiopians back in for help. The US, Ambassador Ranneberger, and the UN donor countries characterize the the TFG as a representative government, although they are the only ones it represents. They characterize the opposition as al Qaeda, although their only proof is to keep invoking the names of two men who bombed the embassies in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998. al Qaeda has never been welcome or successful in Somalia. But as long as the US government and media say al Qaeda whenever any opposition in Somalia is mentioned, US citizens will shiver with fear and support more bombing and killing. And it looks like the US and the donor countries are stepping up their outside interference, rather than letting the Somalis settle their own affairs.

Daniel Volman writes on security policy in Somalia:

The only other indication we have about the president’s true intentions is provided by his decision to authorise the use of force to rescue the kidnapped captain of the Maersk Alabama in May 2009. When he was a candidate, President Obama declared that he believed that ‘there will be situations that require the United States to work with its partners in Africa to fight terrorism with lethal force.’ But his action during the kidnapping episode show that he is also willing to use military force in situations that have nothing to do with terrorism. According to recent news articles, a debate is currently underway within the administration about the wisdom of direct US military intervention against Somali pirates or against the al-Shabaab insurgents. Top administration officials and military officers are convinced that, in the words of Defense Secretary Robert Gates, ‘there is no purely military solution’ to piracy and political conflict in Somalia. And Johnnie Carson, the president’s new assistant secretary of state for Africa, told the BBC that ‘there would be no case of the US re-engaging on the ground with troops’ in Somalia. But some in the military and a number of prominent neo-conservative leaders contend that the United States must strike back at the pirates and the insurgents to prevent future acts of piracy and terrorism against Americans. It would be a mistake to assume that Obama will not take further military action if the situation in Somalia escalates.

If you read this transcript of the June 25 State Department daily press briefing, it sounds like the US government really does not know what it is doing in Somalia. And so far it looks like more US interference just recruits more Somali insurgents. US violence and interference will never resolve Somali problems. The US is interested in possible oil in Somalia. The EU continues to steal fish from Somali waters, and dump toxic and nuclear waste in those same waters. Keeping things unsettled in Somalia works to the advantage of all these outside meddlers.

As b real puts it:

the TFG2 has always been a weak actor in the mix. as i’ve elaborated on in multiple threads, there is more evidence that, rather than create a strong federal govt, the int’l community’s overriding objective has been to pit islamist factions against each other in order to engage them into battle amongst themselves rather than be united and [1] establish an independent govt and [2], so goes the reasoning of the unrestrained paranoid fantasies of the int’l actors, threaten & carry out ‘terrorist’ activities beyond the borders of somalia. letting them wage a war of attrition between themselves requires a minimal amount of overhead & a modicum of commitment.

their lip service to sh. sharif’s govt can be seen as an inside joke, directing, instead, the bulk of support to AMISOM and putting pressure on the UN to get more countries paying for the militarization of east africa. meanwhile, the main beneficiaries are int’l arms dealers, int’l NGOs, and, eventually, the wildcatters up through the big oil companies still comfortably playing the force majeure card.

In the long run it does not pay to be an international bully. It comes back to bite you. And the US cannot afford to garrison the entire world. It cannot afford the wars it is already waging. The proxy armies it is creating with the US Africa Command will go into business for themselves. President Obama has a lot on his plate at home. It may seem easier to let the policies that were already in place continue to run their course. In general Obama seems reluctant to get out front and lead on specific issues. If the US is going to retain its own democracy, and carry any moral weight in the world, President Obama will have to step forward and lead in the democratic direction. There is no hope and change without democratic leadership.

Note: the illustration above is from BibliOdyssey.

Huge deposits of oil have been identified in Uganda along the shore of Lake Albert:
Uganda’s oil reserves rival Saudi Arabia’s, says US expert

map of Uganda showing the Bunyoro kingdom in green

map of Uganda showing the Bunyoro kingdom in green, located along the side of Lake Albert, where much of the oil is located

Uganda along lake Albert.  The white line in the lake is the border between Uganda and DRC.  On the Unganda side you can see the places Tonyo, Hoima, and Butiaba marked on the map.  These are of particular interest to the oil business.

Uganda along lake Albert, the white line in the lake is the border between Uganda and DRC. On the Uganda side you can see the places Tonyo, Hoima, and Butiaba marked on the map. These are locations of oil discoveries.

The southern portion of Lake Albert in Uganda including most of oil Block 3A (map added 4/2010)

These are the oil blocks around Lake Albert, with Uganda on the east/right, and the DRC on the west/left.

These are the oil blocks around Lake Albert, with Uganda on the east/right, and the DRC on the west/left

KAMPALA, UGANDA – Uganda’s oil reserves could be as much as that of the Gulf countries, a senior official at the US Department of Energy has said.

Based on the test flow results encountered at the wells so far drilled and other oil numbers, Ms. Sally Kornfeld, a senior analyst in the office of fossil energy went ahead to talk about Uganda’s oil reservoirs in the same sentence as Saudi Arabia.”You are blessed with amazing reservoirs. Your reservoirs are incredible. I am amazed by what I have seen, you might rival Saudi Arabia,” Kornfeld told a visiting delegation from Uganda in Washington DC.

The group of Ugandans was in Washington on an international visitor programme and looked at the efficient use of natural energy resources.

The group comprised Ministry of Energy officials, a Member of Parliament, members from the civil society and one journalist.

At present, Uganda has four oil prospectors on the ground including Heritage Oil, Tullow Oil, Tower Oil and Dominion Oil.

Of the four prospectors, Tullow and Heritage have registered success at wells in two blocks in the Albertine basin, which lies in the upper-most part of the western arm of the Great Rift Valley.

According to data so far aggregated since the first discovery was made by Australian prospector Hardman Resources (now taken over by Tullow) in June 2006, Uganda has established reserves at 3.5 million barrels of oil per day.

Experts in oil exploration say this could be just a tip of the iceberg.

In April last year, Tullow embarked on what it termed as a major drilling campaign in the Butiaba area around Lake Albert targeting an overall reserve potential in excess of a billion barrels.

The Butiaba campaign was preceded by successes in two drilling campaigns in the Kaiso-Tonya area and the Kingfisher field and all these have been 100% successes so far.

The Butiaba campaign has thrown up successes but the two biggest so far have been the Buffalo-Giraffe wells – described as “one of the largest recent onshore oil discoveries in Africa“.

“Combined with our other finds in the region, we have now clearly exceeded the thresholds for basin development,” the chief executive of Tullow commented then.

The Giraffe-1 exploration well, which is located in the Butiaba region, came up with over 38 metres of net oil pay within an 89-metre gross oil bearing interval.

The data from the Giraffe discovery indicate a net reservoir thickness of 38 metres, the largest encountered in the area to date.

The Buffalo-1 exploration well in Block 1 encountered 15 metres of net gas pay and over 28 metres of net oil pay.

The gas and oil columns encountered are 48 metres and 75 metres respectively with the potential to be even larger.

As Kornfeld marveled at Uganda’s oil finds, she was quick to add that for the country to benefit from the oil and gas resources but also avoid the pitfalls of oil producing countries like Nigeria, it is extremely important to set up strong governance structures.

Kornfeld and the other United States officials said they are ready to help Uganda’s nascent oil and gas sector with anything including the key environmental issues that are crucial to the efficient management of oil and gas.

Anything you might want us to help you with we will and we have a lot of expertise in environmental issues relating to oil and gas,” Kornfeld said.

And in a quote from the article written a year ago, with the oil blocks pictured above:

“The Albert Basin now looks increasingly like it has the elements to make it a world-class petroleum basin. The flow rates, even constrained by available completion and test facilities, far exceeded our expectations,” Tony Buckingham says.

It is certainly true the the US has a lot of experience, and one might say expertise, in environmental issues relating to oil and gas. Unfortunately much of that expertise and experience is involved in circumventing and evading environmental law and responsible environmental management.

Then, as Ms. Kornfeld said, there is the issue of avoiding the pitfalls of other oil producing countries like Nigeria. In general, the US has supported the policies and governments in Nigeria that have engineered these pitfalls, into seemingly bottomless pits, working along with the US based oil corporations operating in Nigeria. So although they might know what to avoid in order to be socially and environmentally responsible, there is no indication that the US government or the oil corporations have any intention of acting in socially or environmentally responsible ways. Uganda does not have much history of environmentalism it can point to with pride either. So far the US response to African oil issues has been almost entirely military, hence AFRICOM, the US Africa Command.

The Uganda government may be strong in the sense of using muscle to insure compliance. It employs muscle internally against dissent, and externally to assist in exploiting the resources of its neighbors, particularly in the DRC. However its democratic history is weak, and employment of any form of participatory democracy in decision making is sadly lacking. The US has been an enthusiastic supporter of Uganda’s “strength”. Mahmood Mamdani points out that Museveni has been a US proxy in Rwanda, and is still a US proxy in the DRC. AMISOM soldiers from Uganda are in Somalia acting as US proxies, and the underlying issue there too is oil.

Musevenis name means son of a man of the seventh, meaning from the Seventh Battalion of the Kings Africa Rifles. That seems ironically appropriate, as Uganda is acting as a US proxy in the DRC, Somalia, and Ugandan mercenaries have played a prominent role in Iraq. US proxy warriors in Africa have been referred to as Bush’s Africa Rifles, now Obama’s Africa Rifles, not too different from the colonial proxy war tradition of the King’s Africa Rifles.

Museveni has shown no interest in allowing any democratic opposition to his presidency. In May he declared: I see no successor in NRM.

He may have ruled Uganda for the past twenty three years but President Yoweri Museveni is still hesitant to hand over power, not even to members of the National Resistance Movement, of which he is the leader.

On Thursday the president told NRM Members of Parliament that while he would be “happy” to hand over power, he saw “nobody” ready to take on the daunting responsibility of leading Uganda.

So the Uganda government will continue to run along lines that Museveni sees as in his/Uganda’s interest. I don’t know if this is the “strong governance structures” to which Kornfeld refers. It may well be. She and her cronies may see this as the most convenient way for the US to access Ugandan oil. But it cannot be described as democratic, or in any way resembling participatory democracy. Unless people who live where the resources are can benefit from those resources, and have some say in how they are disposed, there will be conflict. And problems are already brewing. In April 2009 Uganda Bunyoro Kingdom Threatens Lawsuit over Oil Exploration:

Cultural leaders of Uganda’s Bunyoro kingdom, located on the Ugandan side of the oil-rich Albertine rift, have threatened legal action against the central government over oil exploration and production activities there, a kingdom official said Monday, but the government has promised talks to resolve the issue.

Yolamu Nsamba, the principal private secretary of the king of Bunyoro, said the government has breached the pre-independence agreement of 1955, which provides that Bunyoro is entitled to substantial amounts of revenue from mineral exploration in its kingdom.

“For years now, the central government has been dealing with oil exploration companies secretly yet the law has never been changed,” he said, adding that kingdom officials have already informed the central government of its intentions.

A government official told Dow Jones Newswires separately Monday that the central government would soon start talks with kingdom officials to resolve the issue. Uganda is expected to embark on an early oil production scheme in the first quarter of 2010.

The 1955 agreement was signed between the Bunyoro Kitara Kingdom and the U.K. protectorate government and stipulates that in the event of mineral development taking place in Bunyoro, a substantial part of the mineral royalties and revenue from mining leases would be paid to the native government of Bunyoro Kitara.

Bunyoro remains influential in Uganda although its cultural leaders are prohibited from engaging in national politics.

It will be interesting to see how Bunyoro fares in maintaining some control over its riches. And there are troubles with the neighbors too. In May 2009 Uganda beefs up marine surveillance on its waters.

Uganda has stepped up security on its waterways and is quietly revamping its marine police in anticipation of tensions with its neighbours over the country’s natural resources.

Apparently, the discovery of high-value natural resources such as oil and gas under and near Uganda’s lakes and the need to protect fisheries resources are the imperative behind moves to improve security on the country’s waters.

The Police Marine Unit has acquired four specialised boats at a cost of $8.6 million to be paid over a period of five years.

The acquisitions and keen interest in marine security come in the wake of an incident in August 2007, when Congolese troops on the disputed Rukwanzi island in Lake Albert shot and killed oil prospectors who were carrying out surveys on the Ugandan side of the lake.

Officials say terror threats have also underscored the need for improving security on the country’s lakes because Uganda’s main Entebbe airport — the kind of key infrastructure usually targeted by terrorists — is located on a peninsula in Lake Victoria.

Much as the boats are up and running and have recently been seen around Migingo island, over which Kenya and Uganda are squabbling, questions are being raised over the capacity of the police to take on and maintain such infrastructure both financially and technically.

Uganda is landlocked, so issues of how and where the oil will be refined and transported are still up in the air. Tullow, Heritage Face Tough Choices on Uganda Oil Devt.

After remarkable exploration success in Uganda, Tullow Oil PLC (TLW.LN) and Heritage Oil Ltd. (HOIL.LN) face tough choices over how to develop the oil they’ve discovered.

Both companies face immense infrastructure challenges bringing the oil from its remote region to world markets. They have to walk a fine line between their commercial goals and the sometimes conflicting ambitions of the Ugandan government. Tullow and Heritage also have to handle overtures from much larger rivals that want in on the substantial quantities of oil they have discovered.

“Lake Albert is a multibillion-barrel basin,” with great potential to expand reserves even further once problems with licenses on the Congolese side of the lake are resolved and exploration begins there, said Paul Atherton, chief financial officer of Heritage.

Tullow and Heritage have long talked of exporting the Lake Albert oil to world markets via Kenya, initially by rail to the port of Mombassa and eventually through a large enough pipeline to carry the 150,000 barrels of oil per day the basin is thought to be capable of producing.

The government has clashed recently with Tullow over the pipeline, said an official at the energy and minerals ministry.

And Uganda’s energy minister recently said no unrefined oil should be exported from Uganda and instead the country should build a refinery to process all domestic crude and supply oil products to the whole region.

As talks on the development move slowly forward, one voice that has been heard little so far is that of the local communities, said Dickens Kamugisha, chief executive of the African Institute for Energy Governance, a non-governmental organization based in the Ugandan capital.

Local people are worried about the problems caused in Nigeria, Angola and Chad by the exploitation of oil resources and unchecked flows of petrodollars to governments with a reputation for corruption, he said. “The process has been secretive,” with insufficient public discussion over the competing development plans and no publication of the production-sharing contracts between the Ugandan government and the companies, he said.

Tullow and Heritage stressed that they have maintained good relationships with local communities. Tullow said it has shown local people around their drill sites to explain what they are doing and both companies are contributing to local development by funding schools, health clinics and even lifeboat training on the lake. Employment of local people “would be an integral part of any development plan,” along the lines of work the company has done in Ghana, said McDade.

Kamugisha acknowledged the local work of the companies, but expressed concern about the lack of transparency from the government. He said he wants the Ugandan government to follow the principles of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative and declare all oil revenues openly in order to prevent corruption. Both Tullow and Heritage said they are happy to disclose the terms of their contracts — which they described as containing good terms for Uganda — if the government allows it.

Whether this is enough is unclear. A dispute is already brewing over who controls rights to minerals in the Lake Albert area and how revenues will be distributed between the government and leaders of the Bunyoro Kingdom — the ethnic grouping that occupies districts on the lake’s eastern shore . Local communities “say they have been completely left out of the process and are not satisfied,” said Kamugisha.

It looks like some rough roads ahead.


h/t to b real whose research identified many of the links above
Bunyoro map from Face Music – History of Uganda
Oil blocks pictured above blocks from this article .


October 15 2011:

For more on this topic see:
If Uganda Has Oil It Must Need The Pentagon’s Democracy including the documents in the comments.

For more on the first attempt of the Pentagon to go after Kony and the LRA see:
Stability operations cause 900 civilian deaths, 100,000 displaced, miss target
Botched raid.

The New York Times gave Darfur nearly four times the coverage it gave the Congo in 2006, while Congolese were dying of war-related causes at nearly 10 times the rate of those in Darfur.  Graph: John Emerson (

Two graphs, the New York Times gave Darfur nearly four times the coverage it gave the Congo in 2006, while Congolese were dying of war-related causes at nearly 10 times the rate of those in Darfur. Graphs: John Emerson (

Julie Hollar has written a superb analysis of why the conflict in the Congo is ignored by the media; Congo Ignored, Not Forgotten, When 5 million dead aren’t worth two stories a year. She covers when and why coverage was better, and what is going on now. I won’t repeat all she writes, it is well worth reading. Near the end she includes this paragraph:

Paying attention to the Congo would also mean reporting on the main factor fueling the conflict: the plunder of the country’s resources, which primarily benefits multinational corporations. The conflict areas of the Congo are rich with minerals like copper, tin, gold, diamonds, cobalt and coltan, a mineral used for cell phones and other common electronic devices. Rebel groups who hold these areas sell off the minerals at cut-rate prices, using the profits to maintain power as big companies look the other way. As happened with conflict diamonds in Sierra Leone and Angola, activists are pushing for a mechanism to make corporations verify that they aren’t buying the Congo’s conflict minerals.

The GDP of both Rwanda and Uganda include minerals stolen from the Congo. So far both countries are rewarded for this theft by praise for their economic progress, and of course by the money these minerals bring. Too many people in too many countries are profiting from Congo’s wealth. Canada is the largest mining interest in the Congo, and funds a lot of the conflict. Mostly all parties are perfectly willing to see the conflict continue. Despite the massive number of deaths, the use of rape as a form of terrorism, used along with murder and dismemberment to threaten and depopulate areas, and the conscription of children as soldiers by all sides, most of the media coverage of the Congo conflict involves endangered gorillas or Angelina Jolie. Media coverage discounts and ignores the people of the Congo.

The Congo conflict is sometimes known as Africa’s world war. Here is a list from 2001 of many of the parties involved, from Natalie Ware at American University.

  • The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC):
    * Hutu Interhamwe militia – mostly from Rwanda and responsible for 1994 genocide of Tutsis in Rwanda
    * Former Hutu members of the Rwandan military – also responsible for 1994 genocide of Tutsis in Rwanda
    * Mai Mai – group of traditional Congolese local security forces
    These groups operate inside the DRC supporting the government “often as guerillas operating inside territory held by antigovernment forces” (U.S. State 2001)
  • Libya – provides arms and logistical support but no troops
  • North Korea – sent advisors to train government troops
  • Rwanda – supports Congolese Rally for Democracy based in Goma (RCD/Goma) and Congolese Rally for Democracy based in Bunia (RCD/Goma); majority Tutsi
  • Uganda – supports the Movement for the Liberation of the Congo (MLC); mainly non-Tutsi
  • Burundi – fights against various Hutu groups based in the DRC that are against the Tutsi-led Burundi government
  • Angola – supports the government of the DRC
  • Namibia – supports the government of the DRC
  • Zimbabwe – supports the government of the DRC
  • Sudan – supports the Alliance of Democratic Forces (ADF); Ugandan expatriates against the government of Uganda

The conflict in the DRC is often characterized as an ethnic conflict. It is a resource war. The various sides exploit ethnicity when it works to their advantage in the pursuit of mineral and other natural resources. All the groups engaged in fighting in the Congo engage in terrorism and conscript children.

China is missing from the above list, its presence has expanded greatly since 2001. The west is entirely missing from the list. Canada, the United States, the UK, countries of the EU, are all players in one form or another, and have been for some time. They are a huge market for the stolen mineral wealth of the Congo, and home base for the multinational corporations who fuel the plunder. Canada is the biggest player in mining. China is also heavily involved in mining in the Congo. The US is supplying a great deal of military training and arms transfers to Rwanda and Uganda, which extend their reach and power into the Congo.


Camp Lemonier in Djibouti, seen from space, view it in Google Maps.

It looks like Camp Lemonier is on its way to becomming a permanent base. From the Stars and Stripes (you can see more photos in the article):

Camp Lemonier grows to support AFRICOM

… Increasing American activity in the Horn of Africa has propelled Lemonier from a sleepy 97-acre post to a 500-acre base that’s become one of the military’s major installations on the continent. Last year’s stand-up of U.S. Africa Command means the base is only going to get busier.

“As AFRICOM matures, Camp Lemonier will transition to supporting long-term [theater security cooperation] efforts and establishing strong and enduring regional relationships,” Gen. William “Kip” Ward, the AFRICOM commander, said during testimony to the House Armed Services Committee in March 2008. “Camp Lemonier will be a part of supporting and developing regional African capability and capacity; thus, its funding support must continue.”

… Congress has set aside more than $100 million for camp improvements between fiscal 2007 and 2010 …

… the most telling indicators of the camp’s larger role may be the new infrastructure that will allow it to serve as a support hub for Africa Command. Crews have already broken ground on new taxiways to increase its ability to manage aircraft. Leaders are considering putting in a “hot pad” that will allow planes to refuel, rearm and get back on their way quickly.

Lemonier is now set to be an enduring base of operations for Africa Command. Navy Capt. Patrick Gibbons, the base commander, envisions the camp as a forward staging base for troops making last minute preparations before a mission. It is already a logistics hub that supports ships working in the Gulf of Aden and aircraft flying counterpiracy missions there. Other teams are tasked to pick up anyone who needs to be rescued. Lemonier’s mission even extends beyond the Horn of Africa region where Djibouti lies.

“The camp is becoming an enduring mission” …

Unfortunately, to date, and aside from the development photo ops in Djibouti, Camp Lemonier has contributed to destabilizing both Somalia, and Kenya, and facilitated the invasion and occupation of one country by another, the Ethiopian invasion and occupation of Somalia, and involved in planning and funding the disastrous raid on the Lord’s Resistance Army by Uganda in December. These are all the actions of AFRICOM in East Africa. AFRICOM and Camp Lemonier contribute to propping up the dictator Meles in Ethiopia, as the US cozies up to Meles, funding his ambitions and excesses in the way that has discredited American good intentions and foreign policy around the world. It does not matter how real your politik, deeds tell the story. Mary Carlin Yates was just in Ethiopia planning further cooperation. The effect will be to destabilize, exploit, and oppress in Ethiopia and its neighbors:

March 25, 2009 (ENA) – Prime Minister Meles Zenawi on Wednesday received and held talks with US Africa Command Civilian Deputy (AFRICOM), Ambassador Mary Yates.

Ambassador Yates said as Ethiopia is AFRICOM’s partner in security, the visit is intended to further scale up the relation.

Meles said Ethiopia and AFRICOM have been cooperating to ensure peace and security.

Accordingly, he said encouraging activities are being carried out in the area of military cooperation and capacity building.

The two parties have also discussed as to how to maintain the prevailing peace and security in Somalia, according to a senior government official who attended the discussion.

Of course step one to increase and maintain peace and security in Somalia would be to end Ethiopian involvement. There is nothing good Ethiopia can do in Somalia. It has no credibility. The history is so bad, that even if Ethiopians had good intentions, they would not be believed. That Ambassador Yates was discussing continued involvement in Somalia with Meles signals just how bad are US intentions, and how poorly informed is US planning.

AFRICOM is still looking for a permanent base in Africa. I doubt Camp Lemonier is seen as the permanent HQ, but it obviously is becoming permanent. Judging from a number of signals, including the very minor one, which parts of the archive of this blog are getting traffic, Ghana and Botswana are both under pressure and being seriously considered as potential home bases for AFRICOM. I surely hope Ghana can resist. The idea of hosting AFRICOM is not popular with any Ghanaians I know.

The US GAO, General Accounting Office, released a February report. From the New York Times

A report issued Wednesday by the Government Accountability Office acknowledged that the command had taken steps recently to win the trust of American diplomats and development experts, as well as African leaders. But it said the command must do a better job explaining what it does to build credibility among its United States government partners and with the African nations it is seeking to help.

“The military’s large size brings the promise of increased resources,” the report said, but that size also stirs concerns among African nations “about potential encroachment into civilian responsibilities like development and diplomacy.”

In an interview here on Monday, before the G.A.O. issued its report, Gen. William E. Ward, the head of the command, said many of the misperceptions about the command had been dispelled.

If General Ward believes the “misperceptions”, the products of realistic skepticism and knowledge of history, have been dispelled, he is living in a dream world. More likely he is continuing the same mistake AFRICOM planners have made all along, only listening to themselves, and those they have selected to agree with them.

The GAO report (PDF) on Africom makes clear that AFRICOM headquarters is still planned for the continent. It is one of the three main recommendations of the report:

• Include all appropriate audiences, encourage two-way communication, and ensure consistency of message related to AFRICOM’s mission and goals as it develops and implements its communications strategy.

• Seek formal commitments from contributing agencies to provide personnel as part of the command’s efforts to determine interagency personnel requirements, and develop alternative ways for AFRICOM to obtain interagency perspectives in the event that interagency personnel cannot be provided due to resource limitations.

• To determine the long-term fiscal investment for AFRICOM’s infrastructure, we recommend the Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the Secretary of State, as appropriate, conduct an assessment of possible locations for AFRICOM’s permanent headquarters and any supporting offices in Africa.

Uganda, from google maps, showing the border with Sudan and the DRC

Uganda, from google maps, showing the border with Sudan and the DRC

Senator Feingold has been a leading proponent of AFRICOM. I am in many respects an admirer of Senator Feingold. But he has either missed the point entirely regarding AFRICOM, or he has one or more agendas he has not revealed.

At the end of December AFRICOM funded and advised a strike by Uganda against the Lord’s Resistance Army in the northern DRC. I wrote about it with a map of the location here, with more details here. The raid was badly botched. It was the equivalent of striking a hornets nest with a stick. The raiders found only empty campsites. The Lord’s Resistance Army, LRA, which had been relatively quiet, followed their habitual predictable practice of reprisals against the civilian population. The result was hundreds of children kidnapped to be conscripted as child soldiers or sex conscripts. At least 900 people have been brutally murdered, and at least 100,000 displaced, their homes, villages, and livlihoods destroyed. These figures come from January. The killing, the theft of children and the displacement continue.

The New York Times described AFRICOM’s part in the raid:

It is the first time the United States has helped plan such a specific military offensive with Uganda, according to senior American military officials. They described a team of 17 advisers and analysts from the Pentagon’s new Africa Command working closely with Ugandan officers on the mission, providing satellite phones, intelligence and $1 million in fuel.

AFRICOM paid for the raid. Without the $1 million worth of fuel, it would not have been attempted, regardless of the other training and equipment provided. The LRA is a legitimate target for Uganda and its neighbors. But the raid was disasterously mishandled, and funded by US taxpayers.

As Steve Coll writes:

The larger issue here is the momentum that military liaison creates when it becomes the heavily funded nexus of U.S. policy. Africa Command’s mission is to “engage” with brother armies, its commanders have a professional bias to action, and they often do not take strategic direction from civilians until they are ready to present their war, engagement and training plans, whether in Colombia or Pakistan or Uganda. Military liaison, even if it is conceived progressively, becomes its own self-fulfilling destination, especially when the rest of the U.S. government is starved, by comparison, for resources.

After the raid, Mary Yates defended AFRICOM’s actions with the only defense available, that it was the LRA’s fault for committing the same evil acts that it has commited for decades, not mentioning that anyone could and should have predicted the danger. The error, in addition to botching the raid, was the complete failure to make any attempt to protect the civilian population.

But Sen. Feingold ignored all that. He blames only the local militaries, Uganda and the DRC. This is the great advantage of proxy armies. You can blame them for the losses, and claim credit for the wins. On Thursday Sen. Feingold testified to Congress:

Just over two months ago, the Ugandan, Congolese and South Sudanese militaries launched a joint offensive against the LRA’s primary bases in northeastern Congo. Serious concerns have been raised about the planning and implementation of this operation. …

… I am not ruling out that this offensive—still ongoing—may yet succeed. …

As a 17-year member of the Subcommittee on African Affairs and someone who has been involved with AFRICOM since its conception, I would like to offer some thoughts on this matter. While I supported AFRICOM’s creation, I have been concerned about its potential to eclipse our civilian agencies and thereby perpetuate perceptions on the continent of a militarized U.S. policy. It is essential that we get this balance right and protect chief of mission authority. By doing so, we can help ensure AFRICOM contributes to broader efforts to bring lasting peace and stability across Africa. When I visited AFRICOM’s headquarters last December and talked with senior officials, we discussed the important roles that it can play. They include helping to develop effective, well-disciplined militaries that adhere to civilian rule, strengthening regional peacekeeping missions, and supporting post-conflict demobilization and disarmament processes. In my view, assisting a multilateral operation to disarm an armed group that preys on civilians and wreaks regional havoc fits this job description, theoretically, at least.

Mr. President, to put it bluntly, I believe supporting viable and legitimate efforts to disarm and demobilize the LRA is exactly the kind of thing in which AFRICOM should be engaged

Following this botched raid, again, quoting Steve Coll:

The explanatory “commander’s vision” on Africom’s Web site is a mush of “Dilbert”-inspired, PowerPoint mission creep. The Africa Command, it says, “develops and implements military programs that add value to the important endeavor of stability and security on the content of Africa and its island nations.” It also “directs, integrates and employs credible and relevant military capability in peace and in response to crisis.” It is a “trusted and reliable partner for nations and security institutions in Africa.” And, of course, it is a “listening and learning organization.”

If you could even sort out what those slogans mean in practice, would you believe them? Not anymore. …

And it is important to emphasize again, that no one consulted with Africa, the African Union, or African governments in creating AFRICOM. It is not welcome in Africa.

Olayiwola Abegunrin writes in AFRICOM: The U.S. Militarization of Africa:

AFRICOM is an example of U.S. military expansion in the name of the war on terrorism, when it is in fact designed to secure Africa’s resources and ensure American interests on the continent. AFRICOM represents a policy of U.S. military-driven expansionism that will only enhance political instability, conflict, and the deterioration of state security in Africa. This is a project that most African countries have rejected to be located on their soil. … AFRICOM would destabilize an already fragile continent, which would be forced to engage with U.S. interests on military terms.

Militarization of Africa with the U.S. designed so-called AFRICOM is not the solution to Africa’s problem. What African countries need is development of their own institutions for security, political and economic independence; massive infusion of foreign direct investment, fair equitable trade, access to U.S. markets, and for U.S. to decrease/or total removal of agricultural subsidies, debt relief and improved Official Development Assistance tailored towards the development aspirations of (recipient countries) African countries and not AFRICOM that will only lead to militarizing the continent.

So what does Senator Feingold really expect to get out of AFRICOM? for the US or for Africa? Is he simply deluded as to the certainty that leading with military laison will destabilize a continent? Or is there something he is not saying that he hopes to accomplish? Does the importance to him of this unspoken goal outweigh recognition of the dangers of AFRICOM, just as the urge to attack the LRA outweighed the clear and obvious dangers of such an attack. The botched raid against the LRA is likely to be the template for many future disasters with AFRICOM leading US policy in Africa. All those involved in the planning and funding of AFRICOM will bear responsibility for this destruction.

ADDED March 16:

Daniel Volman & William Minter: Making Peace or Fueling War in Africa

The government has presented AFRICOM as a cost-effective institutional restructuring and a benign program for supporting African governments in humanitarian as well as necessary security operations. In fact, it represents the institutionalization and increased funding for a model of bilateral military ties — a replay of the mistakes of the Cold War. This risks drawing the United States more deeply into conflicts, reinforcing links with repressive regimes, excusing human rights abuses, and frustrating rather than fostering sustainable multilateral peacemaking and peacekeeping. It will divert scarce budget resources, build resentment, and undercut the long-term interests of the United States

While AFRICOM may be new, there’s already a track record for such policies in programs now incorporated into AFRICOM. That record shows little evidence that these policies contribute to U.S. or African security. To the contrary, there are substantial indications that they are in fact counterproductive, both increasing insecurity in Africa and energizing potential threats to U.S. interests.

I strongly recommend reading Making Peace or Fueling War in Africa.  It provides an overview of the issues that is both clear and thoroughly researched.

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