February 2008

The Campaign to Resist AFRICOM

By Daniel Volman

Join the Campaign to Resist Africom

In the summer of 2007, a group of concerned U.S. and Africa based organizations and individuals opposed to the creation of Africom—the new U.S. military command for Africa—came together in Washington, DC, to organize Resist Africom to campaign against the increasing militarization of U.S. policy toward Africa. ACAS voted to join Resist Africa at the membership meeting on 20 October 2007, during the ASA meeting in New York City. Resist Africom is working to educate people both in the United States and abroad about Africom and to mobilize people in a campaign to prevent the creation of Africom in its present form.

The struggle against Africom has already achieved one major victory. The Bush Administration had expected to have little trouble finding governments in Africa that would welcome an Africom headquarters. But there has been so much public opposition to the idea in Africa that no government—with the exception of Liberia’s—has agreed to let Africom set up shop on their territory, even though many of them have privately reassured American officials that they are eager to work with the new command. As a result, the Bush Administration had to announce in February 2008 that Africom’s headquarters would have to remain in Stuttgart, Germany, for the foreseeable future. This is eloquent testimony both to the impressive political maturity of the people of Africa’s many nations and to the increasing capacity of civil society groups in Africa and of individual Africans to force their governments to limit their military cooperation with the United States.

This web site contains the current version of the statement of concern issued by Resist Africom in August 2007, along with analysis and data on Africom and other U.S. military activities in Africa, articles, and other useful documents. You are invited to go to the Resist Africom website (www.resistafricom.org) for more information and to join the campaign.

What is Africom?

Africom is a new military command that will take over responsibility for an area previously overseen by the European Command, the Central Command, and the Pacific Command and will assume operational control of activities formerly conducted by these three commands. President Bush made the first public announcement of the creation of Africom on 6 February 2007. Africom attained the status of a sub-unified command under the European Command on 1 October 2007, and is scheduled to be fully operational as a separate unified command no later than 1 October 2008. The new command will initially be based in Stuttgart, Germany, while it searches for African countries willing to host a base or set of regional bases on the African continent. It will constitute a unique new type of “hybrid” command, as it will oversee foreign operations previously undertaken under the direction of the State Department (DoS), the Agency for International Development (AID), and other U.S. government agencies. In addition, the deputy commander and many other staff positions will be filled with civilian personnel from DoS and AID.

Why Resist Africom?

The Bush administration has emphasized the uniqueness of this hybrid structure as evidence that the new command has only benign purposes and that and that, in the words of Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Africa Theresa Whelan, while “there are fears that Africom represents a militarization of U.S. foreign policy in Africa and that Africom will somehow become the lead U.S. Government interlocutor with Africa. This fear is unfounded.” Therefore, Bush administration officials insist that the purpose of Africom is misunderstood.

It is clear, however, that the differences between Africom and other commands—and the allegedly “unfounded” nature of its implications for the militarization of the continent—are not as real or genuine as the Bush administration officials would have us believe. Of course Washington has other interests in Africa besides making it into another front in its Global War on Terrorism, maintaining and extending access to energy supplies and other strategic raw material, and competing with China and other rising economic powers for control over the continent’s resources; these include helping Africans deal with the HIV/AIDS epidemic and other emerging diseases, strengthening and assisting peacekeeping and conflict resolution efforts, and responding to humanitarian disasters.

But it is simply disingenuous to suggest that accomplishing these three objectives is not the main reason that Washington is now devoting so much effort and attention to the continent. And of course Washington would prefer that selected friendly regimes take the lead in meeting these objects, so that the United States can avoid direct military involvement in Africa, particularly at a time when the U.S. military is so deeply committed to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and preparing for possible attacks on Iran. The hope that the Pentagon can build up African surrogates who can act on behalf of the United States is precisely why Washington is providing so much security assistance to these regimes and why it would like to provide even more in the future.

The establishment of Africom is also a further instance of the continuing transfer of the control and funding of American foreign policy from “civilian” agencies like the State Department and the Agency for International Development to the Defense Department. And along with control, comes freedom from existing legislative restrictions and oversight mechanisms. Furthermore, it is clear that Africom will rely heavily on the services of U.S. private military contractors, who are already participating in large numbers in current operations in Liberia and Sudan, among other countries. These “dogs of war” will be now be set loose all over Africa, just as they were in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In addition, neither African governments nor the people of African countries were consulted in the creation of Africom and their response to the president’s announcement has been almost unanimously negative. For example, the government of Nigeria has publicly stated that it would not host Africom facilities and leaders of SADC have said that no member state should allow Africom to set up shop on their territory either. And public opinion, as expressed by civil society groups and in Africa’s increasingly vigorous press, has been extremely critical, and even hostile, demonstrating that the creation of the new command itself is causing unrest and instability in Africa.

Therefore, the creation of Africom is the latest, and most dangerous, stage in the increasing militarization of U.S. policy toward Africa. It is a command designed to fulfill the a short-sighted and ultimately self-destructive vision of U.S. interests – to expand the Global War on Terror and to satiate America’s hunger for oil and other resources. We are particularly concerned that the creation of Africom constitutes another step in the removal of existing legal restraints and congressional oversight mechanisms on the conduct of foreign policy and in the transfer of control of foreign policy to the Defense Department and to private military contractors.

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