ACAS Bulletin 78 : The Politics of Africom

Daniel Volman and Jesse Benjamin, co-editors

Ever since the announcement by President Bush of the new Africa Command, or AFRICOM, in early 2007, resistance to this new imperial formulation has grown on the continent of Africa and in the West, including in the US itself. Other than Liberia, with its historic ties to the US, and Djibouti which already has a US military base, the rejection of AFRICOM on the Continent has been resolute. Yet, as the Bush II era comes to an end, Jr. has decided that he wants his legacy to be one which includes “compassion” towards Africa, and the mainstream media [the CNN to FOX continuum] appear to be ready to concede at least this to the lame duck, self-proclaimed “anti-terror” warrior. Bush’s ‘humanitarian’ goals in Africa, from mosquito netting to his PEPFAR Aids initiative, are strategically removed from both his domestic and his Middle East debacles. But they are also a counter balance to his Pentagon reformulations of AFRICOM at a tactically significant moment in US/China contestation in Africa, and his administration’s attempt to institutionalize change beyond his tenure. President Bush’s marginal humanitarian gestures, played up in the media and his Spring Africa tour, belie a major and continuing investment in military industrial and security spending in Africa as a new global geopolitics take shape.

This Special Issue of the Bulletin looks at AFRICOM, and is guest co-edited by Daniel Volman, whose research on US military spending and AFRICOM has provided much of the groundwork for a US-based opposition movement to this planned re-division of the US empire’s map of global territories and strategic interests. Volman is an ACAS Board Member, and is Director of the African Security Research Project in Washington, DC, and has long researched security issues in US/Africa relations. We welcome Daniel’s expertise, and the data and analytical resources he provides our readers on this significant new problem in African studies and policy debate. Our issue opens with an overview essay from Daniel, followed by several tables delineating US military spending throughout Africa and the various programs they comprise.

Olayiwola Abegunrin next provides a perspective on the African rejection of AFRICOM, at popular, institutional, national and Pan-African levels. Seeing this as a form of attempted recolonization that will in fact destabilize the Continent by drawing it into the U.S. “war on terror,” Abegunrin refutes the professed security interests of this new US policy. Focusing on the case of Kenya, Volman and Benjamin extend this argument with the specific example of this long-time US ally. While Kenya has joined its neighbors in rejecting the AFRICOM project en toto, it nevertheless maintains numerous military agreements many of which are enumerated herein. Further, links are posited between this ongoing military relationship and Kenya’s deployment of force against its own citizens, most recently in the post-election conflict in that country.

The analysis provided in these four contributions is followed by a section on activist responses to AFRICOM. This section also opens with an introduction and overview by Daniel Volman, which reviews the various grassroots participants in US-based opposition to AFRICOM, and rehearses the basic issues in an activist-oriented formulation that our readers will find useful in taking these concerns to a wider audience. This is followed by the Resist AFRICOM Statement of Concern, outlining the basic facts, concerns, and alternatives, and assembling a growing coalition of partners in opposition to this increasing militarization of the African continent.

We conclude the issue with two essays on the need for peace activists to resist AFRICOM, the first from ACAS Board Member and longtime activist Horace Campbell, and the second from Grannies for Peace. Campbell’s article engages the history of US militarization, the context of AFRICOM, the Middle East context, the centrality of Africa’s oil and other resources, and global power posturing, before turning to the need for resistance in Africa and throughout the world at the grassroots. We conclude this issue of the Bulletin with coverage brought to us from GIN of the recent Teach-In Against AFRICOM organized by Grannies for Peace in New York, that included Sonia Sanchez, Emira Woods, Frida Berrigan and Horace Campbell, among others.

We hope the information contained here is both informative and useful for our readers as you contemplate the meaning of AFRICOM and your own involvement in efforts to respond to and resist this latest initiative in US policy relations with Africa.

AFRICOM: What Is It and What Will It do?
By Daniel Volman

TABLE: U.S. Military Programs in Africa, U.S. Policy Toward Africa, and AFRICOM (PDF)
By Daniel Volman

AFRICOM: The U.S. Militarization of Africa
By Olayiwola Abegunrin

U.S. Military Activities in Kenya
Jesse Benjamin and Daniel Volman

The Campaign to Resist AFRICOM
By Daniel Volman

Peace Activists Must Oppose the US Africa Command
Horace G. Campbell