AFRICOM: The U.S. Militarization of Africa
President George W. Bush approved a Pentagon plan in January 2007 to set up Africa Command Center, to be known as AFRICOM. According to the plan, the Command Center is set to complete and go into service by the end of September 2008. The United States Defense Secretary Robert Gates revealed the new plans as he addressed the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee on the defense spending President Bush proposed in his 2008 budget submitted to the Congress that, “The main purposes of the Africa Command Center would be to fight the war on terror, cooperation, provide humanitarian aid, building partnership capability, oversee security, defense support to non-military missions, and if directed, military training operations designed to help local governments.”
The U.S. had initially reportedly intended to build AFRICOM in Algeria but it was turned down, thus, it had to relocate it to Stuttgart, Germany for the time being. African countries hold that U.S. has harbored with ulterior motives. Mohamed Bedjaoui, the Algerian Minister of State and Foreign Affairs, “questioned that why no one had ever proposed for any anti-terror cooperation with Algeria in the 1990s when terrorist violence went on rampant and wrought great havoc?” Africans are suspicious of the U.S. intentions. Majority of Africans believe that the aim of the U.S. for the Africa Command Center is to protect its potential oil interests in Africa. Second reason is that U.S. is worried about current rapid increased economic and diplomatic competition from China in 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. African leaders are opposed to U.S. permanent military command bases/installations on African soil. Early (September 2007) this year the Southern African Development Community (SADC) member states defense ministers have decided that no member states would host AFRICOM. Nigeria, Ghana, Libya and Morocco have joined in opposing AFRICOM in Africa. However, Liberian Government has accepted to host AFRICOM on her soil. Of course we should not be surprised that President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia has accepted to host AFRICOM, after all Liberia is the American stepchild in Africa. AFRICOM is a deadly project to accept for any African country that wants peace and stability. Accepting this project would be a recipe to intensify anti-Americanism and for Al-Qaeda to make that African country a target of terrorist attack. 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.
What has President Bush’s current policy in Somalia achieved but chaos and more disasters for the Somali people? AFRICOM is another U.S. strategy of recolonization of Africa through the so-called military assistance to the continent. The age of gun-boat diplomacy is over. Africans do not need this in this twenty-first century.
About the Author
Olayiwola Abegunrin is a lecturer in Political Science at Howard University.