Africa Command (AFRICOM): A Professor’s Perspective

The New Era of Sustainable Exploitation

Africa’s cultural, political, and economic future will not be secure unless it finds its own solutions to the challenges of the globalized world. Until recently, Africa has fallen under several designated United States regional military command structures. However, because the African continent has grown in its strategic importance to the United States and other growing economies, the Bush administration with the support of the US Congress has commissioned the formation of a single African Command (AFRICOM) to coordinate military objectives on the African continent (with the exception of Egypt).

It is absolutely critical that the establishment of this singular military command structure dedicated to carrying out the US security agenda on African soil be evaluated from an Afrocentric perspective. This security agenda transcends defense alone and has the capacity to impact society at the level of politics, economics as well as culture. The establishment of this military command structure serves two primary purposes for the United States outside of the humanitarian and anti-terrorism objectives that are so often publicly espoused by the current administration, and they are: 1.) to secure the sustainable exploitation of Africa’s resource wealth, and 2.) to supplant Africa’s continental security agenda with the security agenda of the United States. This militarily and commercially guided foreign policy approach toward Africa is consistent with dominant western countries’ continuous colonial approach toward Africa’s culture, people and land.

To secure the sustainable exploitation of Africa, the US has found it necessary to further militarize its relationships with Africa. It is well known that Africa is a fast growing supplier of fuel minerals (crude oil, gas), as well as strategic non-fuel minerals (copper, platinum, manganese, cobalt etc.) to the United States and other growing economies. To secure its investment, the U.S. is becoming a growing military presence in the West African, and the Gulf of Guinea in particular. For example, the United States has met an agreement with the islands of Sao Tome and Principe in West Africa to coordinate an American Naval and Maritime presence in the country. Securing the uninterrupted flow of resources to the US economy\industry, and military industrial complex are two of the primary yet underreported reasons for the establishment of AFRICOM. However, AFRICOM cannot be successful without the complicity of those African leaders who are willing to actively participate in their own exploitation by outsourcing their own military sovereignty to the United States by facilitating the further militarization of the African continent.

The United States is using its military to compensate for its vulnerability to the economic competition in Africa that it faces from China, India and other countries with growing industries. AFRICOM is very likely to be a costly undertaking for African countries who cooperate, in several critical ways: 1.) Africa is likely to become a proxy battleground for US war against radical Islam today as it was made the proxy battleground for the US war on communism in the 1950’s through the 1980’s. With this threat, comes the risk of further exacerbating divisions between African people along religious and ethnic lines. 2.) African countries risk increasing the economic gap between the rich and poor within countries. The IMF has recently released an annual Economic Outlook report which explains how the policies of dominant western countries and multilateral development agencies toward developing countries including those in Africa, have led to increased income gaps between African political and economic leaders and the majority of African people. Enhanced western private investment is likely to result from the more “inviting” commercial\business climate that will be provided by the security umbrella established by AFRICOM. 3.) African countries risk, not only, increased dependence on the US economic agenda, but the added element of military dependence on the US. 4.) The citizens of African countries risk the unjustified shootings, detentions and humanitarian violations that may ensue due to the presence of US based private militaries that are often not subject to the same rules as state militaries or domestic laws as has been the case in Iraq. Any additional private military presence will only compound the already existing French, British, and American private military presence on the African continent by such firms as: ALGIZ Services Ltd, Defensecurity, BroadBridge Wraith and others. It would be ill advised for African countries to outsource the handling of their regional security matters to dominant western countries. Enhancing African countries ability to address military matters on the continent does not have to come as a result of a series of bilateral military efforts with the United States, but; African led operations supported by the international community. Although the State Department contends that it does not intend to station any large numbers of American troops on African soil, the more ominous aspect of AFRICOM is the risk of African countries adopting a security agenda defined by Washington. African heads of state must demonstrate their agency by firmly taking the lead of finding their own long term solutions to issues like those occurring in Darfur, Somalia, and Zimbabwe, outside of being an appendage to a non African security agenda.

The U.S. Congressional Black Caucus, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and the National Council of Black Studies (NCBS), and other organization must, like Trans-Africa has, support the positions taken by African counties such as Libya, Morocco, Algeria, and those countries of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), and (ECOWAS) who have made it clear that any attempt to over exert United States military and economic agenda on to the African continent must be rejected. African countries cannot seek to address their legitimate economic and military concerns by subordinating themselves to the military and fiscal agenda of the United States and European countries. African leaders must remain at the lead of all problem solving efforts on the African continent. Those efforts should emphasize: a common Pan African political agenda, bring together factions and oppositions groups to negotiate solutions that prioritize the equitable distribution of resources and political representation for historically marginalized groups. Peace agreements that have not considered the aforementioned priorities have proven empty. These long term initiatives should be implemented in addition to the African led military presence needed to prevent the death of innocent people in location such as Somalia and Darfur. African countries are in the best position to create new policies and enforce those policies with international support and cooperation. The African Union must not accept the unilateral decrees of any country or power that is foreign to the African continent.

This essay was submitted to Blackademics by: Serie McDougal, III Ph.D. San Francisco State University. Department of Africana Studies. Contact: mcdougal@sfsu.edu

4 Comments to ‘Africa Command (AFRICOM): A Professor’s Perspective’:

  1. Pierce on 20 Aug 2008 at 3:32 pm: 1

    I wonder how much having a black president will influence the development of AFRICOM on the continent. The illusion of progressive US politics, in Black face, could fool some leaders into thinking Africom is a good move.

    I agree with you completely that Africa needs to reclaim autonomy and independence from Western interests. But how, exactly do we go about that with this current group of leaders?

  2. Katrina on 20 Aug 2008 at 9:16 pm: 2

    While, I contend that the critical and most certainly disastrous effects of an Americanized Militarily (faux) partnership with African Countries would be detrimental, I wonder if even the most premier African countries (such as Ghana) find AFRICOM the least bit appealing. The partnership that U.S. Africa Command touts appears to be fairly un-intimidating with phrases in its mission statement such as, “to promote a stable and secure African environment” and it’s commitment to forge with other partner nations as well as humanitarian organization (NGO’s?). AFRICOM seems to want to SHARE in sustaining a certain quality of life on the continent.
    However, history reveals that when American/ Western society is concerned there is always an undercurrent of “giving, in order to get” or flat out zero sum game. But as the continent strives to become united as well as financially coherent will African leaders see America’s involvement in finance and military impact as positive? And even now as West African countries discuss One Africa and shared currency, will African leaders fall for the okey- doke and settle for a quick solution to a broad systematic situation?

  3. Joel from Cape Town on 23 Aug 2008 at 8:39 am: 3

    In an ideal world we would imagine that African leaders might want to consider partnerships like AFRICOM only after thorough scrutiny but most often than not such projects have important economical and even humanitarian implications which could lead to a disaster should the leaders decide to turn down the offer. And of course, the west(and here i mean US and Europe) has proven that they can do whatever they can to get what they wt. From the Congo to Burkina Faso to Iran i think examples are numerous.

    It is also important to point out that corruption plays a huge role here in that it sometimes prioritizes leaders’ selfish interests’ to that of the people.

  4. Jason from Conakry on 1 Sep 2008 at 12:05 pm: 4

    Absolutely the kind of rot one would expect to come out of a pseudo-science such as Africana studies. I would be more intrigued to find out just what an Afrocentric perspective is? Is a Ghanaian perspective the same as that of a Tanzanian? It is clear in the first two paragraphs that the author doesn’t understand the genesis of AFRICOM (or prefers to ignore it in favor of her own axe grinding). It is doubtfull that she performed any research on just why this command came into existence. Anyone who really wants to understand AFRICOM should take a look at the annual conferences held at the AU and at regional bodies such as ECOWAS. It would likely surprise many on this ridiculous site that the elites in Africa were disgusted and complained loudly that African initiatives were being negotiated out of Europe. AFRICOM was very much a response to demands made by African leaders (although mainly sub-saharan leaders) for a more legitimate partner than EUCOM. However, these things would not support the sort of paranoid musings that Serie puts into her ‘perspective’. Better that the author stays on campus, where she can do as little damage as possible. Sadly, this kind of blather is another indicator that the social sciences have continued their free fall and illuminates the chasm between the campus and reality.

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Published on August 18, 2008 at 10:01 pm. 4 Comments.
Filed under Africa,military industrial complex,war.