AfriCOM: Africa, U.S. Imperialism, and Resistance

From today’s Monthly Review e-zine,

Africa COMMAND” Spells Colonialism” by Nunu Kidane.

Some extracts below and links to organizations fighting this imperial reoccupation of Africa:

With little fanfare, on October 1st, the U.S. officially launched a new militarized initiative for Africa that’s come to be known as AfriCOM, or the Africa Command….

According to William (Kip) Ward, the African American General who’ll be heading the Command, AfriCOM is about ensuring security and interventions to prevent war and conflicts. He admits the increased need for an Africa Command came in the post 9/11 “global war on terror” where Africa is seen largely as “ungoverned” states where extremists are posing a threat to US national security….

It [AfriCOM] is “a civilian-military partnership” where diplomatic and humanitarian relief by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) will get directives from the Department of Defense. Imagine U.S. military personnel delivering emergency aid and conducting diplomatic missions, and the appropriate term is “colonization.”…

AfriCOM is being sold to the public as a good thing for Africa, one that will bring lasting peace and stability to a continent rife with conflicts and disasters. Many African heads of states are not buying this and have rejected the move, including the most powerful 14 state-member Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) which publicly denounced AfriCOM. Typical of past US historic missions in Africa, there was no prior consultation with African leaders and many heard about it when it was officially announced on February 6, 2007. The Department of Defense sent medium-level delegates to “sell AfriCOM” to heads of state after it had been finalized but African leaders rejected it as a threat to their sovereignty and a move to further militarize Africathe last thing Africa needs is more militarization!

Why is the U.S. suddenly interested in “prioritizing” Africa? The answer is the same one that has motivated countless interventions into the continent in the past centuries — control of resources. The need for the U.S. to secure oil from the Niger Delta where it is estimated, by 2020, a quarter of the US oil imports will originate. Equally important are “strategic minerals” on which the US has substantial dependency. Without cobalt, manganese, chromium, and platinum, among others, most U.S. technological and military industries would come to a halt….

When fully operational, AfriCOM will in effect have a sophisticated and well-networked military capability throughout 53 African countries (except Egypt). The Department of Defense will oversee “civilian” activities that were previously the mandate of diplomatic and humanitarian agencies. We can also count increase in private military activities which, as seen in Iraq, remain unregulated with no congressional oversight….

AfriCOM is nothing new — it is an initiative to ensure “command” of land and resources that in the past was called just plain “colonialism.” As the competition for global resources tightens, not only for oil and minerals, but for basic rights to land and water, we can expect increased focus on Africa as the new frontier. Joining this increasing Africa resistance movement and speaking out against Africa Command is everyone’s responsibility.

Resist AFRICOM invites the support and solidarity of all those who wish to challenge the imposition of AfriCOM. The movement is composed of U.S. and African organizations. Please read the AfriCOM Statement of Concern. Upcoming Resist AFRICOM Days of Action include:

In Washinton, DC:

AFRICOM Days of Action

October 2008

Oct. 3 – Howard University Symposium

Oct. 10 – Solidarity Day (convene at Metro Center at 3pm to flyer for the protest)

Oct.17 – Townhall Meeting on AFRICOM, Sankofa Bookstore (2714 Georgia Ave NW Washington, DC 20001) from 7pm – 9pm

Oct. 24 – Global Student Teach-In. This is a teach-in on militarism in Africa with a focus on the Congo (to be in solidarity with Congo Week, www.congoweek.org). Download a guidebook at http://www.congoweek.org!

Oct. 27 – Day of Protest (see below!)


at the International Peace Operations Association (IPOA) Conference
October 27, 2008

Outside the Liason Hotel on Capitol Hill
415 New Jersey Ave NW, Washington, DC 20001

This year, IPOA is hosting its annual conference on “Engaging AFRICOM.” IPOA is a trade and lobbying association that represents the “peace and stability” industry – military contractors and mercenaries.

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9 Responses to “AfriCOM: Africa, U.S. Imperialism, and Resistance”

  1. October 9, 2008 at 2:30 pm



    I’m president of the International Peace Operations Association (IPOA) holding the Summit mentioned above. Hopefully, readers will take a look at the IPOA web site to better understand what our association is about before they condemn us.

    The reason we founded IPOA was to make international peacekeeping succeed. The West has largely abrogated responsibility to support humanitarian peace operations in places like Darfur, Eastern DRC and Mogadishu, leaving these remarkably difficult peacekeeping missions to militaries from the poorest countries in the world. It is private sector support – logistics, aviation, security, landmine removal, medical services, transport etc. – that makes peace operations in Africa possible. IPOA has a proactive Code of Conduct written and updated by Human Rights specialists, NGOs and academics, as well as an online complaint process. Industry self-regulation can never replace governmental oversight and accountability, but we can be progressive in our efforts and do much to fill the gaps. Operations in support of international peacekeeping efforts deserve a higher standard of ethics.

    As far as AFRICOM, the opposition to it is remarkably misguided. I urge readers to read up on the organization themselves before they oppose it. AFRICOM will bring greater focus and coordination to the continent. Its unique structure will ensure greater governmental coordination of policies – which considering how chaotic U.S. policies toward African have been in the past can only be a good thing.

    The Africa continent has been marginalized for too long in U.S. policy – especially security policy. Before AFRICOM the continent was split between three separate Commands – no wonder peacekeeper-training policies such as ACOTA (which is very popular among African states) have been so spotty and uncoordinated. I guess I’m just dismayed at how many folks appear to be arguing for *greater* marginalization of the continent.

    Anyway, happy dialogue on this issue and look forward to participating in the discussion.


    Doug Brooks
    President, IPOA
    DBrooks AT IPOAonline DOT org

  2. October 9, 2008 at 7:43 pm

    Many thanks for both your visit and your message Doug Brooks.

    Personally I cannot condemn IPOA because I know too little about it at this point. I disagree where AFRICOM is concerned — I cannot see how African marginality (whatever one might mean by that) is best addressed through a military solution, or that the U.S. military is the best way that Americans can interact with others overseas. At the very least, the suggestion is very counterintuitive. I have been reading what is available about AFRICOM, from AFRICOM itself mostly, and I personally find it alarming and a tragic waste of resources given the level of opposition to it within Africa itself, plus the fact that it tries to appropriate activities for which civilians have been better suited, and that it is clearly driven by American security concerns (that can hardly be debated). Think if the tables were turned: how many Americans would welcome this level of African penetration of their society?

    Otherwise, I personally have no reason to doubt your good intentions, and I look forward to reading more of the debate as it unfolds.

    Thanks again and best wishes.

  3. October 9, 2008 at 10:01 pm

    Thanks for the quick response!

    On AFRICOM it is interesting because the command was actually created after a great deal of input from NGOs (including focus groups) and African civilian and military leaders – although many have questioned whether that input could have been better sustained during the latter years of its formation.

    Nevertheless, I think too many folks have it backwards. Is it really a militarization of civilian policy? Most analysts actually see it as a *civilianization of military policy* – something that is ideal for Africa’s realities.

    In other words, we still have USAID and other government agencies doing their own policies. But instead of a typical military command (see CENTCOM for example) they have actually brought civilians into the military command structure. This is unprecedented and it recognizes the unique nature of the challenges in Africa. We should be celebrating this enlightened design, not condemning it.

    Further, no one can deny the very real security issues that face the continent. U.S. policies focused on capacity building in African militaries for peacekeeping (ACOTA and Operation Focused Relief (OFR) for example) have been very successful and welcomed by Africans. Few deny the need. So AFRICOM has a clear mission to support African stability, and a highly unusual and remarkable structure to achieve those goals. Again, why would we want to undermine this?

    Nevertheless this opportunity to tailor the command to Africa’s needs has been significantly damaged by folks who are not clear on the concept, or who refuse to accept the very real stability requirements on the continent and what the United States can do (and is doing) to address the problems.

    And when doubt is planted in the minds of Africa’s painfully few champions in Congress the result is the financial hamstringing of one of the very first U.S. government entities that recognized the uniqueness of Africa’s problems, needs and solutions. AFRICOM has not received a fair shake from too many in the NGO and academic communities and it is the continent that will suffer as a result.

    For those of us who have long been advocating effective policies for Africa, this has been a dismaying turn of events.

    Thanks again for your insights and look forward to more discussion (I’ll do my best to keep up, though as you know we’re in the midst of our Summit planning!)

    Best regards,


  4. October 9, 2008 at 11:54 pm

    I am very grateful both for your visits and of course your comments, especially as I already understood this would be a busy period for you.

    What you pointed out in the first paragraph above is in fact very interesting, and I am not sure that AFRICOM itself has done much to promote those aspects of its emergence. I can see a great debate here, and I will try my best to keep up with all sides. In the meantime, what you have posted at least helps other readers to better appreciate the scope and nature of the debate, so I am grateful once again for that.

    Until next time, very best wishes.

  5. October 15, 2008 at 12:21 am

    In case you see this, Doug Brooks, I will be posting some responses of sort that reintroduce some important criticisms of AFRICOM, and I think you were playing a little too freely with some of your terminology, for example about “civilianizing the military.” That statement makes little sense to me: if “civilianization” were really the interest, then you drop the arms and you don’t put a General in charge.

    I also don’t think that you did anything to address why so many African leaders oppose AFRICOM, to the extent that it couldn’t even be housed in Africa itself, opting instead for Stuttgart, Germany.

    The “security issues” you mentioned briefly — by these I take it you meant *American security*. In that case, we are back simply to American imperialization, and I think you appear to want to avoid that kind of discussion.

  6. October 15, 2008 at 11:44 pm

    Fair points, hopefully I can address them to your satisfaction.

    If you’re going to have military commands, it makes sense to have a military person in charge (if you want to argue there shouldn’t be military commands at all, well, that’s a whole different discussion that perhaps belongs somewhere else). AFRICOM is unique and significant, as I pointed out, in that the #2 in command is a diplomat from State Department. That has never been done before and it is in direct response to exactly your concerns. I suppose you can argue that the head of the command should be the State Department person, but I do think that would make little practical sense and by blurring their independence from the military it would undermine the diplomatic role the Ambassadors play.

    African politics are remarkably complex (though lots of folks who know better argue otherwise for some reason). The main opposition to AFRICOM comes primarily from the two hegemons of Africa, Nigeria and South Africa (and they both have numerous military ties, cooperations and agreements with the U.S. military anyway). Far less opposition comes from the smaller countries, and at least seven countries had offered to host AFRICOM (as of February 2008), although only tiny Liberia risked the ire of the hegemons to publically state their interest.

    It goes without saying that the key AFRICOM security issues are ones that are most important the United States, but of course there is a great deal of mutual concerns in Africa. The piracy off the coast of Somalia, for example, impacts on Africa as much as anyone, and it is a clear symptom of continental instability and weak and failed which all African nations – and the United States – would like to better address. And before 9-11 there were the terrorist attacks on the embassies in Kenya and Tanzania – what could possibly be of more mutual concern? And finally, there is the issue of peacekeeping on the continent. As I’ve said, the West has shamefully abandoned their responsibilities to support international peacekeeping in places that ain’t in their direct national interest. Professionalizing African militaries to be able to do peacekeeping themselves, at the AU’s own initiative – and not be so dependent on the West – gives the continent greater independence and control over their own destiny.

    The arguments against AFRICOM get pretty convoluted, but hopefully your readers will look beyond the hype to what is best for the continent.

    Best regards,


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