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    Say No to Africom

    The Nation
    November 19, 2007

    By Danny Glover & Nicole C. Lee

    With little scrutiny from Democrats in Congress and
    nary a whimper of protest from the liberal
    establishment, the United States will soon establish
    permanent military bases in sub-Saharan Africa. An
    alarming step forward in the militarization of the
    African continent, the US Africa Command (Africom) will
    oversee all US military and security interests
    throughout the region, excluding Egypt. Africom is set
    to launch by September 2008 and the Senate recently
    confirmed Gen. William “Kip” Ward as its first

    General Ward told the Senate Armed Services Committee
    that Africom would first seek “African solutions to
    African problems.” His testimony made Africom sound
    like a magnanimous effort for the good of the African
    people. In truth Africom is a dangerous continuation of
    US military expansion around the globe. Such foreign-
    policy priorities, as well as the use of weapons of war
    to combat terrorist threats on the African continent,
    will not achieve national security. Africom will only
    inflame threats against the United States, make Africa
    even more dependent on external powers and delay
    responsible African solutions to continental security

    The US militarization of Africa is further rationalized
    by George W. Bush’s claims that Africom “will enhance
    our efforts to bring peace and security to the people
    of Africa” and promote the “goals of development,
    health, education, democracy and economic growth.” Yet
    the Bush Administration fails to mention that securing
    and controlling African wealth and natural resources is
    key to US trade interests, which face growing
    competition from China. Transnational corporations rely
    on Africa for petroleum, uranium and diamonds–to name
    some of the continent’s bounty. West Africa currently
    provides 15 percent of crude oil imports to the United
    States, and that figure is expected to rise to 25
    percent by 2015.

    Policy-makers seem to have forgotten the legacy of US
    intervention in Africa. During the cold war, African
    nations were used as pawns in postcolonial proxy wars,
    an experience that had a devastating impact on African
    democracy, peace and development. In the past
    Washington has aided reactionary African factions that
    have carried out atrocities against civilians. An
    increased US military presence in Africa will likely
    follow this pattern of extracting resources while
    aiding factions in some of their bloodiest conflicts,
    thus further destabilizing the region.

    Misguided unilateral US military policy to “bring peace
    and security to the people of Africa” has, in fact, led
    to inflamed local conflicts, destabilization of entire
    regions, billions of wasted dollars and the unnecessary
    deaths of US soldiers. The US bombing of Somalia in
    January–an attempt to eradicate alleged Islamic
    extremists in the Horn of Africa–resulted in the mass
    killing of civilians and the forced exodus of refugees
    into neighboring nations. What evidence suggests
    Africom will be an exception?

    In contrast, Africa has demonstrated the capacity to
    stabilize volatile situations on its own. For example,
    in 1990 the Economic Community of West African States
    set up an armed Monitoring Group (Ecomog) in response
    to the civil war in Liberia. At their height, Ecomog
    forces in Liberia numbered 12,000, and it was these
    forces–not US or UN troops–that kept Liberia from
    disintegrating. In another mission, Ecomog forces were
    instrumental in repelling rebels from Sierra Leone’s
    capital, Freetown.

    There are a range of initiatives that can be taken by
    the US government and civil society to provide
    development and security assistance to Africa that do
    not include a US military presence. Foremost, policy
    toward Africa must be rooted in the principles of
    African self-determination and sovereignty. The
    legitimate and urgent development and security concerns
    of African countries cannot be fixed by dependence on
    the United States or any other foreign power. Instead
    of military strategies, African countries need
    immediate debt cancellation, fair trade policies and
    increased development assistance that respects
    indigenous approaches to building sustainable
    communities. Civil wars, genocide and terrorist threats
    can and must be confronted by a well-equipped African
    Union military command.

    American policy-makers should be mindful that South
    Africa, whose citizens overthrew the US-supported
    apartheid regime, opposes Africom. In addition, Nigeria
    and the fourteen-nation Southern African Development
    Community resist Africom. These forces should be joined
    by other African governments and citizens around the
    world, to develop Africa’s own strong, effective and
    timely security capacities. Progressive US-Africa
    policy organizations and related civil society groups
    have not been sufficiently organized to bring this
    critical issue before the people of the United States.
    It is urgent that we persuade progressive US
    legislators to stop the militarization of aid to Africa
    and to help ensure Africa’s rise to responsible self-

    Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space
    PO Box 652
    Brunswick, ME 04011
    (207) 443-9502
    globalnet AT (Blog) (MySpace profile)


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