The US military has decided to keep the headquarters of its new Africa Command in Germany, after only one African nation, Liberia, offered to host it.
While Gen William 'Kip' Ward had tried to calm African leaders' fears by insisting that AFRICOM was just created to help Africa with "security" and "peacekeeping", well-founded concerns about a hidden agenda were expressed by African leaders:
There has been concern that Africom is really an attempt to protect US oil and mineral interests in Africa, amid growing competition for resources from Asian economies, says the BBC's Alex Last in the Nigerian capital Abuja.
Then there are fears about the continent being drawn into the US war on terror, our correspondent ads.
Now, in case you're of the opinion that this was just a Bush administration ploy to exercise American imperialist dominance on the continent, read the words of Barack Obama who, along with the other major Democratic presidential candidates, pledged support for AFRICOM. And you'll see that those "fears about the continent being drawn into the US war on terror" are grounded in reality as well:
AFRICOM, the new unified command, should serve to coordinate and synchronize our military activities with our other strategic objectives in Africa. Working under the foreign policy leadership of the State Department, this command should help to integrate military (especially non-lethal capabilities) with all the other elements of US power and diplomacy. AFRICOM should promote a more united and coordinated engagement plan for Africa.
Security cooperation at the AU and national level is extremely important, and the US military has made great strides in this area. This effort must be matched by a similar interagency commitment to enhance and fund a more robust “stability cooperation” program. Increased security depends on better governance and plans for long-term stability that foster a believable hope among Africans that tomorrow will be better. This means cleaner water, adequate food, better schools, available and affordable healthcare, improved infrastructure and communications, more employment opportunities, human rights, and total gender equality.
There will be situations that require the United States to work with its partners in Africa to fight terrorism with lethal force. Having a unified command operating in Africa will facilitate this action. That means AFRICOM must forge genuine military partnerships that are predicated on mutual respect and responsibility. There must be joint training exercises to ensure interoperability in operations and logistics. The effort against terrorists operating in Africa will require a joint and combined effort with African countries to achieve lasting mutual progress—that is one of AFRICOM’s missions.
An Obama Administration, therefore, will pursue an Africa policy that seeks to work with its partners in Africa to realize the goals of the New Partnership for Africa’s Development. These include the eradication of poverty, putting Africa on a sustainable path of growth and development and reversing the marginalization of the continent in the global economy. An Obama Administration will work to help ensure that Africa is seen as a desirable destination for American trade and investment and that the continent is a priority for the United States. It will also work to ensure that transparency, accountability, and rule of law are widely upheld. An Obama Administration will pursue effective partnerships to combat terrorism while making the continent a safer and healthier place to live.
Contrast what Obama said about the US military plans for AFRICOM and what General Ward has said publically: "Gen Ward said Africom was not about militarisation..." That obviously is not what Obama has in mind with his statement about "interoperability".
The fact that Liberia's was the only government willing to host the AFRICOM base on the continent and that others have refused is a huge slap in the face to the US government. It's a rejection based on preserving African interests. Meanwhile, the Americans will continue to attempt to run their AFRICOM operations from Germany. The age of colonialism in one form or another lives on.
As a recent column NYT discussing a president's power to influence the economy concluded:
And if you’re still worrying about how to vote, I have two pieces of advice. First, spend your time studying foreign policy, where the president has more direct power, and the choice of a candidate makes a much bigger difference.
In this election, however, all of the candidates are reading from the same playbook when it comes to Africa's fate, so there is no choice. Perhaps they should heed the words of Uzodinma Iweala: Stop Trying To 'Save' Africa.
The controversy over Africom