Monday, January 12, 2009

Africom: the militarization of a continent

By Elsadig Elsheikh, Research Associate at the Kirwan Institute

On February 6, 2007, President George W. Bush and Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced the creation of U.S. Africa Command or AFRICOM, with the objective to “better enable the Department of Defense and other elements of the U.S. government to work in concert and with partners to achieve a more stable environment in which political and economic growth can take place [in Africa].” Nonetheless, most African governments refused to host Africom – with exception of Liberia – and many civil society leaders uttered strong opposition to Africom. In fact, it has been called the new “scramble for Africa”.

The U.S. government insists that AFRICOM “will in no way infringe on the sovereignty of any African nation,” and had nothing to do with militarization of the continent. But looking at the records of the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) and other Military Programs that the U.S. engages in with more than 45 African countries – in which 9 of them involve in warfare – tells a different reality. The U.S. FMS revenue almost tripled in the last six years (from $ 12 billion in 2002 to $ 32 billion in 2008) where weapons have been sold to 174 states and territories during the 2006/2007 fiscal years. According to Williams Hartung and Frida Berrigan of the New America Foundation, “U.S. arms and military training played a role in 20 of the world’s 27 major wars in 2006/07” by militarizing aid and development, creating military bases, and increasing weapons sales to African countries. The United States is not serving the continent; rather, it destabilizes it. Undeniably, the experience of the last five decades illustrates that the militaristic approach to development neither contributed to sustainable growth nor supported rule of law. Thus, to presume that Africom’s focus is “on war prevention rather than war-fighting” is disingenuous.

Africa does not need to be a testing playground for new “toys” from the Pentagon nor a charity to feed itself. Instead, the continent needs the following: complete cancelation of the unjustifiable foreign debts, removal of unfair trade exchange barriers enforced by the World Trade Organization that is worsening the food crisis, and support of the peoples’ struggle for democratization, human rights, and social justice. The new administration needs to know that Africom and militarization of aid discounts its admirable goal of ending foreign wars. Such militarization will increase warfare and lead to disastrous outcomes not only in Africa but for the rest of the world.

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed reading this piece along with many articles that Kirwan has posted. Nonetheless, this article is catching, strong and truthful. In fact, I agree entirely as to what needs to be addressed in Africa and across the world.
    However, I also believe that the US has become the highlight of being an exploitative nation towards developing countries. Year after year, they continue to endure and benefit from the goods of many of these developing countries, and in return these countries are left with its shadow, and unfortunate grievance.
    I hope that with this new administration the US can finally comprehend and contribute to humanity responsibly.

    Ate Logo,