The Leading nations of Africa such as Nigeria and Egypt are going through one of the most trying political and social challenges bordering on security and sustainability. While many reasons have been discussed since, AFRICOM has recently attracted the attention of peace movements and other non-governmental advocates, for its increased military activities on the continent of Africa. In fact some have expressed alarm charging that there appears a clear plan to militarize nations of the continent under the guise of fighting terrorism. Others yet have started looking for a way out of the quagmire, an alternative to foreign military involvement.
The persistent crisis in Syria and the alternatives offered to resolve it raised an important issue that drives home the most critical question every third world, and/or developing nation of the world may need to ask themselves, before they are also soon called upon to make hard and immediate political choices. Today it is Syria, but who knows what nation will be next?
The current vogue is, when a nation finds itself engulfed in crisis of leadership and political direction, the citizens who rise against their government, soon start grappling for any straw, including seeking the assistance of developed nations against their governments. But must that be so? Not necessarily, some argue.
In actual fact many lasting and credible changes that benefited the countries concerned were internally inspired and almost exclusively fought and achieved internally. Whenever such agitations are genuine and therefore enjoying massive internal support, the need for external intervention is actually ruled out. Examples included the agitations, activism and organized movements that swept through countries of the third world colonized by the various nations of Europe in the mid-1900s.
Such movements were credited with facilitating independence and self-governments in the countries. In Africa it was popularly called the struggle for independence. Examples of such credible and positive uprisings abound, among them the Mao Mao Uprising in Kenya between 1952 lasting up until 1960 [in Africa], and the Mahatma Gandhi movement of India which started about 1930 leading to the outright demand by the movement that the British leave India during another round of protest mounted in 1942 [in Asia], etc. So the question today is, where does this mindset that you have to rely on foreign assistance to secure your borders, and more especially to organize or pull off a political change locally comes from?
To understand this question more clearly, we may have to look deeply at the developed world. Most international trends are set covertly or overtly in the developed world, i.e. the industrialized countries. Many applicable political as well as economic policy shifts relevant to our discourse were recorded, most especially after the fall of the Berlin Wall in Germany, a symbolic end to the cold war years.
The cold war era was a period marked by antagonism between the Eastern European and Western European nations led by the United States and USSR, later Russia. That antagonism was also actualized by literal labeling as well as categorizing individual countries in political as well as economic influence terms, such as Capitalists [democratic] or Socialists [communist].
After the demise of that standoff, the spin off from the losses for the ‘military Industrial Complex’ as commonly known in the US, may have been one of the most serious issue that policy makers had to deal with. As many analysts believe, that became one of the most hotly debated issues between the two main US political parties, the Republican and the Democratic sides. While both parties and their elected representatives have sizable support financially from the Military Industrial Complex and have bought into the idea of finding ways to continue to utilize defense manufacturing sector, the Republican Party by far had the most soft spot for continued manufacture, sales and spread of weaponry across the globe. And we all understand and know that without wars, crisis, and battles, the market for weapons is virtually dead.
Apart from that there is the economic factor too. The issue of financial sector deregulation and defense contract support on the one hand, and those who favor credible manufacturing sector where various classes of goods are indeed manufactured within the US borders, as against outsourcing, financial schemes, where money making money and not tangible goods, on the other. That was one of the most serious issues that the two parties tabled, understood, or not at the campaign between Al Gore and George W Bush Jr. in 1999.
These factors have to be understood to a greater degree in order for one to make sense of what we see today. And probably that is why in most campaigns between the Democrats and Republicans you keep hearing them mention ‘the failed policies of the past, or moving forward with an alternative to the failed policies. It is quite clear that, with the market crash of 2008, the Republican advocated and applied policy has failed. Much of the world, most especially the weakest nations of them all however, continue to allow themselves to be manipulated by those failed policies.
The Africa Command was an offshoot of such global militarization, as claimed by many pro-African, as well as other organizations opposed to militarization and war in whatever name it is launched. The Bush Administration cleverly or otherwise, launched AFRICOM just before it exited the scene late 2008, to place the baggage squarely on the Democratic Administration of an African American President. A group online called “Resist Africom” is one of such non-profit advocacy groups specifically advocating against AFRICOM and its activities on the African Continent. On its site set up against the establishment of Africom, Resist Africom argues against the listed goals of AFRICOM: They did not opine but drew their readers’ attention to such military engagements in the past thus:
“The history of U.S. train and equip programs has resulted in devastation and violence as a result of the infusion of weapons and training into unstable areas of Africa. During the Cold War, the U.S. provided weapons and training to governments which were willing to help fight the ideological war against communism, regardless of their human rights or good governance standards.”
Likewise, a regularly scheduled television discussion program on Russian Television tagged “CrossTalks” recently discussed Africom, its goals and mission in similar light. The host Peter Lavelle moderated a group of three guests who offered their take on the role played by the Africom in most of the ongoing African crisis. When asked whether US through AFRICOM is militarizing Africa, two of its guests answered definitely. One was an American University Professor.
The guests of the RT program also cited arms trade as one factor, citing that US controls about 30% of global arms trade with other countries across the world combined responsible for the rest. Another reason to some of them however is oil, and the fight over control of that specific resource against such countries as China now openly competing for oil on the continent. Africa, they say, has never been considered strategic otherwise.
A British Journalist, who was once a local councilor Lester Holloway also has this to say about the increasing risk of militarizing Africa in the name of fighting terrorism. Writing on his blog in March 2012, he says “The relative dampening down of the conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan may well have turned attention to Africa as the new theatre of war against al-Qaeda.”
While a guest of Press TV Gordon Duff of Veterans Today pointed out an imperialist agenda rooted in those initial post-cold war policy days, where military might is used to support puppet regimes who work for foreign interests, regardless of how inhumane they act against their own local populations. He was quoted saying “As far as the game in Yemen, this is what it is. We’re doing these drone strikes here. We’re pretending that al-Qaeda is there. In reality, we’re interfering in internal politics and we are assassinating political enemies of our friends in Yemen to maintain power.
Duff continues, “But that’s part of a larger policy where we are migrating an imaginary terror organization over to Africa where we’re soon going to be starting drone attacks. We’ve been hoping for permission to do these in Northern Nigeria against Boko Haram, Niger, Mali, Chad, and the C.A.R (Central African Republic).”
Whether what Duff claims is real or not, the tagging of two individuals in Nigeria as “terrorist’ and that they have connections with al-Qaeda should raise the red flags for Nigeria. Further, Duff was not alone in that regard. Drone attacks have already been used several times in Somalia and the Central African Republic.
These are all in line with claims by anti AFRICOM organizations in the first place. Resist Africom listed some of these when it says “The U.S. continues such programs today under the mantra of counterterrorism and is currently providing military aid to countries such as Chad and Equatorial Guinea.”
It further added “It is our belief that AFRICOM will actually destabilize the continent in the long-run and will put our partners in Africa at risk…may simply serve to protect unpopular regimes that are friendly to US interests while Africa slips further into poverty, as was the case during the Cold War.”
A strong no, greeted the announcement and creation of AFRICOM by most leading African countries including African Union. There need to be stronger policies, actions and follow-up that continue to express such anti-militarization position.
Resist Africom further supported its opposition to the military body thus; “Donald Rumsfeld, a man expelled from office for his failed policies in the Middle East, approved the creation of this command. AFRICOM is designed to fulfill the immediate special interests of the United States with little heed to the implications for the people of Africa” says Resist AFRICOM.
And truly, if we may add, such failed policies are still propped up mainly by the ultra-conservative special interest group internally. While people are not encouraged at all by the severe disparity between what is spent on AFRICOM versus Department of State and USAID that runs embassies and other diplomatic issues, $763 million vs. $226 million in favor of military projects during the Obama years, African nations need to work hard with the present less persuaded Democratic government in power before more harm is done.
At the inception of the “imperialistic” policy, about 2004, many books and non-profit groups have advocated strong opposition to what they described as a policy that erodes US credibility across the world. Such militarization policies have never enjoyed popular support among the common folks across the US. Others deride the exorbitant spending on such projects mainly started and advocated by Republican Administrations.
For further readings we have cited a few books that will lay a background to what is presented above. The Empire Has No Clothes for example, written in 2004 when such militarization policies were being implemented by the Bush Administration, writes “Most Americans don’t think of their government as an empire, but in fact the United States has been steadily expanding its control of overseas territories since the turn of the century…through political intimidation and more than 700 military bases worldwide..” While John Perkins summarizes his New York Times Bestseller book Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by saying “The inside story of how America turned from a respected republic into a feared empire.”
Even presently in US politics, those at the helms have never failed to point to the importance of the upcoming elections as a choice between further deregulation of the financial sector, which gives the top 1% tax breaks and more power to do whatever it deems fit in the financial sector regardless of its impact on the middle class and the economy including overreaching abroad with such ambitious military projects favored by the ultra conservatives, or a much saner economy that brings some form of regulations to the financial sector and concentrates on bringing back jobs to Americans while building up the Middle Class once again.
In conclusion therefore, many credible sources, in discussing the present uprisings across the world, advocate for similar methods of finding local solutions to local problems. Just as the United States presently appears to be moving away from such ultra-conservative policies that have resulted in internal economic demise, it will be in the best interest of Africans, and most especially its leading nations such as Nigeria, Egypt and South Africa to rise to the occasion. Egypt has already seen its share of destabilization, and to some extent Nigeria. Such nations need to, as a matter of urgency, hammer out strong strategies to halt any damage and overturn such suicidal policies, whatever it takes.