Recently, the African Command (AFRICOM) initiative seems to have generated a great deal of serious debate; the following articles reflect some of the arguments for and against the initiative:
allAfrica.com: Africa: U.S. Command Reaches Initial Operating ...
U.S. Africa Command, or AFRICOM, officially stood up today when the ... For its first year, AFRICOM will operate under U.S. European Command (EUCOM), ...allafrica.com/stories/200710011666.html - Similar pages
allAfrica.com: Africa: US Africa Command Will Enhance Local Skills ...
The new U.S. regional military command for Africa (AFRICOM) will have a distinctly ... AFRICOM also will help countries interested in improving government ...allafrica.com/stories/200709300038.html - Similar pages
allAfrica.com: Africa: Questioning Africom -1
With the nomination in July of General William E. Ward as the first chief of the new U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), the long-discussed new command took ...allafrica.com/stories/200708010836.html - Similar pages
allAfrica.com: Nigeria: Stop Africom
When launched, AFRICOM will become a permanent military base in Africa, thus completing a long-desired strategic plan by the US. The stated reason was that ...allafrica.com/stories/200709280143.html - Similar pages
allAfrica.com: Africa: Questioning Africom - 2
This AfricaFocus Bulletin contains excerpts from an extensive critique of AFRICOM from the Center for International Policy, with particular emphasis on ...allafrica.com/stories/200708010835.html - Similar pages
allAfrica.com: Botswana: Botswana Discusses Africom
President Festus Mogae has said that Botswana is discussing the possibility of hosting the controversial U.S. African Command (US-AFRICOM). ...allafrica.com/stories/200709060965.html - Similar pages
allAfrica.com: Africa: Africom Can Help Governments Willing to ...
Since the announcement of the creation of Africom, a new unified American combatant command responsible for Africa, there has been much skepticism over its ...allafrica.com/stories/200706251196.html - Similar pages
allAfrica.com: Africa: Testimony of Dr. Wafula Okumu - U.S. House ...
Until the enunciation of Africom, the continent had been haphazardly divided into ... Africom is expected to stop terrorists being bred in Africa’s weak, ...allafrica.com/stories/200708031070.html - Similar pages
allAfrica.com: Africa: Africom - Wrong for Liberia, Disastrous for ...
Ordering that AFRICOM be created by September 30, 2008, Bush said, "Africa Command will enhance our efforts to bring peace and security to the people of ...allafrica.com/stories/200707270740.html - Similar pages
I have found it difficult, really difficult, to resist the temptation of getting involved in the debate. Let me tender my observations and misgivings concerning the AFRICOM initiative, without reciting those which are presented in existing articles on the subject.
1. In terms of peace and security, African countries do not, by and large, face external threats. Zambia, for instance, is surrounded by civilized and friendly nations which do not apparently pose any threat to the country—that is, Angola, (Botswana), Democratic Republic of the Congo, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe. We expect the situation to remain that way in the long term.
In other words, the problems facing the African continent are generally NOT military in nature. The needs, expectations and aspirations of citizens on the continent are clear: greater access to education, vocational training and life-saving healthcare; greater and sustained food security; greater employment opportunities; improved socio-economic conditions in rural areas; greater access to clean water and electricity; greater care for the elderly, the handicapped and both orphaned and vulnerable children; sustained protection of the fragile natural environment; and, among other things, a sustained effort to address the scourge of corruption.
We need support in addressing these and other related needs of our people.
2. If AFRICOM is allowed to create military bases on the African continent, what arguments will be advanced to prevent other countries with the wherewithal to seek to establish military bases on the continent—such as China, Cuba, Iran, Russia, and so forth? We really do not need to foster another Scramble for Africa, a military-based one this time around!
3. AFRICOM is a potentially divisive initiative; it can very easily trigger acrimony and dissention among countries that have thus far worked hard to create the African Union (AU) and such economic blocs as COMESA, SADC, ECOWAS, and so forth. Once some member-countries decide to host AFRICOM against the wishes of other member-countries, it will be the beginning of disintegration and fragmentation of the continent.
4. Would the U.S. permit another sovereign nation-state to establish a military base on its soil?
USAID, AGOA and other American initiatives are commendable. Any new programs that are benign to the continent’s people that are not yet catered for through such initiatives, therefore, need to be channeled through the same existing non-military initiatives.
Finally, it will perhaps not be unwise for African countries to eventually do away with defence ministries or departments and the defence forces they serve. We are headed toward an era of greater understanding among countries—an era that will make it both safe and rational for nations to relegate the functions of their national defence forces to the UN peace-keeping forces, and/or regional forces established through arrangements like the African Crisis Response Initiative (ACRI), which France, Britain and the United States have offered to support by providing training and equipment.
In such an era, the protection of each and every country’s territorial integrity will not be a necessary function of national governments.
Update: I wish to make a few additions to the contribution I made earlier.
1. Becoming a host to a foreign military base is a permanent, irreversible and very serious commitment, which a country’s leaders would do well NOT to assent to on behalf of present and future generations—perhaps not even through a referendum!
2. It is important to delineate the generic or regular roles of the civil police and the military. In Zambia, the functions of the Zambia Defence Forces, as stipulated in Article 101 of the Republican constitution, are to: (a) preserve and defend the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Zambia; (b) cooperate with the civilian authority in emergency situations and in cases of natural disasters; (c) foster harmony and understanding between the Zambia Defence Force and civilians; and (d) engage in productive activities for the development of Zambia.
On the other hand, the functions of the Zambia Police Force, as stipulated in Article 104 of the Republican constitution, are to: (a) to protect life and property; (b) to preserve law and order; (c) to detect and prevent crime; and (d) to cooperate with the civilian authority and other security organs established under the constitution and with the population generally.
These functions are fundamentally not dissimilar to those performed by the civil police and the military in the U.S., and of police and military forces in civilian government regimes worldwide as a matter of fact. In analyzing the stated and potential roles AFRICOM will play in Africa, it is, therefore, important not to overlook this delineation.
3. I have enjoyed reading three pieces of information about "Understanding AFRICOM" found on the following links:
www.moonofalabama.org/2007/02/understanding_a_1.html / Part I
www.moonofalabama.org/2007/02/understanding_a_2.html / Part II
www.moonofalabama.org/2007/02/understanding_a_3.html / Part III
Conclusion of Part III:
Africa has been through this (the scramble for the continent) before, caught in the middle of a global chessboard during the first Cold War as competing world powers sought to win friends and contain enemies at the expense of those in the way. Militaries were trained and armed to fight proxy battles or overthrow unsympathetic regimes. Rhetorical allusions to notions of human rights and democratic governments lost out to the more pragmatic ends of protecting economic ideologies. For the most part, the blood that spilled was largely that of Africa, again prevented from achieving true independence, self-identity, and prosperity. The old Cold War blew in primarily on the exaggerated vapors of ideology. This one is not so abstract.
Africa is now perceived as the final frontier for the world's energy supplies, crucial for the preservation of hi-tech global civilizations, and this new scramble will be much more serious. This is the context in which the new combatant command enters the history books, at the junction of the early 21st century and the pending flare out of the petroleum age. Expanding the military reach of the most powerful empire the planet has ever known, AFRICOM will be tasked with the responsibility of achieving full-spectrum dominance over mother Africa for fuel. Operating as both energy-protection service and strategic Cold War front, the unified command will concentrate whatever military forces are necessary to keep the furnaces of Empire lit.
Whether AFRICOM will succeed in this directive is beside the point, for, while ends may justify the means for the elite in power, their so-called "national interest" payoff, it is regular people who pay the full price at all times. And it does not require a crystal ball or great imagination to realize what the increased militarization of the continent through AFRICOM will bring to the peoples of Africa.