Monday, November 19, 2007

The world is achatter with talk of AFRICOM and no matter where you turn, the prognosis is negative or at least unclear. The only people attributing anything positive to AFRICOM is the U.S. government and even they don't seem completely convinced.

I had the opportunity to ask the incredibly talented Akwe Amosu what her thoughts were about the program, and her response further convinced me that the shroud of mystery surrounding AFRICOM should keep us all up at night.

Read my thoughts on AFRICOM and then take a look at Akwe Amosu's well written article "Dangerous Times For Africa".

Today, Nigeria formally rejected an invitation to host AFRICOM in the country and stressed that it did not want the headquarters to be any where in its sphere of influence - the Gulf of Guinea. Whether Nigeria will get its wish might depend on Liberia's President Sirleaf-Johnson, who has openly and repeatedly declared her desire to host AFRICOM.

In fact, Sirleaf-Johnson is the only African leader to declare a readiness to host AFRICOM. I wonder what that says about African unity. If no African leaders want this program to be based on African soil, how can Sirleaf-Johnson feel bold enough to not only ignore the serious military consequences of over-militarizing West Africa ( a region fraught with instability, as any Liberian can testify) but completely ignore the very valid concerns of most Africans who continue to resist this plan?

Isn't it a shame that a juggernaut like Nigeria cannot 'whip' Liberia and others into line? It would be nice to see us all act in unison for once. But, on this issue, I won't hold my breath. It seems that Africa will be the unhappy host of America's military vision for Africa in AFRICOM.

Why do I believe this? Well, the plans for AFRICOM where concluded a long time ago. The reason why AFRICOM will be based in Africa whether or not African citizens want it is because leaders like Obasanjo, who had clout in Africa, signed the dotted line to allow AFRICOM to come into existence. (Yes, I truly believe that former President of Nigeria Olusegun Obasanjo had a hand in this). It is practically too late change things. And as for Sirleaf-Johnson, well, she believes that AFRICOM will provide the security she needs in a fragile post-war Liberia. But she should pay attention to the many others that have come before her. Many leaders will garner American support but once the winds of change come ablowing and American foreign policy gets achanging, their fortunes quickly go down the drain.

"AFRICOM is a disaster waiting to happen. But what is perhaps sadly ironic is that its presence will mortgage any hope of a solid mutually beneficial US-Africa diplomatic relationship, and, instead, entrench suspicion of the sort that is prevalent in the Middle East." - A Wise Old Man, 11/19/2007

The consequences of AFRICOM are dire, indeed.

Learn what others Africans are thinking at African Loft.

Thanks to Dee, our conversation helped me expand this post!

Further Reading:
- Who Will Fight For Nigeria? (AFRICOM PT 1)
- A Bush In Africa
- A Liberian's Thoughts on AFRICOM
- Nigerian Presidential Elections Back In The Spotlight

23 Curiosities. Add Yours.:

Bunmmy said...

AFRICOM...hmm i wonder what we can do to stop it, last i heard was they had pitched their office in Germany, well we have the middle east as an example.

Jinta said...

Why do our leaders seem to forget America's foreign policy history?

myabubakar said...

thanks a lot solo for the expose on africom. i dont trust Americans and their shoddy intelligence apparatus, remember how wrong they were on Iraqi's WMD?
Negroponte came to naija recently and guess his mission. here is his probable agenda: to sell africom and peacekeeping in somalia to yardy. we have to watch out because they can use the new base to launch attack on any country in the region with little or no reason.

TheAfroBeat said...

I think it all boils down to OIL my dear Solo. In 2001, the US National Oil Coucil's policy statement was:
"The US will continue to have VITAL interest in ensuring ACCESS to FOREGIN oil supplies...we must continue to be mindful of the need for regional stability and SECURITY in KEY producing areas to ensure OUR ACCESS to, and the free flow of, these resources." - M.T Klare,"The Geopolitics of War."

Every major war in the last century has been about OIL: From WWI-II (Japan's attack on Pearl Harbour), the Gulf War, Biafra (had to bring it home small), 9/11 (less religious and more geopolitical), and now the War on Terror.

Think about the poor US, they have to get to the oil before China does (and China's making huge headway with our African govt officials, so the US will have to circumvent those efforts by gearing up for the fight if it comes to blows. Enter AFRICOM. So my dears, it seems whether we like it or not, unless we start making ourselves heard in the talk about geopolitical competition, alternative energy sources, (and heck, even Global Warming), we're most likely not going to have a say in whether AFRI COMES OR GOES (parden the pun).

P.S. check out this fascinating article by Amos Nur, a Stanford prof who's been studying the relationship between oil and wars in the 20th century.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the good work Solo! I dont think we have much choice in the matter.... Although it shall be said that the afro-blogosphere was against it. I really have to make time and go through the internet for as much information as I can get on the issue. As it is now, my opinion is yet unformed.

guerreiranigeriana said...

i need to read more about this topic...but i agree with some of the others who have already posted...i do not, repeat, DO NOT trust the us...they have only their best interest in mind...i personally think naija should look to other sources for fuel that are less detrimental to the environment...that way, they can charge as much as they want for oil...if no one buys, so what because we will have diversified...we better believe that we do have a choice about africom on the continent!!...i knew sirleaf-johnson would be a problem at some point...*going to read more about the topic*...

Kiibaati said...

It is in Nigeria's strategic interest to SUPPORT Africom. Frankly, I believe Nigeria is playing to the gallery if the government says otherwise.

The US government has been giving aid and training to our soldiers on "peace keeping operations" for years and they underwrite a substantial part of the cost of our "big brother" interventions. I am not sure but I think Obasanjo once showed a general the way out for criticising our relationship with US.

And we need them. We can hardly maintain security on land in the Niger Delta, and are practically helpless in deep water assets e.g Sao Tome.

This is one situation where America's selfish interest in oil and our strategic incapacity to maintain security over our offshore assets should align us.

clnmike said...

President Sirleaf-Johnson doesnt know what she is getting into with that, she is thinking short term in terms of hand outs and not of the long term results. Some people have to learn the hard way.
Any way just stopping by to say if you celebrate it Happy Thanksgiving.


@ Kiibati: Thanks so much for providing an alternate perspective to this situation. Let me ask you though, considering this 'relationship', would America not still achieve its goals through the suggested African standby force and a more comprehensive approach to Africa and issues of resources/ Chinese influence/ anti-terrorism concerns?

I think most people are not only concerned about the unequal nature of a future relationship as envisioned by AFRICOM, but also issues of neocolonialism. Also, recent military approaches by US e.g. Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia (by Ethiopian proxy) have given people cause to worry.

Anyway, do continue to share your perspective on this matter. Every voice counts.

Kiibaati said...

My headache is that Nigeria is still thinking in terms of africa when everyone else (South Africa, Egypt, Libya,Kenya,even Liberia) is determining their position in international relations by their countries interest.

As an oil "rich" country, we are a target to terrorist threats. We have a stake in ensuring that when our african brothers start killing themselves, the fight does not extend into our borders.

And, although sad as it may seem, the history of injustices we have meted to our own citizens make security of life and property a major issue.

It will be naive to imagine that US loves us; they are here for their own agenda.

But they are not necessarily our opponents. Our real opponents are "tribal" potential warlords. OPC has no ships, no aircracts but they are the law in many parts of Lagos.

Now imagine if an hypothetical Alami and many more like him steals some billions, buys a few helicopters and ships and encouraged his private militia to attack, pomising utopia and offering money, drugs and a nice time? Some weeks ago, someone was trying to buy a ship in Angola.

Do you really think this can not happen in Nigeria? Do you honestly think the military is prepared to deter such an offencsive?


@ Kiibati: Thank you for spelling out this issue of security. You are correct Nigeria has a serious internal security problem. Yes, anything is possible when it comes t that country and I often wonder how we have managed to avoid more serious situations as a result of a lack of such security.

And, you are again correct that it is quite possible that Nigeria might have a hard time securing its borders, leaving the nation open to a spill over if chaos erupts in a neighboring country (Niger comes to mind what with issues with Berber militants and even Chad which is suffering the very effects of spill over from Darfur).

Yet, I go back to my question, would America not still achieve its interests with a standby African regiment? From what I understand the suggested military detail would be heavily American trained and would allow for a good number of Americans in the region WITHOUT the need for an American base.

I understand where America is coming from, believe me I do. I said it in my February 2007 post on this issue - Nigeria would do the exact same thing if it were in America's shoes. It is just a matter of practicality! However, let me raise a point I raised in February. Would the presence of an American base in Africa not cause anti-American interests to attack there being that they cannot get to the US as easily? Remember, President Bush, rightfully or wrongfully (you be the judge) intends to "fight the terrorists over there" and not in America. Are you willing to allow your country or another African country to become the possible battleground in America's fight against terror? That is the question we must not forget to answer in this discussion. Boy, this was a long response so I think a new post is necessary. Off to work I go...

Thanks again for engaging me in this conversation Kiibatii. I REALLY appreciate it!

Beauty said...

The Middle-East problems should not all be blamed on the US and does not reflect the future of AFRICOM. We need this technology in order to help stop the rot. The problem is not external but our own perma*Corrupt people who may decide to keep the Status-quo and stay blind to zero ecomonic growth and lower life expectancy. Africom may have its downside but in my opinion, the pros far outweights the cons.

anonymous gal(retired blogger) said...

As always a well written article, very informative.

Chxta said...

Why is Bloglines not picking up your updates?

As to the Africom thing, it is crap. I'm at work right now, so I can't talk too much. Hope to do so when I get home.

Beauty said...

Thanks to Solomonsydelle for driving traffic to African Loft. It has crashed the tso with error message * Your account has used more than its share of the cpu in the past 60 second sliding window.
* Your account has too many concurrent processes running simultanously.
* Your account has consumed too much memory.
* Your site was recently very busy trying to run inefficient scripts.

Chxta said...

I promised to return, so here I am. The only thing is I wonder if there is a need to delve into this whole talk again?

I have written about it, so many people have written about it. Thank goodness our government has at the very least spoken publicly against it, but now is the time for us to put our foot down within our own sphere of influence. Liberia should be brought back to line, even if it means using some form of force. Afterall, their armed forces at the moment is still under the direct control of Nigerians.

Someone ought to remind Sirleef-Johnson that she is on her 'throne' not because America made the effort to bring peace to her country, but because Nigeria did.

As to the Africa Loft conversation, I'm becoming bored of it. It's the same people going round and round in circles...

Beauty said...

Going round and round in circles is good and African Loft's conversation is connecting people.

The stupid, loyal and humble citizen is dead; people with access to relevant information are beginning to challenge any type of authority through dialogue

Old incredible ignorance filled with horrid stories is making way for information about our current position in the general world, showing us where we ought to be in a discrete time frame and the options to get to that point.

An explicit or an implicit disagreement, and the purpose of these dialogues are to resolve the disagreement in order to achieve our quiet revolution. It is not about the person but the people. Lets talk some more. Please.

African Loft can only get better with Web2 which has made a huge difference; more people are now getting a new view of the world.

Anonymous said...

The first time I heard about this 'Africom' (Why do the Yanks always come up with these colourful acronyms) I had alarm bells going off in my head. It's nothting more than setting up a garrison and building up on their might. In saying that, though, there could be benefits gained in their presence, but whether it will be fully utilised is left to be seen. Either way, I'm wary. If anything, as a continent, we should be able to do things on our own. (That'll be the day!)

Anonymous said...

Liberia has the right to do what the people and leaders see to be in their best interest, only time can be the final judge for whatever decisions made by African states regarding Africom.

What I’ve been musing over is the timing for the Africom initiative: At a time the world has come to see the stupidity of the Iraqi- war; at a time America has the least political capital- at home and abroad; and at a time it is getting more apparent that its foreign policies are mainly driven by oil and energy interest, then in its infinite wisdom, the top brass at Washington decided and say “let’s go set up Africom on African soil.” This just shows the magnitude of the Bush-led administration’s lack of capacity for critical thinking!

One of the benefits of prosperity is security and peace, and vise versa. Rather than seeing Africa’s prosperity tied to having U.S marines on African soil, may be Washington should explore augmenting and enhancing Africa’s prosperity through trade relations.

One issue that bugs me numb is the continued U.S cotton subsidy for American farmers. This is one issue that has continued to work against African farmers and economy. Rather than looking down at African through the barrel of assault rifles, America can do much more good by looking at us as “trade partners” and commence easing trade relations between the continents.

The discussion on Africom on AfricanLoft is a debate; there will be “back and forth”- what Chxta sees as “same people same people going round and round in circles...” It is this “circular discussion” that brings more insight into the topic. The 60+ comments can’t all be all boring, and senseless. But if Chxta finds them so, maybe he needs to “up the ante” by bringing a fresher perspective to the debate, please. The more the merrier!

Chxta said...

@ Imankoya, Chxta has said his bit in the Africa Loft debate, and has decided to hold his peace.

Sam Oracle said...

Solomonsydelle, I tag you for the 30 days of thankfulness post.
Make your own post.

shhhh said...

america's foreign policy sucks anyway

Anonymous said...

An old African adage states that, “What is good for Peter is not necessarily good for Paul”. This is apparently quite evident in President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s invitation of AFRICOM to be hosted in Liberia at the chagrin of other African leaders. The assertion that this flies in the face of African unity is absurd to say the least. Not unlike all other nation-states, Liberia is a sovereign nation merely acting in its national interest (i.e. national security interest). Members of the Organization of American States differ dramatically on foreign policies issues that they encounter. Since when does Hugo Chavez of Venezuela base his foreign policy initiatives and objectives on what George W. Bush deems important policy, in the interest of preserving unity in the Organization of American States? Even closer to home, Mexico’s support of the Sandinista regime in the 80’s flew in the face of US foreign policy. US relations with various African nations (ie Nigeria, Somalia, Liberia, South Africa) has varied considerably over the years, therefore it is quite likely that these countries response/reaction to US foreign policy toward Africa will diverge on a plethora of issues. Beyond the obvious historical ties of freed American slaves going to Liberia and other systemic reflections of this, the US and Liberia have also shared other unique historical ties, primarily militaristic in nature. During World War II, the US built Roberts Intl Airport in Liberia to facilitate their military objectives. During the Cold War they also built the Omega Towers , Voice of America Station and is rumored to have had the main CIA station for Africa based out of Liberia. Based on these historical ties, is it presumptuous for President Sirleaf to have a natural inclination to welcome America “back” to Liberia? Will the US pick Liberia to host AFRICOM? Probably not, because it does not have the current infrastructure to support it. Will AFRICOM being stationed on the continent be any more dangerous than Africa’s proclivity for instability and conflict on its own merit? Probably not. Either way, President Johnson-Sirleaf’s decision to invite AFRICOM to Liberia was the politically expedient thing to do!

Post a Comment

Get curious...share your thoughts, long and short. But, do remain civil.