Sunday, February 24, 2008

I have repeatedly shared my concerns about AFRICOM. But, this time, I will share a comment from a Liberian reader who took the time to express his thoughts on Liberia's attitude towards AFRICOM. The writer is working on a Masters degree at Northwestern University in Chicago.
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 International 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!

AFRICOM will happen in one form or the other, whether we like it or not. The only remaining issue is whether it will have a physical base on the continent. The U.S. already has a base in Djibouti and is well positioned in the Middle East. I believe that those locations are close enough to serve whatever purpose the US has for AFRICOM. I cannot help but notice that the US military's rhetoric on AFRICOM has 'calmed down' as even they now refer to it as a project to assist African military operations. This change in nuance must be a direct response to the concerns of Africans over the potential infringement on sovereignty that AFRICOM would pose.

Anyway, I feel that I have espoused my thoughts on this matter too many times, so I'd rather hear from you. Hopefully when I get better I can address this issue more thoroughly.

(This post was originally included in 'A Bush in Africa' published February 22, 2008)

Related Articles of Interest:
- Who Will Fight For Nigeria? (AFRICOM PT. 1)
- AFRICOM... The Dotted Line Has Been Signed
- A Bush In Africa
- Nigerian Presidential Elections Back In The Spotlight

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