Monday, October 06, 2008

United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) Launched Amid Scepticism and Rejection

US Africa Command Launched Amid Scepticism and Rejection

Attempts to change imperialist image cannot mask true intentions

by Abayomi Azikiwe, Editor
Pan-African News Wire

On Oct.1, the much anticipated United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) was officially launched. The military re-organization of forces to oversee developments in the entire continent has been met with strong objection from the major political states and regional blocs. Despite a 19-month effort to win acceptance in Africa for this plan, the headquarters of AFRICOM remains in Stuggart, Germany.

Although the west African state of Liberia, which has maintained close ties with the US since its inception as a semi-colonial outpost where former slaves sought an independent existence during the early and middle 19th century, has expressed interested in hosting AFRICOM, the only real base of operations is located at Camp Lemonier in Djibouti in the Horn of Africa.

The US military base in Djibouti has existed since at least 2002, when the Bush administration began to place greater emphasis on the Horn of Africa, claiming that so-called "Islamic terrorists" were utilizing neighboring Somalia as an area of operation.

Reports have also surfaced since 2007 that the southern African nation of Botswana was being courted for the possiblity of establishing an AFRICOM base in this largely arid and sparsely populated diamond-rich country, which borders both Zimbabwe and South Africa. (Kenya Daily Nation, September 13, 2007).

Attempt to Re-organize US Military Operations in Africa

Prior to the creation of AFRICOM, the US military command strucutre in Africa was divided among three other regions. First the Central Command (Centcom), which was responsible for Egypt, Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somalia and Kenya. Secondly, the European Command (Eucom), which covered other states on the continent. Then there is the Pacific Command (Pacom), with responsibility for Madagascar, the Seychelles and the Indian Ocean area.

AFRICOM will be headed by a four-star General, William E. Ward, who is African American. With the initial announcement by the Bush administration in February of 2007 that it would launch this new re-organization plan for US military operations in Africa, the nations of South Africa, Nigeria, Zimbabwe and others immediately denounced the concept and urged other states to follow suit.

Since this time period the US has attempted to cover up its true imperialist's objectives and to promote AFRICOM as another assistance program that would enhance the continent's ability in various areas including national security, technical development and governmental capactiy building.

In a recent State Department-sponsored "Voice of America" radio interview with Mauro De-Lorenzo, who is a resident fellow for foreign and defense policy at the right-wing American Enterprise Institute, he told reporter Peter Clottey from Washington that AFRICOM would bolster Africa's security situation.

"I think it's a positive development, but one which almost no one will notice in Africa in their daily lives. AFRICOM is simply going to take over the programs and objectives that were previously carried out by three separate U.S military commands," said the AEI spokesperson.

De-Lorenzo sought to ease the concerns of African states by saying that: "...most governments won't notice much of a difference. The content of what they are engaging in with the United States is not going to change very much right now. And certainly citizens will not see anything new or surprising as a result of this," De-Lorenzo noted.

However, in an article published on the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) web site on Oct.1, it indicated that the number one priority of AFRICOM was the so-called "war on terrorism." The US has no faith in those states who they have funded to work toward eradicating the purported influence of al-Qaeda and other organizations that are targeted as a threat to imperialist interests.

The BBC article stated that: "[T]he main area of concern currently for the US is Somalia, where it claims al-Qaeda operatives have sought shelter and where training may be taking place. The US has launched a number of airborne attacks on suspected al-Qaeda personnel in Somalia without, it must be said, much success."

According to the BBC article, the second priority of AFRICOM is to secure oil resources for US markets. With the increasing levels of resistance in Iraq and throughout the Middle-East region, the multi-national oil corporations are looking to Africa to supply greater amounts of petroleum to the US and other western imperialist countries.

"Africa is the world's primary growing oil market; the US already gets about 20% of it oil supplies from West Africa and the US is committed to increasing its supply of oil from the continent to 25% by 2015," the BBC article stated. There was also concern expressed by the BBC that the political situations in Sudan, Nigeria, Angola and Equatorial Guinea, all oil-rich states, were not necessary conducive to US strategic interests.

Finally, the BBC identified the necessity, as far as US imperialism is concerned, to counteract the emerging influence of the People's Republic of China on the African continent. China has not only developed economic parternships with numerous African countries, but has intervened at the United Nations Security Council to prevent further sanctions against Zimbbawe and Sudan, two states that have been targeted by the US for regime change.

"China has prospered in Africa leaving the rest of the world- particularly Western countries - behind. Africom represents part of a new US strategy to engage with Africa," the article continued.

"The US government has been careful to point out that the establishment of Africom will not mean any new permanent military base in Africa and says there is no hidden agenda.
But such assurances have apparently done little to lower levels of scepticism."

Challenges for the Anti-War and Anti-Imperialist Movement

With the formal launching of AFRICOM, it is essential that people within the United States oppose this effort on the part of imperialism to further its economic and military grip over large sections of the African continent. It is clear that several areas of the continent have been selected for direct military intervention to enhance US control over oil and other strategic resources that are key to the continued dominance of capitalist globalization.

Recent diplomatic and military efforts against the nations of Somalia, Sudan and Zimbabwe must be analyzed in light of the formation of AFRICOM. These countries have sought to move in a political direction independent of US influence. The corporate media outlets within the imperialist states have continually slandered the leading political forces within these areas and is constantly attempting to influence public opinion towards accepting direct military intervention.

Consequently, anti-war and anti-imperialist groups in the capitalist states must oppose AFRICOM and its military interventionist program for the African continent. The potential for wider military conflicts on the African continent involving direct and indirect US involvement is all too real.

The situation in Somalia, where the US-backed invasion by Ethiopian troops in December 2006, has created the worst humanitarian crisis on the continent. In Zimbabwe, the US along with Britain and the EU, have imposed sanctions that have had a devastating impact on this southern African nation's economy. In Sudan, the conflict in Darfur, has been utilized to push for the arrest of that nation's head-of-state and for the intervention of the US through a purported United Nations peacekeeping force.

Therefore, US military involvement in Africa can only mean greater instability and underdevelopment on the continent.
Abayomi Azikiwe is the editor of the Pan-African News Wire. He was an organizer of the "US Imperialism & Africa" Conference that was sponsored by MECAWI in Detroit on February 23, 2008. The Conference condemned AFRICOM and called for the peoples of Africa to reject its aims and objectives.

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