Thursday, July 22, 2010

Why The Anti-War Movement Must Actively Oppose U.S. Intervention In Africa

Why the Anti-War Movement Must Actively Oppose U.S. Intervention in Africa

Regime change and economic exploitation still guides Washington’s policy

By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire

During the week of July 19, African leaders from throughout the Continent were gathering in the East African nation of Uganda to attend the preliminary sessions for the annual African Union Summit, which will take place during July 25-27. The African Union is comprised of 53 independent states whose stated objective is the strengthening of political and economic cooperation among member countries to resolve issues resulting from the legacy of colonialism and underdevelopment.

This year’s summit comes in the aftermath of a series of bombings in and around the capital of Kampala in which 74 people were killed. The Islamic resistance organization al-Shabab has claimed responsibility for the attacks stating that these actions were in response to the role of Ugandan troops inside Somalia who are there to prop-up the beleaguered U.S.-backed Transitional Federal Government (TFG).

The way in which the bombings in Uganda were reported by the corporate media did not explain the role of successive U.S. administrations in both interfering in the internal affairs of Somalia as well as the bankrolling of the state of Uganda which serves as an outpost for imperialist foreign policy in East and Central Africa. Uganda, which already has 3,200 troops in Somalia, has pledged to dispatch another 2,000 soldiers in order prevent the collapse of the TFG.

In a statement issued by the Ugandan army spokesman Maj. Gen. Kale Kaihura in response to the July 11 attacks, “The act of bombing Uganda is a confirmation of the need to take control and pacify Somalia. This is an effort that everybody in the world has to realize.” (BBC, July 14) However, inside Somalia among the civilian population, the Ugandan military forces, which are part of the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM), are viewed by many as the enemy of the people.

This so-called peacekeeping operation in Somalia, which also includes more than 2,000 troops from Burundi, has openly declared that its objective is to neutralize the resistance forces led by al-Shabab. Maj. Gen. Kaihura stated recently that “If you tolerate a group like al-Shabab to take over power in our neighborhood, they will start there and will want to spread. It would be worse if they were in charge of state power. That’s why Africa is united against it.” (BBC, July 14)

Nonetheless, opposition forces in Uganda have expressed grave concerns about the role of President Museveni’s government in carrying out U.S. foreign policy aims in the Horn of Africa. This trepidation over the role of AMISOM echoes sentiment throughout Africa which has been weary of deliberate and politically motivated intervention into the internal affairs of AU member states.

Opposition Member of Parliament Hussein Kyanjo said in response to the July 11 attacks that “All the time there has been this reply from the government side that ‘we are in control and nothing can happen to Uganda. Now it has happened. It is very sad and I am sure we are not going to be prepared to let the blood of Ugandans be spilt over an issue that we have not been convinced about.” (BBC, July 14)

Considering its role in Uganda and Somalia, the United States State Department has issued a travel advisory to American citizens saying that “All U.S. citizens should consider the possibility of similar terrorist attacks occurring in conjunction with the African Union Summit.” The travel alert is scheduled to expire on August 15. (CNN, July 19)

Pentagon Increases Role in Africa

On October 1, 2008, the United States Government inaugurated a new regional military structure known as the Africa Command (AFRICOM). The stated aim of AFRICOM was to prevent the spread of Islamic fundamentalism, terrorism and other security threats on the Continent.

Nonetheless, the Pentagon plans met tremendous opposition from African states as well as mass organizations. At present no African country has been willing to host the AFRICOM headquarters which remains located in Stuttgart, Germany. However, the U.S. does have a military base in Djibouti along with France and the other African states throughout the region have held joint military exercises with both of these imperialist states.

U.S. military involvement in Africa has escalated over the last decade. It was estimated that at the beginning of the millennium the cost of the Pentagon’s African operations were between $100-200 million. Today the figure is estimated to be at least $1.5 billion and is growing annually.

These figures do not necessarily include other projects which have military and intelligence implications that are funded through the State Department and private contractors. This increased involvement on the Continent has been reflected in the bombing of Somalia in 2007-2008 and the dispatching of flotillas of warships into the Gulf of Aden beginning in 2008.

According to Daniel Volman, who writes for the Concerned Africa Scholars Bulletin, there are two major concerns that are driving the U.S. in its increasing military role in the region. “One was that the U.S. was becoming increasingly dependent on resources, particularly oil, coming from the African continent.” (ACAS Bulletin 85, June 2010)

Volman points out that “today the U.S. imports more oil from Africa than it does from the entire Middle East. The U.S. still imports more from the Western hemisphere—Mexico, Canada, Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador—which has a lot to do with explaining U.S. policy these days towards Latin America and disputes with the Chavez regime. “

With specific reference to individual states, Volman continues noting that after the oil-producing countries in the Western hemisphere “Africa is the next most important source of imported oil. Nigeria and Angola are now the U.S.’s 5th and 6th largest suppliers of oil imports. American policy makers began to see this happening in the late 1990s.”

In addition to the supply of oil, the U.S. is concerned about the growth of Islamic resistance movements in Africa. This pre-occupation dates back to the second half of the Clinton administration during the late 1990s and has extended to the current government of President Barack Obama.

Volman emphasizes that this growing intervention by U.S. imperialism “is not a partisan political issue…. Instead it represents a bi-partisan consensus amongst the political elite, that Africa is of growing military importance to the U.S. and therefore requires a growing level of military involvement on the continent and that is what has led to the creation of the new African command.”

History of U.S. Involvement in Africa and the Need for an Anti-Imperialist Outlook

The involvement of the United States in African affairs extends back to the colonial period when the first indentured servants from the Continent were brought to Virginia in 1619. By 1660 African slavery had become a primary institution within the displacement of the Native Americans and the expansion of both British and American control over North America.

Even within the U.S. Constitution itself, the African people were not recognized as full human beings and their enslavement would continue another seven decades after the Declaration of Independence. At the conclusion of the Civil War in 1865, there were 4 million Africans residing in the United States.

It would take another century after the conclusion of the Civil War and the failure of Reconstruction to guarantee in law the ostensible citizenship rights of African people. The enslavement of Africans in the Western hemisphere would lay the groundwork for the eventual colonization of the African continent.

Today, the principle mechanism utilized to perpetuate the exploitation and oppression of African people is neo-colonialism, a form of imperialism where the economies of the Continent are controlled through trade, investment, international finance as well as direct and indirect military intervention.

It is essential that the current phase of the anti-war struggle in the United States take a firm position opposing U.S. imperialist intervention in Africa. Select African states have been targeted by successive U.S. administrations for regime change and political domination.

These African states facing threats from the U.S. include, but are not limited to, the countries of Egypt, Sudan, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Consequently the National Peace Conference taking place in Albany between July 23-25 must seriously consider the increasing role of U.S. imperialism in Africa and develop resolutions and action proposals that effectively address these concerns right alongside the demands for the immediate withdrawal of Pentagon forces from Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other geo-political regions throughout the world.

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