Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Pentagon Expands U.S. Role in Africa

By Abayomi Azikiwe
Published Jul 23, 2010 3:10 PM

Several African states have been targeted by successive U.S. administrations for regime change and political domination. Those facing threats from the U.S. include, but are not limited to, Egypt, Sudan, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It is essential that the anti-war movement in the U.S. firmly oppose U.S. imperialist intervention in Africa.

U.S. intervention in East Africa was apparent as African leaders from throughout the continent gathered in Uganda the week of July 19 to attend preliminary sessions for the annual African Union Summit, set for 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 follows a series of bombings that killed 74 people in and around Kampala, Uganda’s capital. The Somali Islamic resistance organization al-Shabab claimed responsibility for the attacks, saying they were in response to Ugandan troops inside Somalia propping up the U.S.-backed Transitional Federal Government there.

The corporate-owned media reported these bombings while omitting Washington’s role in interfering in Somalia’s internal affairs and bankrolling 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 to prevent the collapse of the TFG.

Following the July 11 attacks, Ugandan army spokesman Maj. Gen. Kale Kaihura exposed his government’s intentions. “The act of bombing Uganda is a confirmation of the need to take control and pacify Somalia,” Kaihura stated. (BBC, July 14)

Inside Somalia, however, many in the civilian population see the Ugandan military forces as the enemy of the people. Uganda’s forces are part of the African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM). This so-called peacekeeping operation in Somalia, which also includes more than 2,000 troops from Burundi, has openly declared as its objective to neutralize the resistance forces led by al-Shabab.

Opposition forces in Uganda have expressed grave concerns about the role of President Yoweri Kaguta 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 wary 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: “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)

Aware of its unpopularity in Somalia, the U.S. State Department has issued a travel advisory valid until Aug. 15 to U.S. citizens saying they “should consider the possibility of similar terrorist attacks occurring in conjunction with the African Union Summit.” (CNN, July 19)

Pentagon increases role in Africa

On Oct. 1, 2008, the Pentagon inaugurated a new regional military structure known as the Africa Command. Africom’s stated aim is to prevent the spread of Islamic fundamentalism, terrorism and other security threats on the continent.

The Pentagon’s 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 remain located in Stuttgart, Germany. The Pentagon has a military base in Djibouti, as does the French military. 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 was between $100 million and $200 million. Today the figure is estimated to be at least $1.5 billion and is growing annually.

These figures may exclude other projects that have military and intelligence implications but are funded through the State Department and private contractors. This increased involvement in Africa was reflected in the bombing of Somalia in 2007-2008 and the dispatching 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 is that the U.S. is “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 Ch├ívez regime.”

Volman notes that “Africa is the next most important source of imported oil,” second only to the oil-producing countries in the Western hemisphere. “Nigeria and Angola are now the U.S.’s fifth and sixth largest suppliers of oil imports,” Volman continues. “[U.S.] 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 movements in Africa that resist U.S. control. These are mainly Islamic resistance movements. This concern dates back to the second half of the Bill 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 bipartisan 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.”

Anti-imperialist view necessary

U.S. involvement in Africa dates from the period when colonists first brought indentured servants from the continent to Virginia in 1619. By 1660 African slavery had become a primary institution within the displacement of the Native peoples and the expansion of British and colonial control over North America.

The U.S. Constitution did not recognize African people as full human beings and their enslavement continued well into the latter half of the 19th century. At the conclusion of the Civil War in 1865, 4 million Africans resided in the U.S.

It would take another century after the conclusion of the Civil War and the failure of Reconstruction to guarantee in law the ostensible 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, neocolonialism is the principal mechanism used to perpetuate the exploitation and oppression of African people. Neocolonialism is a form of imperialism, controlling Africa’s economies through trade, investment and international finance as well as direct and indirect military intervention.

Serious consideration must be given to the increasing role of U.S. imperialism in Africa. Resolutions and action proposals must be developed to effectively address these concerns alongside the demands for the immediate withdrawal of Pentagon forces from Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and other geopolitical regions throughout the world.

Azikiwe is editor of the Pan-African News Wire and a leader in the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War and Injustice.

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