Published originally on the resist AFRICOM coalition website, August 2008.
AFRICOM expands of the role of the U.S. military on the African Continent, potentially shifting humanitarian resources from civilians to military personnel. We reject this militarization of foreign engagement. We also repudiate the role of the U.S. military and private military contractors in training and equipping African soldiers. Instead, our vision is a comprehensive U.S. foreign policy grounded in true partnership with the African Union, African governments, and civil society on peace, justice, security, and development.
- Over the last year AFRICOM has been touted as a military command, a development agency, and as a force for creating security and stability on the African continent by “helping Africans help themselves.” Its competing mission is not simply a public relations problem – it is a problem inherent within the structure of AFRICOM itself.
- While we recognize the inefficiency of the EUCOM-PACOM-CENTCOM structure and the need to coordinate DOD efforts, we condemn the further extension of the U.S. military footprint on African soil and the inclusion of soft power in AFRICOM’s mandate.
- The people of the African Continent have expressed the need for better education systems, health care, jobs, roads, clean water, and good governance – diplomatic and development tasks, not military missions. The majority of African civil society are adamant against the increased presence of U.S. soldiers, military programs, and private contractors.
- Today, AFRICOM’s primary mission is to “legitimize” African militaries by engaging in “train and equip” activities which, to date, have been largely inefficient and detrimental.
- The U.S. is currently providing military equipment and training to governments which are widely seen as corrupt, illegitimate, oppressive, or which are guilty of fueling instability within its own country or across borders. Examples include Chad, Uganda, Rwanda, and Equatorial Guinea, among others.
- In a 2008 report, Human Rights Watch notes with concern the U.S. training of Chadian forces, several of whom have now defected to join rebel movements.
- Consider this, from a recent report by the U.S. Army’s Strategic Studies Institute: In the 1980’s, the U.S. spent approximately $500 million to train and equip Samuel Doe’s army. “Every armed force that plundered Liberia over the past 25 years had its core in these U.S.-trained Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) soldiers. Today, millions of dollars are awarded each year to DynCorp International, a private security contractor, to train Liberian forces.
- The U.S. should consider the historical effect of irresponsible military involvement in Africa. From propping up human rights abusers like Samuel Doe and Mobutu Sese Seko to the U.S.-Ethiopian invasion of Somalia in 2006, the U.S. follows its own interests with little regard for the people of Africa. The current expansion of the U.S. military in Africa, embodied by AFRICOM, is primarily designed to increase access to Africa’s oil, counter terror, and offset China’s economic influence in the region. As such, if forced to choose, AFRICOM personnel will safeguard U.S. interests over African interests.
Although AFRICOM claims Ambassadors will retain Chief of Mission authority in their respective countries, the influence of General William Ward – a four-star, persuasive general – is likely to undermine the sovereign decisions of Ambassadors. Furthermore, with Ambassador Mary Yates serving as second-in-command, General Ward is seen as holding jurisdiction over the State Department in Africa.