Pentagon expands U.S. role in Africa
Important issue for anti-war movement
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
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
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
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
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
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 Chávez 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
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
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
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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