Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Resisting AFRICOM, the US military occupation strategy for Africa by Ambrose Nzeyimana

Seal of the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM)  Most if not all empires of the past have historically managed to conquer and maintain their rule over territories by using their military power. After Second War II, when United States and Russia emerged as the main global powers militarily, the world got divided into two spheres of influence aligned along their respective support. With the collapse of communism, U.S. found itself the only military superpower around. The situation prompted visibly a U.S. foreign policy geared to occupy territories lost by the traditional protagonist. At great extent the policy went as far as bringing under strong influence countries which were even traditionally seen primarily under old Europe stewardship.

Like past empires, U.S. are using towards the African continent strategies which proved their efficiency. Clare Burges Watson describes in ‘Silk Route Adventure’what a famous Mongolian Emperor was capable of achieving through such military ingenuity. ‘Genghis Khan organized his army in such a way that it cut across traditional clan loyalties. Those he conquered were split into different regiments, organized on a decimal basis. The tradition of absolute clan loyalty in Mongolia did not apply in peace-time. In order to prevent his newly-acquired army from simply disintegrating in the steppe, it was necessary to create a perpetual state of war. A sharp fall in the average temperature of Mongolia and the subsequent deterioration in the quality of grazing land may have made the search for pasture a motive for conquest.’
With the annihilation of communism, exclusivity of influence from ex-colonial powers to certain parts of the world also ended. The process became absolutely apparent in the early 90s. For example, countries which for decades had been marginal in their rapport with U.S. became major targets for the military only superpower of the globe. Rwanda and Democratic Republic of Congo have for the last twenty years been the theaters of the consequences of such interest from the U.S. Put aside that perspective of not respecting old traditions in terms of zones of influence, it is interesting to note that conflict situations will be probably created, sustained and fuelled to justify AFRICOM policy, instead of searching and solving root causes of issues. This is where we see everywhere on the African continent, military options overtaking any other peaceful approaches be it political or even dialogue between opposing factions.

Contrary to the official line of strengthening African people’s security, the real motives of AFRICOM need being well understood by everyone interested or concerned. Rick Rozoff explains that the U.S. is on a course of a new colonialism, which through its highest military structure, the Pentagon, is carving Africa into military zones, along the existing five African economic regions. ‘The U.S. is not dragging almost every nation in Africa into its military network because of altruism or concerns for the security of the continent’s people. AFRICOM’s function is that of every predatory military power: the threat and use of armed violence to gain economic and geopolitical advantages,’ he points out.

Rozoff adds that, ‘There are economic and strategic incentives to bringing more security [for example] to the Congo, which is rich in natural resources such as cobalt, a key component in the manufacturing of cell phones and other electronics. The country contains 80 percent of the world’s cobalt reserves….An April 2009 report to Congress by the National Defense Stockpile Center made clear that ensuring access to mineral markets around the world is of vital interest to national security.’ It could be objectively understood that each nation must care about its security as effectively as possible. But why this does have always to be at the expense of sometime shredding human rights of people of other nations and in some cases supporting regimes which are slaughtering or simply abusing their people in the millions.

AFRICOM strategy appears to be borrowed from US military foreign policies of the 60s. Noam Chomsky, in ‘America’s quest for global dominance,‘ explains that during that period the Kennedy administration changed the mission of the Latin American military, effectively, from ‘hemisphere defense’ to ‘internal security.’ As a consequence, the shift was from toleration ‘of the rapacity and cruelty of the Latin American military’ to ‘direct complicity in their crimes, to support for ‘the methods of Heinrich Himmler’s extermination squads.’

As for the picture of how the policy worked on the ground with Latin American forces, Alfredo Vasquez Carrizosa, president of the Colombian Permanent Committee for Human Rights, provides a telling narrative. ‘[The Kennedy administration] took great pains to transform our regular armies into counterinsurgency brigades, accepting the new strategy of the death squads. …the National Security Doctrine … not defense against an external enemy, but a way to make the military establishment the masters of the game [with] the right to combat the internal enemy …: it is the right to fight and to exterminate social workers, trade unionists, men and women [including politicians and journalists] who are not supportive of the establishment, and who are assumed to be communist extremists [or terrorists]. And this could mean anyone,…

While receiving African Young Leaders at the White House in July 2010, Barack Obama, explained to his audience that the US in its relations with the external world was primarily after its own national interests. He was understandably right. This was in response to a question of knowing how the new intended Africa-US relationship would address protagonist issues where African and U.S. interests would seem to be opposed to each others. The American administration backing AFRICOM speedily implementation and those at the receiving end among African governments who espouse its objectives and adopt its operational mechanisms are either in denial of its impact in strengthening dictatorial regimes, or accomplices in structures of oppression of citizens and illegal or inappropriate exploitation of national resources.

People get what they deserve. Their destinies are shaped by the decisions they make. South Africans wouldn’t have ended Apartheid if they didn’t stand up against it as long as necessary to see it off. There are many historical examples to demonstrate that unwanted situations are only changed when there are people to oppose them. Be it for example slavery, or other discriminations of different sorts. Africans knowing what colonialism did to their nations and what new forms of imperialisms are doing to their people [e.g. millions of dead, looted mineral resources, western backed political and criminal leaders in the Great Lakes region] they shouldn’t shy away from raising these issues and stand together to get their people the best deal around.


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