George Bush Visits Africa to
promote the US Africa Command
Horace Cambell * (2008-02-14)
Horace Campbell look at Bush's visit as an attempt to further
militarize the continent and consolidate US holding.
One year after the announcement that he United States government
was going to accelerate the militarization of Africa, President
George Bush is embarking on a journey to Africa to coerce African
societies to align themselves with the neo-conservative agenda of
the present US administration. President George Bush will visit
five African countries between February 15 -21. The countries are
Benin, Ghana, Liberia, Rwanda and Tanzania. George Bush is a
lame-duck President who cannot visit real global players so this
visit to Africa is an effort to shore up the credentials of the
neo-liberal forces in Africa while promoting the conservative
ideas of abstinence as the basis of the fight against the HIV
Exactly one year ago, in February 2007, President Bush of the
United States of America announced that the Defense Department
would create a new Africa Command to coordinate U.S. government
interests on the continent. Under this plan all governmental
agencies of the US would fall under the military, i.e, USAID,
State Department, US Department of Energy, Treasury, and
Department of Education etc. Already within the US academic
community, the interests of the Pentagon has been placed before
all other interests.
In pursuance of the plans for the militarization of Africa, the US
Department of Defense announced the appointment of General William
“Kip” Ward (an African American) as Head of this new Military
command. On September 28, 2007, Ward as confirmed as the head of
this new imperial military structure and on October 1 2007, the
new command was launched in Stuttgart, Germany. The major question
that is being posed by African peace activists and by concerned
citizens is, why now? Why is a lame duck President seeking to gain
more support in Africa?
One answer may lay in the diminished power of the United States in
the aftermath of the Fiasco in Iraq and Afghanistan. I will
maintain in this reflection that it is urgent that peace activists
who want reconstruction and transformation in Africa oppose the
plans for the remilitarization of Africa under the guise of
fighting terrorism in Africa.
At the end of World War II the United States had emerged as a
leading political, economic and military force in world politics.
It was in this period when the US established unified military
command structures such as the European Command, the Pacific
Command, the Southern Command, the Northern Command, and Central
Command. Each command covers an area of responsibility (AOR). When
this command structure was being refined, Africa was an after
thought in so far as the United States had relegated the
exploitation of Africa to the former European colonial exploiters.
Hence, Africa fell under the European Command with its
headquarters in Germany. Africa had not been included in the
geographic combatant commands in so far as it was expected that
France, Britain, Belgium, Germany, Spain, Portugal and other
colonial powers would retain military forces to guarantee western
‘interests’ in Africa. The collapse of the Portuguese colonial
forces in Mozambique, Angola, Guinea and Sao Tome and the collapse
of the white racist military forces in Rhodesia gradually led to a
rethinking by the US military. During this period the US had
labeled all African freedom fighters as terrorists. When the US
was allied with Osama Bin Laden and Jonas Savimbi, Nelson Mandela
had been branded a terrorist.
After the Iranian revolution in 1978-1979, the US established the
Central Command. CENTCOM based in Florida, USA was responsible for
the US military activities in East Africa and the Horn of Africa (Djibouti,
Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Seychelles, Somalia and the
Sudan). The Pacific Command based in Hawaii was responsible for
the Comoros, Diego Garcia, Madagascar and Mauritius. Added to
these commands in six continents are the logistical command
structures such as the Joint Forces Command (JFCOM), Space Command
(SPACECOM), the Strategic Command (STRATCOM), the Special
Operations Command (SOCOM) and the Transport Command (TRANSCOM).
At the end of the era of formal apartheid, the US military had
established the Africa Crisis Response Initiative (ACRI) with the
goal of supporting humanitarianism and ending genocide. It was
this same US government that had lobbied the United Nations to
withdraw troops from Rwanda in the midst of the fastest genocide
in Africa. Two years later, the US supported the militarist forces
in Burundi even while publicly renouncing the genocidal violence
and the war in Burundi.
Throughout this period, the US military had been cautious about
involvement in Africa in the aftermath of the experience in
Mogadishu/Somalia in 1993. This caution changed after the events
of September 2001. In the next year the USA updated its ACRI
“plans” to organize the African Contingency Operations Training
Assistance (ACOTA). Under ACOTA, African troops were supposed to
be provided with offensive military weaponry, including rifles,
machine guns, and mortars. The Africa Regional Peacekeeping
Program (ARP) was also established in order to equip, train, and
support troops from selected African countries that are involved
in “peacekeeping” operations. Additionally, the US government
launched a Pan Sahel anti-terrorism initiative (later called Trans
Sahara Counter Terror Initiative). Behind these grand mutations
lay one clear fact. The USA wanted to control the oil resources
from Africa. Presently Africa supplies more petroleum to the USA
than the Middle East and US corporations wanted the US military to
guarantee the dominance of US oil conglomerates.
Exposing US militarism and the failures in the Middle East
After launching two major wars from the United States Central
Command, the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq pointed to the reality
that high technology weapons cannot guarantee military superiority
in battles. It was in the face of the quagmire that the US faced
in Iraq when the United States government announced the formation
of a new command structure called, Africom.
What did we learn from the visit of George Bush to the Middle East
in January 2008? Even the friends and allies of the USA (such as
the leadership of Saudi Arabia and Egypt) warned that the US could
not get anywhere as long as the issue of the Israeli occupation of
Palestine does not end. And, lo and behold, the people of Gaza
took matters in their hands a few days after the visit of Bush to
Egypt to bring home to the world the reality that there can be no
peace in Palestine when there is illegal Israeli occupation of
Palestinian lands along with the expansion of Jewish settlements
in Palestine. By breaking out of the blockade of Israel and
breaking through the walls that divided Gaza from Egypt. The
citizens of Gaza were literally breaking the silence in the
international community over the crimes against the peoples of
Palestine. In the process these citizens placed the Egyptian
leadership on the defensive and clarified the true alliance
between Israel, Egypt and the United States. In the face of the
protracted struggles of the Palestinian peoples, the future of US
domination in the Middle East remains unclear, hence the political
leadership in the USA is seeking new bases of support in Africa to
base US troops and to strengthen the US oil corporations. In other
parts of North Africa there are leaders who proclaim support for
the rights of the self determination of the peoples of Palestine
yet, covertly and overtly work with the government of the USA.
The governments of Morocco and Algeria, in particular, stand out
as military allies of the USA while posturing that they oppose
Israeli occupation. The government of Algeria is an accomplice in
fabricating terrorism in the Sahel in order to justify its
military alliance with the USA. Similarly, the government of Libya
projects itself as a progressive government but is seeking to
ingratiate itself with the neo-conservative forces in Washington.
Both Algeria and Libya are important producers of petroleum and
African Oil -The real objective
The invasion of Iraq, the instability on the border between Turkey
and Iraq (with the threat of a Turkish invasion of Iraq), the
stalemate over the future of Lebanon and the continued struggles
for self determination in Palestine has sharpened the
contradictions between imperialism and the peoples of the Middle
East. In the face of this situation there are scholars who have
argued and presented evidence that the government of the United
States has been “fabricating terrorism” in Africa. This
fabrication of terrorism carries with it racial stereotypes to
support US military action in Africa. The hypocrisy of the US
government in this region is manifest in the fact that while there
is a major campaign against genocide and against genocidal
violence in Darfur, the government of the USA cooperates with the
government of the Sudan on the grounds of “intelligence sharing to
fight terrorism.” It is in the Sudan where the neo-conservatives
are stoking the fires of war in order to get access to the oil
resources of the Sudan.
Under the guise of fighting terrorism the government of the US has
been involved in many illegal activities such as kidnapping
citizens in the so called extraordinary rendition.
Challenging the European Union and China in Africa
The changed realities in the Middle East and in Africa have been
accompanied by a new activist posture of China in Africa.
Outmaneuvered in Asia by China and challenged by the rising
democratic forces in Latin America, the spaces for the
accumulation of capital by US capitalists are dwindling.
In the past, when there was a crisis such as the period after the
Vietnam War, the USA could transfer the crisis to other countries
via the IMF. But the European Union has challenged this calculus
and created the Euro as an alternative to the US dollar.
It will not be possible for the IMF to transfer the crisis to Asia,
Europe, India, the Middle East or Latin America.
This means that there is only one area of the world where the US
imperialists will have free rein. This is in Africa. It is also in
Africa where there is a movement against the economic terrorism of
neo-liberalism and the unjust conditionalities of the IMF and
Thus far the majority of African states have refused to host the
Africa Command. Despite the aggressive military and diplomatic
efforts by the US government, not even the closest “partners’ of
the imperialists have supported this call for the Africa Command.
There is only one state (Liberia) that has openly called for the
basing of the US Africa command on African soil. Though the United
States has 5,458 “distinct and discreet military installations
around the world there are pressures from the military-industrial
and oil complex for the USA to have more effective resources in
Africa to defend US capitalism.
For the past twenty years the US government had been building
political assets in Kenya to pave the way for ‘security
cooperation.” Kenya would have been one of the stops on this visit
but the political struggles in Kenya made it impossible for George
Bush to visit Kenya. It is this country that has participated in
the so called extra-ordinary rendition.
More than 90 persons were captured with apparent U.S. involvement
after they fled fighting in Somalia. The prisoners were rendered
on a plane chartered by the Kenyan government into secret
detention in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
Uganda would have been another stop on the visit, but the
continued war in the North and the clear dictatorial character of
the Museveni government made this stop undesirable.
One other undesirable ally is Ethiopia. The government of Meles
Zenawi has joined in the efforts to fabricate terrorism in Somalia
and has invaded Somalia. Yet, despite this alliance, Bush and the
planners in Washington did not deem it safe for Bush to visit
Bush could not go to South Africa at this time because Jacob Zuma
is the President of the ANC. He could not go to Nigeria because
the Nigerians are opposed to the so called war on terror. So Bush
had to find a country where he could go to. The US settled on
Tanzania and Rwanda.
In West Africa, the US President is going to Benin, Liberia and
Ghana. It will be the task of the political activists and
democratic forces in these societies to demonstrate against the US
and the plans for Africom in West Africa.
Peace loving citizens must oppose the militarization of Africa.
In 1980 when the US Central Command was being debated the citizens
of the Middle East and North Africa did not sufficiently engage
the full meaning of this new military structure. After the
militarization of the Middle East, five major wars and millions
dead, it is urgent that peace activists oppose the plans to bring
Africa closer into this arc of warfare.
The quest for peace in Africa has been sharpened by the crude
materialism of the present period and the intensified exploitation
of Africans in the era of plunder and looting. Contemporary
looting is hidden behind the discourses of liberalization,
privatization, the freedom of markets and the Global war on terror.
Racist images of war and “anarchy” and “failed states” are
mobilized by the international media to justify the launch of the
US military command structure for Africa. Those who support real
cooperation, solidarity and anti racism must oppose the US Africa
We should remember the statement of the columnist of the New York
Times, Thomas Friedman who had written, ‘The hidden hand of the
market will never work without the hidden fist – McDonald’s cannot
flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the designer of the F-15. And
the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley’s
technologies is called the United States Army, Air Force, Navy and
Marine Corps.’ 
 Thomas Friedman, ‘A Manifesto for the Fast World’, New York
Times Magazine, March, 1989.
* Horace Campbell is Professor of Political Science at Syracuse