Peace Activists must oppose the US Africa Command
by Horace G. Campbell

In February 2007, President Bush announced that the Defense Department would create a new Africa Command (Africom) 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, the State Department, the US Departments of Energy, Treasury, and the Department of Education, etc. 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 was confirmed as the head of this new imperial military structure and, on October 1, 2007, Africom was launched in Stuttgart, Germany. The major question that is being posed by African peace activists and by concerned citizens is, why now? One answer may lie in the diminished power of the United States in the aftermath of the fiascos in Iraq and Afghanistan. I will maintain in this article 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.
While the United States, the European Union and China fight to exploit Africa’s resources, the stereotyped image also illustrates the ongoing racism towards China as its political and economic clout grows. Credit: Damien Glez. Source:

Why Now?
At the end of World War II the United States emerged as a leading political, economic and military force in world politics. It was in this period that 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. When this command structure was being refined, Africa was an afterthought, insofar 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 because 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 (now Zimbabwe) gradually led to a rethinking by the US military.  During this period the US had labeled all African freedom fighters as terrorists. In fact, when the US was allied with Osama Bin Laden and Jonas Savimbi, Nelson Mandela had been branded a terrorist.

Central Command
After the Iranian revolution in 1978-1979, the US established the Central Command. CENTCOM, based in Florida, was responsible for 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), the 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. This was the same US government that had lobbied the United Nations to withdraw troops from Rwanda in the midst of the fastest genocide in Africa.

Throughout this period the US military had been cautious about involvement in Africa in the aftermath of the painful experience in Somalia in 1993. This cautious stance 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 (ARPP) 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 want the US military to guarantee the dominance of US oil conglomerates.

The failures in the Middle East
The United States Central Command launched two major wars; these wars (Afghanistan and Iraq) pointed to the reality that high technology weapons couldn’t guarantee military superiority in battles. It was in the face of the quagmire that the US faced in Iraq that the United States government announced the formation of a new command structure called Africom. 

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 have sharpened the conflict between imperialists 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 of “failed states harboring terrorists” to support a US military buildup in Africa. The hypocrisy of the US government in this region is clear when we see that while there is a major campaign against genocidal violence in Darfur, the government of the US is actively cooperating with the government of the Sudan on the grounds of “intelligence sharing to fight terrorism.” It is in the Sudan that the neo-cons are stoking the fires of war in order to get access to the oil resources of the that country.

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 opportunities for the accumulation of capital by US imperialists are dwindling.

In the past, when there was a crisis (such as the period after the Vietnam War), the US 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 conditions of the IMF and World Bank.

African responses

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is welcomed by US European Command deputy commander Army General William E. Ward. Source:

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 are but one or two states (such as Gabon and Liberia) that have openly called for  basing the US Africa command on African soil. Though the United States has 5,458 “distinct and discrete military installations” around the world there are pressures from the military-industrial and oil complex for the US to have more effective resources in Africa to defend US capitalism.

In 1980 when the US Central Command was being debated, the citizens of the Middle East and North Africa did not sufficiently grasp the full meaning of this new military structure. After the militarization of the Middle East, five major wars and millions dead, however, 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 hampered by the crude materialism of the present period and the intensified exploitation of Africans in the era of imperialist plunder and looting. This looting is hidden behind the Orwellian wordplay of “liberalization”, “privatization”, “the freedom of markets”, “humanitarianism” and “the global war on terror”.  Racist images of war, 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 command.

We should remember the statement by   New York Times columnist, Thomas Friedman who has 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.”

Professor Horace G. Campbell is a scholar-activist who teaches African American Studies and Political Science at Syracuse University.