The Case for Dismantling AFRICOM


Source: Pambazuka

On Saturday December 8, 2012, General Carter Ham, Commander of the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) spoke at the 2012 Achebe Colloquium and Africa at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. The thrust of his presentation was the role of AFRICOM in relation to the theme of the Colloquium: Governance, Peace and Security in Africa. From the content of his presentation, this writer discerned that his arguments could be a very good justification for the dismantling of AFRICOM. In the past few weeks, General Carter Ham has been giving public lectures raising the alarm about the rise of the threats of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb. This message was repeated at the Achebe Colloquium. These speeches came after President Obama designated a new commander for AFRICOM on October 18, 2012 and formed part of an intense tussle within the administration over the future of the budget of the Department of Defense. On November 30, exactly one week earlier, Jeh C. Johnson, the General Counsel for the Department of Defense of the United States gave a speech to the Oxford Union in the United Kingdom entitled, “The War on Al Queda and its affiliates: and how it will end?” In this speech, Jeh Johnson said, “The war on terror is not an endless conflict and the US is approaching a “tipping point” after which the military fight against al-Qaeda will be replaced by a law enforcement operation.” This speech formed part of the divide within the military establishment about the future of the war on terror.

On December 1, the Washington Post carried a lengthy report, “DIA sending hundreds more spies overseas.” The essence of the news report was that the growth of terrorism in the world required additional intelligence assets overseas, especially in Africa. To seal this line that Africa was a new hotbed of terrorism, the Wall Street Journal carried the front page headline on December 7, “Terror Fight shifts to Africa.” In this contribution by Julian E. Barnes and Evan Perez, readers were warned of the dangers of Al Queda extremists in North Africa. This article continued the narrative of the sections of the Pentagon that warned associated Al Queda groups in Africa “present significant threats to the United States”.

From the Washington Post came another voice, that of Fareed Zakaria. “End the war on terror and save billions.” In his submission, Zakaria implored President Barack Obama to end the war on terror or more realistically, “to start planning and preparing to phase it out.” One major step towards this goal of ending the war will be to end the barrage of negative images and racist presentations that are disguised as ‘humanitarian ‘partnerships’. The argument of this paper is that it will require popular mobilization to reduce the big budget of the Pentagon and new engagement by the peace movement to fight against the austerity measures proposed in order to protect bankers. It will be the task of a literate peace and social justice movement to work for the dismantling of the US Africa Command and to pursue goals that support education, health, building the infrastructure and the cleaning up of the environment in Africa.

It is in the context of these debates raging inside the United States where this writer wants to reflect on the strong reasons for ending the war on terror, especially in Africa. From the point of view of this analysis, what was important about the speech of General Carter Ham at the Achebe colloquium was that the general entered the space of intellectuals from Africa. This is itself a shift in the balance of forces since November 6, 2012. His prepared text covered areas of ‘progress’ with respect to the role of African peacekeepers, AMISON in Somalia and the success of the African Union Mission in Darfur. General Ham praised the patient and consultative mechanisms of the African Union and spoke of future ‘partnership’ with African states. Ham repeated claims that have gained currency in the Western media that northern Mali had become a ‘terrorist’ haven and that Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) posed such a danger that, “As each day goes by, Al Qaeda and other organizations are strengthening their hold in northern Mali. There is a compelling need for the international community, led by Africans, to address that.”

Carter Ham stressed the work of AFRICOM in maritime security in both the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Guinea. I will share with readers my notes and observations from the content of the speech, especially my view that if analyzed very carefully, his speech as a very good case for why the US Africa Command should be wound down and dismantled. I will also make this argument in relation to what was left unsaid. The three outstanding events that were not mentioned were the ongoing wars in the eastern Congo (especially the recent capture of Goma and other towns by rebels supported by Rwanda), the role of AFRICOM in current instability and support for extremists in Benghazi, Libya, and the role of the US military in the training of Captain Amadou Haya Sanogo, the architect of the military coup that has destabilized Mali since March 2012.

This short paper will start with the setting of the Achebe Colloquium with the emphasis on the ideas about peaceful negotiations that came out of this meeting. The paper will share with readers my notes of what this author considered the main thrust of the arguments of General Carter Ham in the context of the search for peace and security in Africa. The mission statement of the US Africa Command as stated on their web page is,
“Africa Command protects and defends the national security interests of the United States by strengthening the defense capabilities of African states and regional organizations and, when directed, conducts military operations, in order to deter and defeat transnational threats and to provide a security environment conducive to good governance and development.”

The evidence is now clear that the existence of AFRICOM has not provided ‘a security environment conducive to good governance and development.’ More than four years ago, I had joined with the scholarly community of the Association of Concerned Africans (ACAS) in opposing the establishment of AFRICOM and the militarizing of the study of Africa in the United States. I have over the years written extensively on the evolution of AFRICOM after writing the article, “Remilitarisation of African Societies: Analysis of the planning behind US Africa Command.” ACAS members have contributed significantly to the body of scholarly literature with special meetings and bulletins. For a short while, the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) hosted a group of activists who organized the ‘Resist Africom’ campaign. Staffers from the Congressional Research Service (CRS) wrote periodic updates on AFRICOM but these writings never critically dealt with the opposition to AFRICOM from Africa. Other sections of the bureaucracy and the think-tanks wrote critiques about the need to strengthen Africom. The activists from Resist AFRICOM differed significantly from the researchers at Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and the Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) where the new resources for the study of Africa were being deployed. Both Abdi Samatar and Jeremy Keenan have written extensively on the militarization of the Horn of Africa and on the Maghreb. Kennan’s work was most direct in stating that the Western forces and their allies were fabricating terrorism in North Africa in order to prop up repressive governments.

Drawing from the short five years of the existence of this Africa Command, the paper will agree with those African policy makers who have argued that the US military is one of the principal obstacles to peace and stability in Africa. Added to this destabilization of Africa is the ways in which the militarizing of the study of Africa has affected genuine academic research about Africa in US universities. The conclusion will join with the small group that in the past organized to resist Africom and the present peacemakers who call for an end to the militarization of African politics. This paper will argue that the current phase of the end of the war on terror provides the context for the dismantling of the US Africa Command. Carter Ham has argued that the largest disbursements to Africa are in the areas of health education and agriculture. The establishment of AFRICOM has not served the best interest of the African peoples, and the argument that the deployment of this military command is fuelled principally by humanitarianism has proved to be faulty. In the past five years there have been a number of false claims about the dangers of groups such as the Lord’s Resistance Army with the hype about violence presented by an organization called Invisible Children. Kony 2012 film exposed the need to educate the society about the realities of what is happening in Africa in order to rise above the ‘saviour’ syndrome.’


Professor Chinua Achebe is the internationally known writer and teacher who for the past four years hosted an annual colloquium on Africa. At the age of 82, Achebe was hosting this event for the fourth time under the title of “Governance, Security and Peace in Africa.” In their press release the organizers said of the meeting that it would ‘highlight security issues that challenge the establishment of institutions and principles of good governance on the continent.’ Invited panelists were called on to discuss the complex security issues confronting nations on the continent; security challenges surrounding the proliferation of small arms and lights weapons; piracy and terrorism; and the continuance of ethnic and religious conflict.” This colloquium featured many key figures in African Affairs including Dr. Mo Ibrahim of the Mo Ibrahim Foundation; Dr. Mamphela Ramphele, former Managing Director of the World Bank; Babatunde Fashola, (SAN), the Governor of Lagos State, Nigeria; Emira Woods (IPS), Professor Abena Busia of Rutgers University, Professor V. Y. Mudimbe of Duke University; Ephraim Isaac, Director, Institute for Advanced Semitic Studies; Jendayi Frazier, former Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs in the Bush administration, two former ambassadors to Nigeria, Walter Carrington and John Campbell; William Bellamy, retired US Ambassador, US Ambassador to the Republic of Niger, Bisa Williams, and thirty other distinguished scholars, ambassadors and dignitaries.

In addition, novelist, activist and filmmaker Tsitsi Dangarembga from Zimbabwe spoke at this colloquium. There were also two performances by singer, poet and lyricist Nneka who also participated in the deliberations. It was only two days before the colloquium that the organizers sent out a press release to state that General Carter F. Ham, Commander, United States Africa Command (AFRICOM), would address a plenary session and participate on a panel with former ambassadors to Nigeria, Walter Carrington and John Campbell along with John Pelletier of the Department of State.

The first sessions on Friday afternoon were noteworthy in so far as both Mo Ibrahim, the billionaire investor, and Babatunde Raji Fashola stressed the need for good governance and the demilitarization of African politics. Mo Ibrahim was most explicit that Africa needed investments and new educational linkages and not more military investments. Babatunde Fashola linked the issue of governance to the struggles against organizations such as Boko Haram stressing the need for social programs to tackle impoverishment and poor services. Shehu Sani, the Nigerian activist and author, Chairperson of the Civil Rights Congress of Nigeria, also made the point of the social and economic context of dissatisfaction that fueled the recruitment of youths into Boko Haram. Uzodinma Nwala, Professor of Social and Political Philosophy in Nigeria, also gave a coherent account of the historical foundations of the militarized forms of opposition in Nigeria and warned against facile label of ‘Al Queda affiliate’ to characterize what was going on in Nigeria. These presentations helped to support the position of policy makers in the US who refuse to place Boko Haram on the list of international terrorists.


It was at this meeting where General Carter Ham made his presentation. First, he acknowledged his lack of experience and knowledge on matters relating to Africa before he took up the position of Commander of the US Africa Command. Stating that the Command came into existence less five years ago and was the youngest of the six geographic commands, he told the audience that in the twenty months that he has served he had travelled to 42 different African countries. Of the other 13 states he said, “some don’t want me to come visit, and others my government doesn’t want me to go.” What was significant was that his mandate did not make the artificial division of the US State Department that divides sub-Saharan Africa from North Africa and the Middle East.

General Carter Ham categorized key US security interests in the continent of Africa into four areas:

1. Addressing and countering a variety of violent extremist organizations that are in Africa. He accorded this the highest priority.
2. Maintaining global access, improving access for own economic growth and for the international community.
3. Preventing or deterring conflict. Keeping a clear understanding of the many non-state actors fomenting conflict.
4. Humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, mass atrocity and response options.


From this introduction, the general went on to elaborate on his first point of the growing threat of violent extremist organizations in Africa. This is a theme that has been recurring in the speeches of General Ham that are posted on the web site of AFRICOM. Of the evolving threats, Al Qaeda’s core has been weakened and resulted in affiliates growing in importance. Ham spelt out for the colloquium the existence of the ‘network of Al Queda and its affiliates’, warning that these networks are changing in ways that increase threats to states but also regional stability. In his words, what was particularly worrisome was not each individual group, but the growing connectivity between groups. General Ham told his audience that the Al Queda networks were starting to form a network with indications of communications of training, sharing funding and weapons. He spelt out that this process was most mature in the Maghreb where Al Queda was well funded by outsiders and that they increased their capabilities through kidnappings and criminal activities. The three dominant extremists that were featured by the General were Al Shabaab in the Horn of Africa, Boko Haram group in Nigeria and AQIM. These groups were increasing collaboration and he cited developing linkages between Al Shabaab and AQAP in Yemen. In particular, the idea that AQIM was a major threat was presented earlier in the week at George Washington University.


Despite this gloomy picture of the growth of extremism, General Ham went on to praise the regional efforts to counter extremism in Africa, especially in East Africa. He noted that, ‘It was easy to get captured by the negative, but also there were very good efforts underway.’ The AMISON mission of the African Union in Somalia was a success story because the situation has changed to the point where the people of Somalia and their representatives have been able elect a president, a parliament and has begun to establish embassies overseas. Al Shabaab has largely been removed from Mogadishu and the port of Kismayo in just a year. For General Carter Ham, the important lesson was that the nations of East Africa and the African Union decided to take action. “It was not the international community and certainly not the United States; it was regional states making that decision.”

Carter Ham then reported on a heated meeting among general and intelligence chiefs on how to dismantle al Shabaab. After the discussion, the military chiefs then turned to US and said what AFRICOM needed to do. What Carter Ham neglected to say was that the United States was not the only non-East African represented at those discussions and offering assistance.

General Ham pointed out that AMISON was not the only success story of regional initiatives in Africa to combat extremism and insecurity. Carter Ham brought attention to the increased political will inside the African Union since 2007 and pointed to the fact that patience is necessary for these AU operations and that one should think of the long term.


On the point of maintaining global access, General Ham addressed the need for maritime security in Africa. This had been very important in East Africa where the waters of the Indian Ocean had been plagued by piracy. General Ham reported that in 2009 the waters of the Indian Ocean had the highest rates of piracy anywhere in the world. At great expense, private shipping has increased security so that instances of piracy have declined since 2009. Carter Ham spoke of the great expense in fighting piracy and that only two wealth states in Africa, Nigeria and South Africa, had the capacity to deploy maritime resources.


Of the third and fourth points, General Ham highlighted the role of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) as a non-state actor terrorizing citizens in Eastern and Central Africa. Again, General Ham pointed to regional efforts by African states to counter the LRA. Referring to this organization as the embodiment of ‘evil,’ the Commander of AFRICOM gave a selective history of the origins of this ‘army’ in Uganda and that the Uganda government had pushed out this movement out and that this ‘army’ was now scattered in the areas of Central Africa, South Sudan and the Congo. He reported that there were 100 Special Forces in various locations providing training, communications, medical and logistical support for African forces. “The Africans are out trying to get Joseph Kony.” “The United states brought unique support in fixed lift, communications support, solicit volunteers for regional communications.” He revealed that AFRICOM has provided special communication networks so that villagers could call for help if threatened by Lord’s Resistance Army. As a result of this assistance, there have been increased defections from the LRA and fewer attacks and increased cooperation. “But he is still at large,” and the “fundamental mission is to bring him to justice.”


General Ham expanded on the threats to the peoples of West Africa since the Malian military coup in March 2012. He communicated to this audience that since the coup and the collapse of the government in Bamako, there has been a breakdown in security with the establishment of a safe haven for Al Queda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). Carter Ham reported that AFRICOM was working to address four interrelated problem sets in Mali. First: restoration of constitutionally based government. He noted that it was difficult to proceed with peace and security until a legitimate government was restored. Second: address legitimate concerns of an underappreciated and often neglected demographic group in Northern Mali, mostly Tuareg. Third: there is a terrorist problem in Northern Mali. He noted that there was a ‘relatively small hardcore of terrorists.’ And fourth, there was the need for continuing humanitarian assistance in the Western African region of the Sahel.

The strategy of AFRICOM was to deal with all four issues but the solution had to be African-led with support from the international community. General Ham said that he believed that there was the need for a negotiated solution and ways to separate the people from terrorists. He referred to organizations in the country of Mali that have aligned ‘somewhat’ with the terrorists and said that it was necessary to prepare for military intervention. The mandate for such intervention had to come from the Security Council of the United Nations and with such a mandate the US planners had to work alongside African planners. He noted that the African planners had not yet requested US help but there would be need to assist with “logistics, financial support, intelligence, training and equipping.” General Carter Ham did not see the role of the AFRICOM in any combat operations and that the efforts to combat AQIM should be “African-led.”


General Carter Ham concluded his presentation by justifying the mission to advance US security interests across Africa. This was best achieved by advancing African countries. Military force was often essential but a non-decisive component in addressing many of the challenges that present themselves. General Ham then drew from official statements of the US government especially the updated US National Security Strategy in Africa that had been spelt out by the White House on June 14, 2012.

In that document signed by Barack Obama it was stated that the United States will partner with sub-Saharan African countries to pursue four interdependent and mutually reinforcing objectives:

(1) strengthen democratic institutions;
(2) spur economic growth, trade and investment;
(3) advance peace and security; and
(4) promote opportunity and development.

General Ham repeated these objectives and stated that stability and security were necessary preconditions for others to take hold.

The second document to which Carter Ham referred was the January 2012 Defense Strategic Guidance. This document provided guidelines for the priorities of the military and what armed forces are expected to do. General Ham then spoke of the challenging ‘development’ issues in Africa and that Africans were seeking to bring the military under civilian control while investing in people. In Africa there was the effort to uphold legitimate civilian control, under rule of law where the military was respectful of human rights. The military in Africa needed to be seen as ‘servants of the nation, rather than oppressors.’ He noted that this was ‘easier said than done.’

His final comments were that while the security challenges were complex and diverse, it may be easy to come away and worry yet he was optimistic about the future. He then reported a dialogue that he had with a high ranking African official who said to him that, “more than assistance or help, we want your partnership—treat us like equals, with dignity and respect, recognize this is my country, not your country. Yes we need help, but that we stand shoulder to shoulder together.” General Ham did not disclose which country the speaker was from but underlined that the right word to describe the work of the United States Africa Command was ‘partnership’ in describing what we seek to achieve….almost always closely aligned with African states.

Was this a case for or against AFRICOM?

There was a spirited question and answer session. The first question related to the importance of oil from Africa. The questioner told the audience that it was necessary to grasp the conjuncture why there was the deployment of the US Africa Command at this time. It was brought to the attention of the colloquium that up to 25 per cent of the petroleum needs of the United States were supplied by Africa and that Africa was now more important than the Middle East in the supply of oil. The speaker from the floor then drew attention to how the United States was a major weapons supplier to Africa and that these weapons undermined the stability of Africa. The point was made that there was near universal opposition in Africa to the hosting of AFRICOM and that there was only one state, Liberia, that offered to host AFRICOM. The speaker made references to the plunder of resources in eastern Congo and the relationships between the US military and the militaries in Rwanda and Uganda. There was then reference to the major land grab in Africa and why a conference on governance, peace and security should devote more time to the issue of land grab.

Carter Ham stated that the US military was not an independent actor in Africa, that the actions were guided by the Secretary of Defense and the president. He pointed out that there was a very deliberative process in the Department of Defense. The Africa Command did not provide weapons to governments. That weapons transfers came under the purview of the Department of State. There was a process of background checks before the US government provides weapons. These background checks were carried out by the Department of State. He noted that the US military provided training and equipment and the US reserved the right to monitor how training and weapons are applied. “Is it failsafe? No. Is it in accordance with laws and standards – yes.” The military was not operating as an independent actor in Africa. “We are one small part of US effort. If we look at US spending in Africa — military is dwarfed; most US spending is in health, education and agriculture. That reflects our values. We invest in human capital.”

These last words in the mind of this author were the clearest argument for the dismantling of AFRICOM and this author said so in his question to the general. If the United States and its government were serious about investment in human capital, then the present dominance of the military over aid and education ventures would be reversed.

Prior to the conference when there was a press release that General Ham would address the meeting, this author had second thoughts on participating but reflected that the gathering was more important than one single presentation from General Carter Ham. After listening to the presentation, I brought to the attention of the general the inconsistencies in his argument by pointing out that the successes that he referred to had been successes generated by African peacekeepers. Granted, the general claimed that these successes were possible with the collaboration of AFRICOM, but from the point of view of this author, most of the ‘partners’ of the United States military were states that did not derive their legitimacy from democratic participation and expression. This author brought to attention the fact that the general did not make reference to or comments on the ongoing war in the eastern Congo and the role of ‘allies’ of the USA such as Rwanda and Uganda in supporting the ‘rebel’ group, M 23.

I called to the attention of the General that his presentation omitted to mention Libya which is now overrun with militias and that one year previously, AFRICOM was claiming credit for the ‘success’ of the NATO intervention. This author brought to the attention of the audience the reports in the US government press that the president had appointed a new commander for AFRICOM after the investigation on what happened in Benghazi on September 11, 2102.

I reminded the audience that the present insecurity in Mali emanated from a military coup d’état that was carried out by a captain who had received military training in the United States. Bearing in mind the fact that the United States had expended more than one billion dollars in Mali on ‘development and military training’ this author reflected on the musings of one former US Ambassador to Mali who wrote and posted pictures of himself and Captain Sanogo under the caption, “ Sanogo: A hero or a mutineer.”

This author repeated the call for a thorough evaluation of the role of the United States and NATO in Libya and for a full disclosure of the relationship between the US AFRICOM and the current instability in Mali. It was the incongruence between the media hype about AQIM and the reality that the present insecurity in the Maghreb was generated by the past US military activities from the period of the Pan Sahel Initiative to the NATO intervention in Libya that is the most persuasive argument for the dismantling of the United States Africa command. None of the member states of NATO want a proper inquiry of the impact of the NATO intervention on West Africa. It has been the position of the South African representative in the Security Council that South Africa has been calling for a proper acknowledgement of the direct impact of the NATO intervention in Libya on the Sahel, as well as an appreciation by the Council of the role of the AU in bringing the problems to the Council’s attention.

I inquired from General Ham whether he agreed with the recent speech of Jeh Johnson that there were reduced terror threats around the world and that the war on terror could be dealt with as a law enforcement matter instead of a military counter-terror matter. General Carter Ham replied that he knows Jeh Johnson well and that he had spent year implementing a study on ‘don’t ask don’t tell.” Carter Ham said that he agreed with Johnson that is was time to have this debate.


The plenary session of General Ham was followed by a panel discussion by three speakers, Walter Carrington and John Campbell (both former ambassadors to Nigeria) and Michael Pelletier of the State Department. Both former ambassadors spoke vigorously on the current climate created for the diplomatic corps of the United States by the activities of the US Africa Command. Walter Carrington specifically spoke on the hype that was being created by the discussion on ‘extremism’ in Mali commenting on the fact that the coup maker in Mali had been sent to the United States on numerous occasions. “The engagement with military personnel such as Sanogo only increases their appetite.” Carrington reflected on his opposition to dictatorship in Nigeria when General Abacha was in power and noted that he could not have survived with the present interagency format that subordinates all foreign policy activities of the United States to the Department of Defense. It was in this panel where the general was notified that if the United States wanted to go after extremism in Africa, it was necessary to go to the source of the financing, which is in Saudi Arabia. It was stated that Saudi Arabia was most responsible for radicalizing the population of young followers of Islam in Africa. Both Carrington and Campbell drew attention to the features of African society that made it difficult for the Saudi type of radicalization to succeed in the long term. This week, it was reported by the U.S Government that the international banking group HSBC Exposed U.S. Financial System to Money Laundering, Drug, Terrorist Financing Risks.

Despite the evidence of the role of this bank in supporting drug traffickers and moving money from Saudi Arabia for extremist networks, this bank was fined and none of the executives was incarcerated. A Senate Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations probe had found that, “Global banking giant HSBC and its U.S. affiliate exposed the U.S. financial system to a wide array of money laundering, drug trafficking, and terrorist financing risks due to poor anti-money laundering (AML) controls.”


Numerous writers have drawn attention to the criminal activities of the financiers and the banks in promoting insecurity globally. These financiers have now moved to control private military firms and are busy planning to expand their activities in Africa. Many of these financiers are integrated into the military-industrial complex. Charles Ferguson in his book, Predator Nation: Corporate Criminals, Political Corruption, and the Hijacking of America, spelt out how the Ivory Tower and the academic establishment has been corrupted by the predators. The Association of Concerned Africans has joined in the critique of the US military in Africa drawing attention to the increased funding for the military and the diminished resources for established Title VI centers. Through the financing of programs such as the Minerva Research Initiative and the Human Terrain System (HTS), millions of dollars have been diverted from genuine scholarly research to priorities determined by the military. David Wiley in his critical analysis of how the study of Africa has been corrupted by the millions of dollars routed through the Pentagon noted,

“Now, for the first time in twenty-nine years, as U.S. military activities expand all across Africa — much of it hidden from public view and inaccessible to African and U.S. researchers — Africanist scholars can no longer say to their African hosts that the U.S. Africanist community stands together in not taking military or intelligence funding that could affect their choice of research topics, how their results will be used, and how they and their students will be viewed in Africa.”

What has emerged from an examination of the research projects financed by the Pentagon and routed through entities such as the National Defense University is the intellectual shallowness of the enterprise. It is difficult for the researchers to start from any serious historical background because from the moment there is serious engagement with the history and culture of Africa it can be understood that the U. S Military has always been on the wrong side of history in Africa. Whether it was the placing of Nelson Mandela on the list of terrorists or the collusion for the assassination of Patrice Lumumba, the experience of the US military has been to lay the basis for genocidal violence and the plunder of resources in Africa. Patricia Daley brought out the reality that Africans have to learn from the protracted processes for peace such as that which was guided by Julius Nyerere and Nelson Mandela in Burundi. Participants in the Achebe colloquium heard of the importance of the elders in Africa and how these social forces are necessary for building peace.

In the final analysis of the intended benefits versus consequences of the establishment of AFRICOM, the balance sheet weighs heavily against Africa’s continental good. The current instability in Libya and Mali are directly related to the military planning and activities of AFRICOM. It has been documented by a number of books that US Africa Command has increased resource exploitation, imperial expansion, instigated more violence, intensified regional conflicts, undermined the authority of regional organizations like IGAD, SADC, EAC, and eventually the African Union. As such, AFRICOM as a formal vehicle of US imperialism is a disaster. Although the Resist Africom formation no longer exists in a formal sense, their platform for the resistance fertilized and offered another way to get beyond the arguments of the military information operations of AFRICOM.

Of the three areas of ‘terrorist’ activities in Africa, the case can be made that military engagement by Britain, France and the United States will only provide the rationale for increasing militarization. It should be of the highest importance for activists and scholars to push back from the argument that associated Al Queda groups in Africa ‘present significant threats to the United States.’ This is an exaggeration. Second, the issues of reducing militarism and insecurity in Nigeria cannot be separated from the exploitation and oppression of the Nigerian people. Third, after 20 years, the situation of peace in Somalia can only be solved in a regional context where there is cooperation among democratic states. The peoples of Africa need international partners but Africans cannot accept partnership from a society where the military industrial-complex abroad fortifies the prison-industrial complex at home where African descendants are warehoused.

AFRICOM is not what the people of Africa need and it is not what will achieve long-term stability on the continent. The struggles against militarism and exploitation in the United States cannot be advanced by a military command that serves the interests of oil companies and private military contractors. Mo Ibrahim spoke for many Africans at the colloquium when he said that it was time that US oil companies were as aggressive in cleaning up the African oil spills as they were in opening new oil platforms. The call for resistance can now bring up to date the concrete experiences of the US military and mobilize for the dismantling of the US Africa Command. General Carter Ham sought to use the space of a scholarly platform to justify the need for the existence of the US Africa Command. Instead the content of his message provided some of the clearest reasons why the war on terror has passed the tipping point.


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* Horace Campbell is Professor of African American Studies and Political Science at Syracuse University. He is also a Special invited Professor at Tsinghua University, Beijing. He is the author of the forthcoming book, ‘Global NATO and the catastrophic failure in Libya’.


[1] Horace Campbell, “War on Terror: Not endless? A Pan African View, Pambazuka News , December 6, 2012,

[2] Julian E. Barnes and Evan Perez, “Terror Fight Shifts to Africa U.S. Considers Seeking Congressional Backing for Operations Against Extremists,” Wall Street Journal, Dec 3, 2012. See also Craig Whitclock, “U.S. expands secret intelligence operations in Africa,” Washington Post, June 13, 2012,

[3] These remarks were made four days earlier at George Washington University, see Eric Schmitt, “American Commander Details Al Qaeda’s Strength in Mali, “ New York Times, December 3, 2012,

[4] See web page of the US Africa Command,,” USAFRICOM is responsible for U.S. military relations with 54 African countries including the islands of Cape Verde, Equatorial Guinea, and Sao Tome and Principe, along with the Indian Ocean islands of Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, and Seychelles. U.S. Central Command maintains its traditional relationship with Egypt, though USAFRICOM coordinates with Egypt on issues relating to Africa security.”

[5] For the history of the Association of Concerned African Scholars see, William martin, Ed, “ACAS Thirty Years On,” Concerned Africa Scholars, Bulletin, No 81, 2009,

[6] Horace Campbell, “Remilitarisation of African Societies: Analysis of the planning behind US Africa Command, International Journal of African Renaissance Studies. 2008

[7] Lauren Ploch, “Africa Command: U.S. Strategic Interests and the Role of the U.S. Military in Africa, “ Congressional Research Service, Report RL34003

[8] “Strengthening AFRICOM’s Case.“ by J. Stephen Morrison, Mark Bellamy and Kathleen Hicks, CSIS, March 5, 2008, See also, Stephen Burgess, “US AFRICA COMMAND, CHANGING SECURITY DYNAMICS, AND PERCEPTIONS OF US AFRICA POLICY,” U.S. Air Force Academy, Institute for National Security Studies, USAFA,CO,80840

[9] Jeremy Keenan, The Dark Sahara: America’s War on Terror in Africa, Pluto Press, London 2009. See also Abdi Samatar, The Islamic Courts and the Mogadishu Miracle: What comes Next for Somalia: Review of African political Economy, Fall 2006 and “The Dialectics of Piracy in Somalia: the Poor versus the Rich,” Third World Quarterly, December 2010. The work on the funding of AFRICOM by Daniel Volman, “OBAMA, AFRICOM, AND U.S. MILITARY POLICY TOWARD AFRICA, “ Program of African Studies, PAS Working Paper Number 14, Northwestern University, 2009

[10] David Wiley, “Militarizing Africa and African Studies and the U.S. Africanist Response, African Studies Review, Volume 24, No. 2, 2012

[11], See also Rachel Margolis,

“Colloquium to address turbulence in Africa,” Brown Daily Herald, December 5, 2012,

[12] The six geographic commands are: The Africa Command, The European Command, the Pacific Command, Central Command, the Northern Command and the Southern Command. There are three other combatant command structures in the US military. These are: USSOCOM: U.S. Special Operations Command, operating from MacDill Air Force Base, FL., USSTRATCOM: U.S. Strategic Command, Offutt Air Force Base, NE, and USTRANSCOM: U.S. Transportation Command, Scott Air Force Base. See Andrew feikert, “The Unified Command Plan and Combatant Commands: Background and Issues for Congress, Congressional Research Service, July 17, 2012,

[13] Notes taken at the Colloquium by author.

[14] Eric Schmitt, “American Commander Details Al Qaeda’s Strength in Mali, New York Times , December 3, 2012,

[15] The point about stressing maritime security reflected different lines of the five services of the US military, See Vice Adm. Robert Moeller, “The Truth About Africom: No, the U.S. military is not trying to take over Africa. Here’s what we’re actually doing., “ Foreign Policy, JULY 21, 2010 ,

[16] The basic arguments about piracy in the Eastern Africa region have been written up by Laura Ploch, Christopher Blanchard, Ronald O’Rourke, R. Chuck Mason, and Rawle O. King, “Piracy Off the Horn of Africa, Congressional Research Service, Report 40528, Washington, D. C, 2009, For alternative views on the basis for piracy see Abdi Ismail Samatar, A., Lindberg, M., & Mahayni, B., 2011. “The dialectics of piracy in Somalia: the rich versus the poor.” Third World Quarterly, 31(8), pp. 1377-1394 and Pham, P., 2010. “Putting Somali piracy in context”. Journal of Contemporary African Studies, 28(3), pp. 325-341

[17] It was reported by Voice of America on October 19, 2012 that, “Obama Nominates New Chief for US Africa Command.”

[18] Captain Amadou Haya Sanogo the leader of the military coup in Mali had received military training in the United States visiting the most prestigious academies over 5 times since 2001. “In the past decade, the U.S. alone has poured close to $1 billion into Mali, including development aid as well as military training to battle an al-Qaida offshoot in the north. In doing so, the U.S. unwittingly also helped prepare the soldiers for the coup: Sanogo himself benefited from six training missions in the U.S., the State Department confirmed, starting in 1998 when he was sent to an infantry training course at Fort Benning, Ga. He returned in 2001, 2002, 2004, 2008 and 2010 to attend some of the most prestigious military institutions in America, including the Defense Language Institute at the Lackland Air Force Base, Texas. He took a basic officer course at Quantico, Virginia, and learned to use a light-armored vehicle at Camp Pendleton, Calif. See

[19] John Price, “Sanogo_ a hero or Mutineer,”

[20] “Senate Subcommittee Holds Hearing and Releases Report,” New York Times, July 16, 2012. See also the full report,

[21] David Wiley, “Militarizing Africa and African Studies and the U.S. Africanist Response, “ African Studies Review, September 2012. See also Maximilan Forte, “Militarism, Militarization, the Academy, and the Human Terrain System,” Zero Anthropology,June 22, 2011

[22] Patricia Daley, Gender and Genocide in Burundi: The Search for Spaces of peace in the Great Lakes Region, James Curry, Oxford,2008