chapter  7
22 Pages

The U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM): Issues and perspectives


This chapter analyzes the establishment of the U.S. Africa Command, popularly known as AFRICOM, and the discussions that were generated as a result of the presentation of the idea, and the subsequent responses from Africa. The chapter’s core argument is that it is impossible to appreciate African responses to AFRICOM without having a historical approach to two key interlinked processes: first the history of U.S. peacekeeping policy in Africa in the post-Cold War period, and secondly the impact of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on U.S.–Africa policy broadly. Therefore, U.S. policy towards Africa should be examined from these two epochs, namely: the period immediately after the Cold War and that after the terrorist attacks in the U.S. on September 11, 2001. Situating AFRICOM within an historical context is important, because it

is necessary to capture what will later be shown as “half-hearted” U.S. engagements in Africa, which variously reflect benign neglect or a sense of the U.S.’s manifest destiny to help Africa. Such historical lens explains what can be perceived as Africa’s reluctance to accept AFRICOM. But more critically, to appreciate the seeming reluctance by African states to welcome AFRICOM, one needs to analyze the manner in which this new Command has been presented. The main tones, one can argue are the discordant voices from Washington and Stuttgart, Germany, where AFRICOM is headquartered in convincing African states about the rationality for such a command. But more importantly that, the establishment of AFRICOM demonstrates a more serious, renewed, and sustained U.S. commitment to the maintenance of peace and security in Africa. While the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S. may probably have led to a renewed interest in Africa’s security, there is no doubt that even this rationalization still leaves some doubts. First, the U.S. response to both the 1998 bombings in Kenya and Tanzania demonstrated a total disregard for African lives and African security interests. Furthermore, post-9/11 U.S. security policies have been more than contradictory to say the least. The initiation of its “Global War on Terror” (GWoT) has neither led to a “renewed” interest on the continent, nor a more engaged security policy with Africa.1