The African Union and AFRICOM ThOMAS KWASI TIeKU
Introduction The establishment of the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) in October 2007 has created a cottage industry in policy discourse, campaigns of non-governmental organizations (NGO) and media discussions. Supporters of AFRICOM claim it will help African states prevent, manage and resolve intractable military conflicts in Africa, reduce endemic poverty and position Africa on the path of economic development. But those who loathe AFRICOM see it as a clear manifestation of the militarization of US foreign policy towards Africa. AFRICOM, in the view of the naysayers, is an instrument designed to help US policymakers exploit Africa’s resources and impose American policies on Africans. The partisan nature of the discussions has obscured one of the most important questions – perhaps the most important question – in African security today: What relationships exist between AFRICOM and African Union (AU) security institutions? This question requires serious attention from those interested in both Africa and US security issues. Shedding light on it will help us to understand the challenges posed by, as well as the opportunities embedded in, the simultaneous operation of the two security institutions in Africa. This in turn will, first, enhance the ability of policymakers to serve the common interests of Americans and Africans and, second, put academics in a better position to develop a nuanced theoretical understanding of emerging security structures in Africa. This chapter seeks to close the cavernous gap in the discussions on AFRICOM by examining the relationship between AFRICOM and AU security institutions. The analysis is carried out through the conceptual lenses of hard, soft and smart activities. Hard activities are coercive and aggressive military and economic instruments that undergird AFRICOM and AU security architectures. Soft activities are the cultural values and ideological tools that guide the work of AFRICOM and AU security institutions. Smart activities combine elements of hard power (Knorr 1973; Campbell and O’Hanlon 2006) and soft power (Nye 2004) in ways that are mutually reinforcing. This chapter argues that while AFRICOM and AU security institutions appear to conflict in some hard activities, they have cordial relationships in the area of
soft activities. Their relationship in the area of smart activities is virtually nonexistent. They need to develop a solid partnership in the area of smart activities, in part because doing so has the best potential to be enduring, and in part because it will create room for AFRICOM to win the hearts and minds of stakeholders in Africa, particularly those in the security arena. The broad implication of the argument is that US policymakers have neglected to develop the areas of AFRICOM that have the greatest chance of enhancing the AU security regime and winning the support of its key member states. The chapter is organized into five main sections. The first gives an outline of the AU and shows its position within broader African politics. The second section teases out AU security architecture, paying particular attention to the normative, ideational and institutional structures of the nascent pan-African security regimes. The next section summarizes the major views on AFRICOM and panAfrican security regimes. The penultimate part conceptualizes the relationship between AFRICOM and AU security institutions through the lenses of hard, soft and smart activities, examines each in turn and outlines the hurdles US policymakers need to overcome to secure the support and collaboration of the AU. The last section brings the entire argument together, and reflects on its implications.