It’s time to demilitarize US policy toward the African continent. Since the end of the Cold War in 1989, Republican and Democratic administrations alike have provided military aid, military training, military assistance and arms transfers to at least 50 out of 53 African nations, and fomented no less than fourteen wars. Bipartisan US policy until now has been about arming Africans, and keeping the continent hungry, sick, desperately poor and permanently at war with itself. Thanks to our policy of flooding the African continent with arms, the price of an AK-47 assault rifle is lower on the African continent than anyplace else on earth.
Of the nine countries where armed conflicts are now in progress, US-supplied arms and training are a factor in every one. In the Ethiopian civil war, in the invasion of Somalia by Ethiopia, in Chad, in Morocco and Western Sahara and Sudan, in the continuing Algerian civil war and of course in the Congo’s holocuast, which has accounted, conservatively, for six million dead since about 1996, the highest death toll of any conflict since World War 2. The US has equipped, trained and supplied every one of the national armies that have invaded and occupied parts of the Congo, from Kenya and Uganda to Rwanda, Burundi, Angola and even Namibia. US arms are also in the hands of non-government gangs and private armies that ravage and depopulate whole regions to facilitate the extraction of the coltan for our cell phones and computers, the titanium for our aircraft, and the uranium for our nukes.
America’s militarized foreign policy on the African continent does not benefit Africans. The inauguration of AFRICOM, the US military headquarters for the African continent, was met with universal condemnation and scorn by ordinary Africans across the continent, and their governments. Africans don’t want US arms, they don’t want US intervention, and they don’t want US bases.
African opposition to US military presence was the reason Bush did not set foot in the continent’s most populous country, Nigeria or in South Africa during his recent visit, and why he stayed only a matter of hours in Kenya, Tanzania and Burundi. Not one African country has dared the wrath of its people by requesting to host AFRICOM. But the ring of US bases, from Mombasa to Djibouti on the east to Angola and the Gulf of Guinea on the west, continues to grow. US forces regularly fly bombing missions over Somalia in support of the Ethiopian invasion.
America’s foreign policy elite, its multinational corporations, the Pentagon and its constellation of military suppliers and mercenary contractors know what they want. They want the coltan, the oil, the gold, and the diamonds. They want to privatize every state and social resource, down to the water supplies. They want to tie African agriculture to genetically engineered American crop varieties, and collect royalties for the use of these “patented” plants. They want to prevent African nations from spending their own wealth from their own resources on health and education infrastructure, on food subsidies, on growing jobs and healthy internal economies. And they want to keep Africa a war-torn hell on earth, because it’s good for business. If you’re not a “failed state” yet, they’ll make you one.
On the other hand, Africans know what they want for themselves. They are keen observers of the US political scene, and well aware that the next president may be a man with more direct ties to the African continent than most of us. Africans are waiting for the American people, especially African Americans to speak up and support their demands for the US to keep its bases, its military “assistance” and its arms to itself. How long will they have to wait?
It’s time this year to build a from-the-ground-up movement to hold the little clay feet of the Congressional Black Caucus to a higher standard on Africa policy, on African demilitarization, and on African debt, pressing the US and international bodies to cancel the debts and loan-shark interest owed by African nations, many of which have already been repaid several times over.
The Jubiliee Movement is one such effort on the part of hundreds of churches and community organizations to do just that.
Next year a new administration will be in the White House. Should we wait and see what its elite advisers, its policy wonks and campaign contributors and contractors convince it to do in Africa? Or should we make it plain what ought to be, what must be done?
For now, a good start would be calling your Congressman, and a random member of the Black Caucus about the Jubilee Act now before that body. And later this year, we’ll be covering visits to Congressional representatives, especially members of the Black Caucus, asking them to help in the demilitarization of US policy in Africa.