It’s Time To Demilitarize US Policy in Africa

No Arms! No Transfers! No Military Aid!

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.

Bruce Dixon is the managing editor of the Black Agenda Report, where this article first appeared. Read other articles by Bruce, or visit Bruce's website.

6 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. sk said on February 28th, 2008 at 7:52am #

    The Damocles’s Sword hanging over Africa isn’t just military, it’s also political:

    Some of the most important threats to democracy in Africa are the International Republican Institute (IRI), USAID and other international NGO’s that are directly funded by the United States Congress. These are US foreign policy institutions that masquerade as philanthropic organizations of good-will all the while furthering American foreign policy. They are currently operating in over 40 African countries including Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa.

    For anyone interested in getting the low-down on “Democracy Promotion” overseas, this talk (MP3 audio) is as good a starting point as any.

  2. DavidG. said on February 28th, 2008 at 9:18pm #

    The old saying of: Beware of Greeks bearing gifts, should be replaced by: Beware of Americans bearing guns!

    American machinations all over the world are truly amazing. And dangerous!

  3. Mike McNiven said on February 29th, 2008 at 1:50am #

    Also, it is time to dimilitarize US policy in every corner of the world! Only an imperialist nation needs a world-wide military presence!

  4. Annie Kendig said on February 29th, 2008 at 8:18am #

    I recently contacted my congressmen and women with regard to sending aid to DR Congo when a Chinese company dumped around 20 tons of uranium laced ore into a river there. I recieved no reply. This says to me that my congressmen are as uninformed as I used to be.

  5. Lloyd Rowsey said on February 29th, 2008 at 8:42am #

    sk. none of the three links at the page you refer readers to works. Readers, if you follow sk’s “this” — to return to DV, do NOT X-out. Hit the back button.

  6. sk said on February 29th, 2008 at 9:40am #

    Lloyd, the link labeled ‘this’ in my posting takes you to the page where the talk (broken into three parts, all in MP3 format) can be heard. If the links at that page don’t work, you might have to download the MP3 files to your computer.

    Right click each part in turn, and then save the MP3 file to your computer. You can then listen to the talk by left clicking on each file.