The United States Africa Command and Stability of African States: Issues and Prospects
1.0 GENERAL INTRODUCTION
1.1 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
The United States and Africa have a long history of engagements and interactions. This relationship spans the different epochs of African history such as the slave trade, colonialism, neocolonialism, cold war and the prevailing global order. The perceived benefit of the engagements to either party is a subject of debate shaped by the socio-political factors at play during the epochs. In this regard, Tshiterek (2003:81-90), observed that during the colonial era, the African region was ignored and left at the mercy of the European colonial powers by the US. He further noted that the cold war era was characterized by ideological wars between the US and the defunct Soviet Union with attendant negative consequences for the region The US is also believed to have supported authoritarian regimes in Zaire, Sudan and Liberia contrary to the wishes of the people.
Generally, US strategic involvement in African affairs in the post cold war era has been noted to be minimal. Ploch (2008; 12), however stated that the manifest lack of interest in US policy towards Africa changed following the 1998 embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania and the 20O1 terrorist incident in the US.According to him, the period following the terrorist attacks witnessed a strategic shift in US foreign policy thrust regarding the African region. He further attributed the change in strategic policy to the US GWOT, the drive to secure alternative source of energy and curtailing the rising influence of China in the African region. Consequently, the African region has witnessed increased military, intergovernmental, economic and humanitarian engagements with the US. In this wise, Diene (2009) in the African Defense Forum Magazine listed some of these engagement to include the AGOWA, PEPFAR and ACOTA. Others are the TSCT, APS and IMET.
The idea of the US government to float the US African Command (AFRICOM) on 6 February 2007 is therefore perceived as a continuation of its effort to consolidate its activities in the African region, (Ploch 2008:12). According to the AFRICOM official website, the outfit became operational on 1 Oct 2008 and is charged with the responsibility of coordinating military, humanitarian and developmental activities in all African countries except Egypt. The former US Principal Deputy under Secretary of Defense Policy, WL Sharp in 2007 stated that the creation of AFRICOM implies that traditional developmental activities carried out by agencies like the USAID now comes under the new outfit. Other US military engagements like ACOTA and TSCT, IMET, and APS will also be coordinated by the AFRICOM. He further described the US AFRICOM as the latest foreign policy initiative of the US DoD that will bring the needed development and stability to the African continent.
Despite its avowed altruistic intents, the US AFRICOM has been criticized and viewed with suspicion by African leaders and interest groups within the continent since its creation. The outfit has been perceived as a hegemonic tool for protection and propagation of US interest in Africa. Many African leaders have expressed concerns that the presence of US troops on the continent could escalate tensions between African nations and also threaten national sovereignty. The US government has been making concerted efforts to assuage the fears so far expressed on the operation of AFRICOM without much success. The contending issues regarding AFRICOM have so far hindered its smooth take off. This is buttressed by the inability to find a location for AFRICOM headquarters within the African region. According to the US AFRICOM Website, the headquarters of the outfit is at the moment temporarily located in Stuttgart Germany.
The issues which AFRICOM professes to address in the African continent could be said to be in existence. This is because the African continent is bedeviled with political turmoil, economic instability and general insecurity. The continent has experienced intra-state conflicts in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Sudan and Somalia. Political crisis have been recorded in Kenya, Niger, Zimbabwe and Cote D’voire within the last decade. Furthermore, a wave of political unrest which began in Algeria this year is presently engulfing Libya where NATO forces are trying to enforce peace. Gilbert et al (2009:269) also noted that the unstable political situation in the continent is further aggravated by the human security challenges confronting the continent in the areas of poverty, child and maternal mortality, HIV/Aids, unemployment and environmental degradation.
The gloomy outlook notwithstanding, the African continent has not been enthusiastic in its response to the US AFRICOM initiative despite its professed altruistic intents. This therefore warrants a closer examination of the issues involved. In this regard, this study intends to examine the contending issues in order to unravel or determine their genuineness. The study seeks to establish if the issues raised on AFRICOM are based on US antecedents in the continent or parochial interest of African leaders. The correlation between AFRICOM and stability of African states will also be explored in the study. Prospects for collaboration between African states and AFRICOM as well as strategies to enhance its operations in furtherance of mutual interest are also covered in the study.
1.2 STATEMENT OF THE RESEARCH PROBLEM
The contemporary strategic environment characterized by revolution in information communication technology has integrated the global economic system and introduced fresh security challenges. In the present dispensation, adverse economic development in one region affects other members of the international community. Furthermore, contemporary threats such as terrorism, piracy and transnational crimes now transcend geographical boundaries necessitating international collaborative efforts to combat them.
The African continent has long complained of neglect and unfair treatment in the prevailing economic system. The continent is also grappling with human security challenges which require intervention from the international community. The US AFRICOM is one of such foreign policy initiatives designed to assist the African continent in to address political, economical, security challenges. The smooth take off of the command has however been hindered by the level of resistance and suspicion exhibited by African countries towards the outfit. This study will therefore seek answers to the following questions:
a. What is the US AFRICOM and its objective?
b. What is the regional perspective regarding AFRICOM?
c. What are the contending issues regarding the operation of AFRICOM?
d. What is the relationship between AFRICOM and African stability?
e. What are the prospects for collaboration between the US AFRICOM and African countries
1.3 OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY
The broad objective of this study is to examine the impact of US AFRICOM on the stability of African states. The specific objectives of the study are:
To establish the objective for creation of US AFRICOM.
To establish the regional perspective on the operation of AFRICOM.
To scrutinize the contending issues regarding the operation of US AFRICOM.
To establish the impact of US AFRICOM and stability of the African continent
To explore prospects for collaboration between the US AFRICOM and African countries.
This study is based on the following assumptions:
That AFRICOM was established to protect US interest in Africa.
That regional perspective and attitude towards AFRICOM would be negative.
That African political leaders have the capacity to take a collective stand on the issue of operation of AFRICOM in the continent.
That AFRICOM as presently constituted would lead to instability on the African continent.
That there are prospects that both the US and the African continent if the concerns expressed by Africans is factored into the operation of the outfit.
1.5 SIGNIFICANCE OF THE STUDY
This study is considered significant as it will contribute to the ongoing debate on the US AFRICOM project and its impact on stability of the African continent. The findings of the research would also contribute to existing literature and conceptualization of future international collective security models hence contributing to efforts towards global security.
The study would also assist African leaders in formulation of policies regarding the vexed AFRICOM project as an objective assessment of contending issues would be undertaken. It is also hoped that the data generated and analyzed would spur further researches on US AFRICOM hence contributing to existing literatures and serving as reference materials for scholars on the subject.
1.6 SCOPE OF THE STUDY
The US AFRICOM project could be said to be a relatively new concept having being conceived just about three (3) years ago. The study would therefore cover relevant issues on the AFRICOM project beginning from when it was conceived in 2007 till date. Particular emphasis would be made to the views of African countries and interest groups within the continent on the operation of the project.
Since the study seeks to establish possible impacts of US AFRICOM on African stability, the entire continent is therefore taken into focus with special emphasis on the regional groupings. Comparisons were therefore made to the activities of other US commands particularly the CENCOM and EUCOM and their affect on the stability of the regions they operate. The US CENCOM and EUCOM were chosen because of their traditional relationship with the African continent being the precursors of AFRICOM. Their areas of responsibility also cover Europe which experienced conflicts (former Eastern bloc) and the Middle East where issues of oil politics, terrorism and conflicts are prevalent. These are some of the issues AFRICOM professes to tackle in Africa.
1.7 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
The study utilized the descriptive research methodology using the casual comparative research design (ex-post factor) to seek answers to its research objectives. According to Olayiwola (2007), the casual comparative research design is a retrospective study of the relationship between a naturally occurring event the independent variable which in this study is AFRICOM and its outcome the dependent variable which is African Stability. Consequently, this study will draw inferences from the operations of other US military commands and their impacts on the stability of the regions which they are situated to establish the impact of AFRICOM on African stability.
1.8 METHOD OF DATA COLLECTION
The study utilized primary and secondary sources extensively to collect information and data used in the research. The primary data were sourced through interviews with the Nigerian military chiefs and officials of the Institute for Peace and Conflict Resolution Abuja. The secondary data were sourced from the internet, journals, newspaper publications, government publications and other electronic data.
1.9 METHOD OF DATA VALIDATION
The data collection from the diverse sources was validated by establishing the reliability of the source of information particularly the electronic documents. In this regard, the frequency of quotation of publications particularly electronic documents by other scholars also assisted in the validation process. Furthermore the credibility and reliability of the information was assessed by comparing such data with information from other sources. The validation process was further enhanced by obtaining the counsel of experienced military officers retired and serving as well as experts in the field of international relations. The data and findings of this research is presented descriptively in simple language using bar charts, pie charts, maps and tables to facilitate comprehension.
1.10 WEAKNESS OF RESEARCH METHODOLOGY
The ex-post factor research design is a systematic enquiry in which the researcher does not have direct control over the independent variables because their manifestations has already occurred or are inherently not manipulated,. The researcher was therefore unable to manipulate the independent variable (AFRICOM) an inherent shortfall of the ex-post factor research design. The study therefore assumed that since US AFRICOM and African stability have a relationship one must be the cause and the other the effect. The relationship established between AFRICOM and African stability could therefore have been accentuated by other variables. These variables could be multifaceted and relative to the different regions in which the US commands operate.
1.11 LIMITATION OF THE STUDY
The researcher encountered some problems during the cause of the study. These were in the aspects of the inability of the researcher to interview US government and AFRICOM officials due to the stringent procedures at the US embassy in Nigeria and also the location of the headquarters of the outfit in Germany. This limitation was however overcome by extensive use of US government official websites and publications such as the AFRICOM and DoD websites as well US Congress Research Reports. The limitations therefore do not cast aspersion on the quality and findings of the research.
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