The Pentagon to Broaden its scope with Africom

On his recent trip to the continent of Africa President George W. Bush took every opportunity to promote the aid given to African countries for AIDS relief, know as the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). The aspect of the trip broadcast with less amplification was the seeking of support and approval for Washington’s latest military initiative, namely United States African Command or Africom. Africom is currently a sub-command of U.S. European Command and is set to be fully operational by September of this year. Africom is the most recent of what are know as a Unified Combatant Command(UCC).

The Pentagon has the globe covered with 6 UCCs, USNorthCom (North American), USSouthCom (South America), USEUCom (Europe), USCentCom (Middle East), USPACom (China, Southeast Asia, Australia and the Pacific) and now Africa is splitting off from USEUCom to become USAfricom. It is likely that a majority of the American public will remain unaware of Africom until later this year.

The State Department has described Africom this way:

“Africom will play a supportive role as Africans continue to build democratic institutions and establish good governance across the continent. Africom’s foremost mission is to help Africans achieve their own security, and to support African leadership efforts.”

Reception of the idea of Africom has been mixed on the continent of Africa. Criticism is coming from several African nations, such as Ghana whose government has refused to host U.S. military bases within their borders and Tanzania whose citizens protested the arrival of President Bush.

Skeptics of Africom predict that U.S. presence will likely lead to destabilization rather than a calming of the region. Africans have justification for their skepticism in American motives for interest in the region. One needs only to look to the inaction of the U.S. in recent genocides in Rwanda and Sudan or the U.S. propping up Mobutu Sese Seko in Zaire as recent as the late nineties. Some also see Africom as a direct challenge to Chinese interests in the region, whose booming industrialization has brought Africa’s resources onto the world stage of the global market. China was instrumental in protecting the Sudanese government from harsh U.N. sanctions during the Darfur crisis because of oil they were importing from the region.

Africom will pave the way for all United States activities on the continent of Africa to fall under the control of the Department of Defense. Africom will establish the umbrella of control needed by the DOD to allow them the opportunity to bring in large military contractors to the region such as Blackwater and KBR.

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