United States Congress (Washington, DC)

Africa: Testimony of Dr. Wafula Okumu - U.S. House Africom Hearing

(Page 2 of 10)


Basis for Understanding U.S. foreign policy towards Africa

U.S. foreign policy towards Africa has been variously referred to as either “benign neglect” or “manifest destiny.” In other words, these postures have defined or driven U.S. relations with Africa. Despite changes of U.S. administrations since 1960, when most African countries started gaining independence, the substance has always remained the same. Only the styles of various administrations have changed. As we shall see later, when given a choice between supporting the liberation struggles of the African people or bolstering its NATO allies, the U.S. easily chose the latter. On the other hand, it has sent Peace Corps volunteers to remote villages to assist in improving agricultural production while at the same time erecting trade barriers against products of these local farmers. It is this principle of “manifest destiny” that seems to be embodied in Africom’s objectives and stated mission.

Africom’s Stated mission

  • ·         Prevent conflict by promoting stability regionally and eventually ‘prevail over extremism’ by never letting its seeds germinate in Africa.
  • ·         Address underdevelopment and poverty, which are making Africa a fertile ground for breeding terrorists.
  • ·          “…view the people, the nations and the continent of Africa from the same perspective that they view themselves.”
  • ·         Build the capacity of African nations through training and equipping African militaries, conducting training and medical missions.
  • ·         Undertake any necessary military action in Africa, despite its non-kinetic nature such as humanitarian assistance and disaster relief

Why the U.S. really wants to set up Africom

Despite the above stated objectives, there are many reasons why the U.S. wants to set up Africom. First, the U.S. has become increasingly dependent on Africa for its oil needs. Africa is currently the largest supplier of U.S. crude oil, with Nigeria being the fifth largest source. Instability, such as that in the Niger Delta, could significantly reduce this supply. The U.S. National Intelligence Council has projected that African imports will account for 25% of total U.S. imports by 2015. This oil will primarily come from Angola, Ghana, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and Nigeria. Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil producer, has now overtaken Saudi Arabia as the third largest oil exporter to the U.S.   The importance of the African oil source can be gleaned from the fact that in 2006, the U.S. imported 22% of its crude oil from Africa compared to 15% in 2004. President Bush appeared to have African oil supplies in mind during his 2006 State of the Union Address, when he announced his intention “to replace more than 75% of (U.S.) oil imports from the Middle East by 2025.” Continuing unrest in the Middle East has increased the urgency for the U.S. to build a security alliance with Africa in order to achieve this goal.

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