United States Congress (Washington, DC)

3 August 2007

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

(Page 2 of 7)

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.

Second, Africa is an unstable region with badly governed states that can only manage their affairs, particularly security-related, with outside assistance. Since September 11, 2001, U.S. foreign policy has heavily focused on preventing and combating global terrorist threats. The events of 9/11 changed the way the U.S. views and relates to the rest of the world. Likewise, the foreign policies of Western powers have increasingly been militarised to secure and defend Western interests. Terrorism has been identified as one of the biggest threats to these interests. Africom is expected to stop terrorists being bred in Africa’s weak, failing and failed states from attacking these interests.

It is widely held in the West that failing and failed states in Africa create opportunities for terrorists to exploit. Among the targets of these terrorists are Western interests such as oil sources and supply routes. Improvement of African security would inevitably promote U.S. national interests by making it less likely that the continent could be a source of terrorism against the United States.

Third, one of the critical challenges facing Africa and the UN is training, equipping and sustaining troops in peace missions. African armies need training in peacekeeping. It is proposed that through Africom, African troops will be trained and aided to keep the peace in African conflict zones. This should come in handy when it is considered that all African Union-led peacekeeping operations deployed so far have encountered monumental problems. The most recent deployment, African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), is on the verge of folding because of a lack of financial and logistical support, as well as trained troops to keep a peace that is not there. Furthermore, it is stated that the medical assistance given through Africom could reduce the high prevalence of HIV in African militaries.

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