By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire
Published Nov 3, 2010
A 10-day joint military exercise involving the European Union, the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) and the African Union headquarters based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, was recently uncovered in a series of press releases from the Pentagon and other sources. Labeled “Amani Africa,” the operation brought together the combined forces of the EU, the Pentagon and 120 African military components.
Ostensibly designed to enhance the military and security capacity of the 53-member African Union states, the fact that both the EU and the Pentagon were heavily involved in this process raises questions about the role of the leading imperialist states in usurping and misdirecting African political and military policy on the continent. The joint exercises culminated on Oct. 29 with a VIP ceremony in the U.S.-backed state of Ethiopia.
According to African Union Commission Chair Jean Ping of Gabon, “The command post exercise is the culmination of two years of engagement and partnership throughout the Amani Africa cycle of preparations and activities, designed to both contribute toward and validate the operational readiness of the African Standby Force. The ASF therefore lies at the very core of the efforts of the African Union to take ownership of and lead in matters related to peace, security and development in Africa.” (U.S. AFRICOM Public Affairs, Oct. 27)
AU officials noted in a press release posted on the AFRICOM website that progress related to the military exercises would not have happened without the help of its partners. Ping was quoted as saying, “Indeed, a popular proverb in Kirundi [language spoken in Rwanda and Burundi] states that, if you want to walk fast, you should walk alone, but if you want to walk far, you should walk together.”
In specific terms the AFRICOM press release states, “The European Union has assisted the AU in its efforts, supporting various projects including development and preparation of the Africa Standby Force (ASF). U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) has also established a long-term partnership with the AU to provide communications links to the Africa Standby Force — part of the AU’s Peace Support Operations Division (PSOD).”
The Pentagon then details areas where it has provided assistance to the recently concluded military exercises. Staff Sergeant Amanda McCarty of the Public Affairs Division of AFRICOM noted, “U.S. AFRICOM has helped the African Union build its communications capability throughout the continent by establishing a Peace Support Operations Center in Addis Ababa; providing training to the PSOD; and integrating their activities into African Endeavor, a U.S.-led continent-wide communications exercise that allows African nations to gain experience communicating with each other and with the international community during an emergency. These activities were used to prepare the ASF for the Amani Africa CPS (command post exercise) and for future operations.”
These exercises simulated a “peace-support operation” in a fictional island of Carana, an area that is part of a subregion of the continent off the coast of the Horn of Africa. The scenario is based on combating a guerrilla group known as the Vrai Mouvement Patriotique de Carana, which is attempting to undermine the African Union Mission in fictional Carana.
The exercise is based on the VMPC gaining a foothold in one of the provinces of the fictional island and consequently launching attacks on civilians and recruiting youth into the guerrilla organization. The Amani Africa operation intervenes to ostensibly restore peace and stability on the island.
One of the officers involved in the exercise, retired Nigerian Major General Samaila Iliya, said of the fictional operation in the AFRICOM release, “The African Standby Force itself is a key component in the management of crisis management. It is a component that must be robust. It has to be capable of undertaking a range of activities in terms of peace operations. If you look at the present environment, especially that of Africa, you’ll see there are quite a number of challenges, especially when it concerns peace and stability.”
Exercise may signal large-scale intervention in Horn of Africa
It is quite interesting that this fictional scenario for Amani Africa takes place near the Horn of Africa, where the U.S. and other imperialist states have concentrated significant military resources in order to prevent the collapse of the Transitional Federal Government in Somalia as well as maintain Western influence in Ethiopia, Djibouti and Kenya. The Islamic resistance organizations in Somalia, al-Shabaab and Hizbul Islam, are challenging the existing African Union Mission to Somalia (AMISOM) that is largely underwritten and trained by the Pentagon.
In addition to the U.S. and European imperialist intervention in Somalia as well as off its coast — by stationing large flotillas of warships to purportedly fight piracy — the Pentagon and France both maintain military bases in the neighboring state of Djibouti. The U.S. assistant secretary of state for African affairs, recently delivered a major policy address at the Washington-based Center for International and Strategic Studies in which he called for greater military intervention in Somalia to prevent the collapse of the TFG.
Although the African Union’s stated purpose is to enhance political unity, economic cooperation and national security within its member states, until there are clear objectives related to what constitutes genuine independence and sovereignty in Africa, imperialist states will continue to maneuver individual governments and regional bodies into projects that objectively undermine stability. There are numerous examples of U.S. interference in Africa that have resulted in coups, the theft of national resources and impeding economic development.
Kwame Nkrumah, the first president of the Republic of Ghana and a leading theoretician and practitioner in the African revolutionary struggle of the 1950s and 1960s, called for the formation of an All-African High Military Command during this period. The distinction between what Nkrumah advocated and what appears to be happening today is that Nkrumah maintained that such a military alliance must be independent of neo-colonialism and imperialism.
In his book “Africa Must Unite,” published in 1963 on the eve of the formation of the Organization of African Unity (the forerunner of the African Union), Nkrumah stated: “I do not see much virtue or wisdom in our separate efforts to build up or maintain vast military forces for self-defense which, in any case, would be ineffective in any major attack upon our separate States. If we examine this problem realistically, we should be able to ask ourselves this pertinent question: which single State in Africa today can protect its sovereignty against an imperialist aggressor?”
With specific reference to the role of AFRICOM today, it’s instructive that in 1963 Nkrumah wrote: “If we do not unite and combine our military resources for common defense, the individual States, out of a sense of insecurity, may be drawn into making defense pacts with foreign powers which may endanger the security of us all.”