’m usually a strong supporter of President Barack Obama. I’m sure when all is said and done, he will go down in history as one of America’s best presidents. Of course, how well the Democrats organize their base to get out for the November 2014 Congressional elections will have a big influence on the president’s legacy, one way or the other.
The other legacy item that troubles me, however, is the evolving U.S. relationship with Africa under President Obama’s watch. Libya, I’m sure, will be a sore spot in his memory—helping to implement “regime change” in a sovereign country that was no threat to the U.S. was no great historic moment to savor.
The president, to his credit, has announced and implemented a new policy for Africa, in an attempt to break free from the cold grip of the Kissinger-Brezinski doctrine that has dominated American foreign policy since the 1970s. The president has also, to his credit, invited 48 African heads of state, in an unprecedented move, to come to the White House in August to discuss Africa’s future relations with America. The African Growth and Opportunities Act process, originally created under former President Bill Clinton’s administration, has been supported and greatly expanded under President Obama. California representative Karen Bass (D-38) has been a major player in that expansion and most African countries have strongly advocated for this result.
Problematically, however, AfriCom ( Unified African Command) has seen a major build-up under President Obama—this means America’s major military footprints are getting much bigger in Africa than they should be. On paper, the U.S. has only one large official military base in Africa, and that is Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti, on Africa’s East Coast. This is a base the U.S. shares with Israel.
Unofficially, however, based on recent presentations to prospective military contractors, the U.S. Africom presence now includes a smaller military base in Mali (which is now expected to be overrun by Islamists in the recent fighting in that country), and a network of drone bases from Egypt west through the African Sahel and Chad. Along with military construction projects, military outposts, security cooperation and other military deployments, it is estimated that U.S. forces are now in 49 of the 55 independent African countries, and growing. Virtually all of this presence is post-Muammar Gaddafi, who was seen as an active obstacle to any Africom presence on the continent while he was alive.
The official mission of Africom, whose territorial responsibility includes all of Africa except Egypt (which is still under the Middle East Command structure), is : (1) To deter or defeat Al-Qaida and other violent extremist organizations operating in Africa and to deny them safe havens; (2) help strengthen the defense capabilities of influential African countries (by training as many national militaries in Africa as possible); (3) maintain U.S. access to Africa and to resist the encroachment of other nations’ influence in Africa, and (4) to protect African citizens from mass atrocities.
Set up during the Bush administration, Africom’s other mission, as stated by Vice Admiral Robert Moeller in a conference speech to a military base in 2008 about Africom, “is to protect the free flow of natural resources from Africa to the global market.”
The African Union’s quest to unify the African continent into a Union of African States, changing the paradigm for Africa’s respect in the world, is thus in dangerous trouble, and this on the watch of the African brother with the other mother. This is a situation which bears serious and sustained watching by those in the African Diaspora.
Are African people really free or just loose, as the old folks say?
Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.
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