By Paul I. Adujie, New York
America’s establishment of the so-called African Command(AFRICOM), should be seen for what it is: America’s self-interested armada of protection for America, and her allies and not for Africa’s security. Africa has steadily and increasingly become more important by playing the role for Westerners as repository of energy resources which powers the engine-rooms of Western economies.
Additionally, America and her Western allies are in trepidations and stampede to stem China’s forays into Africa with plethora of real investments in solid infrastructures in many African nations.
The formation of this command was made official by former president of the United States, George W. Bush on February 6, 2007. It has been controversial since, particularly among
There is as well a lively debate by Americans in the Department of Defense, the War College, US State Department, and various Policy Foundations by policy wonks, aside from the Africans.
A major component and a key element in these debates is the fear of China. China is buoyed by her recent economic progress. China has, for more than a decade, attained major economic expansion of more than nine percent annually.
China has become exceedingly confident on the world stage. America and her Western allies are therefore deeply troubled by this state of affairs. China is seen by Western governments as a nuisance, an irritant and a competitor worth her weight in gold.
The sheer size of China, her industrial and technological ascendancy, tripled with her ability to produce with low overhead costs, empowers China, like no other nation. China is as well a major financier of America’s public debt, in the trillions. Sino-phobia in Western countries can also be blamed for America’s sudden desire to establish military presence in Africa.
In my view, therefore, America’s Africa Command, in conceptual terms and actual implementation, is not intended to serve Africa’s best interests. It is just happens that Africa has grown in geopolitical and geo-economic importance to America and her allies. Africa has been there all along.
Africa suddenly has the attentions of Western governments? Africa is suddenly a priority? I very much doubt it. As America and her allies are ensnared in the volatile Persian Gulf-Middle East, there is suddenly these self-serving attention being paid to the long neglected, ridiculed and forlorn Africa?
Given Africa’s experience in the hands of Western governments, from slave trade to colonialism to the hemispheric Cold War hegemonic struggles for chunks of the African continent, it should be no surprise to the United States and other Western governments that Africans view them with enlightened and sanguine suspicions. These suspicions are informed by Africa’s extremely checkered history and the roles of Westerners in it.
There are, in addition to African historical experiences with Westerners, the experiences of other regions and nations outside of Africa. There are such places such the Honduras, Grenada, Panama, Haiti, Dominican Republic to mention a few, where American military presence has not served best interests of the local populations.
The collective experience of these countries in which American military presence has been parceled and touted as being of some sorts of mutual benefit for America and the host country, has turned out, in many cases, that America’s interests were all she was interested in.
There were for instance, reports of how American military, acting supposedly in partnership or cooperation with Nigerian military, literally took over Nigerian Defense Headquarters. I know for a fact that the US military would not brook such behaviors by foreign military personnel at the Pentagon, the US Department of Defense or military complex.
It is probably important as a mention, that the United States already operates at least three other commands, namely, the European Command (EUCOM), Central Command, (CENTCOM) and Pacific Command (PACOM), therefore, Africa Command or (AFRICOM) will be the fourth leg of US military global spread.
America’s Africa Command, in the circumstances, cannot be seen by Africans as instrument for African Security. America’s Africa Command is instead seen as machinery for Western governments to pursue their vaunted economic, political and hegemonic hemispheric influence at the expense of Africans as well as a backdoor through which Westerners can outmaneuver rivals such as China and perhaps, Russia in addition.
Interestingly, the only interests which Westerners pursue, have ever pursued in Africa, are Western interests regardless of their protestations to the contrary; regardless of new and improved fanciful packaging.
Just think about it. Africa has lay as greenest field and fallow before the very eyes of Westerners for hundreds of years. Westerners have exploited Africa for Western benefit enough already. Africans can do without Western nations’ afterthoughts. AFRICOM and the current debate about China are two sides of the same coin.
There is a renewed scramble for Africa that is motivated mostly by the search for hydrocarbon and beyond that, an opportunity for those in the scramble to expand their global market share in this era of globalization. Africa is still their pawn, sadly! They have never been committed or dedicated to our cause or best interests.
This is the crux of the matter for Africans who have become deeply and extremely suspicious about the motives by Westerners who are pretending, permanently, to be on right side of all that is good for Africa.
Meanwhile, all through history, there have been no scintillas of truth in claims by Western governments which have pretended to be assisting Africa in some sorts of altruistic, disinterested, selfless or gratuitous way.
History is the witness and it is verifiably the case that Western contacts with Africa have had most negative consequences. It began with slave trade, then colonialism, neocolonialism, cold war and through all these, Westerners stripped and exploited Africa for Africa’s human, mineral and sundry resources.
As a consequence, discerning Africans have gone beyond merely being wary of Westerners. Again, we should be mindful, when an umbrella seller doubles as someone who predicts daily rain falls. Africans have become more circumspect in evaluating advice offered by Westerners, in matters of continental, regional security or matters of trade and investments on the continent.
The attitudes of Westerners to Africans have been based mostly on some sorts of ad hoc policy thrusts. It is marked by the absence of a well thought- out and well reasoned substantive and significant policy position for Africa.
Be it economic, political or military-strategic, Africa has always been seen as of no strategic or national security relevance to Westerners. Recount how many Western policy papers which explicitly and implicitly state such positions abundantly. But suddenly, exigent circumstances, which are propelled solely by Western interests, are now pushing Western governments to a waking moment of Africa’s importance.
And Westerners expect Africans to be jumping for joy and dance in the streets in excitements? Should Africans should be overjoyed and happily receive America’s Africa Command? If past is prologue, think again.
For starters, former president of the United States George W. Bush’s administration underestimated what would be Africans’ reaction to the presence of America AFRICOM. Non-Africans are too frequently presumptuous about Africans. Africans are taken for granted quite too often.
This all has smudges of condescension and it is an attitude which smacks of Western paternalistic talk-downs in dealings with Africans. This is why unpleasant failure results are consequences sometimes. Herein lies the difference between the West and resurgent China in Africa. China invited African countries to Beijing, China. And together, Africans and the Chinese, created the China-Africa Cooperation Forum (CACF). This Africa-China body has met in China and in parts of Africa since its creation.
And this is the sort of partnership, the sort of friends and robust engagement which has been absence between the West and Africa. Africa, for far too long, remained the inconvenient part of the world in the eyes of the Western governments.
Westerners have only been in exploitation mode and Africa as the butt of their dinner jokes, bluntly put. China on the other hand is, practical, engaged and straightforward. When was the last time the United States invited African leaders together to a joint summit or conference on economic, strategic or military cooperation?
When was the last time (ever) did the United states or Western nations practiced active engagements and rapprochement with African leaders the way China has demonstrated her leadership in that direction? China has excelled in action and not rhetoric and false promises.
China has over the years sent almost 20,000 medical doctors into many nations on the African continent. Beyond that, China has given loans, guaranteed loans for infrastructure development for African nations. China has been engaged, as well, in the direct creation of public infrastructures in some African nations.
Railways, refineries and sundry public works are abundant evidences which are already on the grounds in different parts of Africa and these, it must be said, tells you where China stands.
Africans are tired of profound platitudinous proclamations by Western governments. China in a short span of time has proven its worthiness to Africans, through its actions.
Westerners are alarmed, understandably so, because it is becoming obvious to the Africans, tremendous difference between hundreds of years of words by Western governments, compared with the recent Chinese presence. China does not seek to dictate leadership choice to Africans.
China is not dictating to Africans a mode of government as in presidential or parliamentary systems. China is not interested in meddling in the internal affairs Africans. That is how it should be!
Africans are now children of the West! Chinese goods are all over the United States. Chinese products are known by Westerners and Africans alike, to be cheap and to fulfill intended utility.
China is not known to hold Chinese products over and above products made in Africa. Western nations have done just that for decades, for instance, Schnapps was held up in Nigeria as superior to local brew, which is now almost extinct.
And this is the practice of the West across the board. And yet, some people wonder why African farmers and manufacturers can not compete against Western multinationals? For that, we recommend, “Life and Debt of Jamaica” the negative impact upon developing nations’ productive capacities occasioned by dumpings by Western nations.
And furthermore, on matters of impositions, China, quite unlike the West which imposed English, French or Portuguese etc, so far, China is not known to be force-feeding Africans any Cantonese and /or Mandarin.
Western contact with Africa began by imposing Christianity as the “civilized” non-primitive and superior religion. China, unlike the West which exulted Christian faith over every and any of Africa’s holies, China has not preached any religions to Africans.
China has given loans to African nations. China has guaranteed loans to African nations for public projects and sundry public infrastructures. Western nations on the other, have always led African nations to the World Bank and/ or the International Monetary Fund (IMF) through which Western nations put punishing strictures upon developing nations in Africa and Latin America etc.
These strictures, which are well coordinated, act to stifle development in Africa and elsewhere. You the reader must have heard of something called the Structural Adjustment Program or SAP. It ruined many nations in Africa and Latin America and ruined millions of lives elsewhere.
China has given loans, guaranteed loans to some African nations. China has also speedily executed some key projects in some African nations they go busily like acts and voila.
End results or outcomes are seen by the Africans. China has, in loan grants and loan guarantees, been acting for some African nations the way the United States acted on behalf of Israel when the US single-handedly made a $10 billion loan guarantee for Israel in one single year.
And this excludes the $5 billion yearly financial aid to Israel with no strings attached, with no meddling and interference with Israel domestic and foreign policies.
The amount of US foreign aid to all of the 53 countries in Africa during the last ten years is less than $10 billion. This, despite the presence of over 900 million people in Africa and this, despite the recognition that the need in Africa is greater than in Israel with her 5 million in population.
Africans are tired of ostentatious pledges and promises which are never fulfilled and never redeemed. China is a suitable alternative and a welcome change.
On matters of repressive and undemocratic governments in Africa, Western nations are friends to Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, with his notoriously repressive government.
He is a man who has been president for about thirty years. Most Western nations had dealings with Mobutu Sese Seku, a tyrant and dictator, who was as corrupt as corruption itself. Western nations have historically been strange-bedfellows with the world’s worst dictators, and tyrannical brutal leaders.
The West have perennially been in marriages of convenience with political leaders of other nations, particularly, leaders who do not pursue the interests of local electorates, but rather, selfish personal interests of select individuals and the West winks and nods so longs as Western interests are amply protected.
The West practice permanent Expediency, with an uppercase E. And frequently, it is counterproductive and chickens come home to roost. Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Iran etc, are historical example. Expediency can never be good substitute for thorough policy which contemplates and anticipates long term outcomes and consequences.
Western nations seem to have no issues with governments in Arabia and Persia, that is, regarding the abject absence of Democracy and Human Rights, Women Rights, in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, the Emirates.
And yet, the West lectures us about how China has been uninterested in Africans’ progress through forms of government.
And that China deals with repressive African governments. And how China is willing to deal with some corrupt officials. Swiss Banks are notorious for being safe havens for the prodigiously corrupt and criminal looters who pillage and plunder and not Banks in Beijing or Shanghai.
Western nations serve as harbors for fleeing thieves, and their families. Western nations serve as their refuge, and hospitals, and choice place to acquire sumptuous opulence, mansions, and investments and squander resources stolen from Africa. Show a mansion in China which belongs to an African rogue. China actually executes corrupt officials by firing squad.
It should be obvious to even the undiscerning, that Western nations excel in hypocrisy and double standards. The only things of importance to hypocrites are usually, their self-serving sanctimonious sermons which serve their self-interests.
Discerning Africans already know those who are friends and partners to Africa. Africans do not need Western nations’ preachment of the West as being holier than thou, in comparison to China. And someday, Africans and peoples of African descent will rise upon seeing the difference.