In the case of the United Nations as a security arrangement, there are succinct provisions in the Charter for the promotion of international peace and security as well as containment of international aggression against or by member states. In the African setting, states have not made provisions, whether at the bilateral or multilateral levels, that commit them to a collective security alliance or defense, thus viewing an attack on one as an attack on all. Existing security mechanisms rather portray an element of sub-regional or regional conflict resolution strategies and policies with structural imbalances though the current dynamics contain opportunities for sustainability. The examples of the ECOMOG in West Africa under the auspices of ECOWAS and similar stand-by force arrangements as mandated by the African Union tend to shape the future direction of security on the continent. In addition to these, all the other security arrangements with external actors, particularly those that constitute the principal players in the region, intervene on the basis of mutually beneficial political arrangements, often resulting from colonial legacies and international political dynamics, for instance, Cold War politics and post-Cold War systemic developments.

Turning to security discourse in contemporary international relations, it is rather broad and encompasses activities and issues which are quite removed from the traditional conception of security, thus state security or national integrity. It includes broader and newer issues that relate to human security, rule of law and democratic governance. In fact, security in its contemporary application connotes the promotion of a secure political and economic environment that accords dignity for the individual. The role of the state is to ensure that security structures put premium on the needs, safety and wellbeing of the people or the citizenry (Wohglemuth, Rothschild et al, 1999). In accordance with this latest conception and, indeed practice, it is quite clear that the United States has demonstrated important interventions in the economic, social, political, institutional and governance structures of African states, either bilaterally or multilaterally.

Concrete examples in this regard include United States financial support for developing countries in the areas of HIV/AIDS prevention, consisting of a US$15 billion program that covered 12 African countries.[2] Another is the program by the United States government towards the prevention of tropical diseases in Africa with a US$350 million earmarked by President Bush on his recent tour of the continent. It has also encouraged trade relations under the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) of 1999;[3] and quite recently, the inauguration of the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) to boost economic development and overall national integration for the countries concerned.[4]

The concern, however, in this study centers on the narrower interpretation that explores the security commitments and interventions of the United States in post-Cold War Africa and how it constitutes agenda setting for the AFRICOM.

Objectives of Study and Scope

The work examines the character and structure of United States security cooperation in Africa and how these impact on the sub-region’s overall development. It probes such issues as the reasons for United States security cooperation, the benefits and the lessons learnt and what the new direction should be in this relationship. In this regard, the work explores the promotion of formal security arrangements by the United States in the areas of military and defense commitments towards the enhancement of political stability and the maintenance of an environment conducive to peaceful coexistence in Africa.

The scope is limited to post-Cold War events and activities but reflective of issues and developments that affect the continent of Africa and relevant to its development. In a post-Cold War international environment, therefore, the perceived visibility of the United States in African affairs has to be measured against her overall national agenda, whether her presence is one of altruistic internationalism or a pursuit of her own foreign policy agenda. It can be argued that, to a very large extent, United States African policies do not necessarily correspond to the continent’s strategic or security needs. They are usually tailored to respond to US security calculations which often invariably are unable to tackle individual complex situations. For instance, sub-Saharan Africa is normally treated en bloc in United States strategic calculations, while seemingly benching North Africa within the Middle East. By inference, sub-Saharan Africa is isolated by the US for policy coordination and it is in this vein that United States security cooperation must be analyzed. Again, the historical example of US responses to political events in Somalia had repercussions for Rwanda and inexorably, Liberia and the West African sub-region in the 1990s, for that matter.

The study is premised on the argument that United States security cooperation in Africa is guided by her national interest that seldom coincides with the important needs and aspirations of African states. If there are seeming convergences between US national interests and African aspirations, these are coincidental and largely defined by the foreign policy inclinations of the United States. To demonstrate the veracity of this assumption, the study looks at three epochal global developments that have shaped US interests or disinterest, as the case might be, in Africa.

  • The ending of the Cold War and US commitments under a professed “new international order” by former President George Bush, Sr.,
  • International events since the September 11th, 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Centre and America’s declared “War on Terror”,
  • The recent turbulence and instability in the global oil market and the interest in West African (Gulf of Guinea) oilfields by the United States.

The United States and Post-Cold War Policy

Former American President, George Bush Sr., heralded “internationalism” in the immediate aftermath of the Cold War as the blueprint for the future. Justifying his foreign policy direction after a prolonged struggle to contain the Soviet Union, he was convinced that the United States would not face military threats immediately from another superpower. Instability and threats to international security would rather emerge from small or middle-range powers as was soon demonstrated when Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990. It was his conviction that under a “New World Order”, rule of law must supplant the rule of the jungle, in which nations recognize the shared responsibility for freedom and justice and where the strong respect the rights of the weak.[5] In the new international system, he proclaimed, America had no alternative but to support the rule of law and to stand up to aggression. He quickly added though that the “New World Order” could be achieved only if the United States accepted the burden of leadership that was indispensable to its realization. Whiles not guaranteeing an era of perpetual peace after an era of Cold War stalemate within the United Nations system, he yearned for enduring peace to be the mission for all humankind.[6]

With the success from the Persian Gulf firmly rooted in the back of his mind, George Bush was determined to replicate his resolve on the African continent by launching “Operation Restore Hope”, also known as Unified Task Force (UNITAF) involving 25,000 troops drawn from 24 countries. The primary objective under its mandate was to ensure security, relieve suffering civilian populations and undertake other humanitarian activities. Alongside the UN Mission in Somalia, UNOSOM II, it had the mandate to restore peace through disarmament and work towards reconciliation among the warring factions. The United States, however, had to hurriedly withdraw from Somalia after the abortive yet fatal attempt to capture Somali Warlord General Mohamed Farah Aideed. The encounter resulted in the death of 18 US troops whose bodies were paraded on the streets of Mogadishu. This development also led to the termination of the UNOSOM II in 1994.[7]