The relevance of the Somalia debacle for United States Africa policy was that it constituted the barometer through which President Bush’s successor, President Bill Clinton viewed the continent to formulate his policy response to other conflicts on the continent. It led to the adoption of Presidential Decision Directive 25 (PDD-25) of 1995 under which the United States would not intervene directly or provide support to United Nations interventions, unless the situations in question directly threaten US national interests. The assertive multilateralism that President Clinton brought to office was very quickly replaced with selective engagement. In reality, the pursuit of the national interest became the litmus test for all manner of international engagements, even those that did not include military deployments. The consequences for United States’ Africa policy was the lack of response to the Rwanda genocide and the complete lack of military engagement in both Liberia and Sierra Leone, except for the multilateral responses within the corridors of the United Nations and the few gestures of support for the ECOMOG effort in the two West African countries.
What the United States decided to do in concrete terms was to develop the capacities of the African military to undertake peace support operations (SPOs). The channels for doing this was through bilateral agreements with individual countries and then later with sub-regional and regional institutions such as the ECOWAS and the African Union (then the OAU). At the continental level, it commenced with the African Crisis Response Force (ACRF), designed to capacitate African forces for rapid deployment in conflict zones for the purpose of humanitarian intervention. The criticism of the program as a knee-jerk approach to conflicts on the continent, particularly after the events in Rwanda and the reluctance of African countries to sign on to it led to the launching of a new initiative, the African Crisis Response Initiative (ACRI).
The ACRI was meant as a training program for African contingents to undertake peacekeeping roles on the continent. Sub-regional groupings such as the ECOWAS, with its infantile experiences in Liberia and Sierra Leone, were to benefit from this new arrangement. The glaring hindrance was the fact that the dynamics of international conflicts had changed from traditional inter-state conflicts to intra-state, and secondly, the newer types of conflicts demanded peace enforcement action instead of just keeping the peace. A number of countries from West Africa and elsewhere on the continent benefited from the program, notably Senegal and Ghana, and also Uganda and Tanzania. Though an estimated annual budget of US$15 million was earmarked for the program, it faced some difficulties and challenges, notably inadequate logistics and hardware, lack of support by the leading regional powers for the program, Nigeria and South Africa in particular, viewing it as an imposition from an external player, and that the program completely lacked consultation in designing its content and purpose. Some of the beneficiaries included Ghanaian and Senegalese, Sudanese and Tanzanian troops who had engagement with the ECOMOG in Liberia in 1997.
Again, perhaps due to the bottlenecks and reservations about the ACRF and the ACRI, a new program was launched by the Bush Jr. administration in 2004, the Africa Contingency Training Assistance (ACOTA). It operated on the basis of bilateral agreements between the United States and recipient states, but also for regional and sub-regional groupings. It brought innovations, including training for offensive military operations, the provision of weaponry for such operations and training modules and programs designed to meet the specific tactical and operational needs of the recipient states.
The War against Terrorism and Africa
The events of September 11, 2001 certainly impacted on United States foreign policy and had repercussions for Africa as well. The initial responses of President Bush to questions about Africa’s place in US foreign policy when he assumed office lacked any coherence or strategic consideration about the continent in his scheme of priorities. Very soon though, his government realized that to win the war against terrorism, it had to engage more countries and build on existing bilateral relations with friendly countries. It led to the designation of a group of countries in Africa as “satellite” or “anchor” states, notably Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya and Ethiopia. It also led to the decision to assist and strengthen reforming states, and finally to support credible sub-regional organizations that could help address transnational threats on a sustained basis. The promotion of democracy and good governance became the bridgehead in this endeavor and sustained with financial support at both bilateral and multilateral levels. For instance, the African Union, ECOWAS and IGAD (Inter-Governmental Agency for Development), and other sub-regional groupings benefited from this objective. It also came in the form of training and capacity-building, bolstering planning element and peace support capabilities.
The African Union has also benefited from these programs, especially with the launching of the United States Global Peace Operations Initiative (GPOI) in 2005 which aimed at improving the supply of personnel for peace operations worldwide with a target of 75,000 troops. The aim was to enable states and regional organizations that benefit from the program to be provided with technical assistance, training and material support towards institutional knowledge. The beneficiaries of this program include the peace operation Centres of Excellence: the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre in Ghana, the Peacekeeping School in Koulikoro, Mali, the Peace Support Training Centre in Karen, Kenya and the African Stand-By Force (ASF) of the African Union. In the case of ECOWAS operations in the sub-region and the African Union Mission in Sudan, it included the provision of logistical support by the United States through a private US firm, Pacific Architects Engineers (PAE). It additionally deployed an Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) in support of the ECOWAS Mission in Liberia (ECOMIL) in 2003, paving the way for the deployment of the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL) later the same year. United States assistance was also manifest in such countries as Sierra Leone and Cote d’Ivoire.
In overall terms, United States’ role and policy direction in Africa has been driven by the realization that there is danger in standing aloof from the failed or fragile states on the continent. It serves American national interest, therefore, to assist in strengthening the fragile states, develop local capacity to build porous borders, beef up law enforcement and intelligence infrastructure in the fight against terrorism. It is on record that under its counter-terrorism initiatives, the United States Special Operations Forces in 2002 supplied weapons, vehicles and military training to counter-terrorism teams in Mali, Niger, Chad and Mauritania. The United States had also established a permanent military base in Djibouti for which an amount of US$31 million was offered as development assistance. Similarly, countries that are perceived to have supported the war against terrorism, for instance, Egypt, Ethiopia, Kenya and Sudan are aid beneficiaries in a variety of ways.
Another manifestation of the war against terrorism in United States policy on the continent is that development aid in general increases or decreases relative to her commitments in other regions around the globe. The war in Iraq from 2003 meant that aid levels to Africa decreased but individual countries received proportionate higher levels of military and financial assistance depending on the country’s efforts in assisting the US war effort. For instance, Mali, Niger, Mauritania and Chad have all benefited from the counter-terrorism assistance program under the US-European Command with supply of weapons, vehicles and military training. There is also a Department of Defense (Pentagon) program, “Operation Enduring Freedom – Trans-Sahara” under which Nigeria, Morocco, Senegal and Tunisia had benefited. There was a pledge of US$500 million mentioned by the former Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld on his visit to the sub-region in 2005, spread over seven years.