Still, in furtherance of American national interest, countries which refused to sign on to the Non-Surrender Agreement (Article 98) as a waiver under the American Service Members Protection Act (ASPA) of 2002, exempting US nationals on their soil from prosecution by the ICC, are cut off from military assistance. This provision extends to all state parties to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and thus signatories to the Rome Statute. While Ghana, for instance, continues to enjoy its military assistance from the US for granting the waiver, other countries such as Benin, Mali and Niger in the West African sub-region and Namibia, Lesotho, South Africa, Kenya and Central African Republic were suspended for their refusal to comply with the waiver.
The United States and Africa Command
Another important milestone in United States’ Africa policy is the establishment of an Africa Command (AFRICOM), following the recommendation by former US Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld in 2007 to that effect. The intention was that a new command headquartered in Africa should coordinate all US military and security interests on the continent. As the report indicated, the new command “would strengthen our security cooperation with Africa and create opportunities to bolster the capabilities of our partners in Africa. Africa Command will enhance our efforts to bring peace and security to the people of Africa and promote our common goals of development, health, education, democracy, and economic growth in Africa.” The creation of AFRICOM meant that the overall military engagement and responsibility for Africa is removed from the European Command (EUCOM) based in Stuggart, Germany which has responsibility for 42 African countries. The United States Central Command (CENTCOM), based in Tampa, Florida was responsible for eight African countries, namely Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Seychelles, Somali and Sudan. The Hawaii-based United States Pacific Command (PACOM) had responsibility for Comoros, Mauritius and Madagascar.
According to calculations by the then Bush administration, a single command centre with responsibility for Africa meant that initiatives would be streamlined, while giving opportunity to the United States to assess accurately the effectiveness of its programs. Apart from the fact that Africa is placed under a unified command to respond to the security and strategic interests of the US, it would seem that the real motive for the establishment of AFRICOM is not necessarily to satisfy the needs of the continent but rather, the realization that “Africa holds growing geo-strategic importance and is high priority to this administration.” AFRICOM was to be in place by 30 September, 2008 by which date it had already become operational. With regard to the location of the headquarters in Africa, several countries came up for mention, with initially Algeria, Ghana, Morocco, Libya, Egypt, Djibouti, and Ethiopia on the list. The opposition and controversy surrounding the establishment of AFRICOM among the African elite had led to disinterest in the project with only President Johnson-Sirleaf of Liberia signaling Liberia’s availability to host it when President Bush visited that country in 2008.
All the virtues and attributes of AFRICOM not withstanding, there had been a seeming lack of clarity in the true intention behind the establishment of the Command. The AFRICOM structurally is almost everything, except as an instrument of war. Understandably, it is functionally designed to work in concert with African partners to create a more stable security environment for political and economic growth. It is to build partnerships with African governments; support US government agencies operating in the continent; conduct region-wide security operations across the continent; increase the counter-terrorism skills of partner nations; enhance humanitarian assistance, including disaster management and response; promote respect for human rights; provide support for African regional organizations and conduct military support operations if necessary.
Comments by officials of the Africa Centre for Strategic Studies (ACSS), Washington DC, during interactions with the Ghana Chapter of the (ACSS) in Accra, would seem to suggest that AFRICOM may not be headquartered in a single African country. There would be a head office in the United States headed by a military commander while operating staff would be spread around selected zones across the continent. In his own submission in Accra during his tour of the continent, President Bush Jr. seemed to have confirmed this latter position when he condescended that to think that one African country was going to host it was “bullony”. There was, however, no doubt about the intentions of the Bush administration to place AFRICOM on a solid foundation, if initial estimates of the Command’s 2007 cost of operations which was placed in the region of US$50 million was anything to go by.
While the policy pronouncements that underpin AFRICOM portend good intentions on the part of the United States to bring Africa to the forefront of its foreign policy and security commitments, the whole effort raised doubts about the supposed partnership inherent in it. Firstly, the United States was not convincing about enhancing efforts at bringing peace and security to ‘the people of Africa’ and promoting the ‘common’ goals of development, health, education, democracy, and economic growth when Africans or their representatives, whether at the level of governments or civil society groups and organizations, were not properly consulted on this grand project initially. Secondly, it was unclear whether Africa needed a security edifice in the form of a military command just because it falls within the traditional hegemonic tradition and practice of the US to establish command structures around the world. Thirdly, was the issue of prioritization of the areas and sectors that required external intervention and support. Perhaps, an appropriate framework would have been to engage African representation in the discussions for a mutually beneficial framework around policy issues, strategies, vision and mission, and benchmarks. As events later unfolded, global security calculations, dictated by geo-strategic considerations seemed to have shaped the structures and even the perceived benefits to the continent and these were obviously predetermined.
Perceptively, there were efforts by some regional actors to thwart any attempt by the United States to develop any more military bases on the continent, particularly the Gulf of Guinea (Sao Tome-Principe has been the more attractive to the European Central Command) since these might play into the long-term intentions, if any, behind the AFRICOM. Some of these intentions might be to use AFRICOM to protect United States interests, including the fight against terrorism, contain foreign competition, particularly the growing influence of China on the continent, to canvas and protect vital resources, especially meeting its energy needs, to support her allies and partners vital to accomplishing its national interests across the region and beyond.
According to statements by the US Commander of AFRICOM, General William E. Ward before the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 9, 2010 in Washington DC, priorities of the Obama Administration as spelt out during his visit to Ghana in July 2009 would determine the long-term objectives of AFRICOM. These include supporting strong and sustainable democracies and good governance; fostering sustained economic growth and development; increasing access to quality health and education; and helping to prevent, mitigate and resolve armed conflict. These priorities would be achieved, he emphasized, through sustained security engagement with African militaries. US programs and activities would therefore be geared toward supporting her national interests while also ensuring that four defense-oriented goals expressed by African governments and their people are pursued. These consist of building capable and accountable military forces that can perform professionally and with integrity; that these forces are supported and sustained by effective, legitimate, and professional security institutions; that they have the capability to exercise their means both nationally and regionally to dissuade, deter and defeat transnational threats; and finally that they have the capacity to increase their support towards international peacekeeping efforts.