In the light of the recent widespread conflicts throughout Ethiopia and Eritrea this past fall, I recognized that I knew next to nothing about the countries my family is from. I understood on a very surface level the rise of the TPLF (Tigray People’s Liberation Front) and EPRDF (Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front), but I didn’t know what information to trust about the history. I didn’t know what or how Ethiopia’s politics were impacted by US neo-colonial efforts as well. All of my questioning and curiosity led me to learn about AFRICOM.
AFRICOM, or the United States Africa Command, is a fairly unknown (at least in mainstream dialogue about foreign policy) US initiative that started in 2007 by the Bush administration and carried out/expanded under Obama. The mission statement for this military program is what you would expect it to be:
“U.S. Africa Command, with partners, counters transnational threats and malign actors, strengthens security forces, and responds to crises in order to advance U.S. national interests and promote regional security, stability, and prosperity.”
As one could probably assume, none of this is true. Rather, the project of AFRICOM has one clear underlying agenda: to preserve and expand US hegemony, in part due to the rise in China’s trade partnerships with African states. There is no shortage of scholarship explaining the history of both imperialism and how the fight for self-determination was destroyed by neocolonialist agendas by western states. Whether the many African leaders assassinated with the support of/direct involvement of France since 1963, to more recent swift destruction of Libya and Muammar Gadaffi, what semblance of sovereignty that should exist in Africa has been made impossible.
AFRICOM’s headquarters is not on the continent but in Stuttgart in Germany, and as of this year, the senators of South Carolina (along with Rep. Jim Clyburn) have asked to bring its headquarters to the US. African leaders, particularly Gadaffi, strongly advocated against not just the formation of AFRICOM but its headquarters being established on the continent. What are the implications? Well, with the 29 (known) military bases across the continent, the US has an interest and can take action against any state that they see as a threat to the US’s image. Colonialism and imperialism never left Africa following WW2; it merely transformed into a more nuanced strategy to continue to exploit Africa at the expense of leaving it unstable enough to justify such significant involvement by the west.
Black Alliance for Peace has been leading the advocacy and organizing surrounding the end of AFRICOM here in the US. You can check out resources on their campaign and information about AFRICOM here! But beyond just a singular campaign and understanding their demands, I’ve spent much of my time since this point understanding the revolutionary traditions of Africans to fight against neocolonialism. The current research I’m diving through is the history of the revolutionary left student movement in Ethiopia during the 70s, which grew into formation after the Vietnam war and the victory of the Vietcong (Here’s a link to the book I’m reading). I In radical circles, Ethiopia was seen as a possible “Black Vietnam” for its potential for mass political consciousness in the form of a revolution. Whether it is just on Ethiopia or in reading about Pan-Africanism as a whole, African peoples here and all across the world have been fighting every single day for centuries against the oppressive systems that we can best describe as the global racial capitalist hierarchy. AFRICOM merely is just one of many facets to that equation.
To say the US should remove all military bases from Africa, to end AFRICOM is to say that we must and should give African peoples true sovereignty, to pursue whatever political formation they see fit to help their people. Of course, the financial (IMF, World Bank, etc) and other military formations need to leave the continent too, but nothing less than a complete Pan-Africanist vision that gives Africans across the world the control over their resources and labor will give us freedom. I didn’t even know about AFRICOM until this past year, and I know I’ll continue to learn more about the many forms of repressive apparatuses that make up the challenges we as Africans face. And hopefully, I’ll share some of those ideas here in the future.
Being Noah Tesfaye #166: AFRICOM and Studying Modern Neocolonial, Imperialist Formations
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