By Kamalu Igirigiri
Twenty twelve (2012) and perhaps the year preceding it were years of experimentation for the US Africa command. The gains of the command in 2012 have been marked for consolidation in 2013. The centre for Research and Globalization reports that about 3000 US troops will be heading to Africa in 2013 to protect USA expanding interests principally oil.
The Army Times News Service also confirms that USA is expected to deploy more than 3000 soldiers to Africa in 2013. According to the News service report, the soldiers will be assigned to every part of the continent. Major General David R. Hogg mused, “As far as our mission goes, its uncharted territory,” General Foggs musings, quite recklessly and unthoughtfully, forgot that the territories and US Africa command perceived areas of influence belong to African people and their respective governments. They are not territories open for grabs but territories to be occupied with conditionalities. The General’s display of insensitivity runs counter to US Africa or AFRICOM stated objective which states that the pending militarization of Africa is “mutually beneficial for all parties”.
It seems to me though that the more familiar purpose for the “militarization of Africa” is oil exploration and exploitation. Exploitation because African governments in whose territories targeted oil for exploration is located, do not have the opportunity to accept a more beneficial operational option in the exploration of oil blocks found in their territories. This tally’s with the mission of the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) which states as follows “Africa command protects and defends the National interests of the United States by strengthening the defence capabilities of African States and regional organizations and when directed conducts military operations in order to deter and defeat transnational threats and to provide a security environment conducive to good governance and developments. This objective clearly does not favour the interests of African nations in whose territories oil blocks are found as they are not given the option to choose operational course that are not beneficial to the options offered by U.S. African Command.
US Africa command, is appropriating what it can simply grab in the African Oil sector. A congressional US service report made available by Wikileaks says “in spite of the conflict in the Niger Delta and other oil producing areas, the potential for deep water drilling in the Gulf of Guinea is high. Analysts estimate that Africa may supply as much as 25% of all US oil imports by 2015” The document quotes a US Defense Department official as saying “…a key mission for US forces would be to ensure that Nigeria’s oil fields….are secure”
US oil prospecting giants Exxon Mobil Oil Producing and Chevron are successfully prospecting for oil in Nigerian waters. Up to the shores of the Island of Equatorial Guinea and the offshore fields of Gabon the prospects for more offshore oil finds remain very bright all through the gulf. The exclusion of other transnational prospecting companies becomes an attractive option for the US Africa command. Its compulsion to deploy troops, to cover its African on and off shore areas of influence, becomes quite understandable. The decision to embark on full scale militarization of Africa was borne out of its dogged experiments carried out in 2011 and most of 2012. With little opposition from members of the international community and African Union opposition to the deployments of AFRICOM fizzling out after the death of Maumar Gadaffi of Lybia, US Africa commensed thus has the freedom to act.
The command had a dozen ongoing major test operations in Africa that required hands on involvements by US troops. By ensuring that US troops are found in every corner of Africa, there will be little risk that any regions where US interests are threatened will be left uncovered. For example Mali has oil reserves and is strategically located, but Mali has been destabilized by a growing secessionist’s movement in the north with strong al-queda connections. Conventionally Mali has also been the site of a US military exercise called “Atlas Accord 12” which provided training to Mali’s military aerial delivery.
In 2012, there have been other operations in other parts of the continent that were comparable in scale if not in substance to operation “cutlass Express” a US naval exercise that focused on what was purportedly “piracy” in the Somalia Basin. The “Africa Endeavor 2012” was based in Cameroon and offered coordination and training to military communications. Operation “Obangame express 2012’ was a naval excersise designed to ensure the presence of a US Africa command presence in the Gulf of Guinea an area in the heart of West Africa oil operations. This exercise was intended to establish contact with established oil blocks of the Gulf of Guinea and possible oil blocks offshore.
Operation “Southern Accord 2012” was based in Botswana with the objective to establish a military working relationship between Southern Africa military forces and those of USA through the instrumentalition of US Africa Command contingent on the ground.
On the West Coast, “Operation Western Accord 2012” was based in Senegal and involved various types of military operations from live fire exercises to intelligence gathering and combat marksmanship. There, have been other comparable exercises with names such as “African Lion”, “Flintlock” and “Phoenix Express”. In addition to these directly related US Africa command sensitization operations, the US National Guard Units from USA have been reported to have been rotating in and out of countries that include among others South Africa, Morocco, Ghana, Tunisia, Nigeria and Liberia. Formidable data has been mopped up by the US Africa command in years before and intensified in 2012. Digging in, has been slated for 2013. Time and mode of implementation could change slightly and modalities in some cases could be intricate. There is little evidence to suggest that Washington could back out of this project.
•Kamalu Igirigiri wrote in from Lagos.