The United States Africa
Command (AFRICOM), launched by President Bush in February 2007 becomes fully
operational today (Wednesday) when it takes over all U.S military operations in
Africa. Supporters say AFRICOM is expected to focus primarily on war prevention
rather than war fighting as well as working with African countries and
organizations to build regional security and crisis response capacity in
support of United States government efforts in Africa. But some skeptics are
reportedly worried over a possible hidden agenda disguised as the war on terror
and a self-interested scramble for the continent's resources.
is a resident fellow for foreign and defense policy at the American Enterprise
Institute. He tells reporter Peter Clottey from Washington that AFRICOM would
bolster Africa's security situation.
"I think it's a
positive development, but one which almost no one will notice in Africa in
their daily lives. AFRICOM is simply going to take over the programs and
objectives that were previously carried out by three separate U.S military
commands. And most governments won't notice much of a difference. The content
of what they are engaging in with the United States is not going to change very
much right now. And certainly citizens will not see anything new or surprising
as a result of this," De-Lorenzo noted.
that AFRICOM would bring a focused approach to the continent, which he said had
never been a priority before.
"I agree and
actually I think a lot of African governments agree, and that's why they've
after a year or more than a year now of discussions with the U.S to understand
better what this is about. They see the positive side. Remember that before
security issues were divided just cut up arbitrarily in three places, and
Africans complained about this a lot in previous decade. They would say what
you don't take us seriously enough for us to have our own command? Why do you
put us with the Europeans or with the Middle East or even with the Pacific?
Part of Africa was related to the Pacific command," he said.
African Countries unanimously demanded AFRICOM to deal specifically with
countries) merit our own structure, we want to deal with you and talk about
African problems and not have to compete with Europe or the Middle East for
attention because Europe and Middle East are probably almost always going to be
higher priorities. It will make us learn when the administration goes to
Congress to ask for funding for peacekeeping training, medical co-operation
mission with African militaries. A whole range of functions that AFRICOM is
going to take over, you would be able to make a case on African term with the
full attention committee that is there to listen with a four star general who
is the commander making arguments African based on consultations with African
leaders instead of having to integrate with the priorities of Europe and the
Middle East," De-Lorenzo pointed out.
although the US has done a good job in explaining the rationale behind the
creation of AFRICOM, it could do better.
"I think they
have done a very good job technically in terms of their bilateral relations
with other militaries and African defense departments. And the suspicion with
those partners I think has been later reduced, but they've done a poor job and
they were waiting to see the response in terms of political outreach. Outreach
to African journalists student groups, civil society groups, the Defense
Department is not built to engage with those sorts of groups, and we need a
whole of government effort on the side of the U.S not only to explain AFRICOM
because ultimately AFRICOM is just a tool, it's a form of bureaucratic
organization. But we need whole government efforts, which explains U.S purpose
in Africa in general to include AFRICOM, to include other development agency
efforts and in our foreign policy objectives," he said.
AFRICOM was created more than a year ago, American military programs on the
continent had reportedly been divided among three other commands concerned with
NATO and the wars in Iraq
AFRICOM is also facing skeptical U.S. lawmakers who slashed its budget by a
third last week and said the command's rollout over the last year had been
command is inheriting responsibility for the United States Central Command-run
base in Djibouti, where 1,800 troops are deployed to keep Horn of Africa terror networks in check. It also takes
over European Command's Trans-Sahara Counter-terrorism
Initiative and dozens of other military and maritime training programs.