The US Africa Command – Africom – has been quietly expanding its footprint across the African continent since its establishment in 2007 (activated in 2008). A military and economic project, it represents the latest version of American imperialist intervention in Africa. An extension of Euro-American colonialism, Africa has been the target of colonial plunder for centuries – for its people as slaves, and also for its mineral resources.
While the transatlantic slave trade ended long ago, the imperialist powers continued in their designs to carve up Africa, exploit its tremendous natural resources, and maintain spheres of influence. Decolonisation in the 1950s and 60s achieved formal political independence for African nations, but the machinations by the capitalist West to recolonise Africa in more subtle ways never ceased.
When it comes to Africa the corporate-controlled media reports a depressing litany of cascading evils – corruption, interminable civil wars, dictators and child soldiers. Omitted from this picture is the very real, and ongoing, interventions by imperialist powers to keep African nations underdeveloped, and simply a source of raw materials for western transnational corporations.
Liberia – a settler colony similar to Israel
Was not Liberia, the small West African nation, founded by freed black slaves from the US, for the purpose of repatriating emancipated slaves and free African Americans? The sentiment to return to Africa was very noble, but such long distance nationalism was exploited, in the early days of the United States, to remove an important challenge to slavery – emancipated African Americans.
The American Colonisation Society, in the early 1800s, proposed a scheme of repatriation to West Africa – namely what became the nation of Liberia. Worried by the increasing population of emancipated slaves, as well as free blacks, the US authorities sponsored a return of formerly enslaved people, couched in the language of restitution.
The Americo-Liberians – as the new settlers are known – formed a new settler-colony in Liberia, and began to suppress the indigenous African nations. Indeed, the America-Liberians brought with them not only the outlook of the American society, but also fanatical Protestant Christianity. The project of peopling a new nation with settlers, armed with a fundamentalist interpretation of a monotheistic religion – the parallels between Liberia and Israel are quite apparent.
The vast majority of African Americans rejected this Liberia repatriation scheme, preferring to challenge slavery, racism and fight for equal rights in the United States. While prominent black nationalist and Northern abolitionists supported the Liberia project initially, the colonising practices of the new Americo-Liberian settlers soon attracted criticism.
The corrupt and dictatorial leaders of Liberia, such as former president Samuel Doe, were strongly supported by the United States, even as he was murdering his political opponents, embezzling state funds, while leaving his people in poverty.
The extension of Africom into numerous African nations has been implemented on the spurious excuse of conducting the ‘war on terror.’ This flimsy pretext, mobilised by successive American administrations, has disguised the predatory nature of Africom’s proxy imperialism with a humanitarian cloak.
South Sudan, one of the newest nations in sub-Saharan Africa, is the result of a secessionist project, clandestinely supported by the US and Israel. Possessing vast reserves of oil, western multinational corporations have longed to get their hands on South Sudan’s energy reserves. It is no secret that Israeli armaments exports ended up in the hands of secessionist South Sudanese rebel groups, contributing to the destabilisation of the Sudan.
Since 2011, when South Sudan declared formal independence, Israeli arms, military surveillance technology and training for security forces has continued, despite the well-documented record of war crimes and atrocities committed by South Sudanese military forces. Poverty, endemic violence and corruption have plagued South Sudan, reducing it to a failed state.
Africom and exile communities
Africom is not only a military mechanism but also a money-making machine for the American military-industrial complex. The allegedly light footprint of Africom bases in sub-Saharan Africa is proving to be quite enduring. The inter-imperialist competition for Africa’s natural resources has intensified with the expansion of Africom.
Most of Sydney’s African communities, small and multiethnic, have concentrated on multicultural assimilation, and have distanced themselves from the struggle for social change. There is no shortage of African recruits among the politically regressive evangelical cults, the latter emphasising individual ‘salvation’ as opposed to collective solidarity.
Sociopolitical issues, such as the role of Africom, get forgotten amid the largely indifferent political and cultural wasteland of western Sydney. However, it is incumbent on the activist Left to raise awareness of the role of imperialist institutions, such as Africom, in extending colonial power across Africa.