|The Concept Of Africa Command|
|Thursday, 15 April 2010 09:18|
BY: ZAKARI MUSAH
Peace, security and stability are very vital issues to every country’s development. They are the fundamental things the people expect from their government as a safety net and also investors who are keen on doing business in any country.
Africa, the second largest continent in the world, is full of potentials, mineral resources, culturally rich, socially diverse and many more all of which, if well harnessed, can give the continent an enviable image. But in spite of all these, peace and security have become challenges confronting some African countries, thus hindering the continent’s development.
Development depends on good governance. It is the ingredient which has been missing in too many places for far too long. It is the change that can unlock Africa’s potentials which is a responsibility that can be met by Africans through a better collaboration.
It is for these and other reasons that the collaboration between some African countries and the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) is laudable because the US interest in Africa is borne out of development, diplomacy and defence.
AFICOM is one of six US Department of Defence Geographic Headquarters, based in Stuttgart in Germany, with selected personnel assigned to the US Embassies and diplomatic missions in Africa.
AFRICOM’s military and civilian staffs are dedicated to working closely with African nations and organisations, US agencies and the international community to promote security and prevent conflict support of US foreign policy in Africa. The command is responsible for coordinating military-to-military relationships between the US and African nations and military organisations.
According to General William Ward, AFRICOM Commander, ‘I am confident that in the years to come, people will see an Africa that is secure, stable and developed in ways meaningful to its people and our global society. US Africa Command will make positive contributions in this important endeavour.’
Established in October 2007, AFRICOM is prepared to respond to requests for support from African nations and from other US Governmental Agencies by providing humanitarian or crisis response options.
General Ward is of the view that ‘AFRICOM’s national interests lie in a stable continent of Africa. Africans live in the relative peace of a stable environment, are governed effectively and enjoy a degree of economic and social advancement.’
He said ‘an Africa, whereby African populations are able to provide for themselves, contribute to global economic development and allow access to markets in free, fair and competitive ways is good for America and the world.’
At a round table discussion with the media in Accra when General Ward visited Ghana recently, he commended Ghana’s military for its exemplary support to peacekeeping operations. This is indeed a plus to Ghana, particularly our gallant soldiers for their continuous efforts in security matters.
He observed that ‘Ghana is the first military to engage in the United States peacekeeping training since 1998 and Ghana has become a leader in this area. Currently, Ghana is the seventh largest peacekeeping contributor among all peacekeeper-contributing nations. Ghana’s military is supporting critical peacekeeping operations not only in Africa but in other areas of the world, such as Lebanon and Kosovo.’
Commander Ward however allays the fear that AFRICOM wants to establish in Africa. He stated that ‘Our intentions are not to create arms of the US military in Ghana or any place in Africa. Our desire is to assist African nations in achieving a more secure and stable environment.’
He stated emphatically that ‘I want to make it clear that we are not seeking to establish our headquarters or basing in Ghana or anywhere else in Africa. My headquarters is in Germany and Germany is where it is going to stay for the foreseeable future.’
President Barack Obama stated in Accra in July 2009, that ‘Africa’s future is up to Africans’ and specified five priority areas where the US can contribute to a brighter future for Africa. They are democracy, opportunity, health, the peaceful resolution of conflict and addressing transnational challenges.
AFRICOM’s idea among other things is supporting the defence aspects of the President’s priorities because only through security and development can there be stability and only through stability can there be hope for the future.
Every leader is voted into power to serve the interest of the people and ensure development. There is the need for African leaders to facilitate regional integration and share ideas and experiences in order to meet the demands of the people and the challenges on the continent.
It is note worthy that the Civil-Military Assistance and Health Programmes under the AFRICOM, the US forces serve as examples of military professionalism while supporting State Department and USAID programmes and activities.
Projects such as schools, clinics, health programmes, well digging, clothing and food donation are encompassing. It promotes stability and improves disaster response. In countries with high HIV/AIDS rates, the US works at the military-to-military level to fund and co-ordinate awareness, treatment programmes and clinics, enabling African troops to participate in UN and AU missions.
It is important to note that the peaceful atmosphere that everybody is crying for thrives on equal rights and justice. When the rule of law is upheld by all, irrespective of one’s position, political or economic background, certainly, we would be making headway towards achieving peace and security on the continent.
In the 21st century, capable, reliable and transparent institutions are the key to success. Strong parliaments and honest police forces, independent judges and journalists, vibrant private sector and civil society are the things that give life to democracy, because these are what matter in people’s lives.
AFRICOM activities are diverse, all geared towards achieving a better Africa. Recently, Africa Partnership Station (APS), West platform USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44), ship along with an embarked international staff, arrived in Sekondi in the Western Region, to train navies to curb maritime threats and provide other services.
APS is an international maritime safety and security initiative that seeks to enhance maritime partnerships. Common security goals of these partnerships can be reached through engagements which advance Africa maritime capabilities and capacity. These engagements are designed by partner nations to answer to requests from other partner nations.
Ms Candace Ross, a Counter Narcotics Officer at AFRICOM, observed that some of the social problems that come out of drug menace as crimes such as robbery, rape, terrorism.
She said research has shown that people between 14 and 25 years in schools are among the vulnerable groups and called all governments to do more in the fight against drugs because if the people in such age brackets take drugs then the problem becomes bigger.
Africa Endeavour (AE), also to be hosted in Ghana in August this year, is also the Command’s annual communication exercise that focuses on interoperability and information sharing among African partners. Africa Endeavour 2010 will involve 30 African countries, six of which are new participants.
AE is a multinational initiative. The ability for African nations to link their communication networks and assists in the deployment planning for regional peace support, peacekeeping, humanitarian and disaster relief operations. It also contributes and enhances the network of the African Union to establish regional African Standby Forces.
There is no gainsaying that when proper measures are put in place with better collaboration among partners with rules of engagement properly spelt out, it would go a long way to ameliorate the security threats on the continent which is a bane of Africa’s development.
The writer works with the Information Services Department