By Patricia Kisare
This past June President Obama signed a presidential policy directive called “U.S. strategy toward Sub-Saharan Africa.” The policy lays out four pillars which the U.S. government deems important in its relations with Africa: (1) advance peace and security; (2) strengthen democratic institutions; (3) spur economic growth, trade, and investment; and (4) promote opportunity and development.
While many of the themes outlined in the policy directive sound good, much of the U.S. engagement in Africa has become increasingly militaristic. The U.S. Department of Defense has increased its operations across the continent to a much greater extent than years past. In fact, its Africa Command, known as AFRICOM, has more personnel working on the continent than does the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
Citing the need to counter terrorism on the continent, AFRICOM continues to expand the number of small military bases, surveillance activities and the use of drones. Further increased military engagement has also included training of African military personnel and financial support to undemocratic African governments willing to volunteer their armies for missions the U.S. deems crucial in the fight against terrorism.
As MCC’s work in Africa continues to support development and peacebuilding initiatives, our office remains steadfast in pressing the administration to change its Africa policy to one that prioritizes diplomacy, development and peaceful resolution of conflict. Last year we met with administration and congressional offices to convey this message. In 2013 we will continue to engage on this issue.