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Analyst: On Africa Visit, Bush Pushes Agenda of Continent-Wide U.S. Military Expansion

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President Bush is back in Africa on five-country tour for the second and presumably final time during his presidency. Many anticipate that the President’s visit is an opportunity to shore up support among African allies for America’s strategic and economic interests, including expansion of the U.S. military command in Africa, AFRICOM. We speak to veteran Africa analyst Horace Campbell, professor of political science and African American studies at Syracuse University. [includes rush transcript]

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This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.


President Bush is back in Africa for the second and presumably final time during his presidency. He began a carefully selected five-country tour of the continent Saturday.

    PRESIDENT BUSH: We’re going to Benin, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ghana and Liberia. Each of these countries is blessed with natural beauty, vibrant culture, and an unmistakable spirit of energy and optimism. Africa in the twenty-first century is a continent of potential.


The reaction on the ground has been mixed. Many in the eastern African country of Tanzania welcomed the $700 million grant in foreign aid President Bush signed Sunday. But some 2,000 Tanzanians also protested his visit and question whether it will bring US military bases closer to African soil.

AFRICOM, the US military command for Africa, was created last year and is based in Germany. Liberia is the only African country that’s publicly offered to host AFRICOM. National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley told reporters Thursday not to expect any major announcements about AFRICOM on this trip. But many anticipate the President’s visit is an opportunity to shore up support among African allies for America’s strategic and economic interests.

To find out more on this subject, we’re joined on the phone from Kingston, Jamaica by veteran Africa analyst, Horace Campbell, professor of political science and African American studies at Syracuse University.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Professor Campbell.


Good morning Amy. How do you do?


Very good. Can you talk about the significance of this five African nation trip?


Yes, this is a sign of the weakness of the President Bush administration. After spending thirty years vilifying the Tanzanian government and trying to remove the policies of Ujamaa by President Julius Nyerere, Tanzania, after the inheritance of Nyerere, is one of the only stable serious countries that United States could go to, because it has a legacy of having a cohesive society. And the government of the United States believed that several hundred million dollars would reinforce the new conservative agenda around those in the political leadership of Tanzania by promoting conservative ideas about market forces, abstinence in the fight against HIV, and bringing the Tanzanian political leadership into the web of conservatism and neoliberalism.

And it’s very significant that the major players that the United States considers to be their allies in Africa, such as Nigeria, South Africa, Angola, that the United States would not be welcome in these countries, because the governments of these countries are very, very clear about the way in which this trip is tied to the militarization of Africa and the spread of the AFRICOM.

So the tacticians in the State Department want to undermine countries with progressive legacies, countries such as Tanzania with a legacy of Julius Nyerere, countries such as Ghana, where there is still some legacy of Kwame Nkrumah. But the demonstrations in Tanzania on Friday showed that the African peoples are very aware that this administration of George Bush has been fighting an illegal war in Iraq and is supporting the occupation of Palestine, that African governments cannot support a conservative and neoliberal project that is being promoted in this trip.


AFRICOM, overall, explain its origins, Professor Campbell.


Yes, AFRICOM is called Africa Command. When Africa fought for independence in the 1960s, the United States did not believe that Africans could control their destiny. So the United States left their military efforts in Africa to the European countries. So most of Africa fell under what is called the European Command, based in Germany.

And then, after the Iranian Revolution in 1978, the United States set about establishing what they call the Central Command. The Central Command then had responsibilities for eight countries in Eastern Africa — Kenya, Djibouti, Somalia, Sudan, Egypt and Ethiopia. These countries were brought into Central Command, and it is from Central Command that the United States is launching its illegal and unjust war against the people of Iraq and the people of Afghanistan.

As a result of the failures in Iraq and because the projection of the United States is that Middle Eastern oil will become more problematic in the next ten to fifteen years, there is a major thrust to control African oil resources. So, while in the past African militarism by the United States was divided into three commands — that is, the European Command for fourteen countries, the Central Command for eight countries, and the Pacific Command that involved Madagascar, Seychelles and Mauritius — now the United States want to bring all of African countries under the Africa Command, except for Egypt, which would still be under the Central Command.

And under this AFRICOM, all agencies of the United States of America would be under the United States Department of Defense, so that whatever work is being done in Africa by the United States Agency for International Development, the United States Treasury, the United States Department of Agriculture, the United States Department of Commerce, all agencies, Peace Corps, university work, will come under the US military. In other words, this will be the new step for the militarization of the continent of Africa.

And more — even more serious is the fact that behind this, mercenary firms, like Dyncorp, Blackwater and Lockheed Martin, and the other military contractors will then come in behind the US Department of Defense to set up military contacting organizations to protect US oil companies in Africa.

So the militarization of the African continent is something that those in the peace movement need to pay close attention to. We in the universities, we have to be very sensitive to this, because under the language-training programs, the US is now going to universities all around the United States of America to weave young students into language-training programs for AFRICOM. And it is very essential that universities and those who get grants from the government make very clear statements about their opposition to AFRICOM and the way in which all other agencies are being brought under the Department of Defense.


Professor Campbell, I wanted to ask you about that moment on the Indian Ocean in Tanzania when President Kikwete was asked about the progress of Barack Obama and — by a reporter — and he answered, “Of course, people talk with excitement about Obama.” Then, edging away diplomatically, Kikwete said, “For us, the most important thing is, let him be as good a friend of Africa as President Bush has been.” The significance, Professor Campbell, of what he was saying, and also if you could talk about what’s happening in Kenya as President Bush makes his way through these five African countries, which are not Kenya, though Condoleezza Rice is expected to go to Kenya, where Kofi Annan is involved in negotiations with the government and the opposition forces?

HORACE CAMPBELL: Yes. As we speak, Condoleezza Rice is in Kenya. But the Obama question that was posed to Kikwete, Kikwete, I’m sure, is saying one thing to President George Bush in English and saying another thing to the people of Tanzania in Kiswahili, because the Tanzanian society is very divided over this question. I lived in Tanzania for six years, and I know the depth of the feelings against imperialism in this country because of the destabilization and the crimes that were committed by former — the father of George Bush, Chester Crocker and those who were supporting the apartheid regime. So this is not something that George Bush can wipe out away in the memory. And although Kikwete is celebrating this $700 million, we know that this $700 million is an attempt to erode the last vestiges of Ujamaa in Tanzania.

Now, President Bush would have liked to have gone to Kenya, because Kenya is a country where the United States has built up assets for the past thirty years, political assets, military assets and those alliances that brought Israel, the United States and South Africa into the Kenyan society.

Now, the Kenyan people intervened decisively in the elections on December 27th. In these elections, the people overwhelmingly voted against a government that has been associated with corruption, that’s been associated with extraordinary rendition, rendering Kenyan citizens to Ethiopia in their attempt to support the United States’ war against the peoples of Somalia. Now, after stealing these elections — and this is a government that has stolen billions of dollars, and there are reports called the Anglo Leasing reports that has brought this out. The Kenyan people voted decisively, but this government stole the elections, and there was uprising in the country. This uprising went out of control and regrettably thousands of people have lost their lives in Kenya.

Kofi Annan is leading negotiations to bring peace to Kenya. The government is being most intransigent, insofar as the government is renegotiating while stalling, believing that there is a limit to which Kofi Annan will stay in Kenya. Now, because of the tenacity of the Kenyan people and because the United States understands how delicate the situation is, at first the government of the United States recognized the Kibaki government, but in the face of opposition from all the allies of the United States — European Union, the Canadians, the Australians — United States backtracked and supported negotiations. So these negotiations have been going on.

A month ago, the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs went to Kenya and made a very alarming statement that ethnic cleansing was going on in Kenya. Now, without taking time to study the situation, the US government has been making a number of blunders. Now, Condoleezza Rice is in Kenya, as we speak, and this morning she met with Kofi Annan, and she’s now meeting with Kibaki and Raila Odinga, and they’re calling for power sharing. Power sharing is well and good, but it holds great dangers. Power sharing without democratization of the society, without a new constitution, without holding those who have stolen money accountable, without ending Kenya’s alliance with the US war on terror, without presenting people of Islamic faith as terrorists in Kenya, then there will be continuous problems in the Kenyan society. So those in the peace movement in the United States, those in the peace and justice movement, should be supporting efforts for peace in Kenya, but not peace at any cost — peace with justice, peace to ensure that there’s no impunity in Kenya.

AMY GOODMAN: Professor Horace Campbell, I want to thank you for being with us, speaking to us from Jamaica. He is a professor of political science and African American studies at Syracuse University in New York.

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