For Immediate Release
Vanessa Parra, +1-202-828-0110 x225
AFRICOM Launch Marks Increased U.S. Military Role in Africa
Washington, DC-The creation of the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), which starts operations on Oct. 1 could lead to a greater militarization of U.S. policy in Africa, Refugees International warned. The benefit of AFRICOM is that it will consolidate and coordinate U.S. security programs in Africa. The risk is that AFRICOM will take over many humanitarian and development activities that soldiers aren't trained to perform. Already, soldiers are doing everything from building schools to handing out food.
"We applaud the creation of the Pentagon's new Africa Command. It is a sign of increased U.S. attention to Africa," said Ken Bacon, president of Refugees International. "However, it is important that AFRICOM focus on training peace keepers and helping African countries build militaries responsive to civilian control and democratic government. The military should stick to military tasks and let diplomats and development experts direct other aspects of U.S. policy in Africa."
In July, Refugees International released U.S. Civil-Military Imbalance for Global Engagement: Lessons from the Operational Level in Africa, a report that detailed policy and funding disparities between the Defense Department and the State Department. The report argues that the Pentagon controls an increasing share of foreign aid that used to be directed by civilian agencies and that priorities on the African continent do not reflect need. As the report states, "…. The U.S. has allocated $49.65 million for reforming a 2,000-strong Liberian army to defend the four million people of that country. In contrast, it only plans to spend $5.5 million in 2009 to help reform a 164,000-strong army in the DR Congo, a country with 65 million people where Africa's 'first world war' claimed the lives of over five million people."
The Refugees International report also highlights the 17 to 1 spending imbalance between the Defense Department and civilian agencies. The percentage of Official Development Assistance that the Pentagon controls has skyrocketed from 3.5% to nearly 22% in the last decade. The percentage controlled by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) shrunk from 65% to 40%. The U.S. military has 1.5 million uniformed active duty employees, while the State Department only has about 6,500 employees and USAID, 2,021.
"We are pleased to see that AFRICOM has adjusted its mission statement away from humanitarian aid, but remain concerned over the lack of civilian involvement in U.S. engagement in Africa," continued Bacon. "The next Administration must strengthen the State Department's Africa Bureau and USAID programs in Africa to create a more effective, balanced foreign policy."
Refugees International is a Washington, DC-based organization that advocates to end refugee crises. Read our most recent recommendations at: www.refugeesinternational.org
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