Tuesday 28 July 2009

Thought Picnic: AFRICOM another swamp for lethal mosquitoes

AFRICOM is inevitable

I once surmised in a comment on some blog when people raised the issue about AFRICOM [1] not being properly addressed in Obama’s Ghanaian speech that the more American investments and assets flow into Africa the more the need to protect those assets with some presence which could be military.

We all know that China is getting its fingers into Africa, not only in trying to get resources but these invaders under the guise of doing business and offering growth are ring-fencing resources by buying stakes, buying land and cavorting with the powers that be.

The Chinese managers are already on the ground directing projects and probably reporting back in debriefs to the mothership as to how to get more entrenched in Africa, you can imagine other hegemonies competing for African resources will not sit back and watch the new Scramble for the Partition of Africa on their television screens.

Basically, AFRICOM is here to stay but not necessarily as we expect, it would not be tanks and bombs like in the annihilation of substance of Afghanistan or Iraq, but there are lessons to be learnt from those battles that would prove useful to the contagion that AFRICOM will represent to Africa.

Weaponising anthropology

The information required is all in the open domain but it requires someone to pull the bits together to see the coherent scheme that would follow the age-old exchange system that had Africans giving up their land for the Bible or giving up their lives for the Quran.

In 2007 we learnt, the US military engaged anthropologists and sociologists [2] in a programme called the Human Terrain System [3] (HTS) for Iraq and Afghanistan in the two preceding years; this studies the complexities of human beings and their societies trying to appreciate how these communities work, how they make decisions, how they thrive and from a cynical if not sinister perspective how to infiltrate those communities in what is neatly called the battle of hearts and minds.

The battle of hearts and minds sits comfortably with everyone and for the military the dividends can be great to reducing conflict and engaging these communities in ways that help them work against the insurgents in their midst. Invariably, knowledge is power and powerful if you understand how societies work and need to engage in those societies for partnership or profit.

Defence contractor running academic research

What makes this HTS curiously interesting is the Pentagon partly outsourced this activity to BAe Systems [4], the defence contractor and it really makes one wonder why engaging anthropologists and sociologists for a field study is not handled by some renowned academic faculty from the many world standard universities in the United States.

One would think the core expertise of BAe Systems as one would find on their homepage is defence, security and aerospace technologies, the study of social groups and cultures can hardly make weapons work except where we are being opened up into a new area of overwhelming the defences of the enemy by understand what makes the enemy tick – I see no profit centres in this venture for BAe Systems – maybe I am being myopic.

Mapping out Africa

So, back at AFRICOM, they are building a social science research centre to recruit academics “help map the complicated human terrain on the African continent.”

The head of this facility is Colonel Dean Bland who says “We have no combat mission in Africa.” So we have nothing to fear only that people who have studied and understood what makes Africans tick and are privy to the secrets of our culture, our traditions, our languages and our communities can lay bare all this information to AFRICOM who can use the surge and embed lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan to infiltrate and assimilate without firing a gun shot.

Maybe I am being hysterical here, but I doubt this endeavour would be managed directly by AFRICOM but it would outsourced to experts with experience in the field and I suppose that would be BAe Systems.

It would be too obvious if a search for BAe Systems on the AFRICOM homepage would yield a result but the logical connection is almost indisputable.

A new swamp for lethal mosquitoes

The whole thought of a defence contractor running an anthropological study in Africa should make anyone feel a chill down their spines. However, this recruiting exercise would and can be the opportunity of a lifetime to many and just like our fellow Africans of old who brought the slaves to the coast from the bushes, I would suppose there are descendants ready to sell principle for the exposition for deep Africa to foreign emasculation.

We have enough swamps breeding mosquitoes in Africa, but this is one engineered swamp that looks like any other swamp and would attract no interest albeit you can expect the mosquitoes breeding here to be 2-headed, 10-legged and carriers of lethal malaria.

With AFRICOM, it is possible Africans have already lost the battle long before it started, we are not playing the same game of partnership and cooperation.


[1] U.S. Africa Command Home

[2] The Toronto Times - US learning and adjusting to realty on the ground and makes good progress

[3] Human Terrain System - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

[4] BAe Systems


This write-up is hardly exhaustive, but a gathering of thoughts about how Africa is being shaped for engagement from outside Africa.

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