QC Model UN Presents:
Black Lives Matter: The U.S. Shadow War in Africa
Author: Rene Yaroshevsky
The murder of George Floyd was a raw, cruel reminder of how ingrained racism is in the United States. Floyd’s death ignited global protests and greater scrutiny of both blatant and underlying forms of systemic racism in the United States. Often left undiscussed, however, is how the racism of the U.S. extends beyond the country’s borders. When four American soldiers were killed in an ambush in the village of Tongo Tongo in the West African country of Niger in October of 2017, amongst the most common reactions was to question why troops were there in the first place. It shows how far removed militarism and imperialism are from the conversation about how the United States exploits and endangers black lives. Yet, the attack at Tongo Tongo represents a culmination of an extensive, “shadow” war waged by the U.S. in Africa as part of its Global War on Terror for more than a decade.
As part of the worldwide effort in the name of counterterrorism, the United States has greatly expanded its military presence to over 33 countries in Africa. In 2008, U.S. Africa Command, or AFRICOM, was activated to oversee military operations across the continent. The establishment of a single unified combat command represented a significant shift from before the War on Terror and proved that the United States intended military involvement in Africa to be long-lasting. With over 7,000 troops in Africa to see them through, U.S. military activity has skyrocketed 1,900% since the establishment of AFRICOM. At this point, there are even more U.S. military operations in Africa than there are in the Middle East with the goal of defeating terrorism on the continent.
The increase of U.S. counterterrorism operations on the continent has only succeeded in producing more terrorism, creating a trap of violence for many Africans. A United Nations envoy warned that West Africa alone has experienced a “devastating” and “unprecedented” increase in terror attacks, causing the deaths of over 4,000 people. Africa as a whole has been scarred by a more than 1,105% increase in violent incidents caused by terror groups. With the surge in terrorism forcing healthcare centers to shut down, U.S. military intervention has left Africa more vulnerable to the coronavirus pandemic. U.S. military activity in Africa has clearly endangered countless black lives. By seeking to end terrorism through force of arms alone, the U.S. has inadvertently only fueled terrorism and forced Africans across the continent into a cycle of never-ending conflict.
While the U.S. stirs more violence in Africa at the expense of black lives, the shadow war is completely unaccountable to the public at home. While Congress rarely debates the topic of U.S. military involvement in Africa, vacancies in the Departments of State and Defense have left AFRICOM “pretty much doing their own thing.” With the government itself hardly able to oversee or direct its military activity in Africa, the public has had no opportunity to debate or even find out about the shadow war. What’s more, a top-tier U.S. general outright lied about how involved American troops were with African operations with no repercussions, showing the degree to which the war is not accountable to the American people, no less Africans.
The United States immediately moving to violence in Africa, without accountability to anyone, shows a dominance of American interests over those of Africans. When the War on Terror was brewing in the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attack, U.S. policymakers recognized the significance of Africa’s resources in the near future. A senior State Department official on Africa outright declared that African oil “has become a national strategic interest.” When AFRICOM was created, nearly 20 percent of the U.S. supply of hydrocarbons came from the West African region alone. With American reliance on Africa’s resources expected to grow dramatically, the U.S. had a vested interest in waging a war against terrorism in Africa to protect those resources for the sake of American economic interests.
The U.S. is not in Africa to protect Africans and fight terrorism for the sake of building a more peaceful world, but to exploit African resources. U.S. counterterrorism operations in Africa are thus an inherently militaristic and imperialist project, rather than a humanitarian one. Though the terrorist insurgencies on the African continent may endanger African lives as much as the United States does, it was the callous pursuit of African resources under the veneer of counterterrorism that laid the groundwork for the conflicts today. The U.S. has fueled more terrorism in an endless pattern of violence that only guarantees the U.S. is there to stay in Africa. The U.S. is essentially willing to sacrifice black lives abroad for economic gain at home, demonstrating the racist nature of militarism and imperialism.
Black lives matter. Black lives in the United States matter and black lives across Africa matter. True racial justice and equality have not been achieved within the U.S. if the country continues to sacrifice black lives overseas for the sake of economic interests in an endless military conflict. The oppression of black people in another country signifies the oppression of black people in the United States. Opposition to militarism and imperialism is thus fundamental to anti-racism.