Ironically, the most compelling argument we have heard in favor of AFRICOM has come from one of its strongest opponents.
General Victor Malu, a highly respected Nigerian military officer, does not mince words when he speaks of AFRICOM. There is no mistaking his position regarding this issue. The U.S. Africa Command, in Gen. Malu’s opinion, will not benefit Africa; rather it is intended solely to protect America’s interests.
But here is where the good General unintentionally makes the case for AFRICOM: In a recent interview with a Nigerian newspaper, General Malu said he urged leaders of the ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) not to dismantle the ECOMOG (Economic Community Monitoring Group) following its successful missions in both Liberia and Sierra Leone. He also proposed standardizing the weapon systems and training the troops together on an ongoing basis. Much had been learned, the General intimated, in resolving the conflicts in Sierra Leone and Liberia. These lessons, he believes, would prove highly beneficial in future peacekeeping and/or peace enforcement operations.
But his advice went unheeded. Hence, today ECOMOG as a unit does not exist.
Failure on the part of political leaders to heed General Malu’s advice only strengthens the argument for AFRICOM or any serious efforts to maintain law and order and prevent unnecessary loss of human lives.
Why would those charged with seeking the welfare of West Africans not listen and act upon the recommendations of the man whose military and diplomatic prowess brought an end to a war which claimed upwards of 200,000 lives and disrupted the economy of the entire sub-region? Should another conflict similar to that of Sierra Leone and Liberia break out today, what plans are there to prevent mass killings of defenseless civilians? Guess where again we would turn for help?
Pride – or should we say fool’s pride - has been the cause of much heartache and pain for the peoples of Africa. It often clouds our judgment, resulting in a lack of progress. Pride in earnest is at the root of the crippling poverty and disease that is devastating Africa’s human capital.
After all the posturing, speeches, hugging, backslapping, and name change, the African Union to date has not offered any real hope. Right from the start, it has failed the first major test. The organization has been totally ineffective in halting the massacre and rescuing those barely clinging to life in Darfur. While the leaders speak of a unified Africa, there is constant unrest and disunity within the individual countries. At this very moment conflicts linger in Chad, D R Congo, Ethiopia/Eritrea, Ivory Coast, Nigeria, Senegal, Somalia, Sudan, and Uganda, to name a few, as HIV/AIDS and malaria claim the lives of tens of thousands of Africans with no end in sight. It’s obvious we need help, but perhaps are too proud to ask. We would rather watch our women and children suffer and die needlessly while blaming others and proffering excuses.
In the case of Liberia, a century of gross mismanagement and the extremely destructive war has thrown this country back into the dark ages. Along with its stature, confidence has been lost. Liberia is now fighting for a place at the back of the line. We have leaders who cannot lead. In order to recover; we - the people - must aggressively pursue every available opportunity and stop pegging our progress to that of nations which themselves are backward. It’s high time we reclaim our rightful place among the nations of Africa and again become the leader that we are.
Democracy is not an event; rather it’s a way of life. Therefore we collectively without hesitation must demand whatever improves our wellbeing. And never as a nation must we lose sight of our strengths and uniqueness.
An awesome opportunity is knocking at this very moment and we cannot afford to lose it. We must wrest it with all the vigor we can muster and claim it now!
Liberia and the U.S. Africa Command are a perfect fit. Therefore the headquarters of AFRICOM must be based in this country. To make this happen we urge all Liberians to immediately call, email, or send a letter to the U.S. Secretary of Defense and tell him We Want The Headquarters of AFRICOM In Our Country. The final decision regarding a home for these facilities will be made shortly. This is an opportunity for you to help restore this nation’s image while demonstrating that Liberians are ready to turn a new page. Nothing would be more hurtful than to watch another African nation accorded this privilege. Do not delay!
With or without AFRICOM, the resources of Africa – human and material – will continue to flow outward. To ensure there is balance, we must develop an effective strategy. And those in leadership positions must come up with a plan that empowers the individual. Meanwhile, we no longer can continue on the current path of endless talk, criticism, blame, dreaming and finger pointing while the vast majority of our people languish in abject poverty, ignorance and disease.
We are aware that a number of African countries are opposed to AFRICOM. They believe it offers no benefit for Africa. Yet not one of these critics has put forth a viable alternative they are prepared to pay for. However, we believe they mean well. But it is clear they do not have a plan that will transform the impoverished and unstable nations of Africa.
Therefore, we must inundate the offices of the U.S. Secretary of Defense with petitions, so there will be no doubt Liberians support AFRICOM and welcome its Headquarters. If our country is not selected, let it not be because we – the people - did not ask diligently. Although the infrastructure currently are inadequate, there is no doubt Liberia in time will prove to be the best alternative. It has been a dependable ally of the United States with strong historical ties. As stated in its objectives, AFRICOM will work with the African Union to promote stability and rule of law wherever needed; if there is a country that needs this right now, it’s Liberia.
For those uncertain as to whether they should support this campaign, ask yourself this question: Am I willing to forfeit the benefits to be derived by allowing the headquarters of AFRICOM to be based in another African country?
The vast majority of our compatriots, due to circumstances beyond their control, are not in the position to submit petitions. Therefore, if you have family members in this category who share your views regarding this issue, please include them in your petition. Indicate the number of persons you represent in all written and/or oral communications.
Let your voice be heard by calling, emailing, or posting a letter to the U.S. Secretary of Defense:
Mr. Robert M. Gates Voice Mail: (703) 428-0711
Secretary of Defense
The Department of Defense Email: http://www.defenselink.mil/faq/questions.aspx 1400 Defense Pentagon Click on: Make a Comment…Washington, DC 20310
The Author: Mr. T. Q. Harris, Jr. is currently the General Chairman of Liberia Contemporees United Patriotic and Strong (Contemp UPS: www.contemporees.org) and a former vice presidential nominee. He can be reached by phone in the US at (562) 394-0285 or (979) 599-2295; in Liberia - (231) 652-4295, or email him at email@example.com