Surveillance over a Zone of Conflict: Africom and the Politics of Securitisation of Africa

Article excerpt


In the current securitisation discourse the interactions between the powerful nations of the North and Africa are marked by shifting politics within which the African continent is approached as a terrain of risk, fear and threat to global peace and stability. This thinking has the danger of reviving the dangerous argument of seeing Africa as offering nothing but chaos, risk and threats to the supposed 'peace zones' of North America and Europe. The open indicator of the securitisation of Africa came in the form of establishment of the United States Africa Command (USAfrican or Africom) on the 1st of October 2007. This was defined as a new unified combat command of the United States Department of Defence to be responsible for USA military operations in and military relations with fifty-three African nations in the exception of Egypt. The justification for this interventionist move was containment of terrorism.

The end of the Cold War in general and the 9/11 terrorist incident in particular had far reaching impact on global power politics and shaping of global security architecture. This article analyses how Africa has featured within this shifting global politics and in the evolving global security architecture. Since the end of the Second World War and Truman's speech of 1949, Africa featured mainly in global politics as emerging from colonialism and as part of the underdeveloped world that needed humanitarian rehabilitation. But the dynamics of the Cold War particularly the 'proxy wars' made Africa feature into East-West global security calculations and the West's drive to contain communism. It was during the Cold War that securitisation of Africa began as Soviet imperialism contended with Western imperialism in the centre of Africa in such places as Angola, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Somalia, Congo and many other Cold War theatres of war. The securitisation partly took the form of shipments of arms of war into the African continent and partly competition between the West and East to sponsor warring factions within the continent. The liberation struggles against colonialism offered the East and the West outlets to intervene in Africa with the Soviet Union backing many African liberation movements like Movement for Popular Liberation of Angola (MPLA) in Angola, Zimbabwe African People's Union (ZAPU in Zimbabwe, African National Congress (ANC) in South Africa and many others in its bid to paint the continent red.

At the end of the Cold War securitisation of Africa took new forms characterised by proliferation of specialised private companies offering military and police services that were previously the preserve of the state. This new phenomenon developed within a terrain of the existence of very weak African states and very vulnerable African leaders. This phenomenon became also intertwined with the changing role of the state. Traditionally, the state enjoyed monopoly of the means and resources of violence and this distinguished it from other social formations. What is even more ominous is that privatisation of security happened in tandem with traditional mercenary activities taking a corporate form and fishing in the troubled waters of Africa.

Current efforts at securitisation of Africa are closely tied to the politics of weak and collapsed states in Africa particularly how the rulers of weak states have used their agency to invite private security sector into Africa for regime security purposes since the end of the Cold War (Ashley, 1988; Ashley, 1987). What has not received scholarly attention is the issue of deliberate compradorisation of some African states by their cunning leaders and the phenomenon of 'imperialism by invitation.' At the global level the present era is also characterised by intensification of 'securitization' of Africa that is, defining Africa as a security risk and a zone of conflict. This discourse came into the centre of international politics following 9/11 attacks on the twin towers in the United States of America. …


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