“To protect fishing and oil shipping routes”: the militarization of the continent continues
Written by Antonio Mazzeo
Fifteen days after the official inauguration of AFRICOM (the unified command
of the American armed forces for interventions in Africa), the decision to send
the Coast Guard to permanently garrison the coasts of the continent leaks out
of Stuttgart (Germany).
“The Coast Guard”--Admiral Thad Allen, supreme commander of the fifth American
armed force has stated—“will aid the force of AFRICOM in assisting smaller countries
in the control of their own coasts. We will coordinate with the governments to
train in units in the coastal patrolling of naval premises and conduct training
courses and programs that contribute to strengthening the security of shipping
In view of future engagements of the US Coast Guard in Africa an operative department
near the general headquarters of AFRICOM in Stuttgart has been installed. Already
in recent months officials of the Coast Guard have spent periods of two to three
weeks in some countries on the Gulf of Guinea, setting in motion “projects of
cooperation” with local navies. Last June the same Coast Guard moved the naval
into the waters opposite West and Central Africa in order to participate in
multilateral maritime “patrol” operations. The African mission of the Dallas
ended two months ago after an operational stay at Cape Verde.
The recent affair of the Ukrainian cargo ship Faina (loaded with arms presumably intended for Darfur), sequestered by armed men
along the Somali coast, furnished a pretext to Washington for a subsequent acceleration
of plans of military penetration in the African continent and of direct control
of the most important shipping lanes for oil traffic.
But it isn’t only oil that pushes the United States to augment its own military
efforts on the African continent. “We are working for security,” explains Admiral
Thad Allen, “and that also means the fight against piracy, the drug traffic, and
the economic scourge of the illegal fishing industry. Illegal fishing is a problem
of millions of dollars. The stocks of fish have a very important value to African
countries, and they need to control them. Fishing is a resource that we have an
interest in protecting.” It is useless to add that the militarization of the African
maritime areas also responds to the exigency of impeding—to the greatest extent
possible—the migratory waves toward European countries.
The American decision to move naval units to garrison African coasts permanently
follows by a few days the accord reached in the conference of the ministers of
defense of the Atlantic Alliance, to send the Standing Naval Maritime Group to
keep watch in the waters next to Somalia. The naval force will consist of seven
military units and will reach Somalia before the end of the month.
The Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-Moon, asked for the intervention
of NATO, consolidating the questionable practice of the United Nations of contracting
the distribution of “humanitarian aid” directly to the Atlantic Alliance or to
the American armed forces alone. According to Brussels, the NATO force “will provide
an escort to the ships of the World Food Program that are transporting supplies
of food for the population and will patrol the waters of Somalia in order to help
stop acts of piracy.”
The request of the United Nations has obviously been supported by the American
Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates. In the region of the Horn of Africa, more
than 1,600 members of the American air force, navy, and army presently work from
the air-naval base of Djibouti.