Africom: Is President Sirleaf Ignoring The Lessons Of Hstory?

By J. Yanqui Zaza

The Perspective
Atlanta, Georgia
August 25, 2007


Concerned Liberians, predictably, argue that the U.S. military headquarters (Africom), if located in Liberia, would pose more risk to Liberia as compared to the rosy economic benefits President Sirleaf has projected. They assert that their reasoning is supported by the comments made by Herman Cohen, former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs from 1989-1991 in an interview, (Global Connections), the U.S. duplicity in its foreign policies and the influence corrupt investors have over U.S. government officials. They also believe that President Sirleaf, a representative of the ruling class, and her supporters are not ignoring the lessons of history, and neither are they having selective memories of history. It would be unconscionable for any Liberian leaders to forget the painful and indelible lessons resulting from the massive exploitation carried out by U.S. corporations, with the support of U.S. servicemen, they insist.

To continue the exploitation of the resources of Liberia, in particular, of poor countries in general, corrupt investors usually collude with a ruling class. However, since exploiters are usually focused on extracting resources, and not necessarily having loyalty to any members of a ruling regime, they might support dictators or remove patriotic leaders and replace them with leaders they favored. So the use of foreign military expertise has and will continue to be pivotal in retaining the supportive process of exploitation. African and foreign experts such as John Perkins have documented how corrupt investors used military experts and removed good leaders such as Patrice Lummuba and Lawrence Kabila of Congo, Sani Abacha of Nigeria, Thomas Sankara of Burkina Faso, Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana, etc.

In the case of Liberia, Some experts suggest that exploiters orchestrated and financed plans to replace President William R. Tolbert as a strategy in preventing advocates of the 70s who were likely to win any national elections scheduled to be held in 1983. In fact Mrs. Victoria David Tolbert detailed in her book (LIFTED UP: The Victoria Tolbert Story) secret meetings held by Tolbert’s subordinates and colleagues and those mask men who killed her husband. In supporting her assertions that the infantrymen did not plan nor kill President Tolbert, she asked pointed questions. She asked for example, why the "uninformed military men" did not imprison or kill any prominent members of the family of President William V.S. Tubman who ruled Liberia for 27 years.

More so, a son of William V. S. Tubamn, Shad Tubman, who was also a senator of Maryland County in the Liberian Legislature and a prominent member of the ruling class, did serve as an advisor to a regime that overthrew his father in-law and executed thirteen members of the same ruling class. As an advisor, he was one of the first civilian advisors who accompanied the military Head of State to his first trip outside of Liberia to Guinea. Let us hope that the President Sirleaf’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission will get some answers.

Interestingly, some members of the ruling class believe that the April 12, 1980 would not have happened were Liberian military men loyal to the ruling class during the April 14, 1979 Demonstration. If they were, they would have carried out the “shoot to kill order” of the advocates of the 70s. Also, President Tolbert would not have invited and deployed members of the Guinean military forces in Monrovia after April 14, 1979, even though there was no mutiny within the Armed Forces, rebel incursion, or an imminent invasion of Liberia by foreign forces.

As a preventive measure against the reoccurrence of the events of April 14, 1979 corrupt investors prefer a permanent and loyal security forces, opponents of Africom suggest. So the idea of establishing U.S. military headquarters for the would-be World War IV would be a good idea for corrupt investors and the current ruling class. A headquarters of U.S. military would certainly compel U.S. officials to squash any protests, including peaceful rallies. In view of President Tolbert's case, does President Sirleaf see not the danger in the increase of U.S. military personnel if Liberia hosted Africom? Or is it not possible for exploiters to use U.S. servicemen to try and remove Sirleaf from office if she ever decided to promote Liberia’s interest against the interest of corrupt investors?

Are opponents of Africom over-blowing the risks of another military base in Liberia, or did Herman Cohen make incorrect statements? During the interview, Cohen was asked to explain the history of U.S. relation with Africa starting with Liberia. For example, why April 14, 1979, April 12, 1980 and the 1989 civil war? Cohen said the war was inevitable because "We have no real interest there," meaning U.S. not having interest in Liberia, in particular or in Africa in general. He elaborated by saying that “…Cold War dominated our relationship… so we were supporting certain governments that were clearly not going to use their assistance for development but use it for other reasons. And [so] we supported people like Mobutu [Sese Seko, president, 1965-1991] in Zaire and a few others.”

The interviewer also asked why U.S. officials did not end the Liberian 1989 war since "… they were in constant phone contact between everybody, including Prince Johnson [Taylor ally-turned-rival who carried out the capture and murder of Samuel Doe in 1990?" Cohen said, “… around April or May of 1990, we thought that the best thing for Liberia would be for Doe to leave the country, go into exile, and we had actually arranged for him to go to Togo… Unfortunately, our plan in the State Department was not approved at the White House level, and we never went through with that. And therefore the war continued.”

Well, continuing the war did not only hurt the poor because they lost families and properties, but corrupt investors now can get more of the country's resources for little or nothing than pre-1980. For instance, the last Interim government signed many concessionary agreements that stipulate more benefits for corrupt investors than benefits for the country. Further, Liberia’s ethnic and class tensions have been exacerbated, reducing the possibility for the people to institute policies against exploitation. Worst the 2005 national elections did usher into offices many elected officials, for nine years or more, who are likely to become gullible to corruption, making it difficult for Liberian patriots to institute democratic principles.

Liberia patriots, without foreign military experts who are equipped in suppressing reform movements, would undoubtedly redeem the country from the darkness of exploitation and reduce the influence of corrupt investors. Obviously, it would become difficult for enthusiasts of democracy to institute and promote democracy because the establishment of AFRICOM in Liberia would provide effective, loyal, and permanent security forces, which would protect corrupt investors and dictatorial regimes. So, with prediction that African oil from Angola, Ghana, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, and Nigeria would account for 25% of the total U.S. crude oil in 2015, (Dr. Wafulu Okumu, head of the African Security Analysis Programme, Institute for Security Studies, Pretoria, South Africa), corrupt investors need U.S. military men to protect their exploitative system.

Certainly, investment associated with Africom would benefit Monrovia landlords and a few Liberian bureaucrats the same way they enjoyed portion of the $520 million dollars pledged for Liberia in February 2004. Additionally, if it took many months before Liberia benefited from the $50 million dollars U.S. government promised President Sirleaf in 2006, is there any hope that investment from Africom would spur development in Liberia? So if investigative findings of AFRICOM such as those findings presented to the U.S. Congress are at odd with rosy economic benefits assumed by President Sirleaf, why has she become the lone advocate/lobbyist for Africom in Africa? Or is our “Iron Lady” counting on the support of the U.S. to perpetuate her dynasty?

© 2007 by The Perspective

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