On occasion, I write about my experience traveling in Africa – to add an entertaining counterweight to my more analytical rants and musings on the events unfolding on the continent. The following is about my current travel covering parts of Africa and Europe. Just to be safe, I won’t mention where I am until head to the next country on my itinerary, but hopefully that doesn’t dissuade you from reading on:
I’ve started my one month long, six country tour that will have me in African Country A, France, African Country B, Germany, African Country C, and African Country D before I head back to the States in mid-May. Since this is my first time in Country A, I’ve naturally been inclined to seek out some sort of familiarity to the city I’m in based on where I’ve traveled before. The city is dusty, hot, conservative, pleasant, refined. It makes me think that this city would be the outcome if Yaoundé, Cameroon and Tamale, Ghana had a lovechild.
Upon arrival, I could tell that the immigration officer who stamped my passport suspected that I was an International Woman of Mystery based on the assortment of seemingly random visas and passport stamps. He looks up and asks “Qu’est-ce que votre profession – exactement?” I fumble for the words for ‘one who researches national security’ since my default foreign language is, and will always be, Portuguese. That’s what comes from studying abroad in a Lusophone country rather than a Francophone one.
I muscle my way out of baggage claim and customs only to find no placard with my name on it held by any of my in-country points of contact. After about 10 minutes, the same immigration officer walks by and asks why I haven’t been picked up. I respond that I’m “hoping for” (vs “waiting for”) a driver from my hotel. Damn you French verbs. He disappears and a woman comes over asking me if I’m Anna. (I go by Anne or Anna when I travel, since most people simply ignore or can’t be bothered with pronouncing Lesley). She apologizes for not finding me earlier, saying “Anna! Nous cherchions une blanche!” (We were looking for a white woman.) We share a laugh as she escorts me to the hotel shuttle.
After checking in, the bellhop helps me up to my room with the luggage, but first we have a showdown with the elevator. As it turns out, the door militantly closes on occupants if they do not enter or leave the elevator in a timely fashion. I watch in terror as the door assaults an unsuspecting European guest. An African guest asks me “Avez-vous peur de notre pays?” (Are you afraid of our country?) I respond “Non, mais j’ai peur de l’ascenseur!” (No, but I’m afraid of the elevator!) Once we’re all safely packed in the elevator, the man asks where I’m from and what I’m doing there. I quickly realize that my usual cover story when I’m abroad – that I’m Trinidadian and I’m traveling as a tourist – doesn’t hold up at all in this place. I dislike having to explain what I do since I always get that ‘are you sure you’re not a spy’ side-glance. I manage to deflect his questions, which is easy enough b/c this dude loves talking about himself and the fact that he’s here to visit his former classmate who’s now the president.
The following day, I started my meetings and peeked in on a conference on regional security where I learned about interoperability between the local military and law enforcement in French. I don’t speak military French, so I was pretty thrilled to be able to understand what was going on. Later on, I asked to visit the museum, where I got a preview of an exhibit on the traditional dress of Country A’s various ethnic groups. By night I enjoyed brochettes de viande that were quite good, mostly because meat actually has flavor outside the U.S. And now it’s time for bed, since I have a long day of tagging along on meetings with civil society ahead of me. Also, the power keeps going out.
This is a guest post by Mikenna Maroney, a MA Candidate in International Security at the University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies. She is currently a David L. Boren Fellow in Tanzania studying Swahili language and conducting research for her MA thesis on AFRICOM. Ms. Maroney seeks additional contacts with expertise on Tanzanian security policy, and can be reached for comment at firstname.lastname@example.org.
U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) was established in 2008 due to growing awareness of Africa’s strategic significance to U.S. interests and international security. AFRICOM was presented as a new type of combatant command that would address traditional and human security threats through a pioneering interagency approach and structure, in addition to partner capacity building. AFRICOM would integrate significant numbers of personnel from the State Department, USAID, and other interagency organizations. U.S. officials asserted this would allow the command to address the root causes and, ultimately, prevent conflict and instability.
The creation of AFRICOM, the complexity of its mission, and the threats present in the region give rise to questions regarding AFRICOM’s impact in executing U.S. national security policy in Africa, addressing human security issues, and its ability to foster a positive image of itself and U.S. national security policy. To explore these issues, my Master’s thesis research is a case study of Tanzania. I chose Tanzania as a case study on AFRICOM because I felt that it is an often overlooked actor in the East African security environment. I was also interested in examining how AFRICOM currently engages with African states not engaged in an ongoing conflict and its ability to foster bi-lateral relations with a state that has, at times, had a strained relationship with the U.S.
While often overshadowed by neighboring states Tanzania’s long-standing stability, history of mediating regional conflicts (most notably the Burundian civil war), contributions to peacekeeping missions, and hosting of regional and international organization such as the East African Community (EAC) and International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), make it an important actor in the often volatile East Africa region. Yet Tanzania faces similar threats as its neighbors including illicit narcotic trafficking, piracy, and terrorism. Tanzania also faces pervasive threats to human security. As one of the world’s poorest countries, economic development fails to reach the majority of the population, resulting in poor health and education systems, as well as the world’s 12th highest HIV/AIDS infection rate.
A strategic U.S.-Tanzanian relationship is critical for countering the threats Tanzania faces and bolstering the country’s capacity to address ongoing regional conflicts and humanitarian crises. This research seeks to answer three questions: What is the impact of AFRICOM in executing U.S. national security policy in Tanzania? How and to what extent has AFRICOM addressed the conditions of human insecurity? Does AFRICOM foster a positive public perception within Tanzania?
The initial findings have shown that Tanzania extensively engages with AFRICOM through its security cooperation programs and exercises. Former AFRICOM Commander Gen. Carter Ham singled out this partnership in his recent remarks to the Senate Armed Services Committee stating, “We are deepening our relationship with the Tanzanian military, a professional force whose capabilities and influence increasingly bear on regional security issues in eastern and southern Africa and the Great Lakes region.” Indeed, Tanzania’s contribution of troops to the recently authorized UN offensive combat force in Eastern Congo illustrates the important peace and security role the country plays in the region and the necessity of its military having the capacity to fulfill this role.
In terms of how and to what extent AFRICOM addresses Tanzania’s human security issues, this research has found the command’s activities fit those of a more traditional combatant command; emphasizing military-to-military partner capacity building and engagement. While many of AFRICOM’s programs (MEDCAP, Partner Military HIV/AIDS, Pandemic Response, and VETCAP) focus on human security related issues, they are directed at the Tanzanian military. Regarding public perceptions, Tanzanians have more knowledge and interest than I was led to believe would be the case with public opinion of AFRICOM oscillating between negative and neutral.
Tanzania faces significant security threats both internally and regionally. Although these initial findings have not found that AFRICOM is addressing human security issues in the broader population, AFRICOM is building the Tanzanian military’s capacity to address and prevent instability and conflict, serving Tanzanian, regional, and U.S. security interests.
The Africa Growth Initiative at Brookings has just published a new report – “Top Five Reasons Why Africa Should Be a Priority for the United States.” The format of the report is as follows (and includes a contribution from yours truly):
- Introduction: Why Africa Matters to the United States by Mwangi Kimenyi
- Advancing Peace and Security in Africa by Lesley Anne Warner
- China in Africa: Implications for U.S. Competition and Diplomacy by Yun Sun
- Key Sub-Saharan Energy Trends and their Importance for the U.S. by John P. Banks
- Transforming the U.S.-Africa Commercial Relationship by Witney Schneidman
- U.S. Development Assistance and Sub-Saharan Africa: Opportunities for Engagement by George Ingram and Steven Rocker
In my section on Advancing Peace and Security in Africa, I argue that the United States should:
- Rebalance U.S. engagement with African countries so that it is more proactive than reactive.
- Establish multi-year funding authorities for building partner capacity programs.
- Address the deficient capabilities of African law enforcement personnel.
- Continue to support regional and sub-regional mechanisms for conflict resolution.
- Use ongoing insecurity in the Sahel as an impetus to re-evaluate the scope of U.S. military engagement on the continent.
Hope you get a chance to take a look at both the remainder of my section and those of my fellow contributors!