Week 6- The United States in Africa: from Aid to Terror

Sarah Virani

The readings for this week focused on the role that the United States has in Africa highlighting the anti-terrorism policies and practices that they have instilled on African nations. In the article Trojan Horses? USAID, counter-terrorism and Africa’s police, Hills discusses how USAID and the United States foster the countries security interests, specifically in Kenya. She criticizes the USAID suggesting that programs as such undermine the ability for the transformation of the state instead of strengthening democracy and stabilizing the government. Hills mention how disease, war and poverty in Africa impede on the fundamental values of the United States and their ability to strategically prioritize fighting global terrorism.

The pressure from the United States in regards to anti-terror has fostered the politicization of policing. The article mentions that prevention is the key to combating global terrorism. I believe that this is important to highlight, however prevention must be carried out in a way that does not violate individual’s human rights. The policing force is Africa is unstable as Hills mentions, encountering various factors that affect its effectiveness such as corruption and incompetence. As Hill states,  the concern over security and terrorism suppresses their obligations to individual security and local ownership. I believe that this will be problematic as restructuring a police force will impede on the lives of Africans while benefiting the United States. How can a stable police force be built when the nation itself is weak? It seems more rational to stabilize the country first, especially its security forces and ensure that the root causes of terrorism are addressed so that you are not taking two step forwards, only to take one step back. As the author mentions, counter-terrorism is not a priority for the majority of Kenyans, thus there are more significant problems that have to be dealt with before the United States reforms its security sector.

The second article by Jeremy Prestholdt,  Kenya, the United States, and Counterterrorism  considers the United States foreign relationships with Africa and counterterrorism. The article assesses how security concerns over terrorism have created a new way for the U.S to systematize on the alleged affiliation between weak states and extremism. Prestholdt highlights that in Kenya, security training has inspired anti-terrorism groups at the domestic level to address the problem of extremism. It was unsurprising that though the United States foreign policy has increased counterterrorism activities, tensions between Muslim communities and the government have been intensified as authorities have targeted the Muslim minorities in Kenya as the key actors of terrorism. Prestholdt highlights that counterterrorism has become a way for Kenya to control its relationship with the United States, specifically economically, which can evidently have negative affects as it has alienated Muslim communities.

While the United States claims that they are implementing counterterrorism activities, they are committing human rights violations at the same time.  For example, following 9/11 the United States gave Kenya’s National Security Intelligence Service a list of 200 hundred suspects in which they assumed were linked to al-Qaeda. Many were arrested, including popular businessmen and activists from the opposing party, and some were held for a long period of time without charge. This is a human rights violation that Africans have faced because of the anti-terror activities. It is disappointing to learn that the United States is willing to take advantage of the political, economic and social situation of Kenya and hide their true intentions behind the idea of counterterrorism.

The link below is to an article that criticizes the new anti-terror laws implemented in Kenya and mentions some of the outcomes of the new law:

http://www.aljazeera.com/news/africa/2014/12/kenya-passes-divisive-anti-terror-law-2014121974313523159.html

In final article for the week, The Banana Theory of Terrorism: Alternative Truths and the Collapse of the ‘Second’ (Saharan) Front in the War on Terror Keenan draws upon Foucault’s ‘regimes of truth’ in his discussion of how the United States and Algeria fabricated information. The ‘alternative’ truth, which has been established over the war on terror in Sahara-Sahel region can be attributed to the United States and Algerian authorities whom have contributed to the disinformation surrounding the hostage situation in El Para. The idea of the ‘banana theory’ of terrorism depicts how Washington imagined the ‘terrorists’ leaving from Afghanistan and entering Africa. It was a way of the United States to weave their way into African nations. Washington perceived the launch of a Saharan front in the global war on terror as a way to create the conditions for the militarization of Africa and a way to gain access to its oil resources. Keenan suggests that the United States war on terror in Africa can only be maintained through the logic of re-categorizing ‘trafficking’ and other criminal activities as ‘terrorist’ ones, which in turn fosters local outbreaks of anger and resistance. I suggest that in order to truly address the root causes of terrorism, there must be one universal definition to prevent disagreement on what constitutes terrorist activity and to prevent the spread of alternative truths.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How do counterterrorism activities carried out by the United States have a racist framework?
  2. The war on terror in Sahara did not end the terror in the region as Keenan says that there was none to begin with. Were you surprised to learn this?
  3. Keenan focuses on the ‘alternative truth’ and the ‘official truth’. How does this relate to our previous class discussion on the ‘one-sided story’?
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