Is there a shift in the US foreign policy on the African Continent? This remains to be a major puzzle to many military and political analysts, since they claim that if Americans make a mistake of electing a hawkish party into the White House, the world will be plunged into new wars.
In the past some mere speculations not supported by any evidence sent shock waves to the continent that the US AFRICOM was interested in putting up a military base in Africa. In partnership with the U.S. Embassy of Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, the Washington, D.C., based Africa Centre for Strategic Studies (ACSS) and the Germany-based U.S. Africa Command (U.S. AFRICOM) co-hosted the 5th U.S.
Africa Command Academic Symposium in Dar es Salaam July 9-12, 2012. Approximately 45 academic professionals from Africa, Europe, and the United States – with expertise in African security-related subjects – attended the symposium. The goals of the event included soliciting input and engaging in dialogue on how the U.S. military can best support peace and stability on the African continent.
The event was also to enable more understanding of the U.S. Africa Command and the role of the U.S. military in Africa among academic communities that work in and with Africa. But the CEO of White Mountain Research and Counterterrorism and Security Expert, Rudolph Attallah, told the participants that there was a need to pay attention to the African continent since Somalia was influencing insecurity dynamics in the region.
He threw the challenge to professionals to identify key current security impediments, taking into account its nature, scope and other factors. He said that in addressing the security issue in the region there was a need to use a holistic approach. Since the common concern in the symposium according to sources was that no country was immune to such dangers of extremism and violence, hence the need to look for an amicable solution.
The call was repeated by all the main speakers, who said it was time all the stakeholders explored non-militaristic solutions to the extremism and violence not only in Somalia but the continent at large. The military option according to experts should be the last option on the table and come as a last resort. The Security expert said that there were a number of contributing factors including some underlying conditions which are poverty, proliferation of weapons, money laundering and piracy and terrorism training in some parts of Africa.
He said that sources in Somalia report that families there are already tired of the tragedy that is killing their kids who fall into piracy and terrorism traps. “There are many youths who have lost their lives through such adventures that they are lured by some sponsors of violence in Somalia,” said the expert.
But the expert further said that it was time religious experts looked into the possibility of some elements in the extremism circles of using religion to incite violence. May be it is because of lack of understanding of the holy Quran,” he said. The scripture needs religious experts to explore all avenues in educating the youth the true teachings of Islam. He gave an example of the issue of Ethiopia being used by some religious extremists to justify elimination of Christians on claims that Ethiopia belongs to Islam. They add that the Abyssinian King had converted to Islam, he added.
There is no doubt that Andalusia was the first land of migration of the Muslims, which is a claim found in social and religious narratives found in public domain. But participants at the symposium also assessed U.S. Africa Command’s support of democratic civil-military relations in Africa and examined challenges to the Command in building a security sector capacity on the continent. The fact that the situation in Somalia is getting worse makes this forum crucial, especially as there is already a spillover of violence in the neighbouring regions.
There is no doubt that the African Union has continued to respond to challenges in Somalia but hitting a snag because of meagre resources for the peace-keeping and other humanitarian support. But this was the optimum time, first for the US to show her gesture of goodwill and spirit of cooperation on the issue of Somalia.
It is important to know that the discussion of cooperation between the U.S. military and the academic community on countering violent extremism in East Africa using dialogue brings a new dimension in the African world view in dealing with conflicts. The scientific approach under the theme “African Perspectives and the Africa Security Environment: Challenges and Opportunities,” will absolutely help to bridge the gap in the security issue of Somalia which was always addressed in a fragmented form.
Experts’ advice that the Somalia question should now be addressed in a holistic form should be the beginning of comprehensive peace plan for the Somali people. In conclusion, I would like to commend the U.S. AFRICOM Commander, General Carter Ham, for his words of wisdom which say: "I think it is important to have this dialogue and that we military personnel listen and learn to widen our thinking, and to look at problem solving from a non-military perspective. And that’s what this audience provides."