Lt. General Michael E. Langley, nominated to be the next AFRICOM commander.(Photo: Marine Corps/Pfc. Larisa Chavez, via Alamy)
The latest Black Alliance for Peace AFRICOM Watch Bulletin provides analysis of the U.S. Southern Command and includes an interview with Ahjamu Uni, organizer with the All African People's Revolutionary Party (A-APRP).
The United States Department of Defense has carved up the earth into eleven unified combatant commands. The U.S. Africa Command, or AFRICOM, and the U.S. Southern Command, or SOUTHCOM, are two of these combatant commands. While AFRICOM encompasses the African continent with the exceptions of Egypt, which is under the jurisdiction of CENTCOM, and Eritrea, SOUTHCOM incorporates the Caribbean and South and Central America and claims to be protecting human rights in the region as a long-term responsibility through the development of “regional militaries,” controlled and facilitated by the U.S. Its mission includes contingency planning, operations (including disaster response and “crisis action”), security cooperation, “the force protection” of U.S. military resources in the region, and “ensuring the defense” of the Panama Canal, a critical geographic node for U.S. commerce and security across both the Atlantic and the Pacific.
Like AFRICOM does on the African continent, SOUTHCOM works to extend and protect U.S. political and economic interests in the Americas region. And like AFRICOM, the military-first strategy has become the tool to maintain U.S. regional domination, despite SOUTHCOM’s spurious claims of “humanitarian assistance/disaster relief” and counter-narcotics operations. U.S. “Full Spectrum Domination” is SOUTHCOM's real objective in our region.
Both SOUTHCOM and AFRICOM are extensions of NATO and the militarized assault on the democratic and human rights of Africans by the U.S. with the support of neocolonial forces, as well as an attack on the self-determination of African peoples and nations in the Americas, the African continent, and the world. Domestic and international repression by the U.S. security state are linked. Our oppression crosses borders; so must our solutions. All who support the right of the people to authentic democracy and human rights should stand in solidarity against neo-colonial rule and the imperialism that it protects.
The Black Alliance for Peace stands against the growing influence and power of SOUTHCOM and AFRICOM, and the ever-increasing militarization of the regions that they operate in. We call for international “Zones of Peace” in the Americas and on the African continent. Informed by the Black radical peace tradition, we understand that peace is not the absence of conflict, but the achievement, by popular struggle and self-defense, of a world liberated from nuclear armament and proliferation, unjust war, and global white supremacy.
U.S. Out of Africa: Voices from the Struggle
AFRICOM Watch Bulletin speaks with Ahjamu Umi, who has been an organizer for the All African People's Revolutionary Party (A-APRP) for 38 years, working to build the party in several areas of Africa, Europe, Canada, the Caribbean, and throughout the U.S. His work to build the party has included helping establish independent African schools in five different countries and organizing communities for self defense against violent white supremacist groups. Ahjamu is the author of five books.
AFRICOM Watch Bulletin: In your manual, A Guide for Organizing Defense against White Supremacist, Patriarchal, and Fascist Violence, you talk about the need for more clarity about the role of Africans in the Diaspora in achieving liberation. Talk more about that role?
Ahjamu Umi: For Africans concerned about our people in the U.S., the question always revolves around what approaches are best suited to address our problems. Since Africans in the U.S. are for the most part disconnected from the rest of the world, the capitalist system has very effectively convinced most of us here that nothing outside of U.S. capitalism is available to us so therefore, any discussions about solutions to our problems, typically revolve around themes of how we integrate into the capitalist system. The focus of my book is to raise the question about Africans within the U.S. seeing ourselves as aligned with the African masses worldwide and all oppressed peoples across the globe. Not aligning ourselves with the U.S. capitalist system. The idea is to push us to begin to figure out ways in which we can connect our struggles as Africans within the U.S. to the struggles Africans face everywhere. Police terrorism isn't just a problem for us in the U.S. It happens in Canada, Britain, Honduras, Brazil, Nigeria, Kenya, the Congo, Germany, France, Australia, etc. If we seriously want to solve problems like that one, it just makes sense for us to start thinking about why problems like police violence against us are problems in so many places and once we start thinking that way, we can start to truly begin to develop real solutions, outside of the capitalist system, that will seriously address our issues. That is the approach the book takes to this question.
AWB: You cite that foreign interests dominate Africa today. Many Africans in the Diaspora immediately think of China when this is raised and not in positive terms. Can you talk about distinctions between Chinese interest in Africa vs the West?
Umi: Of course, we are Pan-Africanists so consequently, our objective is to have Africa's vast mineral resources controlled by African people, period, so we understand the concern about China's role in Africa. That said, we have to ensure we are critical in our assessments. Anyone who argues that China's participation in Africa is exactly the same as that of the colonizing European capitalist countries is not being honest. We can point to countless examples of sabotage against Africa by the colonists from the destabilization of the Congo by King Leopold 100 years ago to NATO's destruction of the Libyan Jamahiriyah in 2011. China has over a billion people and their efforts are designed to figure out ways to feed their people and in order to do that, they recognize that they must trade construction and infrastructure in Africa with mineral resources. And, unlike the European capitalists, we can see the results of many of those infrastructure projects. Again, this isn't to say that we support China's role in Africa. Our objective with Pan-Africanism is to develop the capacity for Africans to be able to provide the infrastructure that we need in Africa, but while we are working for that capacity it doesn't benefit us to become wrapped up in Western capitalist imperialist propaganda against China.
AWB: Ghana declared 2019 as the Year of Return which was a huge marketing effort to welcome Africans from the Diaspora to visit. By all accounts, from a purely tourist/commerce perspective, it was very successful. As you correctly note in your manual, you as a part of the A-APRP have played a key role in educating Africans in the Diaspora about the continent. Did the year of return help the work you have long been doing or complicate it? Talk about the pros and cons.
Umi: It's our position that our work over the years has helped create the conditions where rights of return programs can begin to see light. Forty years ago, very few Africans in the U.S. saw going to Africa as viable. Even today, it's still a small percentage of us who have that objective. It's only through the constant political education from organizations like the A-APRP and others that Africa has become more attractive to Africans in this country, but that is only the surface of the struggle. Africa today is controlled by neo-colonialism. As a result, the purpose of these right to return programs is to bring financial investment into Africa for the purpose of advancing the interests of the small petit bourgeoisie and bourgeoisie in Africa. None of this is designed to uplift the African continent on a collective level. These neo-colonial regimes are smart enough to recognize that if they wish to advance tourism, which segment of the population is most likely to want to visit Ghana, Zimbabwe, etc.? Obviously the Africans within the U.S. because we have the historical and cultural connection to Africa and we, unlike most other Africans throughout the world, have the largest economic capacity to travel. All of this is good because it helps develop a consciousness about Africa, but only on a limited basis.
AWB: A friend, who is a Garveyite, attended the 60th anniversary of the All African People’s Conference from 1958 in 2018. Upon his return, he insisted that African countries would have to surrender about 80% of their sovereignty in order for the continent to reach the level of Pan Africanism necessary for defense and liberation. Do you agree with that estimate and if so, how can countries be convinced to do this?
Umi: We would argue that it's truly a 100% surrender. None of the 54 states in Africa today are viable in any serious discussion about Pan-Africanism and none of them were ever created to serve that purpose. Their reason for existing; Kenya, Ghana, Senegal, Gambia, Tanzania, etc., was to permit Europe to have clear division of property over Africa. None of those states were created to ensure the stability and development of Africa and her children. Since we know this to be fact, in 2022 and beyond, it makes no sense for us to continue to pretend that this fantasy of statehood in Africa is anything other than what it is, a creation of colonialism and the maintenance of neo-colonialism. We believe that our solution is never going to come from the existing governments. Instead, we believe in what Kwame Nkrumah articulated within the Handbook of Revolutionary Warfare. It’s my humble wish for people to see my manifesto as an addendum to Nkrumah's book. In his book he calls for the unification of revolutionary Pan-African formations throughout Africa who agree in the definition of Pan-Africanism as one unified socialist Africa. The work of the A-APRP over the last 50 years has been bringing Nkrumah's vision into reality. I myself have done work with many of those Pan-African formations that we seek oneness with. The African Party for the Independence of Guinea-Bissau (PAIGC). The Democratic Party of Guinea (PDG). Zimbabwe Movement for Pan-African Socialists (ZIMOPAS). Pan-African Union of Sierra-Leone (PANAFU). Pan-African Congress of Azania (PAC), etc. Our work is to unite all of these entities into one political party. People who claim they believe in Pan-Africanism see our objective as unrealistic, but it's much more realistic and material based than any thinking that any one of these neo-colonial governments is going to play a serious role in developing revolutionary Pan-Africanism. All one has to do is study our African Liberation Day programs for 2022 or any year and you will see some of the fruits of this on the ground work.
AWB: In your manual you note that Patriarchy predated Colonialism and Capitalism in Africa. How do we push back against those who cite this to defend patriarchal attitudes and behavior today?
Umi: We have to help people identify the difference between African culture and patriarchy because since it has existed for so long, many people are confused into believing they are one and the same. We have to convince people that no true movement for justice can include components that are oppressive towards any segment of the population. In other words, no Pan-Africanist can support capitalism, imperialism, patriarchy, etc. And, we have to do this work by demonstrating how patriarchy is an institution that objectively oppresses women and marginalized genders. There is a clear history of efforts in Africa to combat patriarchy and we are doing a lot of work designed to bring those efforts to the surface. We have established an Anti-Patriarchy Task Force within the A-APRP and we are working to expand our booklist to include works that speak to the history of patriarchy among African people and its oppressive system. We are doing lots of work designed to facilitate discussions around patriarchy throughout our party which means this discussion is taking place in Africa, Europe, the Americas, etc. We need more and more work of this magnitude throughout our communities.
AWB: Thank you for your insights and analysis!
If you are interested in getting more directly involved in the fight to liberate Africa, please consider joining the U.S. Out of Africa Network.
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