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Refugees International: Report Challenges Militarization of US Foreign Aid, Calls for US Africa Policy Reforms

July 17, 2008
4:36 PM

CONTACT: Refugees International
Yasmin Hamidi, +1-212-584-5000 x 227
Report Challenges Militarization of US Foreign Aid,
Calls for US Africa Policy Reforms
Priorities of AFRICOM Guided by War on Terror, Refugees International Says
NEW YORK - July 17 - The increased militarization of US foreign aid is complicating the achievement of American foreign policy goals in Africa, Refugees International said in a report released today.

The report recommends that the US Africa Command, or AFRICOM, remain focused on security sector and peacekeeping capacity building, rather than hunting terror suspects under a thin mantle of humanitarianism when it becomes fully operational in October 2008.

The report, U.S. Civil-Military Imbalance for Global Engagement: Lessons from the Operational Level in Africa, argues that AFRICOM is prioritizing the Global War on Terror at the expense of Africa's most urgent security and stability needs-a troubling indicator of a trend towards the militarization of US foreign aid worldwide. The report maintains, however, that AFRICOM could have a long-term positive impact on the continent's development if it adheres to its mandate of professionalizing African armies and security agencies and thus helps to create the kind of long-term stability that is essential for investment and growth.

"AFRICOM will dominate US foreign policy in Africa for the foreseeable future, and we need to make sure it gets off on the right foot," said Mark Malan, the Peacebuilding Program Manager at Refugees International. "If it collaborates more productively with State, USAID and numerous humanitarian organizations, AFRICOM has tremendous potential to bring about the long-term stability Africa so desperately needs."

The report argues that the Pentagon controls an increasing share of foreign aid that used to be directed by civilian agencies. The percentage of Official Development Assistance that the Pentagon controls has skyrocketed from 3.5% to nearly 22% in the past decade. Meanwhile, the percentage controlled by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) shrunk from 65% to 40%. AFRICOM is poised to perpetuate this high-stakes trend of increasingly militarized US foreign aid.

U.S. assistance for security sector capacity building is allocated to the 53 African Union member states sporadically, if at all, with misplaced emphasis. For example, more than half of the FY09 budget request for Foreign Military Financing was for just two countries-Djibouti and Ethiopia-that are considered key partners in the continental War on Terror. The administration has asked for $49.65 million to finish building a 2,000-strong Liberian army to defend the four million people of that country. In contrast, it only plans to spend $5.5 million in 2009 to restructure a 164,000-strong army that is out of control in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a country with 65 million people where Africa's "first world war" has claimed the lives of over five million.

Among the report's central recommendations, Refugees International urges the US government to address the 17 to 1 spending imbalance between the Defense Department and diplomatic/development agencies, and to ensure that the State Department's Africa Bureau is strengthened, so that development and security sector capacity-building programs are joined up with long-term objectives in mind, and are not subsumed by short-term US military counter-terrorism priorities.

Download a PDF of the full report.

Read the Executive Summary.


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