Africa: US Arms Sales Increase
by William Church
October 16, 2006
The United States has dramatically increased
its involvement and arms sales to the Horn of Africa and East
Africa in the last three years. In addition, the United States
will soon consolidate it focus on Sub-Sahara Africa by unifying
the military command structure.
US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld
has given initial approval to create a unified Africa Military
Command. This consolidates the current split command structure
of the US European Command controlling most of Africa, and the
Central Command directing US military activities in Egypt, Sudan,
Eritrea, Ethiopia, Djibouti and Kenya into a single command.
Direct US arms sales to East Africa and
the Horn of Africa countries-Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya,
Rwanda Uganda and Zambia--have increased from under one million
dollars in 2003 to over $25 million in 2006. Djibouti leads the
list with nearly $20 million in direct arms purchases in 2005
However, Ethiopia also shows a dramatic
increase of arms purchases. In 2006, an estimated eight million
dollars of weapons will be directly sold and with another five
million dollars estimated in 2007. This is an increase from only
$250,000 in 2005 and $750,000 in 2003.
Weapons sales by authorized private weapon
companies, like the recently accused Select Armor, have also soared.
Recently released US Defense Department figures show that private
arms sales will hit an all time high of an estimated $9.5 million
in 2007, which is down from a 2005 high of nearly $15 million.
Uganda leads this list with nearly nine million dollars in purchases
from US authorized private arms dealers, and Djibouti once again
hits near the top of the list with nearly six million dollars
in purchases in 2005, 2006 and an estimated 2007.
Uganda's purchase of weapons through private
companies like Select Armor, may be significant in light of a
recent article by Africa Confidential that claimed US and Kampala-based
Select Armor was being used to funnel weapons to Somalia's government
in their fight against the Islamic Courts Union. According to
the reports, Select Armor promised to provide end user certificates
as part of their service, which if true, may violate the current
UN arms embargo on Somalia.
Overall, direct US weapons sales increased
from $39.2 million in 2005 to nearly $60 million in 2006. In both
years, East Africa and the Horn accounted for nearly 40 percent
of US weapons sales to Africa, and this demonstrates the US military's
strategic shift to the region.
The United States has also increased its
Djibouti's counter terrorism base. The Special Operations Combined
Joint Task Force at Camp Lemonier has grown from 800 soldiers
in 2003 to 1,800 today.
Access to strategic airfields and ports
has also increased for the US military. Beyond Camp Lemonier in
2003, the US had an agreement with Kenya that allowed it access
to the port of Mombasa and airfields at Embakasi and Nanyuki.
Since then the US has extended its regional influence with "cooperative
security locations" that provide basing structures for regional
operations when needed.
Zambia and Uganda have joined Kenya in
this unique arrangement. At Entebbe, the US has constructed two
K-Span steel buildings to house troops and equipment. The so called
"Lily Pad" arrangement will allow the US military to
use the base when needed in times of conflict or as a staging
area for a conflict within the region. They are bare bone facilities
surrounding an airstrip with installed communications equipment
and warehoused supplies. Many times these facilities are manned
by local soldiers, which lowers the US footprint but still provides
Strategically, the US military has developed
a regional operations plan that centers on Djibouti to support
the Horn countries. It anchors the southern flank with bases in
Kenya, Zambia and Uganda to the west.
The US strategy in East Africa and the
Horn is strategically positioned in two areas. First, it can immediately
assist Kenya if the fighting in Somalia spills over into Northern
Kenya. For the past month, a steady stream of Somalia refuges
have crossed into Kenya challenging the drought stricken region
further and increasing tensions between Kenya and Somalia.
Second, like in Nigeria, it can be used
to ensure an uninterrupted flow of oil from the newly discovered
fields of Uganda and Kenya, and it opens the door to the construction
of a well-protected oil pipeline carrying oil for the interior
of Central Africa to the port of Mombasa. It also provides a strategically
located airbase to support future military operations to the north
in Sudan or to the west.
The expansion of the United States military
influence in the Horn of Africa is counter balanced by a growing
French presence in Chad and the Central African Republic. France
has increased its troop numbers in both countries to fight a growing
rebellion in the region. Recent reports describe a rapid French
military build-up in Chad with the arrival of 600 French mercenaries,
four attack helicopters, and 12 Brazilian-made tanks at the end
The Great Lakes Centre for Strategic Studies
(GLCSS) believes the French and US military build-up may be part
of a unified Sub-Saharan strategy. Both countries currently cooperate
in Djibouti in a resource sharing arrangement. In the last two
years, the United States has aided the French-backed Chad government
in the fight against Algerian Salafist guerrillas operating in
In 2004, the US flew a P3 Orion surveillance
aircraft from a base in Southern Algeria over Northern Chad. The
intelligence from those flights was fed to the Chadian forces
fighting the Salafist group.
Although there are indications that US
arms sales to Africa may be drastically reduced in 2007, this
appears to be highly unlikely considering the increased fighting
in Somalia and an unstable situation in Sudan. If the Sudan government
is destabilized over the international confrontation in Darfur,
the repercussions for the region, and Sudan, will be drastic and
fuel an increased influx of weapons to the region.
William Church is director of the Great
Lakes Centre for Strategic Studies, a London-based think tank
with offices in Central and East Africa. You may contact William
Church at email@example.com. GLCSS trains African journalists,
offers an on-site internship to foreign African studies students,
and manages an exchange program with journalists from the United
Kingdom, the United States and Europe.