•Urges them to “stay out of politics”
•US Cuts aid to Burkina Faso
By Julian Pecquet
The top US military commander for Africa this week urged African military leaders to “stay out of politics” and warned them that the recent spate of coups is jeopardizing American security assistance to the continent.
Army General Stephen Townsend, the commander of US Africa Command (AFRICOM), denounced the “growing trend of unconstitutional and military-led changes of government” on the continent in his opening remarks Tuesday at the African Chiefs of Defense conference in Rome, Italy. Around three dozen defence chiefs or their representatives from across the continent attended this year’s conference on the theme of “shared investment for shared future.”
“Africa has enjoyed nearly two decades of constitutional elections. Yet in the past year we have witnessed a string of unconstitutional overthrows of elected civilian leaders, most of them led by military forces and leaders who then ironically claim the moral high ground,” Townsend told his African colleagues after Burkina Faso joined Mali, Guinea and Sudan in undergoing military coups over the past year. “All of us military professionals here must guard against this alarming trend.”
Townsend followed up on his warning in a call with reporters covering Africa on Thursday 3 February.
“I want to emphasise that the US makes investments where our and our partners’ values align,” he said. “We prioritise human rights. We strive to uphold the law of armed conflict. We believe in civilian control over our military.”
The coups, he added, are “undoing decades worth of progress on democracy.”
They’ve also had a direct impact on US aid, including the suspension of aid to Mali and an ongoing review of assistance to Burkina Faso. US law restricts economic and security assistance to countries deemed to have undergone a coup.
“The US government is still evaluating what has recently happened in Burkina Faso,” Townsend said. “I believe that ECOWAS (the Economic Community of West African States) and the African Union are also evaluating that. We will want to probably judge what African neighbors say about it before the US makes a determination.”
US suspends ‘most’ aid to Burkina Faso
Townsend’s remarks come as the State Department announced Tuesday that “most” US assistance to Burkina Faso had been suspended as the US calls for the release of President Roch Marc Christian Kaboré and for the return to constitutional order following last week’s coup. The Joe Biden administration sought $56m in aid to the country in its FY2022 budget request, including $2 million for peace and security programmes.
“We have paused most assistance for the Government of Burkina Faso as we continue to monitor the situation,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said Tuesday. “We’re continuing to evaluate what’s transpired and the appropriate impact on our assistance to the government.”
Also this week, the Millennium Challenge Corporation announced that it was suspending its compact with Burkina Faso. The country was approved for a $450m grant in 2020 with the aim of launching three electricity projects in September 2022.
“Burkina Faso military officers claim to have suspended the constitution and dissolved the government and national assembly,” the agency said in a press statement. “These actions contradict MCC’s commitment to democratic governance and upholding the rule of law – principles that underpin the agency’s rigorous criteria for selection.”
Likewise, the US government has suspended aid to Mali, Guinea and Sudan and suspended the first two from participating in the duty-free African Growth and Opportunity Act (Sudan is not eligible for AGOA).
In Mali, the United States “continues to support international efforts to fight insecurity in Mali and a civilian-led transition to democratic government and stands firmly with the people of Mali in their aspirations for democracy, peace, development, and respect for human rights,” a State Department spokesperson told The Africa Report. Meanwhile humanitarian assistance continues in Guinea, “particularly in the health sector focusing on strengthening Guinea’s health infrastructure, malaria, and maternal and child health.”
Credit | The Africa Report