Remilitarizing Africa for Corporate Profit

E. Peck

Spring, in a move that’s probably susceptible to World Trade Organization (WTO)
challenge as an illegal trade barrier—since it enables consumers to
distinguish between goods based upon production/process methods—De Beers
promised to certify that all of its consignments “do not include any
diamonds which come from any area in Africa controlled by forces rebelling
against the legitimate and internationally recognized government of the
relevant country.” Blissfully ignored by the New York Times
(3/1/2000) and conveniently accommodated by De Beers’s new “rebel-free”
label is the role diamonds play in sanctioned corporate militarism across
Africa. With 70 percent of the global diamond market under its control and
record sales of $5.24 billion last year, De Beers has been widely criticized
for bankrolling instability across Africa. Prior to UN sanctions, Angola’s
UNITA rebels earned an estimated $4 billion between 1992 and 1998 thanks to
diamond smuggling involving De Beers. For years De Beers also enjoyed
exclusive rights to Zaire’s diamond fields, and this lucrative partnership
enabled Mobutu to steal billions from government accounts, acquire weapons and
training for his troops, while securing multilateral refinancing of Zaire’s
foreign debt no less than 16 times.

In early May
the U.S. Congress also railroaded through the Africa Growth and Opportunity
Act (AGOA)—aka NAFTA for Africa—as part of a pork barrel package
including elements of the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI). Passage was so
quick that representatives didn’t even have a final draft before floor
debate began. Chiquita CEO, Carl Lindner, can take the lion’s share of
credit for this corporate free trade legislation, having greased both
Republican and Democratic palms to the tune of $850,000 in 1998 alone. When
Clinton first unveiled his Trade Not Aid plan during his African safari two
years ago, it was met with scorn and anger by many Africans, who rightly
interpreted it as just another round of neocolonialism. Whereas NAFTA for
Africa at least endured some public debate, its military corollary—the
African Crisis Response Initiative (ACRI)—remains largely immune to
democratic accountability. Under ACRI, the Pentagon will receive an additional
$15-20 million per year to ensure “commercial diplomacy” remains solvent
in the coming millennium, even in a volatile setting like Africa. On his free
trade trek, Clinton also boasted about U.S. corporate profits in Africa
topping 35 percent, and David H. Miller, executive director of the Corporate
Council on Africa, heartily concurred in the World Policy Journal
(Summer 1999) “It’s true—it’s high risk, but with high return.”

Following the
botched Mogadishu expedition that cost the U.S. $3 billion and 26 dead by 1994
(plus untold Somali casualties and other “collateral damage”), Clinton
issued presidential decision directive (PDD) #25, limiting future Pentagon
operations in Africa to only those missions directly serving U.S. interests or
stemming conflict that threatened global security. According to Vincent D.
Kern II, deputy assistant secretary of defense for African Affairs, in
testimony before Congress in 1997, the rationale behind ACRI is to assist U.S.
African allies in developing a joint “military capability that would be able
to rapidly assemble and deploy in order to prevent another descent into
anarchy and the needless loss of life.” When Susan Rice left her
“peacekeeping” assignment with the National Security Council (NSC) to
become Clinton’s new Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, it was hard to
miss the symbolism behind her parting souvenir of a Zulu spear and shield.
ACRI is supposedly a scaled-down version of an earlier African Crisis Response
Force (ACRF), hatched through discussions between the NSC, the Pentagon, the
State Department, and the CIA. Despite the name change, its objective remains
the same— namely, creation of a force of 5,000 to 10,000 African
“peacekeepers,” trained in joint exercises on a 60-day rotating basis by
the 3rd and 5th U.S. Special Forces groups, with additional support from the
18th Airborne Corps and Psychological Operations, as well as civil affairs
officers of the Army Special Operations Command. As might be expected from a
superpower, no Africans were consulted prior to ACRI’s unveiling, and it
continues to be peddled by the U.S. on a “take it or leave it” basis.

Total U.S.
foreign spending in sub-Saharan Africa under Clinton/Gore has dwindled to a
paltry $700 million in 1999—less than $3 per U.S. citizen per year—and a
drastic decline from the Reagan/Bush high of $1.8 billion in 1985. During the
Cold War (1959-1989), the Pentagon spent in excess of $1.5 billion on direct
arms transfers and covert military activities in sub-Saharan Africa alone,
supporting brutal dictatorships in Sudan, Uganda, Chad, Zaire, Somalia, and
Liberia, as well as pro-apartheid rebels in Angola and Mozambique. Yet, since
the demise of the “Communist threat,” the U.S. has continued this sordid
trend of bankrolling belligerence in Africa earmarking $227 million for arms
sales and training programs between 1991 and 1998, according to a recent World
Policy Institute report, “Deadly Legacy.” Between 1991 and 1995, over
3,400 African soldiers received U.S. training, 70 percent of which hailed from
dictatorships and other countries in turmoil. Under International Military
Education Training (IMET), the U.S. spent $5.8 million training 400 African
officers in 1998 alone. Thanks to the Pentagon’s newer Joint Combined
Exchange Training (JCET) program, 34 out of the 53 countries on the continent
now boast U.S. military “graduates,” including 8 of the 9 nations behind
both sides of the civil war still raging across Congo. Large quantities of
small arms are also being dumped in Africa under Section 516 of the 1961
Foreign Assistance Act as Excess Defense Articles (EDA) transfers. Yet, when
it came to paying for UN and Organization of African Unity (OAU) peacekeeping
operations in Congo to implement the Lusaka Peace Accord, the White House had
only $2 million to spare. Billionaire mining magnate and Corporate Council on
Africa chairman, Maurice Templesman, managed to lure the warring sides
together on his own with a posh dinner at the New York City Metropolitan Club.

In Africa such
militaries (and insurgents) are financed and equipped through hard currency
sales of officially extracted (and illegally poached) natural resources like
gold, diamonds, and ivory. Horror stories of UNITA and RENAMO rebels
machine-gunning elephants in order to pay off their bills to apartheid
advisors still circulate across the continent. As detailed in Covert Action
(Spring/Summer 2000), a veritable carpetbag entourage of
corporate mining executives followed Laurent Kabila’s Alliance of Democratic
Forces for the Liberation of the Congo (ADFL) as it advanced on Kinshasa in
the spring of 1997. America Mineral Fields, based in President Clinton’s
home town of Hope, Arkansas, was first at Kabila’s trough with a supposed $1
billion contract. Close behind was Bechtel, which issued its own “master
plan” for Congo’s post-Mobutu development, including an export-driven free
market economy and a special place for international financial institutions
and their clients—foreign corporate investors. Much to the chagrin of the
U.S., however, Kabila proved less pliant than expected and by 1998 had
switched his allegiance elsewhere, attracting corporate suitors and their
mercenary partners from South Africa and Zimbabwe. This was clearly not the
version of “African solutions to African problems” that the White House
had in mind.

Unlike IMET
which has faced widespread criticism for its training of Indonesian troops
responsible for the genocide in East Timor, JCET falls under a little known
1991 law—Section 2011 of Title 10—enabling it to sidestep Congressional
oversight and periodic review by the State Department’s Human Rights Office,
thus making it the Pentagon’s preferred ACRI conduit. One infamous JCET
trainee is Rwandan strongman, Major General Paul Kagame, who allegedly
handpicked Kabila to overthrow Mobutu. Back in 1990 he was enrolled in the
Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas when duty called
and he had to return home to take charge of his Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF).
Kagame’s sidekick, Lt. Col. Frank Rusagara, also got his JCET degree at the
U.S. Naval School in Monterey, California. On the eve of the bloodbath that
left half a million dead in the Great Lakes region of central Africa, Kagame
put his U.S. expertise to work, ordering the assassination of his rivals,
Rwandan president, Juvenal Habyarimana, and Burundi’s president, Cyprien
Ntaryamira, just as they were about to conclude multi-ethnic peace
negotiations. Iraqi missiles, most likely captured by U.S forces during the
Gulf War and then supplied to Kagame by a covert Pentagon contractor, were
used to shoot down their plane in 1994. Testimony to this effect in August
1997 before the UN chief war crimes prosecutor, Louise Arbour, was suppressed
and only leaked to the media this year—see Steven Edward’s expose in
Canada’s National Post (3/1/2000). Yet, to read Clinton apologists
like David Shearer in the journal of the International Institute for Strategic
Studies, Survival (Summer 1999), one might think the U.S. was an
innocent bystander, rather than a covert instigator of Africa’s strife.

Also kept under
wraps is the fact that for the past five years, U.S. Green Berets have been
arming and coaching Rwandan soldiers, as well as their Ugandan allies to
deadly effect. According to a Washington Post investigation (7/12/98),
Kagame’s troops received low intensity conflict training in such areas as
camouflage, small unit movement, marksmanship, patrolling, night navigation,
and soldier team development, both at Ft. Bragg, SC and in Rwanda. Beyond $12
million in official government-to-government U.S. arms sales to Africa in
1998, the White House also approved $64 million in private commercial weapons
transfers, including M-16s, pistols, revolvers, rifles, and 10 million rounds
of ammunition. How much of this arsenal ended up in the hands of chronic human
rights abusers, like Kagame, no one will ever know. Critics have pointed to
the Pentagon subcontractor, Ronco—a supposed de-mining company—as the
major U.S. gun runner to Rwanda from 1994 to 1996 in violation of UN
sanctions. Florida-based, Airscan, has also been implicated in funneling
Pentagon weapons for counter-insurgency operations of Uganda’s People’s
Defense Force, as well as to rebels in southern Sudan fighting the Khartoum
regime. AirScan founder, retired Brigadier General Joe Stringham, was
responsible for secretive U.S. counter-insurgency activities against the FSLN
during El Salvador’s civil war. From the current conflicts in Sierra Leone
and Liberia, to the protracted hostility between Ethiopia and Eritrea, U.S.
military expertise and weaponry is being deployed with grisly effect across
the continent.

As already
shown, ACRI poses no limits on Pentagon hiring of armed proxies to do its
dirty work, and there has been a veritable boom for private security in Africa
since the end of the Cold War. Corporate concessions for mercenary protections
are now “business as usual” throughout much of the continent. For example,
British-based Defense Systems Limited holds contracts not only for De Beers,
but also Texaco, Chevron, Anglo-American and Bechtel in such unstable
countries as Mali, Nigeria, and Angola. Colonial history has seen many
examples of corporate mercenary collaboration. The Dutch East India Co. was
one of the first to employ ex-soldiers from the German state of Wurttemberg
back in 1707. Defying the advice of classical political theorists like Sun Tzu,
Machiavelli, and Weber, even the U.S. is now willing to abdicate its monopoly
over the exercise of lethal force in order to expand its “new world order”
of corporate free trade.  Unlike the assassins and thugs of yesteryear,
Guy Arnold in his 1999 book, Mercenaries, observes that today’s hired
guns are being spun as wholesome cost-effective professionals, “claiming,
whether spuriously or not, that they are only prepared to work for legitimate
governments.” Armchair technocrats seem especially enamored with the
retrofitted mercenary, as retired general and White House Director of the
Office of National Drug Control Policy, Barry McCaffrey, gleefully told the Dallas
Morning News
(2/17/2000): “I am unabashedly an admirer of
outsourcing…there’s very few things in life you can’t outsource.”

In a 1998 issue
of the African Studies Association journal, Issues, William Reno duly
notes that mercenaries must be licensed by the State Department’s Office of
Defense Technology Control and the Pentagon’s Defense Technology Security
Administration before they get their federal contracts. This is ostensibly to
screen out “rogue elements,” reckless freelancers such as the four U.S.
smugglers masquerading as missionaries who got caught entering Zimbabwe with a
large cache of weapons last year. According to one unidentified State Dept.
official quoted in the Nation (7/28/1997), “Training a military is a
lot more than teaching guys how to shoot guns straight…The companies offer
instruction in how to run a military in a democracy, subordination to civilian
control and respect for human rights.” Whether officially authorized and
suitably sanitized or not, such subcontracting of state terror doesn’t bode
well for human rights and civil liberties in a place like Africa. Once
promising leaders that had been hailed by the White House as harbingers of an
“African Renaissance” have since become brutal despots, an almost
inevitable outcome when foreign policy places a premium on corporate free
trade and military law and order, rather than sustainable development and
genuine democracy.

aside, the geopolitical advantages of corporate militarism are numerous: scant
media coverage, limited public awareness, as well as government deniability
when covert mission scenarios go awry. Few shed tears when soldiers of fortune
come home in bodybags from overseas conflagrations. After all, that’s just
the cost of doing that sort of work, and, besides, no one officially knew
about it anyway. Under the 1949 Geneva Convention, mercenaries lack the POW
rights accorded regular combatants, which is why when Angola’s MPLA captured
several mercenaries back in 1976 there was little global outcry about their
showcase trial and subsequent execution. Executive Outcomes (EO), a South
African-based private defense firm, did suffer 20 casualties fighting UNITA
rebels under its $40 million per year contract with Angola from 1993 to 1995.
The emerging “revolving door” relationship between the Pentagon and
approved U.S. private defense outfits, though, does offer today’s corporate
mercenary more perquisites than ever before. Some even enjoy amenities as
embassy guards, standing in for regular marines in parts of Africa. Such
taxpayer-subsidized military expenditure also happens to be “exempt” from
challenge under Article XXI of the WTO, and some predict a fresh arms race
worldwide as ruthless regimes and greedy companies take advantage of this
“free trade” loophole.

According to
Pentagon officials, private defense firms hired via ACRI are also safe from
the prying eyes of investigative journalists and concerned citizens, since
their WTO “proprietary rights” supercede such meddlesome national
legislation as the Freedom of Information Act.

There are even
more tangible superpower kickbacks from entrepreneurial mercenary activities,
as well. Once African leaders and their soldiers acquire a taste for certain
weaponry, they are likely to continue their addiction and become dependent on
future infusions. The Israel-based security firm, Levdan, not only propped up
Congolese president, Pascal Lissouba, for three years until his regime was
overthrown in 1997, but also brokered a $10 million arms deal between
Jerusalem and Brazzaville. Violent “hot spots” in the south, with their
expendable “soft targets,” remain an ideal proving ground for the latest
arms and tactics emerging from laboratories and thinktanks in the north. CIA
field testing of biochemical warfare techniques, in collaboration with the
Rhodesian regime and apartheid South Africa, triggered Africa’s worst modern
outbreak of human anthrax claiming nearly 100 lives in Zimbabwe in the late
1970s, and this incident is probably just the tip of the iceberg. The School
of the Americas (SOA) has done much to increase death squad efficiency in
Latin America, and ACRI should also modernize oppressive potential in Africa,
too. While the post-Cold War peace dividend remains elusive, the Pentagon has
endured some downsizing as its personnel are made redundant by high-tech
weapons of mass destruction. With a 40 percent decline in Pentagon payrolls
since the late 1980s, many career bound soldiers found themselves out of work
with no useful civilian skills. Rather than dump such loyal grunts on the
curb, they are discharged and then kindly referred to a mercenary recruiter.
As one Pentagon insider told the Nation (7/28/1997), “Privatization
is another way to reward the alumni.”

One such
“lucky winner” of Pentagon largesse is Military Professional Resources
Inc. (MPRI), which has seen action in Liberia, and snatched EO’s lucrative
Angola contract. Reversing an earlier Reagan/Bush policy of covertly
supporting Savimbi’s UNITA rebels, Clinton extended an olive branch to dos
Santos during a White House visit in December 1995, but at a price. Not only
would Angola have to adopt “free market reforms” favoring U.S.
corporations like Chevron—which controls a third of Angola’s Cabinda Gulf
Oil Co.—but it would also have to switch over to U.S-based mercenaries.
Founded in 1987 and based in Alexandria, VA, MPRI’s personnel listing reads
like a Who’s Who of retired Pentagon brass. According to MPRI spokesperson
and former Defense Intelligence Agency director, Ed Soyster, interviewed in
the Dallas Morning News (2/27/2000), MPRI maintains a database of
11,000 retired U.S. soldiers available for temporary assignment. MPRI is
probably best known for its covert role behind the Croatian military’s
ethnic cleansing of Krajina. An expose in the Johannesburg Mail and Guardian
(10/10/1997) notes that even the lowest grade mercenary in Angola earns a
living wage of $225/day, more than enough for frequent “holidays” in the
brothels and casinos of Sun City. Perusing MPRI’s website, one finds other
mercenary opportunities such as a one-year stint in Nigeria through ACRI’s
“Military Transition Assistance” program, as well as state-side ACRI
positions in Alexandria, VA for “Battalion/Brigade Staff Training” and
“Military Skills Training”— fluency in French required.

Sierra Leone is
another African country notorious for its mercenary activity. In May 1995 with
Revolutionary United Front (RUF) forces 20 miles outside of Freetown, the
besieged Strasser regime contracted with EO to turn the tide. By 1997 when its
contract expired, EO and its loyal self-made force of Kamajor fighters had
routed the RUF, and in return EO’s mining affiliate, Branch Energy, was
awarded the concession over the liberated diamond fields. Quoted in Harper’s
(2/1997), retired Canadian General and UN negotiator, Ian Douglas, admits
“EO gave us this stability (in Sierra Leone). In a perfect world, of course,
we wouldn’t need an organization like EO, but I’d be loath to say they
have to go just because they are mercenaries.” Within four month’s of
EO’s departure, soldiers sympathetic to the RUF had overthrown the newly
elected Kabba government. By March 1998, though, Kabbah was back in power,
thanks to $100 million in U.S. military aid to ECOMOG and the intervention of
Nigerian troops, trained and armed by the British private defense outfit,
Sandline. Besides Sandline, U.S.-based ICI is the latest dog of war in Sierra
Leone, protecting politicians, immigrant traders, expatriate employees of
relief agencies like World Vision, as well as the helicopters, vehicles, and
communication equipment of other U.S. corporations like Pacific Architects and
Engineers (PAE). One is left to wonder if Sierra Leone is condemned to a
downward trajectory of cyclical violence as insurgents and mercenaries trade
control over the nation’s diamond heritage. The Washington Post
(4/17/2000) reports that nearly $300 million worth of diamonds were smuggled
by the RUF out of Sierra Leone via Liberia in 1999.

When the
Pentagon is not forthcoming with subsidized “on-site” security in Africa,
corporations often take matters into their own hands. As Scott Pegg reveals in
Security Dialogue (December 1999), the Shell Petroleum Development
Company, Royal Dutch Shell’s Nigerian subsidiary, proudly speaks of its own
“Shell Police”—i.e., special detachments of the Nigerian Mobile Police
Force (MPF). One memo even asserts, “it is normal practice in Nigeria among
leading commercial businesses for supernumerary police…to be assigned to
protect staff and facilities.” As early as 1987 Shell began using its
vehicles and helicopters to ferry Nigerian troops to attack villagers
protesting the environmental destruction and social misery wrought by its
extractive activities, and it continues to pay the field allowances for these
units. A May 12, 1994 memo from Nigerian Army Major, Paul Okuntimo, couldn’t
be more explicit about this patron-client arrangement: “Shell operations
still impossible unless ruthless military operations are undertaken for smooth
economic activities…pressure on oil companies for prompt regular inputs as
discussed.” Shell subsequently purchased over 100 handguns for its “Kill
and Go” squads and was even negotiating a $500,000 purchase of “upgraded
weaponry” in 1995 until the London-based Observer (2/11/1996) blew
the whistle. Shell refused to intervene when the famous writer and
environmentalist, Ken Saro-Wiwa, was executed along with other Ogoni
activists, after being found “guilty” on trumped-up charges before a
secret Nigerian military tribunal in November 1995.

has followed Shell’s example in Nigeria, summoning the MPF as early as May
1994 to attack a peaceful boat blockade of one of its facilities, leading to
the drowning of several protesters. On January 4, 1998 Chevron used its
helicopters and boats to carry Nigerian troops to massacre 15 Ijaw villagers.
This action was repeated on May 25 when two protesters occupying a drilling
platform were killed by troops brought by Chevron. Such grassroots resistance
had closed 20 drilling sites and reduced Nigerian oil production by a third
and the corporations were eager to resume operations, since Nigeria is one of
the cheapest suppliers in the world with crude extraction costs as low as $3
per barrel. Facing worldwide criticism and Congressional investigation for its
role in human rights abuses, Chevron countered that because it was only a 40
percent minority stakeholder in its joint venture with the Nigerian National
Petroleum Corporation, it had no control over how its corporate property was
utilized by the Nigerian military. The White House proved just as impotent
when it came to holding the Nigerian dictatorship accountable. A U.S. trade
embargo was rejected, despite Nigeria’s inordinate dependence on
petroleum—80 percent of the regime’s money comes from crude, and in 1997
the U.S. was Nigeria’s second largest trading partner, buying $6.3 billion
in goods, mostly gas and oil. Clinton also refused to block private arms
transfers and from 1994 to 1995 over $3 million in U.S. weapons managed to
reach Lagos.  Of course, Clinton’s friendship with Gilbert Chagoury, a
Lebanese tycoon with strong Nigerian interests, has little influence over U.S.
foreign policy decisions at either the State Department or the Commerce Dept.
After all, one shouldn’t expect too much in return upon joining the ranks of
Clinton’s top 200 campaign contributors with a $460,000 soft money gift to
the Democratic Party front group “Vote Now ‘96.”

an ideological smokescreen for U.S. self-interest is the Africa Center for
Security Studies (ACSS)—another brainchild of Clinton’s “trade not
aid” agenda. Its espoused mission is to “support democratic governance in
Africa by offering senior African civil and military leaders a rigorous
academic and practical program in civil-military relations, national security
strategy, and defense economics.” The ACSS held its first
taxpayer-subsidized seminar in Dakar, Senegal in November 1999, attracting
participants from 43 countries, including 28 generals. In many respects, ACSS
appears to be payback for the Pentagon’s ongoing National Security Education
Program (NSEP), through which U.S. college students, professors, and
researchers receive taxpayer money to conduct reconnaissance work of national
security interest in Africa and elsewhere.  For years NSEP awardees were
not only expected to “debrief” their Pentagon patrons on completion of
their fieldwork, but also required to perform up to two years of service for
the Pentagon and/or the broader intelligence community. Given the paucity of
other federal funding for language study and overseas research, some students
have unwittingly accepted these scholarships, quite unaware of their Pentagon
sponsorship and obligation. Between 1994 and 1997, the NSEP funded 35 graduate
fellowships and 88 undergraduate fellowships in Africa, as well as three
grants to fund African-related research at Clark University, Washington
University/St. Louis, and UC-Davis. Under ACRI, mercenary companies are also
getting taxpayer money for similar hands-on national security coursework, like
MPRI’s intensive three day “Senior Leader Seminar on Civil-Military
Professionalism in a Democracy” held in Abuja, Nigeria in September 1999 and
attended by 68 wannabe civilian leader military officer types.

On December 11,
1998 5,000 young Nigerian activists drafted the Kaiama Declaration, stating:
“We cease to recognize all undemocratic decrees that rob our people and
communities of the right to ownership and control of our lives and resources,
which were enacted without our participation and consent.” If such
grassroots empowerment constitutes “anarchy,” then it surely is not the
culprit behind Africa’s crisis. In fact, one could argue that a U.S. foreign
policy based upon “commercial diplomacy” and “trade not aid”—i.e.,
corporate militarism—does far more harm, than good, no matter where it is
applied throughout the global south. Most Africans would prefer the U.S.
tackle their real security needs: signing the land mine treaty, removing the
time bombs, and paying for artificial limbs; disarming and punishing human
rights violators and other war criminals; canceling foreign debts accrued
illegitimately by corrupt dictators and their business cronies; suspending
World Bank/IMF structural adjustment programs (SAPs) and doing away with the
draconian authority of the WTO; as well as supporting—both politically and
financially—UN/OAU refugee, peacekeeping, and relief operations.

Closer to home,
U.S. advocates for Africa are calling for repeal of both “NAFTA for
Africa” and ACRI; a complete moratorium on U.S. weapon sales, training, and
mercenary subcontracting; government and corporate accountability for human
rights abuses; as well as reprioritizing U.S. development assistance to
address basic human needs such as healthcare, education, sustainable
agriculture, and environmental protection. Following the example of
post-apartheid house cleaning, the U.S. should also convene its own “Truth
Commission” to expose and judge Washington policymakers, hell bent to
“win” the Cold War, who inflicted so much death and misery on Africa.
 It’s hard to imagine a worse case of a self-declared democratic
superpower shirking its historic obligation to an entire continent and its
people. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) has found one sobering maxim from his review
of U.S.-Africa policy, which he shared with Congress back in July 1998, “The
first rule should be that the U.S. does not give any kind of military
assistance whatever to governments that murder their own people.”

John E.
Peck is a graduate student at UW-Madison, who has visited Africa many times in
the last decade and is also a member of the Association of Concerned African