Human Terrain System spreads to Africa: “Oil and Terrorism”

Thanks to Crossed Crocodiles for posting an essay detailing the spread of the partnership between anthropology and counterinsurgency to Africa, under the U.S.’ AFRICOM. The full post is available here, extract below. This is a welcome corrective to the kind of unqualified support, and outright hype, that was featured in the last post.


Back in February of 2007 Sokari Ekine wrote about being contacted by a contractor working with the US Marines. They wrote:

Delex Systems Inc is writing a cultural study of behalf of the US Marine Corp on ethnic groups in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria. … and we were interested in soliciting a bid from you for an academic review. The cultural study is on the Ijo [Ijaw]

In researching further, Sokari Ekine concluded this was an early effort related to AFRICOM. From the Center for International Policy:

[The] U.S. Department of Defense just announced the establishment of an African military command—AFRICOM—to spearhead an “oil and terrorism” policy, which will oversee the deployment of U.S. forces in the area and supervise distribution of money, materiel and military training to regional militaries and proxies. Pentagon analysts and generals claim that vast “uncontrolled spaces” in Saharan and Sahelian Africa, which are said to include large portions of northern Nigeria, are rife with terrorists seeking to damage the United States, even though the evidence for such claims is woefully thin.

… the United States is relying on increased oil production from the African Oil Triangle [Gulf of Guinea] to reduce its dependence on Middle East petroleum, but could replace one set of insecurities with another.

In fact, militarization by the United States will exacerbate an already tense situation in Nigeria and other parts of the Oil Triangle without having any effect on terrorists. Only a concerted effort to support Nigeria’s democratic forces and legislative oversight of the country’s presidency can ensure American and the region’s security, and quell wholesale theft of oil revenues as well as the insurgencies, criminality and social banditry now rampant in oil-producing areas.

In the Niger Delta the US is trying to label as terrorists the indigenous people who are battling for some control over their land and their own resources. HTS, Human Terrain System personnel have already been deployed in Iraq. And the HTS project is very much on the agenda of the DoD, and the contractors that are targeting AFRICOM for their next paychecks and opportunities.

ADDENDA: Some related links

Executive Summary: Nigeria and the United States: Convergent Interests. Center for International Policy. September 18, 2007.

Black Looks. “U.S. Marines & the Niger Delta.” February 15, 2007.

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  1. Pingback: Priming the Propaganda Pumps: More Sales Pitches for the Spreading Human Terrain System « OPEN ANTHROPOLOGY

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