INTERVIEW WITH ALAIN FOGUE
By Franck Felix Gutenberg, US Africa News. Updated 2015-11-10
In his book, just published by Editions Harmattan, Cameroon American Geostrategy in Africa (1993-2014), Alain Fogue, a specialist in defense issues and Professor of Strategic and International Relations at the University of Yaoundé 2 (Cameroon) sheds light on the issues around the announced deployment of 300 US soldiers in Cameroon as part of the war against Boko Haram
UASN: Late last week Cameroon and the United States signed an agreement to govern their cooperation in the fight against Boko Haram. Why was this precaution taken when the two countries are already cooperating militarily?
Alain Fogue: This was necessary because up to now the defense agreement that bound the two countries was a specific agreement on the training of Cameroonian forces and countries of the Gulf of Guinea in securing their coasts. The coasts interested the Americans because they are part of the oil highway between the Middle East and the United States. Part of the security of the United States therefore involves the Gulf of Guinea. But cooperation agreements have relevance and meaning only if they are written into a national comprehensive strategy and developed. Outside this context, the cooperation agreement is in the end only an easy response by the State of Cameroon to the demands of its partners who are seeking cooperation with it in the context of a comprehensive reflection on their security interests.
UASN: You believe that the Americans’ interest in the Gulf of Guinea was to secure "the highway of oil.” How did Cameroon get this engagement from them in the fight against Boko Haram?
Alain Fogue: The deployment of 300 US military is the materialization of the idea which guided the establishment of Africom in 2007. Africom is a military structure primarily responsible for US intelligence in Africa. Africom is not intended to mount armies to wage war. The main objective of the 300 US troops is thus not to fight against Boko Haram, strictly speaking, but to find out as much information as possible about Boko Haram in order to prevent early action on Boko Haram’s US interests including on US territory.
UASN: In your estimation, the Americans would be particularly concerned with preventing another Sept. 11.
Alain Fogue: Indeed. We must not lose sight of the fact that Al Qaeda developed in Africa before attacking United States. It was in Sudan that Osama bin Laden built up its strength. When he was forced out, he went to Somalia. It is from that country that he set up a training camp of 6000. And as soon as his forces were ready, they tested their operational capacity by hitting the US Embassy in Kenya in 1998. Only after that did Al Qaeda carry out an attack in the United States with September 11 . So the US has an interest in being close to the action, not because its objective is to fight Boko Haram for Cameroon, but that being close to their territory it can collect a maximum amount of information on Boko Haram’s tactical operational plan, with a view to protect itself.
UASN: Boko Haram’s stronghold is Nigeria. The terrorist organization has plagued virtually all the countries of the Lake Chad Basin. Why then choose Cameroon?
Alain Fogue: The United States is present in all these countries. The disagreement with Nigeria is on the hardware. The arrival of [Nigerian President] Muhammadu Buhari has not yet allowed for clarification of the abuses attributed to the Nigerian army. Therefore, the United States is not fully prepared to assume the political weight of supporting an army that ultimately uses weapons against its own population. [According to the "Leahy" Law of 1997, the US administration is unable to militarily assist a country accused of violations of human rights.] The difference between military equipment and an intelligence presence is enormous. The Americans are not strictly speaking providing military equipment to the Cameroonian army. I agree that Colonel Fouda [Director of Joint Forces Material] explained in detail the level of armoring on the six vehicles given to the State of Cameroon. But it is not with six armored vehicles that the Cameroonian army can fundamentally reorganize its tactical approach in the fight against Boko Haram.
UASN: But we also talk about the acquisition of a drone through a US company ... Have you posed the question of what is the contribution of Russia, China, and Turkey--a decisive change of strategy in the fight against Boko Haram?
Alain Fogue: Cameroon is like a small child who whines and each time it is given a toy. He stops crying but realizes that his problem is not resolved. We are told of multiple agreements, purchase of equipment, etc. But ultimately I would call this deployment anarchic; in the acquisition of equipment and the signing of the agreements is the expression of the absence of a national defense policy. We shopped in a market without really sitting down to reflect on how we want to make our defense.
UASN: But since the Americans are following their interests, cannot Cameroon profit from them?
Alain Fogue: Yes, but that's not the goal sought by the US. Its goal is still for a better understanding of Boko Haram for its own interests. Now if we can we create a space within this US geo-military objective, good for us.
UASN: Finally, what do you think Cameroon needs to do in order to overcome Boko Haram?
Alain Fogue: To overcome Boko, it seems to me that Cameroon should continue to defend its territory, because they now must deal with the emergency. But Cameroon's economy will not be a reflection of the definition of a defense policy. Because so far it does not have one. Act 67, which outlines defense policy, is not a real defense policy. But meanwhile, as calm returns to rule on this question, we must in my view simply try to provide all necessary support, including logistics needs, to Cameroonian soldiers to continue the battle.