Oil and Terrorism in Central Africa…food for thoughts


Our intention in producing this volume was to create an easily accessible, practical, yet scholarly source of information about a topic of increasing importance to the United States: our relationship with the oil producing nations of West and Central Africa.

By examining in depth the lessons learned from our relationship with the oil producing nations of the Middle East and exploring the current landscape of noticeable trends and challenges in the Gulf of Guinea, the book offers an integrated policy framework for how we should pursue our energy security and national security goals in tandem. U.S. national security and energy security are inexorably intertwined, particularly when considering the multiple state and non-state actors who can wreak considerable havoc on our economy based solely on our significant dependence on foreign oil. Ensuring unfettered access to Middle East oil has sustained U.S. economic growth, but has also contributed to less desirable outcomes, such as the spread of anti-U.S. sentiments that fuel radical terrorism.

Despite its oil wealth, the quality of life in the Arab World is considerably lower than in many Latin American and East Asian developing countries-a condition which Osama bin Laden and other Islamic radical terrorists have noted in their continual exhortations for the Muslim world to take up violence against the U.S. and its allies.


This volume argues that lessons learned from our experience in the Middle East should be applied to our burgeoning energy security interests in western and central sub-Saharan Africa. Particularly, the Gulf of Guinea presents some unique opportunities, quite distinct from the Middle East. Oil is plentiful, but there are many challenges to overcome before the people of the region can truly benefit from the revenues this oil will bring. There are numerous security challenges throughout the region that must be addressed before good governance can truly be achieved. Unfortunately, because of the authoritarian regimes, corruption, and other challenges discussed in this volume, there are a range of broad political, social, and economic grievances that create a climate of unrest and dissatisfaction in the region. Overall, the research provided in this book suggests that long-term national security for the U.S. will prove elusive unless our energy security interests are pursued alongside coordinated efforts to increase state legitimacy and good governance in oil-producing countries worldwide.

The discussion begins with an analysis of how oil plays an integral role in our national security and economic stability, followed by a review of emerging U.S. energy security and national security interests in West and Central Africa. Because the U.S. is so dependent upon imported oil, and because of the threat of increasing political instability throughout the Middle East, our policymakers have recently turned their attention toward the oil-rich countries of sub-Saharan Africa. The next three chapters of the volume thus examine the opportunities and challenges faced by the countries of the strategically important Gulf of Guinea region-specifically, Angola, Cameroon, Chad, the Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Nigeria, and São Tomé and Príncipe. Along with individual (albeit necessarily brief) profiles of each country, Chapter 2 offers a comparative analysis that highlights similar patterns of political violence-including attempted and successful military coups-indicating that this is certainly a tough neighborhood in which to maintain peaceful, good governance. In addition to local and regional violence, the major governance challenges can be generally grouped into a small handful of categories: authoritarian regimes, corruption, and underdevelopment. A brief analysis of each reveals important considerations for U.S. energy security policy.

Chapters 3 and 4 then delve into specific security challenges that result from a climate of political instability, porous borders, corruption, and resource exploitation. In short, there are a host of security vulnerabilities throughout this region that can be exploited by both criminal networks and terrorist organizations. Because the oil-rich, authoritarian countries of the Middle East have become the birthplace of today’s global jihadist terrorism movement, there is a growing concern that the U.S. over-reliance on oil from this region has created a serious vulnerability to our national security. Thus, U.S. energy security and national security objectives are more intertwined in the 21st century than ever before. From this perspective, Chapter 5 argues that the if United States is going to get more involved in the Gulf of Guinea, we should examine the history of U.S. relations with key oil-rich states in the Middle East, and identify the “mistakes” we should avoid in our emerging relationship with the countries of West and Central Africa. The analysis of U.S.-Middle East history provided in this volume reveals disturbing realities that are directly connected to the extraction of oil: political corruption, lack of political and social development, critical levels of economic dependence on a single national resource, and increasingly dissatisfied young populations with limited prospects for a brighter future.

Following this discussion, Chapter 6 reviews contemporary U.S. policies in the Gulf of Guinea, highlighting both successes and challenges. Then chapter 7 reiterates our initial argument that African energy development requires synchronized involvement in neo-liberal development, democratization, and other dimensions of human development. The chapter also introduces a policy framework for U.S.-Africa relations that may be useful for planning and implementing a coherent and effective policy in the future. This framework is structured around three essential foundations for U.S.-Africa policy: security, economic development, and democratization. Security is an absolute prerequisite for both economic development and democratization. Economic development is the second priority after human security, and is arguably more important to most citizens of underdeveloped countries than is democracy. Democratization, adapted to local culture and unique national factors, is what will guarantee stability by institutionalizing peaceful mechanisms for political compromise and thereby strengthening the relationship between the society and the state. Three requirements for effectively implementing this framework-interagency coordination, public-private partnerships, and multilateral cooperation-are also identified in this chapter. Together, these elements will determine the nation’s ability to realize our core energy security and national security goals. Following this discussion, the remaining chapters of the volume explore in depth each of these essential foundations and implementation requirements, and a concluding chapter offers an integrative summary of the analyses, arguments, and recommendations presented in the volume.

In sum, the observations and analyses presented in this volume lead to a single conclusion: the U.S. must adopt a long-term, integrated strategy for achieving the nation’s energy and security goals in sub-Saharan Africa. Long-term national security for the U.S. will prove elusive unless our energy security interests are pursued alongside coordinated efforts to increase state legitimacy and good governance in oil-producing countries worldwide. This argument is particularly salient when building our relationships with the oil-rich countries of West and Central Africa, especially in the Gulf of Guinea, where a complex history of external and internal factors have led to an overall decline in the standard of living for most people. Based on an historical analysis of oil extraction in the Middle East-where the overall standard of living has also declined dramatically, despite the region’s oil wealth-it becomes clear that securing unfettered access to oil for multinational extraction corporations without commensurate investments in socioeconomic and political improvement does not bode well for achieving long-term energy security and national security goals. Thus, as the U.S. moves forward in developing the energy extraction industry in the Gulf of Guinea, it must demand transparency in public financial transactions, respect for human rights, and a social and economic environment governed by the rule of law. An integrative and forward-thinking approach, guided by fundamental U.S. values, must serve as the basis for both policymakers and corporate leaders when dealing with the developing world. If we fail to learn from the past, we are destined to repeat our mistakes in the future.

Please note: The views expressed throughout this volume are those of the authors and not of the Department of Defense, the U.S. Military Academy, or any other agency of the U.S. Government.

Source: TeachingTerror