THE GULF OF GUINEA AS A REGION OF HIGH PRIORITY FOR THE U.S. AFRICA COMMAND (AFRICOM) – THE POSSIBLE ROLE AND PERSPECTIVES FOR THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF SÃO TOMÉ AND PRÍNCIPE
Department of History of Diplomacy and International Policy
Institute of Political Science and International Relations
By 2015, as it is believed, 25 per cent of U.S. oil will come from Africa. In 2007 U.S. Energy Information Administration indicated Nigeria – one of the country in the Gulf of Guinea – region as the third-largest supplier of U.S. oil that points to the West Africa, which is expected to be one of the fastest-growing sources of oil and gas for the American market, and thus conditions the region’s importance to U.S. energy security.
The presence of the Gulf of Guinea region among the Pentagon’s priorities for AFRICOM (the first American regional military command established outside of North America in the post-Cold War era) causes some complications in determining the command’s location. Although the decision if it should be a single headquarter model or rather the distributive one has not been made definitely, one of the likely locations seems to be São Tomé and Príncipe, especially after the seismic studies from the 1990s which revealed an enormous reserve of 11 billion barrels of oil just off its coast. The exploitation of these resources have not started yet but nevertheless this island country (what is a great advantage for both: the military planners and oil industry), situated in the middle of the Gulf of Guinea region, almost at equal distance from Angola’s oil fields to the south and the Niger Delta to the north, providing proximity on the one hand and limited visibility of the already controversial AFRICOM’s presence on the other, remains one of the best considered locations for the future military base.
The aim of this paper is to answer the question whether or not the fact of a special importance of the Gulf of Guinea in the American policy and, as a consequence, in the present and future activities of the AFRICOM will create any tangibles prospects for São Tomé and Príncipe and what role this state could play in regional and African politics, taking into account its small size, strong neighborhood (as for example Nigeria), projected reserves of oil crude, as well as the impact it’s causing on the country’s internal policy.
The problem seems to be up to date. In November 2011 the delegation of AFRICOM, together with the US ambassador visited the islands and held talks with the authorities, officially about the general security of the Gulf of Guinea and the modernization of the coast guard, port and airport. Oneof the reasons of the talks can be the high rate of pirate attacks in the region (second only to Somalia), what would also not remain without relation to the military and political role projected for AFRICOM in this area.
Keywords: AFRICOM, São Tomé and Príncipe, headquarter, Gulf of Guinea, national security
Biography note: Associated Professor in the Department of History of Diplomacy and International Policy in the Institute of Political Science and International Relations at the at the Jagiellonian University in Cracow. Holds a Postdoctoral and PhD degree in History. His research interests focus upon Sub-Saharan Africa, armed conflicts, failed states, history and politics of the United States. Author of many scientific articles and monographs, member of numerous scientific societies, among others: Polish Society of International Relations, Polish Africanist Society, International Napoleonic Society or Committee on Military History of Polish Academy of Arts and Science.