April 18, 2024

U.S.-Trained Soldiers Behind Recent African Coups: American Congressman Matt Gaetz Demands Accountability

U.S. Congressman Matt Gaetz speaking with attendees at the 2019 Teen Student Action Summit hosted by Turning Point USA at the Marriott Marquis in Washington, D.C. - Picture: Gage Skidmore.
U.S. Congressman Matt Gaetz speaking with attendees at the 2019 Teen Student Action Summit hosted by Turning Point USA at the Marriott Marquis in Washington, D.C. - Picture: Gage Skidmore.

Florida Republican Congressman Matt Gaetz has raised concerns over a pattern of African military coups executed by soldiers trained or funded by the U.S. Responding to the coups in Niger and Gabon, Gaetz is now pushing for more accountability from the Pentagon.

In July, Niger experienced a coup, followed by Gabon at the close of August. Both formerly colonized by France, Niger is rich in uranium, while Gabon boasts oil and gas reserves.

Gaetz expressed his concerns in an interview with The Intercept, stating, “The Department of Defense, up until this point, has not kept data regarding the people they train who participate in coups to overthrow democratically elected — or any — governments.” He emphasized the importance of his proposed amendment to the 2024 national defense spending bill. This amendment aims to collate data on such military members and mandates the Pentagon to present this information to Congress.

The House Armed Services Committee has given the nod to Gaetz’s legislation. Post the legislators’ September return to the Capitol, the final decision on the amendment will be made. If approved, the Pentagon must report every case of U.S. “trained or equipped” individuals who have engaged in coups or similar activities against democratically elected governments since January 2000.

A 2022 statement by a spokesperson from the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) to The Intercept revealed that they don’t “actively track” individuals after their U.S. training nor maintain a record of their participation in any coup.

Gaetz pointed out a significant disconnect in the system, saying, “If the true desired end state was really to strengthen national borders and national capabilities, we would definitely follow who broke bad.” He further criticized the current strategy, asserting that its mere existence, regardless of its outcomes, seems to be the ultimate goal.

While the State Department maintains records on U.S.-trained individuals, it didn’t disclose data regarding those who tried to topple their governments to The Intercept.

A detailed examination by The Intercept revealed that during the War on Terror, 15 military officers involved in 12 coups across West Africa and the Sahel region received U.S. security assistance. This includes Burkina Faso, Gambia, Chad, Guinea, Mali, Mauritania, and Niger incidents. Moreover, in Niger, five U.S.-trained coup leaders eventually selected five governors who had previously received U.S. training.

Highlighting the recent coup in Gabon, Gaetz stated on X, “Literally as this story was being published, there was another African coup, led by people the US trained.” He termed the U.S.’s Africa Strategy as deeply flawed and was against utilizing “American taxpayer funds for training the people who execute destabilizing coups in Africa.”

Placing part of the responsibility on the current administration, Gaetz commented that seven African coups transpired during Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s tenure. All these coups, he claims, are tied to individuals trained with U.S. taxpayer money.

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