September 6, 2007

SADC warns Pentagon off from setting up base

The Southern African Development Community (SADC) has warned the Pentagon off from introducing US forces onto the continent. The decision was taken at its recent summit in Lusaka. It confirms the negative reaction to the US diplomatic offensive at the beginning of 2007 to find an African country in order to establish the headquarters for its new African Command, Africom. As South Africa’s Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota has emphasised, Africom should stay out of the African continent. Zambian President Levy Mwanawasa furthermore underlined that the region was not interested in the US intention to establish a military base in Africa.
In the meantime, Botswana’s President Festus Mogae has said that Botswana was discussing the possibility of hosting the controversial U.S. African Command. According to him, Botswana and South Africa have been approached by the U.S. to host the command but they have not taken a decision. "We were approached together with South Africa on the possibilities of housing this animal. We don't know what it would look like," Mogae said at the University of Botswana (UB) when speaking on 'The Role of Natural Resources in Botswana's Socio-Economic Development'. "We are still discussing the issue," he added. He said after the approach, the Americans have not came back to explain more about AFRICOM. "So we are still waiting," he stated.
The command is currently based in Stuttgart, Germany. It is meant to shift to Africa to give more effective support to U.S. security operations in the continent but it has met strong opposition from African politicians and civil society. In Botswana, civil society and the political opposition have been pressuring the government to come clean on the issue. The main opposition, Botswana National Front (BNF) held a demonstration against the idea last month and submitted a petition to the Office of the President. The civil society and opposition parties fear that Botswana might accept the proposal.
The AFRICOM is meant to be fully operation in Africa by 2008. It is meant to be a distributed command and a network across several rather than a single headquarter. (Mmegi/The Reporter, Gaborone / SouthScan)

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