Thursday, April 9, 2020

More scholars say US may set up military base in Botswana

A number of International scholars this week added their voices to the international speculation that Botswana will be a base for America’s recently created Africa Command (Africom).

The Director of the Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies in London, Terence McNamee, Director of the Brenthurst Foundation, Greg Mills, and Mauro De Lorenzo a resident fellow at AEI, this week published a joint paper saying that “In current thinking, the interim headquarters will be in Stuttgart, Germany, and small bases will be created in North (possibly Tunisia), West (either Ghana, Liberia or Senegal), East (likely around the current US taskforce in Djibouti), and southern Africa (perhaps Botswana) with a further chapter in Addis.

This comes a few days after a paper published by the Director of Democracy and Governance, Peter Kagwanja, that Botswana is alleged to have indicated willingness to host Africom.

Africom is aimed at stemming the assumed threat posed by swathes of Africa’s “ungoverned” spaces, feared to be potential hide-outs and training fields for terrorists. According to a paper published this week by the three international scholars, most African countries are turning up their noses at Africom.

“Resistance to Africom is fuelled by fears that it signals a militarisation of US policy towards Africa. South Africa has been particularly cool towards the idea. In reaction to the frosty reception, US defence officials have emphasised the role that Africom will play in humanitarian and development efforts. This rhetorical strategy has actually amplified African concerns about the new structure by creating the false impression that the Pentagon is now in charge of US development policy in Africa,” stated the paper.

The paper sets out to help the US articulate the focus of Africom so that it addresses African interests as fully as it does US interests and proposes four priorities:

First, educational opportunities for African officers should be expanded, and the training should focus on civil-military relations, strategic planning, doctrine development and logistics.

Second, the equipment offered to African militaries should prioritise the logistical hardware required to support disaster relief and peacekeeping missions.

Third, Africom should help increase the peacekeeping capabilities of African militaries, a number of which, such as Rwanda, Nigeria and Ghana, are already playing leading roles in peacekeeping forces on the continent.

Fourth, don’t neglect the local security forces that have the greatest capacity to disrupt or protect African lives: the police and border protection forces.
US engagement in Africa is adjusting to new security and economic environments. Africom is thus a work in progress, where greater joint African and US cooperation could decisively shape the continent’s futureÔÇöfor better or for worse, depending on how the relationship is managed.

Africom can serve the interests of both partners only if it is a genuinely transformational institution that does what is most needed by Africa: helping to build security institutions that support democratic statehood” states the paper.

The Botswana government has not commented on the reports.

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