[DEHAI] U.S. Seeks South Africa's Backing for Africom (Business Day)

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From: Biniam Haile \(SWE\) (eritrea.lave@comhem.se)
Date: Tue May 19 2009 - 11:08:29 EDT

U.S. Seeks South Africa's Backing for Africom

Hopewell Radebe

15 May 2009
Johannesburg - SA is one of the major political powerhouses in Africa
that US President Barack Obama's administration will lobby to support
the Command for Africa (Africom) programme.
The US claims to have the backing of Egypt and Kenya, which are
considered influential states on the continent.
The Bush administration wants to locate its strategic military functions
in Africa through Africom, saying this will strengthen the base for the
US's platform to contribute to social, economic and relief work.
During former p resident Thabo Mbeki's time in office, Africom was met
with scepticism by some members of the African Union (AU).
SA led the Southern African Development Community's (Sadc's) position
against co-operating with the US on what was believed to be the
militarisation of American foreign policy and aid.
The Obama administration believes that with the Bush administration out
of the picture and a new leadership in SA , the attitude towards the US
in general has changed.
Briefing the foreign press in Washington this week on the revival and
repackaging of Africom, which is central to US antiterrorism and
antidrug-smuggling strategies, the deputy director of civil-military
affairs in Africom, Mary Yates, admits that great scepticism existed in
the past.
"It (the strategy) didn't get rolled out very well. And you know, when
you work in Africa, consultation is an important thing. You'd better go
and listen and have about 10 cups of tea. And that probably did not
She says the whole dialogue has now shifted but there are still
"doubting Thomases".
"We still have to continue to prove that what we chose to do in our
reorganisation (of US foreign policy) is going to be value-adding for
our African partners."
The US continues to see the continent as a strategic partner, especially
those countries that have taken on the responsibility to defend
multiparty democracies and help their regions reach sustainable economic
Political analyst Prof Shadrack Gutto says the prospect of a US base to
fight terrorism, among other objectives, does not appeal to the entire
The body wants to avoid the continent becoming yet another battleground
for superpowers such as China and Russia, which might want to follow the
US strategy.
Gutto says the Obama administration would be welcome if it separated the
condition for military co-operation from trade links and socioeconomic
Yates says Africom has tabled proposals to several African countries.
The US believes that Africa has grown in importance and prominence,
particularly in the fight against terrorism.
She says the African nations that are the leaders in trying to bring
peace and stability to the region are the ones that naturally show up on
the US radar to be its first partners. The US will favour such states
when it comes to advancing its programmes and funding.
Yates says the Sadc countries that the US has visited recently include
Angola and Mozambique, which she describes as playing a stronger
leadership role in Sadc .
She says the Sadc region is aware of a growing narcotics problem , and
is interested in developing a stronger maritime relationship among
member states and with the US.
The US believes there will be an increasing number of African countries
buying into the Africom concept.
After talking separately to most countries, the US realises that these
countries would like to be able to employ capable military forces, to
strengthen their own security institutions, be able to support
international peace efforts and peacekeeping, and have the ability to
deter and defeat threats.
Source: Business Day (South Africa)


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