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: US Hunt For Bases In Africa Triggers Protests And Rivalry With China – OpEd

Posted by: Berhane Habtemariam

Date: Saturday, 17 February 2024

By and

The US is perhaps the only country in the world with more than 750 military bases in over 80 nations, mostly in Western Europe, the Middle East and Asia, plus in some of the still-existing colonies and self-governing territories.

But the only full-fledged US military base in Africa is Camp Lemonnier, home to more than 5,000 personnel, located in Djibouti, part of the Horn of Africa, composed of Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia and Djibouti (with a broader definition that includes parts, or all of, Kenya, Sudan, South Sudan, and Uganda).

According to Wikipedia, Camp Lemonnier is a US Naval Expeditionary Base, situated next to Djibouti–Ambouli International Airport in Djibouti City, and home to the Combined Joint Task Force–Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA) of the U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM). It is the only permanent U.S. military base in Africa.

A report in the Wall Street Journal on January 3 said the U.S. is also negotiating for American unarmed reconnaissance drones to use airfields in Ghana, Ivory Coast and Benin.

“Relatively stable and prosperous, the three coastal countries, along with Togo, now find themselves threatened by Islamist militants surging south from Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger—three beleaguered nations in the Sahel, the semidesert band south of the Sahara”, the Journal said.

In a growing new confrontation with China, the US is also urging leaders in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea to reject Beijing’ s overtures for a military presence on their Atlantic coastline.

Reacting to the new developments, the Black Alliance for Peace (BAP) and the U.S. Out of Africa Network (USOAN) say they oppose “in the strongest terms the U.S. plans, in collusion with West Africa’s comprador class, to further violate Africa’s sovereignty and right to self- determination in the form of three new military drone bases in Ghana, Ivory Coast and Benin.”

“Further, we condemn the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the U.S. Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) for not publicly renouncing this proposal in particular, and the existence of the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) in general.”

Betrayal of Pan-Africanism

“Their silence around this development confirms their complicity and betrayal of Pan-Africanism and the interests of the African masses struggling against the ravages of neo-colonialism.”

The two groups argue that more U.S. drone bases in Africa spell more violence, vicious anonymity, and “collateral damage” from drone assassinations.

“It spells enhanced surveillance capabilities for imperialism to use against any threat to the neocolonial order. U.S. maneuvering to expand its already massive military drone operations is consistent with the U.S. incessant drive to wage war globally and its militarization of the planet.”

U.S. drone and air strikes in Africa have primarily been in Libya and Somalia with the numbers of confirmed civilian deaths from drones as high as 3,200 in these two countries, and studies have shown these conditions “have inadvertently aided the growth of terrorist groups in the region.” This is what the U.S. proposes now for West Africa.

According to published reports, the US has 119 base sites in Germany; 119 in Japan; 73 in South Korea; 44 in Italy, plus in Aruba, Bahrain, Cuba, Estonia, Greece, Honduras, Ireland, Jordan, Kenya, Marshall Islands, Norway, Oman, Philippines, Qatar, Romania, Spain, Tunisia, UK, US Virgins, Wake Island.

Ten countries host over 87% of all active-duty US troops overseas: Japan 53,246 troops; Germany 35,188; South Korea 24,159; Italy 12,405; United Kingdom 9,949; Bahrain 3,474; Spain 3,212; Australia 2,243; Turkey 1,778; Belgium 1,105; All others 9,235

(These figures represent the unclassified data on personnel assigned for duty at these locations. Civilian figures include personnel assigned to the State Department and Embassies overseas. These figures also do not include all personnel on temporary duty or deployed in support of contingency operations).

Disturbing geostrategic implications

Meanwhile, the BAP and USOAN warn there are clear and disturbing geostrategic implications regarding the countries they have chosen for these U.S. drone bases.

The proposed bases will form a border along the three countries of the Alliance of Sahel States—Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger—countries which have been adopting an anti-imperialist disposition.

“In fact, Burkina Faso’s entire southern flank would be surrounded by these U.S. drone bases”.

The last two US administrations, as well as members of the US Congress, have clearly stated in policy declarations and legislation that the U.S.’ primary objective in Africa is to counteract the presence and influence of China and Russia in order to maintain its full spectrum dominance of all regions of the world.

This is also consistent with the Global Fragility Act that states the Biden administration’s first sites of focus would be Haiti, Libya, and “West African coastal states,” where the U.S. seeks to place the drone bases.

The BAP and USOAN warn the bases will not be there to end so-called terrorism of extremists in Africa; they will be there for the U.S. to terrorize the region.

“It is folly to believe that the settler criminals who rule the U.S. state, who can justify the genocidal assault on Gaza, and who systematically murder, sanction, and attack nations globally to maintain white supremacy and global capitalism, are spending hundreds of millions to “fight terrorism” in Africa.”

Rather than “an urgent effort to stop the spread of al Qaeda and Islamic State in the region,” according to American and African officials, the USOAN contends that this is more likely a contingency plan to preserve drone capabilities in the event of losing their $110 million U.S. drone base in Agadez, Niger.

Niger has also recently temporarily suspended the granting of new mining licenses and ordered an audit of the sector, a move that would invariably raise the eyebrows of the U.S.-EU-NATO axis of domination, concerned over the future of exploitative access to the mineral resources there, such as uranium. Resource sovereignty runs counter to the true colonialist objectives of U.S. foreign policy.


Thalif Deen

   *Thalif Deen, author of the book “No Comment – and Don’t Quote Me on That,” is Editor-at-Large at the Berlin-based IDN, an ex-UN staffer and a former member of the Sri Lanka delegation to the UN General Assembly sessions. A Fulbright scholar with a Master’s Degree in Journalism from Columbia University, New York, he shared the gold medal twice (2012-2013) for excellence in UN reporting awarded by the UN Correspondents Association (UNCA).

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