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AFRICOM Commander Visits Ethiopia

The International Herald Tribune recently reported on the visit by General William “Kip” Ward to the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa on November 8. General Ward is the recently appointed commander of United States African Command (AFRICOM). He attended a meeting of African Union officials, an organization headquarted in Addis Ababa, as part of his first tour as AFRICOM chief. The tour also included stops in Senegal, Cameroon, and Gabon.

Another report on the visit offered speculation regarding the location of AFRICOM’s headquarters. According to a spokesman of the infant command, several heads of state have reacted positively to AFRICOM’s inception, including Liberia, which has publicly shown interest in hosting the command. The spokesman also said that AFRICOM may be based in the United States. AFRICOM is expected to have a staff of one thousand and a budget of $250 million.

2 Comments

Several African countries are still very hesitant vis-a-vis the establishment of AFRICOM in Africa. During General "Kip" Ward's recent stop in Addis, several officials were receptive and attentive to what he had to say about the project. But according to AU sources in the Ethiopian capital and other sources in many other African capital visited by the Head of AFRICOM, people are still trying to understand "what the Americans are trying to do". Leaders like President Alpha Omar Konare, the Chairman of the African Commission of the AU have expressed the need for further consultations and more details on the project. This position seems to resonate with many other leaders on the continent. It's clear that several African countries are not very excited about AFRICOM for various reasons. South Africa which leads the opposition in SADC region is against AFRICOM because it sees itself as a regional power and doesn't want to see Washington in its backyard. Other countries are very hesitant because of sovereignty concerns. Being former colonies for most of them, they don't want any other form of militarization of the African continent by westerners. Among those countries Morroco, Algeria, Libya, are said to have refused to allow the establishment of AFRICOM on their soils.

President Konare for one is against the establishment of foreign military bases in Africa and has been calling for the closing of French military bases in Chad, Djibouti, Libreville, Port-Bouet, Dakar,...Those bases have so far served to back vicious dictators and tyrannies than support democratic reforms and protect the defenseless populations against those predators. Therefore, many voices in Africa are very cautious about the project.

Some other people don't want AFRICOM because they fear the US is trying to get its grip of Africa to secure natural and mineral resources. The Chinese, the French and to a lesser degree the Indians are already doing it scares people.

There is another group of countries that fear that any US military presence in Africa will drag Africa more and more in the War and Terror and bring other security concerns As if there aren't already some major one like Al Qaeda and all the weapons and drug smuggling going on in all those failed states.

President Ellen J. Sirleaf has been the only at this point to offer to host the headquarters of the AFRICOM. For many Africans, helping train African armies and prevent the spread of terrrorism on the continent is a good thing but boosting the development package and helping with the establishment of real democratic and free societies offers a basis for a long term stability. Free and democratic societies where good governance, justice, accountability, freedom exist will be better partners in the war on terror than rogue dictators who are running failed states where all the ingredients are in place for the worst possible scenario one can imagine.

In order for AFRICOM to gain success and dissipate all the suspicions, clearly explaining the What, Why, Who, When, Where, How will be of paramount importance. I think that's exactly what General "Kip" Ward is trying to do. It's not an easy task but it's the right move.

Ramadji, your final two paragraphs are spot on.

"Free and democratic societies where good governance, justice, accountability, freedom exist will be better partners in the war on terror than rogue dictators who are running failed states where all the ingredients are in place for the worst possible scenario one can imagine."

Well said, sir.

Thank you for adding that to the discussion.