Thursday, August 30, 2007
Nigeria and others oppose US Command in Africa
United States government’s plan to establish a military command in Africa is not receiving the blessings of Nigeria and other African nations.
They fear that such a command may attract the ire of other African countries, Empowered Newswire, a US-based Nigerian news agency, has said.
Competent sources said that the Nigerian government in particular had diplomatically withheld support for the US plan, and instead passed the buck to the African Union.
A US military spokesperson, who spoke in Pentagon, Lt. Col. Todd Vician, confirmed that the US authorities had been meeting with African governments, including Nigeria, to discuss the US command plan in Africa.
However, he did not disclose the outcome of the meeting. He said one of the top Nigerian officials that the US has discussed the idea with was the former Chief of Defence Staff, Gen. Martin Agwai, who was consulted between April 15 and 21 this year.
Lt. Col. Vician said the US government was yet to decide on where the headquarters of the command would be, in what observers call a signal that the whole idea is not moving on very well with a majority of African governments so far.
Nigeria and some other African nations are believed to be opposing the idea of a US command in Africa since it might be perceived as violating a decision of the AU that Africa should hold common positions on defence and security, just like the Europeans do under the European Union. A common African position also discourages such initiatives as the US military command on African soil.
Europeans are also largely seen as opposing the idea, which is being cast as the triumph of US militarism and a possible attempt to fend off China‘s inroad into Nigeria and other African nations.
In the US the legislative arm of the government, the US Senate conducted a hearing on the matter through its Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Africa earlier this month.
Senators from both the Democratic and Republican parties are said to be wary of the idea so far.
American government officials, senators and congressmen are however pushing the idea and seeking to find suitable responses to the criticism of the US-Africa Command. For instance Senator Feingold is currently travelling in some parts of the continent, especially the Democratic Republic of Congo seeking to among other things explain the idea.
Recently Congressman Donald Payne, also a democrat and chairman of the US House of Representative Subcommittee on Africa, met with the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of External Affairs, Dr. Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, where the issue of the US-Africa Command also came up.