Monday, June 22, 2009

"The US military in Africa" - BBC World Service, Listen to Analysis today on the BBC World Service!

Listen to Analysis today on the BBC World Service!

In a few weeks, US President Barack Obama will visit Ghana in his first visit to Africa since taking office.

Africa editor Martin Plaut looks at Washington's little-discussed military relationship with the African continent.

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Analysis now, and in a few weeks, President Obama will be off to Ghana - on his first visit to Africa since taking office. Our Africa editor Martin Plaut looks at Washington's little discussed military relationship with the African continent.

Martin Plaut: There is much excitement in Ghana and speculation in the Ghanaian media that there is more to this visit than meets the eye. Some suggest President Obama might be looking for a base for military operations on the continent for the United States' Africa Command or AFRICOM.

It is a suggestion categorically rejected by its spokesman Vince Crawley:

Vince Crawley: "We absolutely are not seeking bases in Africa right now. We have one base in Djibouti which the United States has had for a number of years. And I have seen the same press reports coming out of Ghana. And the purpose of the Obama trip is to engage with sub-Saharan Africa with a very reliable partner nation, but ... Africa Command has no interest in seeking bases in that region at this time."

Martin Plaut: Announced by President Bush in February 2007, Africom was the result of ten years of planning to bring together all of America's military assets relating to the continent.

At first there was a suggestion that AFRICOM would have a headquarters in Africa, an idea South Africa vigourously resisted. Henri Boshoff is a military specialist of South Africa's Institute of Strategic Studies in Pretoria:

Henri Boshoff: "South Africa, especially the Defence Minister, Mr. Lekota was very much against it. I think it's the way that it was packaged and announced by AFRICOM. It came as a quite a surprise to the Africans. I think that position is now slightly changing. And I think there is a better understanding but still there is some unease about it"

The US was forced to retreat sending its general on missions to Africa to explain what their plans really were. Daniel Volmann of the School of International Service of the American University in Washington

to be continued!

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