Worried by Nigeria’s opposition to the possible siting of military bases in the country under the aegis of the newly-established US Africa Command (AFRICOM), US military officials have met with key Nigerian officials to explain the security initiative for Africa.
General William Ward
Deputy to the AFRICOM Commander for Military Operations, Vice Admiral Robert Moeller, and the Deputy to the AFRICOM Commander on Civil-Military Activities, Ambassador Mary Carlin, said they had spent the past three days explaining the concept of the command to the officials.
They told journalists in the capital city of Abuja Thursday that far from the perceptions of many, AFRICOM would not interfere with the sovereignty of countries in the continent.
But they said that AFRICOM would primarily focus on creating and building capacities and capabilities for nations across the continent.
“It has nothing to do oil resources in the Gulf of Guinea. The resources there are Nigerian. They belong to Nigeria and to the countries of the region. What we do is work with partner nations to make sure that the resources are available for the global community, and for what they are intended for,” Moeller said.
The duo of Admiral Moeller and Ambassador Carlin have already met with Nigeria’s Chief of Defence Staff, Gen Owoye Azazi; National Security Adviser, Minister of Foreign Affairs, President of ECOWAS and other top officials of Defence, Foreign Affairs and ECOWAS.
Before arriving Nigeria Tuesday, they visited the President of Burkina Faso and chairman of ECOWAS, Blaise Campaore.
Ambassador Carlin admitted that AFRICOM had “been misunderstood”, saying the result of her discussions with top Nigerian leaders showed that they should have come for consultation “earlier.”
Admiral Moeller noted that “the US AFRICOM does not intent to station large troops in the African continent. We don’t have need for stationing garrisons in the continent. But small number of forces can come into the continent, carry out a particular duty and leave.
“If some future expansion makes it imperative for the AFRICOM to come in and stay, it will be on the invitation of the leadership of the host country. We will only discuss future presence with such countries,” he said.
Moeller added: “We have not invited Nigeria to sign in and Nigeria has not invited us to come.”
Ambassador Carlin added that “AFRICOM has no intention of undermining the sovereignty of any African nation.”
She also said in future, the body would bring in military personnel of partner nations into the headquarters of AFRICOM in order to “allow us to be better organized to reach our goal of a peaceful and better Africa.”
She said Stuttgart would remain the headquarters of the Command “for a long while”, saying that it is planning to tackle the issue of security and peace with the continent with the African Union (AU).
This, she said, would enable it work in partnership with the five regional groups in the continent.
AFRICOM, which started operations in October, has elicited varying reactions across the continent, with several nations openly expressing opposition to what they feared would be the military domination of the continent by the Americans.
The opposing African leaders have instead called on the US to assist Africa to set up its long-planned African Standby Force.
Abuja – 29/11/2007