American Military Bases in Africa
On 19 December 2011 Agence France-Presse reported that US special forces had set up a base in the Central African Republic as part of their regional hunt for fighters from the Ugandan-born Lord's Resistance Army group. "The deployment of this contingent, the size of which is unknown, was carried out very discreetly with Ugandan military aircraft," a Central African military official said on condition of anonymity. The US troops set up a base in Obo and were expected to coordinate their efforts with local government forces and Ugandan soldiers. Besides Obo, the US forces also have a forward base in South Sudan. They began deploying to Uganda in early December 2011.
The Washington Post reported 21 September 2011 that the U.S. was building a new military installation to host the unmanned aircraft in Ethiopia, where drones can more easily attack members of the militant group al-Shabab that is fighting for control of neighboring Somalia. The United States is reported to be expanding a secret drone program in east Africa and the Arabian peninsula in order to gather intelligence and strike al-Qaida-linked militants in Somalia and Yemen. The report also said the U.S. has re-opened a drone base in the Seychelles, an island nation in the Indian Ocean, where a small fleet of "hunter-killer" drones resumed operations this month after a test mission determined that aircraft based there could patrol Somalia.
In May 2008 the United States Department of Defense said eight African countries were “very interested” in hosting the U.S. military command for the continent, known as AFRICOM. But there’s sustained resistance from the media and civil society groups in Africa to an increased U.S. military presence.
Professor Gerrie Swart, political science lecturer at the University of South Africa, says “much confusion, suspicion and mistrust” continue to characterize the continent’s reaction to AFRICOM. “We’ve had a lot of jargon that’s been bantered about. AFRICOM could be seen as a means of presenting a more approachable, humanitarian side to the U.S. military, but that has not been clearly relayed to the African continent; hence the current apprehension that exists,” explains Swar. According to Swart, Africans don’t trust U.S. officials when they deny that AFRICOM is a precursor to steadily increasing numbers of American troops on the continent and U.S. “interference” in African foreign and domestic policy.
Ezekiel Pajibo, the former head of Liberia’s Center for Democratic Empowerment and a strong critic of AFRICOM, convinced that the true drivers of AFRICOM are America’s growing need for African oil, Washington’s desire for a “new front” on which to combat terrorism and the U.S.’s wish to negate China’s increasing influence in Africa. “America’s chief interests are stopping terrorism and gaining access to African oil. Africa’s main interest at this point in time is reducing poverty and underdevelopment. They are not the same. How do they coincide? They do not,” Pajibo emphasizes.
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