No African country has come forward to present any official offer to host the United States Africa Command (US AFRICOM), despite the fact that doing so would bring immense economic benefi ts to the host country. This was revealed by AFRICOM Deputy Commander for Military Operations, Lieutenant General Steve Hummer.
Speaking during the Botswana and Malawi media delegation visit to AFRICOM headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, Lt General Hummer said there has not been any official offers from African countries to host the headquarters, although moving them would bring an immediate economic boom to the host country.“ I do not know of any official offers from countries in this continent to host AFRICOM. I know there has been a study in Europe to see if we should stay here. Some people in congress have also called for the command to be moved back to the United States,” he said. He added that a final decision will be reached after the findings of an on-going study are released.
“We are waiting on the Secretary of Defense to make a decision on the final location of AFRICOM based on a study that is ongoing and should come out shortly. At this point, we are not in any consultations with any country in Africa,” he said. Previous reports have indicated that countries like Botswana, Djibouti and Liberia had shown interest in hosting the command center. A WikiLeaks cable has revealed that the government of Botswana had permitted the US to explore possibilities of relocating the command base to the country. It stated that a cable sent by then American Ambassador to Botswana Katherine Canavan to the US Secretary of State in Washington in October 2007 indicated that Canavan and senior embassy officials met then Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lieutenant General Mompati Merafhe and discussed possible locations for elements of AFRICOM in the continent.
“Recalling the (government of Botswana’s) earlier receptivity towards the AFRICOM concept, the ambassador sought to confirm Botswana’s current sentiments and whether the country would be willing to receive a technical assessment team in the near future,” read the intercepted cable, which also revealed that Merafhe had shown interest and indicated that he would brief President Festus Mogae. The cable also revealed that Merafhe asked about the number of American troops that would be based in Botswana to which the US responded by giving assurance that combat troops would not be based in African countries, but will only host staff headquarters.
According to the cables, five days later, Merafhe replied that in principle, Botswana was not averse to the idea of hosting AFRICOM and that Mogae was “favorably disposed.”
However, in 2007, Mogae was reported to have declared that the country had not taken a final decision on the matter “because we don’t know what the animal (AFRICOM) will look like.”
The idea of setting up AFRICOM in 2007 caused concern amongst Africa governments, that those were attempts to militarize Africa. Lt. General Hummer has refuted this. “We were interested in a safe, secure and stable continent.
Over time that (concern) has changed as the various countries and leadership have seen what AFRICOM does to provide security stability and safety in the continent,” he said. There is only one base in Africa in Djibouti, the Camp Lemonnier that AFRICOM recently signed a 30-year lease with.
While still African National Congress Youth League leader, Julius Malema attacked President Ian Khama in connection with claims that Botswana was in talks with the US over the relocation of the AFRICOM base.
Situated at Kelley Barracks, Stuttgart, the command centre is one of the six US Defense Department’s geographic combatant commands. It is responsible for all of the US Department of Defense operations, exercises, security operations and military relations with 53 African countries; only Egypt falls under the area of responsibility of the US Central Command.