Nigeria rejects US Africom Command overtures

Nov 26, 2007
Author: P&S

Nigeria’s rejection of having a proposed US AFRICOM based in the country, which would have amounted to a build up of US military forces including naval ships in the West African region, raises again issues surrounding the motivation behind the request.

Nigeria’s president Umaru Yar’Adua said last week he would not permit the United States to establish an AFRICOM base on Nigerian soil. The Liberian government on the other hand, with possibly the security in mind that a strong US military presence could bring, almost immediately countered this by saying it would welcome having AFRICOM established in its country.

Several other African countries including Libya and South Africa have indicated they do not want foreign military presences establishing themselves in Africa (the US already has a base at Djibouti). At the same time the African nations have not rejected co-operation with US forces, particularly in the field of training and several joint naval exercises have already taken place in recent months.

A US naval ship USS Fort McHenry is currently on station off West Africa, ostensibly to provide training on maritime security, drug control and anti-drug smuggling and human trafficking exercises.

A number of military, economic and political analysts say they believe the reason for the sudden US interest in Africa, and West Africa in particular is oil. Nigeria is Africa’s largest oil producer, with Angola quickly catching up.

The US sources an increasing amount of its oil requirements from Africa, including supplies from Chad, Nigeria and Angola as it seeks to lessen its dependency on the Middle East.

But many African states are learning to regard this interest with ambivalence. Yar’Adua says that rather than have an American military presence in West Africa he’d prefer an African Standby Force. The problem is that there are only a handful of African countries capable of contributing meaningfully to such a force and even less capable of providing any purposeful naval forces, although several countries have begun refurbishing ships and retraining personnel.



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