21 September 2007
The planned location of the new Africa Command (Africom) centre of the United States of America may become know when African envoys meet with their US counterparts in Washington DC this weekend, a senior Foreign Affairs official has told Parliament.
Briefing members of Parliament’s portfolio committee on foreign affairs in Cape Town on Wednesday, the department’s acting deputy director-general, Gert Grobler, reiterated the Southern African Development Community (SADC) stance that the region did not want to host Africom.
Grobler said there was no “concrete information” available on the proposed location of Africom, a US military command centre dedicated exclusively to the African continent, the creation of which was announced by US President George Bush in February.
He added that South Africa was among a number of other countries invited to a meeting with US officials in Washington DC on 22 and 23 September, when the US would make more information on Africom available.
Grobler told Members of Parliament that the African Union’s final position on the matter was not entirely clear, although the South African government believed that a majority of countries on the continent would adopt a position similar to that of the SADC.
Speaking to the media in August this year, Defence Minister Mosioua Lekota stressed the importance of continental unity behind such a decision, adding that following a unified position on the issue was more important to South Africa’s “medium to long-term interest”.
Grobler explained that South Africa was not necessarily opposed to the creation of such a command centre, but would prefer it if the US kept the centre where it is right now – in Germany.
He said the SADC’s fears were that, even though Africom would not necessarily entail a large number of personal, it would be “an injection” of US military presence on the continent, creating a facility for enhanced intelligence-gathering within Africa.
A major concern is that such a US presence on the continent could lead to “a further radicalisation” of anti-US views on the continent, and even make Africa a target for terrorist acts.