• Botswana banned Malema after his AFRICOM comments
• Two countries not supportive of AFRICOM
South African National Defence Force (SANDF) and Zimbabwean National Defence Force (ZNDF) were the only two of the SADC region’s military institutions that did not attend the Africa Command (AFRICOM) exercise Africa Endeavor which was hosted by Botswana Defence Force (BDF) and sponsored by US Africa Command in Gaborone. The weeklong exercise attracted military leaders from 35 African nations, the African Union, United Nations and others from European countries was held in Gaborone.
The absence of the two militaries raised speculations that they might have boycotted the exercise, which focuses was on communications based on interoperability and information sharing.
Former commander of AFRICOM General Carter Ham once raised his concern about the attitude of the SADC region towards the combatant organ, labeling the regional block as hostile especially South Africa.
He was quoted in 2013 as saying that he would like to the relationship with SADC member states growing but raised a concern that it is going to be tough because of Zimbabwe. Some in the political leadership of the two countries have been strong critics of AFRICOM, based on suspicion that the US might be seeking to take control of the continent using the organ. Firebrand Julius Malema was banded from Botswana after calling for regime change on grounds that Botswana was hosting AFRICOM, a move he took to be enhancing US imperialistic tendencies.
Zimbabwe is known for their stance against the West. President Robert Mugabe has accused the West of trying to control Africa. Head of Communications at Botswana Defence Force (BDF) Brigadier Mooketsi Kethobogile confirmed the absence of the two SADC militaries but added that they were invited to the exercise.
Kethobogile said that he does not know the reasons for their absence as it was never communicated to them. The exercise was also attended by Col. Patrick Dedham, director of communications for US Africa Command. Though South Africa has military-to-military relationship with United States army, they seem not comfortable with Germany-based AFRICOM whose aim is to protect US interest in Africa.
When opening the symposium, BDF Ground Forces Commander Major General Gotsileene Morake urged militaries to work together to create stronger and more resilient, more cohesive militaries that can respond to the global security challenges.
General Morake emphasized that African Endeavour 2015 is a cooperative venture between AFRICOM, BDF, African Union and African regional blocks.
Why African States are skeptical of AFRICOM?
In 2006, US Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld launched the process of creating a US Africa command (AFRICOM) to take over the areas of responsibility in Africa from US/European Command (EUCOM), US Central Command (CENTCOM) and US Pacific Command (PACOM).
Though he left office before its implementation in 2007, the then US President George Bush gave the idea a go ahead and AFRICOM was created with the aim of having its headquarters in Africa.
When the US officials started briefing African states about the setting up of AFRICOM they received a stiff resistance as most felt that the US wants to control of the continent. Many African leaders were upset that they had not been consulted before the February 2007 announcement and regarded the move as sign of arrogance and condescension by the world super power.
Another reason that was forwarded for rejecting hosting AFRICOM was that they US action in establishing AFRICOM had little to do with altruistic reasons and more to do with selfish motives of establishing access to oil and natural resources; enabling the United States to fight terrorism; and countering China‘s growing influence on the African continent.
The US government was forced to shelve the idea of hosting the combatant organ in Africa and establishment of satellite offices though some countries like Liberia, Mali, Rwanda and Botswana were said to be ready to host it. Efforts to get comment from both South African and Zimbabwean embassies were futile at the time of going to press.