In the past few days, varying information about the establishment of the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) office in Zambia has been circulating on social media. AFRICOM is the United States government's military command center for fighting its enemies on the African continent.
The US and Zambian governments have agreed to open an AFRICOM office in the US embassy in Zambia. However, the move has sparked controversy both within Zambia and beyond the SADC region. Some analysts have compared the office to a military base, which could have long-term detrimental security ramifications for the country.
Opposition political parties in Zambia and political analysts across the SADC region have condemned Zambian President Hakainde Hichilema for this decision. According to opposition parties, the decision goes against Zambia's long-standing neutral foreign policy position of non-alignment.
The proposal has been denounced by Zambia's New Heritage Party, which is led by Chishala Kateka. The Patriotic Front (PF), Zambia's main opposition political party, has questioned President Hichilema's constitutional authority to allow a foreign army to establish a military base or a military command center on Zambian soil.
Zambians have also expressed their displeasure on social media, claiming that AFRICOM exists solely to advance and safeguard the interests of America, not Zambia. According to political commentators, AFRICOM’s purpose was to impede Chinese and Russian dominance in Africa.
Furthermore, Zambians have questioned why the Zambian people were not consulted before such a major decision was taken. This action is seen as unpatriotic and a betrayal of trust by those who have been entrusted with the power to oversee the nation's affairs on behalf of millions of Zambians.
The agreement has left observers in Zambia and the SADC region concerned. They believe that America is at war with multiple countries and that this move has major national and regional security ramifications for Zambia, including the fact that the country will indirectly inherit America's foes, making Zambia a terrorist target.
On social media, many Zambians are asking President Hichilema and his government to disclose the content and nature of the agreement they reached with the Americans. Many people want the AFRICOM office to be delayed until the process of wide democratic consultations is completed.
Others have claimed that having such a military base has economic benefits, depending on how the contracts are written. Take Germany, Italy, or Qatar, for example have greatly benefited by having US military bases in their backyards.
President Hichilema, on the other hand, has clarified that Zambia has no intention of hosting a US military base in its country. Contrary to popular belief, the new AFRICOM office will be based at the US Embassy in Lusaka and will focus on security cooperation between the two countries.
AFRICOM will collaborate with Zambia's defense forces to improve military-to-military interactions, broaden areas of cooperation in force management and modernization, and improve military professionalism, among other things.