The southern Africa region is said to be facing a grave military and security risk as recent reports suggest that the country has given U.S.A greenlight for the establishment of a military base in its territory. This comes amid allegations by proponents of pan-Africanism and nationalist leaders in the SADC bloc that the relatively new Zambian head of State is placing his country’s interest ahead of the region’s security. However, Hakainde Hichilema through his Defence Minister has refuted the allegations that the powerful country is moving towards establishing a military port in Zambia, citing that the allegations are baseless.
The allegations of the mooted establishment of the armed forces base comes at a time when in November 2021, the U.S top-ranked military official Maj Gen Rohling met with the Zambian Minister of defence and discussed opportunities to strengthen security cooperation between the United States and Zambia. While the truthfulness of these insinuations is yet to be concretised with time, the idea of an American military base in Zambia might be a genuine cause for concern. This is even worrisome in light of the stability that the SADC region has been enjoying save for the Cabo Delgado attacks by terrorist groups linked to ISIS.
It has also been reported that President Hichilema maintains a strong look-West policy against most of his SADC counterparts’ look-East policy. The latter which includes Zimbabwe’s incumbent President Emmerson Mnangagwa has been vehemently critical of Hichilema’s stance. Mnangagwa’s administration has been on record raising alarm over the rumour and calling upon the SADC political body to intervene and protect the sovereignty and legacy of the bloc’s founding fathers.
Political analysts in Zambia have also proved to be sceptical of the U.S military presence in the country, pointing out that where American army comes and set up an office very soon it will open a base and that base becomes a launching pad to strike at any country that they think is violating its policy. The grand plan to establish a military base in Zambia first surfaced into the public domain on the 25 th of April when the United States Embassy in Zambia announced that the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) will open an Office of Security Cooperation at the U.S. Embassy in Zambia.
Political scholars and international relations experts have ever since queried the idea, singling out the obvious possibility that the move will be followed by the establishment of a full- fledged military base in the SADC country. The Socialist Movement of Ghana’s Research
Group have cautioned that the military presence of the United States in Africa is strategic and enduring. It ensures a fragmented continent, easily pliable to the West's interests and a convenient site for the 'new Cold War'.
The policy of former colonial powers and their allies establishing military bases in Africa is however not an alien phenomenon. During the colonial era, the British had a military base in Salisbury, Southern Rhodesia (now Harare, Zimbabwe). Similarly, the British and the United States militaries had bases in Libya, from the Wheelus Air Base to the military posts in
Tobruk and El Adem. Moves by the West to strengthen their influence in Africa are increasing exponentially, coupled with neo-colonial imprints and the view that African states can easily dish out their sovereignty in exchange for various forms of aid.
The United States military footprint when viewed from a more radical angle, signals a subjugation of Africa’s political unity and territorial integrity. These two, according to one of
AU’s founding fathers Kwame Nkrumah form the cornerstone of African nationalism. The doyen of pan-Africanism made a well-grounded observation that in their military undertakings with the Western powers, Africa’s natural resources would be under exploitative risk. Given the need for such raw materials as lithium for servicing nuclear power stations, African countries bending to the whims of the West are actively but indirectly participating in passive military warfare. This presence a future threat given the volatility of the current military squabbles between Russia in the East and America on the Western front. The advent of a U.S military base in Zambia poses a real risk of security threat in Africa.
Practically, the super power would have managed to engulf the length and breadth of Africa given that there are already a number of military agreements between U.S and most countries
in the three remaining Africa’s regions. Zambia, a Southern African country would complete the puzzle from the southern angle. While it is understood that Djibouti is the only African country having an enduring U.S military footprint in Africa and the rest having a non enduring one, the risk is there for all pan-Africanists to consider. Where there are U.S. bases, there is the potential for attacks, because bases are not just launching pads for offensive military operations, but targets for them too. This then poses a great risk to the whole continent. Could it be that the idea of Kwame Nkrumah has outlived
its influence or a general lack of appreciation of possible security risks by modern African leaders? Perhaps, the military concessions are meant to advance Africa’s security resource through inter-military cooperation. These are some of the questions revolving around this worrisome development and African governments have a critical role to play. It is now or never.