Friday, January 18, 2008
Despite opposition by African governments to United States African Command’s (AFRI-COM) presence in the continent, the command said yesterday that its “amphibious dock landing ship” was heading to the Gulf of Guinea in an initiative to enhance security in the West African sub-region. “The USS Fort McHenry will port off Africa's west coast to train African volunteers as part of the Africa Partnership Station (APS) to bolster regional security,” a statement made available to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in New York, AFRICOM said. “The concept of the African Partnership Station emanates from requests from the Africans themselves to be in a position where they could establish the situational awareness and control over their maritime environment,'' Vice Adm. Robert Moeller, AFRICOM 's deputy commander for military operations, said. Moeller said the training would include “responding to maritime security threats among other initiatives in a region where 62 piracy attacks were reported in African waters in 2006”. “Allowing Africans essentially to police and have control over the maritime environment assures the ability of those countries to develop economically in a very stable way.
USS Fort McHenry (LSD 43)“There is a direct relationship between a secure maritime environment and a secure and stable terrestrial environment," he stated. President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, during his visit to US President George W. Bush, late last year, said that the Federal Government was in support of AFRICOM. The Special Assistant to the President (Communications), Mr. Segun Adeniyi, had clarified the President’s statement, which had generated controversy. He had explained that President Yar’Adua’s statement negated what people thought he meant, adding that his support for AFRICOM did not mean that he wanted its headquarters sited in the country. Also, last December, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chief Ojo Maduekwe, in Washington DC, said that Nigeria did not endorse the presence of the AFRICOM on the continent. “Nigeria's position on AFRICOM remains that African governments have the sovereign responsibility for the maintenance of peace and security on the continent," Maduekwe said. Africa is, however, united in rejecting US requests for a military headquarters site. AFRICOM is a new Unified Combatant Command of the United States Department of Defence, to be responsible for U.S. military operations in and military relations with 53 African nations - an area of responsibility covering all of Africa except Egypt - and to be fully operational by September 2008.