In the last few weeks, defenceWeb has confirmed that the recently created United States’ Office of Security Cooperation in Zambia is not to be confused with a US military base, amid opposition from some quarters.
Recently, leader of the opposition political party, Patriotic Front (PF) and Member of Parliament (MP) of Zambia for the Mporokoso constituency, Brian Muntayalwa Mundubile, asked Zambia’s Vice President, WK Mutale Nalumango, a question during the Vice President’s Question Time in the Zambian Parliament, about the relevance of American security and Zambia. He asked: “There have been no consultations between Zambia and SADC member states on Africom [Africa Command] and other members have rejected it. To allow it to be set up in here casts Zambia in a bad light. Shouldn’t Zambia rethink this decision?”
The MP is not the first to publicly question Zambia-US security ties. Indeed, African adversarial critics, Southern African media reports, and African analysts have raised alarm bells following the US Africa Command public affairs office publishing confirmation of the April 25th opening of an Office of Security Cooperation at the US Embassy in Zambia.
An Office of Security Cooperation is not a US military base. The Office of Security Cooperation plans and manages US security assistance programmes, facilitates the transfer of requested defence materials, training, and services to partner nations, and promotes military-to-military engagements, defenceWeb has learned. Security assistance is a core US foreign policy activity jointly developed, funded, and implemented by US Department of State and the US Department of Defence.
In Zambia, the United States provides pre-deployment training assistance for Zambia’s deployment to the UN peacekeeping operation in the Central African Republic as well as institutional capacity staff development and facilities enhancements for Zambia’s peacekeeping training centre at Nanking.
It is understood, from a State Department spokesperson with direct knowledge of the command’s programme, that the US also provides international military education and training (IMET) to professionalize Zambia’s military forces. The Department of Defence HIV/AIDS (DHAPP) programme provides $12 million annually to support Zambian security forces with technical assistance and mentoring to prevent, manage, and treat HIV and AIDS.
In Africa, many US embassies have either an Office of Security Cooperation or Defence Attaché Office which oversee security assistance programmes, defenceWeb has learned. The recently created office in Lusaka is not unique.
The United States says it works with partner countries to counter transnational threats and malign actors, strengthen security forces, and respond to crises to promote regional security, stability, and prosperity. The US-Zambia security partnership will help advance stability in the southern Africa region, a State Department spokesperson said.
US Africa Command is keen to emphasise its partnership strategy and help states like Zambia to strengthen security forces and respond to crises to promote regional security, stability, and prosperity.
The Zambian Vice President in May said in Parliament that, “The office being created is an office of security cooperation that will be located at the USA Embassy. This office will work with the Zambia security services. Zambia has no intention of hosting any military base on Zambian soil.”
US Africa Command emphasizes that it focuses, “on the development of professional militaries which are disciplined, capable, and responsible to civilian authorities and committed to the well-being of their citizens and protecting human rights.”
Pearl Matibe is a Washington, DC-based foreign correspondent, and media commentator with expertise on US foreign policy and international security. You may follow her on Twitter: @PearlMatibe