Friday, 17 August 2012

US denies plans to establish military base in Botswana

Visiting Commander of the United States Africa Command (U.S. AFRICOM) Carter Ham (R) and Botswana Defense Force's (BDF) Deputy Commander Placid Segokgo attend a press conference at BDF Thebephatswa Base in southeast part of Botswana, Aug. 16, 2012. Ham denied on Thursday plans to build a military base in Botswana. (Xinhua/Guo Jun)

Visiting Commander of the United States Africa Command (U.S. AFRICOM) Carter Ham denied on Thursday,August 16 of  plans to build a military base in Botswana.

Ham announced this when responding to questions from media in a press briefing, before attending the closing ceremony for the two- week joint military training exercise "Southern Accord 12" between the two countries at Botswana Defense Force's (BDF) Thebephatswa Base in southeast part of Botswana.

"No, there is no American base in Botswana. There are no plans whatsoever to have a base in Botswana. I see these reports where people talk about an American base, but there is no base and there are no plans for an American base. I cannot be clearer than that," said Ham.

He explained that their presence in Botswana and their relationship with Botswana as the U.S. is based on mutual respect and a shared vision for the future, and that includes strong military to military ties.
He said the U.S. has an interest in a safe, secure and stable Africa.

"We want to see Africans able to address African security challenges. Our military engagement in Botswana and elsewhere on the continent is designed to build defense institutions capable of contributing to regional and international security, and when called upon, to support humanitarian assistance effort," he said.

Speaking at the ceremony, BDF Deputy Commander Placid Segokgo said exercises such as these ones allow them to prepare their forces in line to the country's commitment to the African Union (AU) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) standby force objectives.

He said the "Southern Accord 12" had objectives such as to increase and strengthen relations and partnerships between U.S. forces and SADC forces in general, and enhance participating forces' efficiency and effectiveness in conducting peace keeping operations among others.

The two-week long maneuver, involving some 1,200 soldiers from both sides, is said to have enhanced the capabilities of military personnel from both countries in a variety of areas, including humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, anti-poaching, peacekeeping, and convoy operations, and aero-medical evacuation.

The exercise included both classroom instruction and field exercises. The U.S. has in the past two years conducted similar Joint Military Training Exercises with African countries such as South Africa, Mozambique, and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

U.S. AFRICOM, is one of nine Unified Combatant Commands of the U.S. Department of Defense. As one of six that are regionally focused, it is devoted solely to Africa. U.S. AFRICOM is responsible to the Secretary of Defense for U.S. military relations with 54 African countries. The command was created by presidential order in 2007 and was officially activated on Oct. 1, 2007.

Meanwhile,the death toll of Thursday's shootout between the police and miners in northern South Africa has climbed to 36, a union chief said on Friday morning. "Our shop-stewards on the ground report that 36 people were killed," the general secretary of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) Frans Baleni said.

Police ministry spokesperson Zweli Mnisi also confirmed Friday that more than 30 people were dead in the shootout at the mine, adding that the number of deaths could rise.

Baleni said the trade union was "extremely saddened by this loss of life, it could been avoided."
The general secretary criticized both the police and the miners for the violence, saying that "police should not be peace brokers," while "workers have a constitutional right to protest, but have no right to be violent when you protest."

The shooting, seen as one of the deadliest conflict between police and workers since the apartheid ended in South Africa in 1994, erupted at 4:00 p.m. local time (1400 GMT) on Thursday as police attempted to disperse armed striking miners at Lonmin's Marikana mine in the northern province of the North West.

Several thousands of miners had gathered on a hill since Monday, demanding an improvement of working condition by raising their monthly salary from some 4,000 rands (about 480 U.S.dollars) to 12,500 rands.

Lonmin is the world's third biggest platinum producer headquartered in Johannesburg with approximately 28,000 employees.

Last Friday, about 3,000 drilling miners at the mine started protests, demanding a 12 percent wage increase. However, the protests turned into violence in the following days.

Up to Wednesday, the violence at the Marikana mine had claimed 10 lives, including two police officers, two security guards, three protestors and three other men.(Xinhua)

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