Monday, September 3, 2007

Zambian Govt turns down US base - A Missed opportunity!

The Zambian government has turned down a request by the United States to establish a military base in the South African country."As Zambia, we will not be giving sanctuary and I think I can speak on behalf of the SADC region that none of us is interested,' said President Mwanawasa, while rejecting United States' plan to establish a military base in his country.In addition, as the chairman of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), The Zambian president however added that each country has its own authority to decide on strategic matters. Source UKZambians.co.uk
Is it just me or does anyone out there sense the folly of that statement by our President. Are not these words from the same mouth that was just recently in Washington and London, desperately begging for any kind of foreign investment into Zambia. This in my view is talking from both sides of your mouth and I think Zambia just missed an opportunity for long term investment and the needed attention of the World’s greatest superpower. (Apatebeta Lesa Tapafuka ichushi).
I feel the President, his cabinet and the Zambian people should have given this request a sober reflection perhaps in the old traditional setting of an Insaka. In this insaka setting, am sure strong voices would have been raised in disgust, at the US created nightmare in Iraq by zealous middle aged men, recovering from the hangover of the failed grandeurs of the old soviet era. This opinion maybe legitimate in the interim, as survey after global survey shows more people in the world are less favorable and fearful of US dominance and increasing presence in the world.
Then a much younger, but even more zealous loud voice high on the toxic lyrics of Kanye West, T.I, T-Pain and Beyonce would rise in praise of the good old USA. How the US is the most beautiful country in the world, where every dream comes true. This voice would rant about the beauty of democracy, how free people are more successful in governance, business, education and live happier lives. In fact the young voice would continue, so many people want to immigrate to US, so much so the US government has reasoned it is cheaper and perhaps better to bring the US model to the rest of the world than have everyone come here - this is exactly what the US is doing in Iraq.
After an earful of the two voices talking, an older and much wiser voice, would rise from near slumber and ask the all important questions;
What would a US base in Zambia, really mean for the average Zambian?
What long term benefits would this base bring?
What threats would Zambia face if this base was built there?

My dear young and middle aged voices, our country Zambia, was once strong and important. In those days, before you were both born, the world was at war, as it is in a way now, our copper sold for a lot of money- believe it or not a single unit of our currency was even worth two British pounds. So much has happened since those glorious times, our country is now afflicted by a debilitating poverty that threatens so many lives. Our once productive industries have collapsed, businesses are choked by high interest rates and inflation - public institutions are under funded and overwhelmed by a growing population.
A US base may not fix everything but the presence of 20,000 to 50,000 US servicemen in Zambia would generate a lot of business. These servicemen would need so many services food, fuel, telecommunications, roads, hospitals and schools for their families. They would employ so many Zambians directly, and many Zambian businesses ranging from building, repairs, cleaning etc would suddenly have more customers. If our government, negotiated the contract in the interest of the Zambian people, the US base would continue to use Zambian businesses for many years to come. Our economy would get the constant push it needs and the benefits would be felt everywhere, even in Solome village in Mpika.
Would Zambia then, be the target of Islamic fundamentalists burnt on hitting US interests anywhere, maybe but rememmber because Zambia is a declared Christian nation, they already hate our nation. The benefit the base would bring to our nation outweigh any threats out there, in fact the real threat, poverty that this base would assuage, kills so many Zambians daily.
I only hope, the mwankole(bird) that brought this news of this missed opportunity to my house in Chicago, makes another fly by State house in Lusaka and gives President Mwanawasa, Kashikulu’s reaction to the news from home.

9 comments:

Anonymous said...

Though a first time visitor to your blog, i have been stunned with your view point of the US push for a military base on our soil.My eyes could not just believe it. May be its time we engaged on focused policy debates and Geo-politics of nations.Condoning a US base would have detrimental effects on Zambia and the region.I have time to debate anyone keen on this issue.

Kashikulu said...

Anonymous,

You are most welcome, exchanging points of view is the reason this blog was created. I forward look to your views.
As outlined in my post, I recognise there may adverse effects, however the benefits this base would bring to our national outweight whatever fears you hold.
Further so much of what we as nation held dear, has already been sold to foreign investors;


The mines i.e copper( including the old piles from ZCCM activity -Nkana that you see when entering Kitwe) , cobalt, gemstones and gold are all owned by foreign companies.
Land - foreign farmers own more than 40% of Zambia's best agricultural land, ranches like Lilayi, the dutch owned in western province etc. The late Abe Garluni owned the land in Lusaka from Chawama twonship, Kafue roundabout to Kabwe roundabout , the airport to Ngwerere river, thank God his sons are selling the land back to Zambians.
Companies, shops and banks have foreign majority shareholders.
Foreign donors even fund more than 50% of the Zambian annual budget.
I have seen the US base in Germany, there is no interference in the internal affairs of the German government by the US servicemen. The base is isolated from the population, business goes on among the German people like you would have in any other country.

The airspace is the only arena where traffic will increase, how many planes enter the Zambian airspace on a given day, I imagine not that many. We would still be a sovereign nation, with the benefit of added security.

Anonymous said...

Where's Gitmo (Guantanamo Bay) if not in Cuba, itself the very nemesis of the US? Doesn't Japan host an American base despite it being the second biggest economy? Did anybody know the space shuttles can land in Gambia in case of an emergency?
Emotional decisions or indeed Robert Mugabe who our politicians fear is being targetted by Americans, will not save our economy.
Will it not be a shame if another African country snaps the opportunity to host Africom and Zambians start flocking there to look for jobs and business opportunities?
Zambia has always lost out on the international plane because of emotions clouding our leaders' judgment.

Anonymous said...

Wow! That is all I have to say. I agreed fully with annon. 1 above (not annon 2).

Indeed, before you think of house many Ba kaboi the servicemen and women can employ, think Gitmo and all the horrors and puppetry involved with such nonsense.

I am equally keen on debating this issue with any Zed minded munthu.

Yakima said...

Kashikulu,

Interesting blog, thanks for publishing. I appreciate your position, and can certainly understand the temptation presented by access to the US Dept of Defense budget. I think there is one risk which you may have overlooked in your analysis, in that the US has a tendency to use its military. Contrary to almost universal US media reporting indicating that the current pre-emptive war strategy represents a reversal of long-standing policy, the US commonly uses its naval and air capability to strike at targets within non-nuclear nations without formal declaration of hostilities. Permanent basing of US forces on Zambian soil will effectively reduce the costs of employing this option in the Sub-Saharan theatre of operations, and thus increase the likelihood of their use for the purpose. The long term potential to provoke the hostility of regimes and populations in neighboring African countries as a result of the use of US military capabilities staged out of Zambian bases should not be discounted as an inhibitor to regional integration and economic development.

Kashilkulu said...

Yakima-

Thank you for your kind feedback.

The point you raise, may have some validity when the entire history, of US military activities around the world are put on the table. However, in this post 9/11 era, the increasing threat of international terrorism and civil unrest such Darfur, DRC and potentially Zimbabwe - has placed on the world's greatest superpower with the might and will to confront these threats added responsibilty. Only those nations burnt on sustaining tyrants and leaders that suppress civil freedoms and human rights have anything to fear. I do not think Zambia would gain anything by opposing a superpower, the US can afford to deploy warships or build a base into India ocean, if ever push came to shove and they really needed one in that region.
The US has made significant contributions to Zambia's development through grants, world bank programs, usaid, peace corps,Bill& Melinda Gates foundation, etc. In fact having big brother based in Zambia, would enhance our national security and prevent troubles from our neighbors spilling over into Zambia, especially with the discovery of oil and uranium deposits in the country.

Melvin said...

I agree with you. There are obviously pluses and minuses about having a U.S. military base in Zambia, but I believe the pluses outweigh the minuses.

I don't know why Mwanawasa used the word "sanctuary." Does he think Bush is going to go into hiding at the U.S. base?

Kashikulu said...

Melvin-
Thank you for visiting and your nice take on the subject.
My wife and I enjoy, the postings on Nshima and Curry, she is friends with a workmate from India, who is equally hilarious.

Mwanawasa is known for occasionally, mispeaking and putting his foot in his mouth - I too was puzzled by the sanctuary reference.

Anonymous said...

US BASE IN ZAMBIA?? I cannot beleive you you are a zambian to have written such nonsense in your blog. A US military base in zambia is OUT OF THE QUESTIONS! Suggesting otherwise is rediculous. We are a sovereign country and will nmot allow an occuoying force. Merican is out to dominate the world you want them to control our country and use it in their ambitions of emoerialism. Think again man. This US influence in many other countires is causing trouble in the world.