Johannesburg – The commander of the US military’s Africa Command (Africom), General Stephen Townsend, says the continent has the capacity to find lasting solutions to challenges such as terrorism and civil wars.
The US has failed to find an African country to host its Africom headquarters, and has resigned itself to operating from Stuttgart, Germany. In recent years, its command has tried to take a conciliatory approach to matters concerning Africa, as countries turned down hosting it as it is understood to be a structure of the US military designed to advance Washington’s interests across the continent.
Briefing the US Congress after a recent tour of Africa, Gen Townsend said, “We say we work by, with, and through our African partners, it’s the only way to get a handle on this problem: African solutions for African problems is the way we work at Africom. When I meet with African leaders, their primary concern is often VEOs (violent extremist organisations) killing their soldiers, kidnapping their civilians, and challenging their authority to rule. US Africa Command seeks to help partners and provide the tools needed to solve some of these challenges and issues.”
Gen Townsend claimed most African countries trusted the US since America had never colonised a country on the continent.
“We were never a colonising power in Africa, and we are regarded as an honest broker by many nations, in addition, our values are their values.”
Gen Townsend said Africa was too important and resource-rich for the world to ignore.
“Africa has 13 of the 25 fastest growing economies in the world. In a time of climate change, Africa has 60 percent of the arable land on the globe. This fact alone should show how important Africa is for the world. The continent also has a plethora of strategic materials, such as cobalt, chromium, tantalum and more. African resources are critical to 21st century progress. Africa has a growing population, and demographers estimate that by 2050 one in four people on Earth will be African.
“The recent blockage of the Suez Canal threw light onto two more choke points: the Mozambique Channel and the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa. These sea lines of communication are vital around the globe,” he said.