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Liberia Lobbies for AFRICOM Headquarters

Earlier this year, President Bush directed the creation of a U.S. Africa military Command known as AFRICOM. According to the Pentagon, the new command will focus on conflict prevention rather than military intervention. But critics say AFRICOM is a U.S. attempt to gain greater access to and control of Africa’s resources.

Attempts are underway to look for AFRICOM headquarters somewhere in Africa. Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has not only been speaking out recently in support of AFRICOM, but she has offered her country for AFRICOM headquarters.

Lawrence Bropleh is Liberia’s minister of information. He told VOA President Sirleaf’s offer is part of the long history of partnership between Liberia and the United States.

“Liberia has a unique history with the United States, and with the sustainability of the peace that we now have in Liberia, the President believes that development in the new Liberia can happen with the presence of the command center for the United States military in Liberia. As part of this relationship, the United States is also helping in the redevelopment process of Liberia in our security sector reform. And the president believes that development and security can go hand in hand in the way that we’re looking at rebuilding Liberia,” he said.

President Sirleaf’s critics, however, said she should have focused first on attracting foreign investors instead of military institutions like AFRICOM. But Bropleh said the president is doing both.

“She’s attracting investors, and we do now have the Mittal Steel renegotiated agreement, a billion dollars coming into the country. We have other possibilities like redeveloping the Ducor Hotel. There are other development corporations that are coming in. And so the president is doing that. But she also understands that having the command center in Liberia would also open up Liberia to greater job possibilities. And so the president is trying to make sure that there is this myriad of opportunities given to this nation in this redevelopment process,” he said.

Skeptics of AFRICOM have expressed concerns that previous U.S. military engagements in Africa and elsewhere have disproportionately favored the development of the military over civilian democratic institutions.

Bropleh said a secured environment attracts investors and development.

“What we need to understand is that the U.S. military being in Liberia does not mean that they will control the Liberian military. They will not be involved in the political or the security aspect of governing this nation. We are a sovereign nation; but having them here would open up job possibilities, development possibilities, and it would send a strong signal that this relationship with the United States and Liberia has been even more cemented with this new administration, or the United States believes that President Sirleaf holds the integrity and the political will to move Liberia forward after 14 years of civil conflict,” Bropleh said.