An American military delegation is in Nigeria to explain to the country's leaders the mission of the U.S. African Command, or AFRICOM. The visit comes only days after Nigeria rejected hosting the new command in West Africa. Gilbert da Costa in Abuja has more in this report for VOA.
At a news conference in Abuja Thursday, the head of the U.S. delegation, Rear Admiral Robert Moeller, said the team was in Nigeria to clarify misconceptions about the U.S. military's new Africa-wide military command.
He said the goal of the initiative is to coordinate American military activities in Africa and promote effective military partnership between the United States and the continent.
But a growing a number of African countries, including Nigeria, Libya and South Africa have expressed concern over AFRICOM's move to the continent.
Many have reservations that the move could signal an expansion of U.S. influence on the continent and may focus primarily on protecting oil interests.
Mary Yates, AFRICOM's deputy commander for civil-military activities, says there is no truth in that assumption.
"The establishment of AFRICOM has nothing to do with the oil resources in the Gulf of Guinea. It is important that these resources continue to make it to the world market, so that the revenues return to the people of Africa, and in this case specifically to the people of Nigeria. But that is not the reason for standing up AFRICOM," she said.
The delegation has met with several Nigerian officials as well as the president of the Abuja-based Economic Community for West African States, or ECOWAS.
Admiral Moeller says the United States has no immediate plans to set up military bases or deploy large contingents of American troops to Africa.
"The U.S.-AFRICOM does not need to station large operational units across the African continent," said Admiral Moeller. "It is not at all necessary to do so to support our current partnerships and programs. Small numbers of forces will come to the continent to do a particular activity and then they depart."
AFRICOM currently operates out of existing U.S. bases on the continent with headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany.
Liberia, settled by freed American slaves in the 1800s, is the only African nation that has publicly offered to host a headquarters.