Kerstin Andrae Marobela reports on growing resistance in Botswana to US plans for military bases and a new government “spy” bill
Some 300 people held an angry demonstration recently in Gaborone, the capital of Botswana, against plans to build a major US military base and a new “spy” bill.
People are more and more concerned that the government might be willing to host the new US military command for Africa (Africom).
Katherine Canavan, the US ambassador to Botswana, recently claimed that Africom is “widely misunderstood” as it is exclusively dedicated to humanitarian developmental work.
But no one should be fooled. This proposed military base is about securing oil supplies and curbing the influence of China on the continent. It is about the “war on terror”.
Botswana’s government is a reliable US ally. In 2003 George Bush visited the country, shortly after Botswana’s president Festus Mogae signed a special agreement that grants US soldiers legal immunity in Botswana.
The government has pushed a bill through parliament allowing it to establish a huge Intelligence Directorate with wide-ranging powers to spy on the population.
The new organisation is accountable to no one, except the president.
The main opposition party, the Botswana National Front (BNF), walked out of parliament in the face of these serious attacks on basic civil rights and to protest against the undemocratic way the “spy” bill has been read in parliament.
BNF MPs also boycotted the sham debates on this issue.
The demonstration was held on 18 August and was organised on the initiative of the International Socialists Botswana platform in the BNF.
The demonstrators wanted to make the public aware that the “spy” bill has to be seen in the global context of US imperialism.
People marched through the capital under the slogan, “Kill the Spy Bill – No US base in Botswana!”
We made it clear that George Bush is the biggest terrorist, and that ordinary people need social security, not military security.
Representatives from the Muslim community came to participate with a minibus from the small city of Molepolole.
This demonstration was a first step in our attempt to prevent warmonger Bush from establishing another foothold on the African continent.
A “new scramble for Africa” is developing in the wake of the discovery of huge oil reserves in the continent.
Recently Ghana and Uganda announced that they found oil, and currently Western multinationals are all over Africa trying to sniff more. This is good news for the Bush regime.
The US estimates that by 2015 it will draw 25 percent of its oil needs from Africa. Currently, it imports 15 percent of its oil from the gulf of Guinea, which stretches down the west coast of Africa from Nigeria to Angola.
US oil interests need military back-up. It is therefore no surprise that the US is building up military bases. The militarisation of Africa is not happening to protect ordinary people from wars.
On the contrary, it induces wars – look at the recent US-backed Ethiopian invasion of Somalia.
It serves to defend imperial interests in Africa, which is seen merely as a possible oil supplier.
Kerstin Andrae Marobela is a member of the International Socialists Botswana.