US denies plans to establish military base in Botswana

Africom commander General Carter Ham. PHOTO | FILE 

Botswana and the US have brushed off speculation that the ongoing construction of a military facility bankrolled by US Department of Defence inside Botswana’s Thebephatshwa Air Base could in future become a doorway for America's Africa Command (Africom) in the southern African country.

Botswana has previously been cited as a possible base for relocation of Africom should the command be moved from its current headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany.

But American deputy ambassador to Botswana Michael Murphy said the ongoing project was aimed at supporting future collective exercises at Thebephatshwa Airbase, which is located south-east of Botswana.

He added they were not constructing a US military base, neither were they planning to relocate Africom headquarters to Botswana.

“This project, a direct result of Botswana hosting Exercise Southern Accord in August 2012, underscores the close and ongoing partnership between the BDF and United States,” said Murphy.

The construction block consists administration, instructional and latrine facilities.

Botswana Defence Force (BDF) director of Protocol and Public Affairs, Colonel Tebo Dikole also said the project was meant for future Botswana-America exercises and not Africom.

“These particular facilities were chosen so that if Botswana and the United States agreed to a future exercise at Thebephatshwa, the exercise will not disrupt normal BDF operations,” he said.
Mr Murphy believes the Exercise Related Construction (ERC) will reduce costs for exercises by doing away with the leasing of tents.

The BDF, according to Mr Murphy, will be free to use the facility after the departure of the American army following the completion of the exercise.

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