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Major American military conference comes to Botswana as Russia and US tussle over Africa

Local News
This will be the first conference to be hosted in Africa since its inception in 2017.

AT least 40 African countries are due to be represented by top commanders in Gaborone at the African Chiefs of Defense Conference next week.

This will be the first conference to be hosted in Africa since its inception in 2017.

The US is faced with increasing rivalry from Russia in the competition for military alliances in Africa.

The US has been pushed out of Chad and Niger, but next week it will host senior military commanders from at least 40 African countries in Botswana.


That is barely down from the 43 it hosted in Italy last year, at the African Chiefs of Defense Conference it has run since 2017.


The Botswana meeting will be the first one on African soil.


The meeting is under the auspices of the US-Africa Command (Africom), with the mission to encourage new and greater collaboration on security and stability.


It hopes for both an exchange of knowledge and to "forge enduring partnerships", said Africom's public affairs office ahead of the meeting.



In previous meetings, military commanders shared stories of how their forces operate in different parts of Africa and the challenges they face.


It is only one part of ongoing US efforts on the continent, which in April and May this year included African Lion military exercises held jointly with Ghana, Morocco, Senegal and Tunisia, with more than 8 000 participants from 27 African countries and NATO members.


Kenya will attend the summit as the only Sub-Saharan African country that was designated as a major non-NATO ally in May.


However, in the past two years, some African countries have moved to strengthen ties with Russia, particularly in the Sahel region where the US' fight against jihadism is concentrated.


In April 2024, the ruling military council in Chad, led by General Mahamat Idriss Deby, asked the US to stop using an air force base located in N'Djamena.



Until that point, Chad had participated in the Trans-Saharan Counterterrorism Initiative with the US military in fighting Al-Qaeda.


Niger, which until last year's coup was a staunch US partner, won't attend the Botswana summit.


Niger forged ties with Russia and, as of 7 June, Africom started withdrawing personnel from its borders.


Since 2014, Russia has signed military cooperation agreements with at least 19 African countries.


Some of them, such as Angola, also have ties with Africom.



Last year, Angola hosted an Africom Military Intelligence and Security Service summit.


Botswana's neighbour Zimbabwe is not expected at the meeting.


Earlier this month, sharing the stage with Russia's Vladimir Putin at the St Petersburg International Economic Forum, Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa said the US was forging alliances with countries in Southern Africa to the point where Zimbabwe was becoming "lonely".


Mnangagwa singled out Zambia as one such country with close ties to the US. He branded Zambia a sell-out and said he was open to Russia having a military alliance with Zimbabwe.

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