And now it is Israel…
Recent developments in East Africa indicate that in the not-so-distant future the US and its Western allies would have fully fledged military presence on the continent.
The tragedy is that all this is happening with the complicity of some African leaders.
In 2008 the US established its Africa Command (AFRICOM), which is currently based in Germany and is likely to relocate to an African country next year.
Now a number of East African countries have entered security agreements with Israel, a major US ally.
Notable events of US military interventions this year include the bombardment of Libya, initially through AFRICOM and then with NATO support.
America also seconded special forces to Uganda, ostensibly to help capture Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) rebel leader Joseph Kony.
Notably, several analysts believe the LRA leader has long been neutralized as a force and the US is simply deploying troops to secure other interests.
On the other hand the US has unfinished business in Somalia dating back to the 1990s.
Israel has long been an interested party in developments in the Red Sea, the Horn of Africa and and East Africa, with Tel Aviv historically wary of Islamic fundamentalists setting up base within missile range.
And the latest raft of agreements with East African countries provides further room for the US to manoeuvre on the continent.
Last month, Kenya’s Prime Minister Raila Odinga visited Israel and returned with news that Tel Aviv had promised to assist them in the fight against Al-Shabaab militants in Somalia.
Odinga said his Israeli counterpart Benjamin Nyetanyahu would help build “a coalition against fundamentalism,” bringing together Kenya, Ethiopia, South Sudan and Tanzania.
“Kenya got the backing of the top leadership of the state of Israel in its war to rid its territory of fundamentalist elements, with President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu declaring that they will help Kenya in its struggles to secure its borders,” Odinga’s office said.
In Israel’s eyes, East Africa is fertile ground for al-Qaeda and other militants to forge ties with like-minded groups in Egypt and Gaza.
Israeli officials believe Sudan is a pathway for smugglers providing weapons to militants in Gaza and the Sinai, and that al-Qaeda-linked groups in Egypt were behind a deadly cross-border raid in August that left eight Israelis dead.
Israel already has military ties with several African countries, including Nigeria, Tanzania and Cote d’Ivoire.
Relations with Kenya, Uganda and South Sudan have not yet reached that stage, though Israel’s Defence Ministry has given clearance for private Israeli security firms to operate in those nations.
Speaking on Press TV documentary “Africa Focus” in late November, Omowale Rupert of the Pan African Movement Society said it was clear that some African leaders had forgotten how Israel supported apartheid and that the country’s policies had essentially not changed since then.
“If you look at the Israel and US relations the latest moves are a form of neo-colonialism meant to plunder Africa’s resources,” he said.
Rupert said it was difficult to ignore the Israeli-US link and that such icons like the late former Tanzanian president Julius Nyerere would turn in their graves over recent developments.
An Israeli official said an alliance with Kenya and other eastern African countries is “natural”.
Associated Press quoted government spokesman Mark Regev saying: “We have joint interests and we believe that mutual co-operation can be beneficial to us all”.
However, Rupert argued that there were no joint interests except the opening up of avenues that will allow new avenues for Africa’s exploitation.
In Kenya, Odinga’s statements have already roused a storm within the government.
Defence Minister Yusuf Haji said Odinga’s utterances were “probably personal” and did not fall in with the wider strategy to seek international support in the battle against Al-Shabaab.
This is likely an intimation that broad international support will be hard to get if Kenya entered such agreements with Israel, which has few friends in the comity of nations due to its pro-apartheid past and continuing oppression of the people of Palestine.
Kenya’s Defence Minister Haji said, “We have not dealt with any individual state and neither have we asked for any assistance.
“As Minister for Defence in charge of the operation, I can tell you that there is no time when the Kenya government has decided to contact any country except through IGAD, AU, EU and the UN.”
Security experts interviewed by the Sunday Nation say the Israeli connection is a risky diplomatic move.
“For one we have had security co-operation with Israel for so long.
“Why publicize the security deal now when Al-Shabaab is desperately looking for rallying propaganda and Israel provides that?
“After all Israel is viewed as an enemy by all Muslims, even the moderate ones, and provides a powerful tool for Al-Shabaab internally and internationally where they can claim Kenya has aligned itself with the ‘Zionist’ regime,” said a security expert who requested anonymity due to the nature of his consultancies.
“Also it might make our allies, especially the Arab states, hold back from openly supporting our campaign since their position vis-a-vis Israel is a critical factor in determining their legitimacy internally.
“For instance, Turkey which is having serious differences with Israel, is a key player in Somalia through humanitarian assistance and can carry more influence than Israel especially now when it is trying to re-assert its influence in the Muslim world.”
Black Agenda Report executive editor, Glen Ford, sees a US hand in all of this.
“The US military command has assembled a dizzying array of alliances with regional organizations and blocks of countries that, together, encompass all but a few nations on the continent-leaving those holdouts with crosshairs on their backs.
“As the US bullies its way southward in the wake of the seizure of Libya, its path has been smoothed by the Africans themselves…
“The long US war against Somalia, dramatically intensified with American backing for the Ethiopian invasion in late 2006, is now sanctioned by IGAD, the International Authority on Development in East Africa, comprised of Ethiopia, the puppet government in Somalia’s capital, Mogadishu, Kenya, Uganda and the de-facto French and US protectorate, Djibouti and nominally Sudan.”
Ford says the AU has been thoroughly compromised by the US and its allies and is unlikely to offer much resistance as Western militarism in Africa gathers momentum.
In Southern Africa the US has been actively looking at setting up base.
SADC has resolved that no such bases will be allowed in region.
The question is however, for how long can Africa hold off the US and its allies.
Already, there have been a raft of reports that Indian Ocean piracy is spreading south and will soon cause problems for Mozambique and South Africa.
And with The Seychelles having reportedly offered the US military craft launch facilities, the region should brace itself for another big attempt to establish a base in Southern Africa.