Zambia Daily Mail by Online Editor on 6/4/13
From CHIMWEMWE MWALE in Stuttgart, Germany
THE United States Africa Command (USAFRICOM) says it is willing to support President Sata’s decision to establish a marine unit under the Zambia Army to patrol water bodies along some border areas and boost security.
This follows Government concerns on border security which needs to be enhanced.
Defence minister Geoffrey Mwamba has held private meetings with US Ambassador to Zambia Mark Storella and American deputy military defence chiefs here.
Yesterday, he held a closed-door meeting with USAFRICOM commander General David Rodriguez to discuss military issues with the Stuttgart-headquartered organisation.
USAFRICOM spokesperson Benjamin Benson said the United States government has one of the best marine troops and coast guards in the world and would be happy to assist Zambia to establish an effective marine unit to watch over border areas with water bodies.
The objective of USAFRICOM is to protect and defend US national interests by strengthening the defence capabilities of African states and regional organisations.
The organisation conducts military operations to keep transnational threats in check and provide a security environment conducive for good governance and development.
Mr Benson told journalists here that the US has vast experience in guarding lakes along its borders and can help African countries like Zambia to do the same.
Some Zambian fishermen have in the recent past been arrested while one was shot dead at close range by soldiers from the Democratic Republic of Congo for allegedly straying into that country and fishing from foreign waters.
The incidents on water bodies have prompted government to start planning for a marine unit.
“I still recall that there was talk about establishing a marine regiment and if the Zambian government was to request for assistance, we can see how we respond to that and help Zambia to develop capability in maritime security.
“There is a possibility of sticking to the thought that Zambia is a landlocked country and forget that it does have maritime natures like Lake Tanganyika and other large lakes.
“I think we would be open to a request for assistance to help develop a marine regiment. Our marines are some of the best and we would love to assist other marines through established processes,” he said.
He said helping African countries to address border security issues includes helping them to work on a broader approach to water management systems, including coast guards for border security.
And Mr Mwamba, who arrived in Stuttgart on Monday, has also held meetings to open regular dialogue on military security interventions by USAFRICOM, based at Kelley Barracks in Stuttgart.
Mr Benson (USAFRICOM spokesperson) said the visit by Mr Mwamba is historical in Zambia-US relations and will help to open dialogue on enhanced military security for Zambia.
Mr Benson said Zambia has a good record of ‘exporting’ peace and has continued to participate in peacekeeping efforts.
He said Zambia must take advantage of the forthcoming Africa Endeavour (on peacekeeping and humanitarian programmes) under the auspices of USAFRICOM.
Africa Endeavour is made up of 42 countries and a meeting of the organisation is scheduled for August 2013.
“We want to assist Zambia because it has a history of exporting peace and has a good record of peacekeeping efforts. We think Zambia will take advantage of the programme.
“Our programmes are done in collaboration with African governments and we cannot come unless you invite us. We want to help you to defend your sovereignty through military coordination,” Mr Benson said.
He said USAFRICOM is also willing to help African countries like Zambia to address security border issues such as trafficking in wildlife and livestock theft.