Foreign Policy Forever Wars Military

The United States Extends Its Military Reach Into Zambia

Vijay Prashad speaks with Dr. Fred M’membe of the Socialist Party about the reach and impact of the United States Africa Command in Zambia.
Dr Fred M’membe, President of Socialist Party Zambia. Photo: Socialist Party Zambia

By Vijay Prashad / Peoples Dispatch

On April 26, 2022, the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) announced that they had set up an office in the US Embassy in Lusaka, Zambia. According to AFRICOM Brigadier General Peter Bailey, Deputy Director for Strategy, Engagement and Programs, the Office of Security Cooperation would be based in the US Embassy building. Social media in Zambia buzzed with rumors about the creation of a US military base in the country. Defense Minister Ambrose Lufuma released a statement to say that “Zambia has no intention whatsoever of establishing or hosting any military bases on Zambian soil.” “Over our dead bodies” will the United States have a military base in Zambia, said Dr. Fred M’membe, the president of the Socialist Party of Zambia.

Brigadier General Bailey of AFRICOM had met with Zambia’s President Hakainde Hichilema during his visit to Lusaka. Hichilema’s government faces serious economic challenges despite the fact that Zambia has one of the richest resources of raw materials in the world. When Zambia’s total public debt grew to nearly $27 billion (with an external debt of approximately $14.5 billion), it returned to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) in December 2021 for financial assistance, resulting in an IMF-induced spiral of debt.

Two months after Hichilema met with the AFRICOM team, he hosted IMF Deputy Managing Director Antoinette M. Sayeh in June, who thanked President Hichilema for his commitment to the IMF “reform plans.” These plans include a general austerity package that will not only cause the Zambian population to be in the grip of poverty but will also prevent the Zambian government from exercising its sovereignty.

Puppet regime

Dr. M’membe, president of the Socialist Party, has emerged as a major voice against the United States military presence in his country. Defense Minister Lufuma’s claim that the United States is not building a base in Zambia elicits a chuckle from M’membe. “I think there is an element of ignorance on his part,” M’membe told me. “This is sheer naivety. He [Lufuma] does not understand that practically there is no difference between a US military base and an AFRICOM office. It’s just a matter of semantics to conceal their real intentions.”

The real intentions, M’membe told me, are for the United States to use Zambia’s location “to monitor, to control, and to quickly reach the other countries in the region.” Zambia and its neighbor, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he said, “possess not less than 70 percent of the world’s cobalt reserves. There are huge copper reserves and other minerals needed for modern technologies [in both these countries].” Partly, M’membe said, “this is what has heightened interest in Zambia.” Zambia is operating as a “puppet regime,” M’membe said, a government that is de jure independent but de facto “completely dependent on an outside power and subject to its orders,” M’membe added, while referring to the US interference in the functioning of the Zambian government. Despite his campaign promises in 2021, President Hichilema has followed the same IMF-dependent policies as his unpopular predecessor Edgar Lungu. However, in terms of a US base, even Lungu had resisted the US pressure to allow this kind of office to come up on Zambian soil.

After news broke out about the establishment of the office, former Zambian Permanent Representative to the African Union, Emmanuel Mwamba, rushed to see Hichilema and caution him not to make this deal. Ambassador Mwamba said that other former presidents of Zambia—Lungu (2015-2021), Michael Sata (2011-2014), Rupiah Banda (2008-2011) and Levy Mwanawasa (2002-2008)—had also refused to allow AFRICOM to enter the country since its creation in 2007.

Is this a base or an office?

Zambia’s Defense Minister Lufuma argues that the “office” set up in Lusaka is to assist the Zambian forces in the United Nations Multidimensional Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA). Since 2014, the United States has provided around 136 million kwacha ($8 million) to assist the Zambian military. Lufuma said that this office will merely continue that work. In fact, Zambia is not even one of the top five troop contributing countries to MINUSCA (these include Bangladesh, Cameroon, Egypt, Pakistan and Rwanda). Lufuma’s reason, therefore, seems like a fig leaf.

Neither Zambia nor the United States military has made public the agreement signed in April. The failure to release the text has led to a great deal of speculation, which is natural. Meanwhile, in Ghana, where a defense cooperation agreement was signed between the two countries in May 2018, the United States had initially said that it was merely creating a warehouse and an office for its military, which then turned out to mean that the United States military was taking charge of one of the three airport terminals at Accra airport and has since used it as its base of operations in West Africa. “From the experience of Ghana, we know what it is,” M’membe told me, while speaking about the American plan to make an office in the US Embassy in Zambia. “It is not [very] different from a base. It will slowly but surely grow into a full-scale base.”

From the first whiff that the United States might create an AFRICOM base on the continent, opposition grew swiftly. It was led by former South African President Thabo Mbeki and his Defense Minister at that time, Mosiuoa Lekota, both of whom lobbied the African Union and the Southern African Development Community to reject any US base on the continent. Over the past five years, however, the appetite for full-scale rejection of bases has withered despite an African Union resolution against allowing the establishment of such bases in 2016. The US military has 29 known military bases in 15 of the African countries.

Not only have 15 African countries ignored their own regional body’s advice when it comes to allowing foreign countries to establish military bases there, but the African Union (AU) has itself allowed the United States to create a military attaché’s office inside the AU building in Addis Ababa. “The AU that resisted AFRICOM in 2007,” M’membe told me, “is not the AU of today.”

Vijay Prashad
Vijay Prashad

Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor and journalist. He is a writing fellow and chief correspondent at Globetrotter. He is an editor of LeftWord Books and the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He is a senior non-resident fellow at Chongyang Institute for Financial Studies, Renmin University of China. He has written more than 20 books, including The Darker Nations and The Poorer Nations. His latest books are Struggle Makes Us Human: Learning from Movements for Socialism and (with Noam Chomsky) The Withdrawal: Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan, and the Fragility of U.S. Power.


  1. Vijay, “these ‘Times’ they are a-changing” in obviously keeping ‘mom’s the word’, on what seems to be blocking this ‘Global War-Ginning-Up’ by Admiral James Stravidis — who is a very powerful force:

    IMHO, “Fight Like Hell” is the ‘call code word’ for the possible involvement of any alt-right coup d’état attempt by portions of the U. S. military.

    While this might well seem hyperbolic, even paranoid, the media’s apparent ‘messaging’ this week, particularly by former Admiral James Stavridis, former SACEUR NATO, and current Managing Director of the global weapons investment firm the Carlyle Group’s involvement in the Defense Industry, qua. “Merchants of Death”, seems to be predicated/signalling the terms and conditions of eliminating the weaker of the three current, but conflicted possible Empires.

    Admiral James Stavridis’s near saturation broadcasting of the “seven times greater” troop levels of ships, sailors, aircraft, pilots, special services, and other weapons from the ‘four minute NPR’ radio ‘messaging’ regrading his position as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization nations prepare to meet this week in Madrid presents shockingly provocative fodder with respect to being ‘War inducing’.

    Admiral’s Quote: trying to down play his own words, “The War Plans are very specific”

    The full transcript to the Admiral’s broadcast message should be considered akin to Hearst’s message in 1898; “Please remain. You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war.”

    But in this case on 6/29/2022, Stavridis seems to be saying, “Please remain. You furnish the radio broadcast and I’ll furnish the war.”

    There has ‘So Far’ been no transcript released by NPR, but the Admiral’s speech is still available at NPR:

    Viyay — Is anyone in the ‘Anti-War’ or ‘Anti-Empire’ community awake to this obvious “Quiet American” War and Empire plan??

  2. M’Membe, a good man, and the uphill battle with the syphilitic USA and the chosen people’s deep deep financialization of everything, including blinking, breathing, defecating.

    Quoting Fred,

    It’s difficult to understand why our new government leaders are celebrating getting on to an International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme. It reminds me of the PF government’s celebrations over getting the Euro bonds. Can one really celebrate getting kaloba! Is that something to really celebrate?

    In life it is very important to be clear about things or else you’ll be trying to decorate your tomorrows with other people’s yesterdays. Those in the dark are in no position to light the way for others.

    The truth is that when a country borrows from the IMF, its government agrees to adjust its economic policies to overcome the problems that the IMF believes led it to seek financial aid. These policy adjustments are conditions for IMF loans and serve to ensure that the country will be able to repay the IMF. Conditionality covers the design of IMF-supported programmes —that is, macroeconomic and structural policies—and the specific tools used to monitor progress toward goals outlined for cooperation with the IMF.

    The IMF believes that conditionality helps to stabilise balance-of-payments problems without resorting to measures that are harmful to national or international prosperity. At the same time, the measures are meant to safeguard IMF resources by ensuring that the country’s balance of payments will be strong enough to permit it to repay the loan.

    Most IMF financing is paid out in installments and linked to demonstrable policy actions. This is intended to ensure progress in programme implementation and reduce risks to IMF resources. There are steps a country must agree to take before the IMF approves financing. Examples of these are elimination of price controls, subsidies, monetary and credit aggregates, international reserves, fiscal balances, and external borrowing, ceiling on government borrowing, minimum level of international reserves, minimum domestic revenue collection, minimum level of social assistance spending and so on and so forth.

    The most important function of the IMF is its ability to provide loans to member nations in need of a bailout. The IMF attaches conditions to these loans, including prescribed economic policies, to which borrowing governments must comply. The IMF gives loans to countries in economic trouble. In exchange, countries must implement a programme of painful policy reforms. Countries rarely complete these programmes.

  3. I have a good friend from Zambia whose family is there. I sent her this article as soon as I got it.

    U.S. empire must be stopped. Unfortunately, that’s going in the opposite direction. We need a draft more than anything to get young people politically involved again.

  4. I bet the people of Zambia are just filled with joy knowing that the Empire of Lies has come to steal their shit. Read The Confessions of an Economic Hitman… explains it far better then I ever could.

  5. America Never does Deals with Nations who can`t be Bought. A lot of African Politicians have been Bought; by Multi-National Mining Companies. Zuma, M`Beki, Mugabe etc get Billions of Dollars; their People get Diddly Squat. Nigeria is the Wealthiest Oil State in Africa; but it`s People are Risking their Lives Crossing the Sahara, Mediterramean Sea and English Channel for Better Lives. Mugabe had his Own Diamond Mine in Southern Zimbabwe. The US / Africom use the IMF/ World Bank to Leverage Africa`s Minerals against their Billion Dollar “Debts”.

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