The act of establishing foreign military base purportedly to help combat threat by non-state actors is not an outlandish strategy. It has always been a strategy used by foreign powers to combat (what is considered to be) threat to international security. Usually, it is often regarded as a collaborative effort by foreign powers and a host country to combat illegal international interference in the territory of the host country and to fight against terrorist organization that is or has the potential of threatening the host state, directly or indirectly, through humanitarian crisis. It can, sometimes, be deployed in a region whose insecurity is considered as having the potential of causing international instability—usually with the assent of the countries in such region.

 Foreign basing skyrocketed in the Cold War era between the United States and the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics (USSR), and has obviously continued till date. However, the rationale behind foreign military bases is often to enhance foreign strategic influence in the host country, namely, to enable intelligence gathering about a potential enemy, and for easy deployment of military actions to deter any offensive from an enemy. It is, practically, a kind of proxy tool deployed by world powers. Although the allegations that erupted last month regarding a proposed US military base in Nigeria had been refuted by the federal government, it is not certain that the United States would not open another military base in another part of the continent, anytime soon. The question is, is it good for the continent of Africa to abhor foreign military troops?

The establishment of the US foreign military bases took a new turn in the early 19th century when the country shifted from her isolationist policy to pragmatism/interventionism. The United States withdrawal from the isolationist policy brought her out of the confine of addressing national security issues nationally. President Theodore Roosevelt, as against General George Washington, harped on the need for the United States’ intervention in global politics in order to secure its territories and territorial gains. Subsequent presidents pushed forward to not only protect the United States’ territories, but also, to make her a super power helping to adjudicate global issues. This translated into other policies, the Monroe Doctrine, the Truman Doctrine and the Marshall Plan which bred the Bretton Woods institutions. The first two doctrines, especially, emphasize the need for diplomatic military actions by the United States in the protection of her national and territorial security abroad. The United States began establishing more, and more military bases abroad, having realized its relevance after the Spanish-American War at the end of the 19th century. Many of the United States military base surfaced in allied countries during the Cold War as she could not endure the expansionist influence of the Soviet Union into newly independent states. Thus, foreign military base would be useful in counteracting her major contender, the Soviet Union, from expanding its communist ideology into the United States capitalist allied states. By the end of the Cold War in 1990/91, the United States had established military bases in up to about 40 countries. After the USSR’s disintegration which culminated in its withdrawing of foreign military troops in its former sphere of influence, the United States also reduced her foreign troops significantly. However, due to the September 11 Attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the US reignited her strategic military base in foreign countries in order to effectively carry out her “global war on terror.” By 2021, US foreign military base has spread across over 80 countries. Africa has then become a place of call for the United States to turn towards as the continent is prone to terrorist organizations.

Not less than six countries have military bases on the African continent. These countries include Russia, the United States, France, Turkey, China and India. This was more easily done in former colonies. France, for instance, had military bases in its former colonies of Niger, Burkina Faso and Mali until she was expelled from these countries between 2020 and 2023. It, however, still retains military bases in Cote d’Ivoire, Gabon, Chad, Senegal and Djibouti. Britain, as well, has military presence in Kenya but her proposal to establish a military base in Nigeria in the 1960s was turned down. However, the United States which has no colonies in Africa has also established significant military bases in Africa. China, Turkey, India and the United Arab Emirates, all of whom had no colonies in Africa, have been operating military base(s) on the continent. These foreign powers do this purportedly to help the insurgent-prone Africa combat terrorist networks like the Al Shabab, ISIS and the Al Qaeda. The underlying motif, however, is to pursue commercial and strategic interests on the resource endowed continent. While their efforts to combat oil piracy (as in the Eastern Africa) and terrorism cannot be underestimated, foreign military base in Africa has amounted to overdependency on foreign military, exploitation of resources, and has, otherwise, increased potential threats on the continent.


·         Abdulkabir Muhammed, Department of History and International Studies, Lagos State University

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