Namibian President Hage Geingob said Tuesday he is unaware of any requests or plans by the Chinese to build an overseas naval base in his country. Geingob denied such knowledge and said there will be no secret deals in an interview with BBC News, during which the Namibian leader was pressed hard on the allegations.
“I do not know anything about such a proposal. It never came to me; maybe to the former president [Hifikepunye Pohamba],” he told BBC HARDtalk host Sarah Montague, who also asked questions on Namibia’s extreme poverty. Geingob took office in March.
Montague pressed on and inquired whether Namibia would in fact accept a proposal from China if such a request were made. “If they want to do it in a sovereign country like Namibia, how does that concern you?” Geingob replied. “That is for Namibians to decide, but I can assure you that there will be no secret deals. It is my country…and it does not affect you.”
Rumors swirled earlier this year when local newspaper the Namibian revealed details in January of a confidential letter from Namibia’s ambassador to China, Ring Abed, to Namibia’s Foreign Ministry. The letter describes a meeting that was being planned for late March in which a delegation from China would visit to discuss construction of a People’s Liberation Army naval base in Namibia’s Walvis Bay that would be home to as many as six Chinese warships. While the naval base plan has not been publicly confirmed by China or Namibia, local reports said such a project would likely have significant geopolitical and economic benefits for both China and Namibia.
The Namibian revealed details of another confidential letter saying Abed had met with a senior spokesman for the Chinese defense ministry, Geng Yansheng, to discuss “several issues of mutual interest and benefit.” Yansheng allegedly suggested that Namibia has had problems with illegal fishing trawlers in its water and a Chinese naval presence would deter them. He also allegedly discusses how Chinese navy would help train the Namibian navy for both combat and civilian operations.
An earlier report by the Namibian, citing Chinese accounts, said the proposed Walvis Bay plan is one of 18 such plans for China around the world, with others eyed for Yemen, Sri Lanka and Madagascar. All would be intended to help the Chinese military patrol significant trade passages. The Walvis Bay base fits into the country’s larger plans globally and would “further enhance China’s effectiveness in taking responsibility for maintaining the safety of international maritime routes, thereby maintaining regional and world stability,” the report said.