WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) opened its annual Senior Leaders Seminar on June 18, 2012, in Arlington, Virginia, during which keynote speaker Amanda J. Dory, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Africa Policy, for the first time in public discussed the White House’s newly updated U.S. policy for sub-Saharan Africa.
One of the Africa Center’s flagship programs, the two-week Senior Leaders Seminar is intended to provide a forum for approximately 70 senior-level military officers, civilian security experts, and other government officials from 40 African countries, the United States, and Europe, as well as representatives from international and regional organizations, to review and analyze the evolving African security environment and to discuss strategies for addressing challenges and enhancing Africa’s security. The seminar was being conducted in a hotel in Arlington, Virginia, a few blocks from the Pentagon and downtown Washington, D.C.
“This seminar comes at a very timely moment,” said Ambassador (ret.) William M. Bellamy, director of the Africa Center in his welcoming remarks. “The White House has recently released the new strategic approach regarding our policy in Sub-Saharan Africa. I am sure that we will have debates on it during the next two weeks.” White House on June 14 released the Obama administration’s new Strategy on Sub-Saharan Africa. (See related article)
Bellamy said the 14th edition of the Senior Leader Seminar also comes at a time when Africa as a whole is doing pretty well economically. The average growth rate for the last decade has been more than 5 percent, and there is a growing middle class on the continent. The steady and strong economic growth also gives African a new sense of confidence about the future.
However said Bellamy, political reforms have not kept pace with economic growth. The recent military coups in Mali and Guinea-Bissau, as well as the crisis in Cote d’Ivoire show that governance remains a major challenge.
“The great security challenge you will have to face over the next decade will have to do with governance,” he told the participants.
Keynote speaker Dory, who coordinates the Pentagon’s African affairs policy, spoke for the first time since the White House issued its new strategic document regarding Africa.
“This is my first chance to roll out the new Presidential Strategy for Africa,” she told the Senior Leaders Seminar attendees. “The opportunity couldn’t be better.”
Building upon the new Presidential Policy Directive, Dory recalled the four strategic objectives for U.S. engagement in Africa, and provided an overview of U.S.-Africa relations, from the Department of Defense’ stand point.
“The U.S. is more secure when our friends around the world are more secure. … The new strategy calls upon us to be proactive in Sub-Saharan Africa,” she said.
Dory also said the U.S. government perceives Africa as a critical stakeholder in global security. She went on to detail U.S. government initiatives in helping its African partners to face security threats, especially from terrorist groups.
Dory said the U.S. government is focusing on information sharing, reform of institutions, training, and capacity-building for African security forces. She said local governments and regional economics communities have the lead in this approach, and the U.S. administration is committed to providing a continuing support to its African partners in this regard. She finally emphasized that the American government prioritizes partnership with regional economic communities and the African Union.
Following plenary session presentations, seminar participants were scheduled to work in small discussion groups facilitated by African, European and American academics and practitioners. Conducted under the Africa Center’s strict policy of non-attribution, these groups elicit lively and uninhibited discussion on issues such as military professionalism, transparency in defense budgeting, definitions of security that echo current
African realities and challenges, and terrorist threats and responses in Africa. The three key pillars of the seminar – fundamentals of security and strategy in Africa; core areas in security studies; and current critical issues – are designed to help participants integrate a comprehensive definition of security; develop approaches for identifying and addressing the problems facing civil and military leaders in African democratizing countries; focus attention on the need for political participation, transparency, and military professionalism; identify the key challenges to enduring civil-military relations by highlighting a comprehensive framework; and demonstrate how national security goals and democracy are advanced by efficient management of civil-military relations.
The Senior Leaders Seminar has been offered since the 1999. The program also includes special sessions on key security issues. This year, the seminar will feature Ambassador Johnnie Carson, Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of African Affairs, Honorable Brownie Samukai Jr, Minister of National Defense of Liberia, and the Ugandan Minister of Defense Dr. Crispus Kiyonga.