Africa Center’s Topical Outreach Program Comes to Mali

By Africa Center for Strategic Studies
Updated: 11/09/2009

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The Community Chapter in Mali welcomed two members of the Africa Center’s faculty and staff when they visited Bamako Oct. 22-25 to deliver a Topical Outreach Program (TOPS) symposium entitled “Emerging Security Challenges in Africa.”

In addition to the symposium, Dr. Mathurin Houngnikpo, the Africa Center’s Academic Chair of Civil-Military Relations, and Mary McGurn, Community Affairs Specialist, conducted a Community Chapter capacity-building workshop and attended several meetings with Malian government and U.S. Embassy officials.

The capacity-building workshop, a new Africa Center outreach initiative, is intended to equip Community Members with tools and ideas for increasing Community Chapter dynamism. According to Ms. McGurn, it is not by coincidence that Mali’s Community Members are the first to pioneer the capacity-building workshop concept. In 2004, they also were the first to establish an Africa Center Community Chapter.

TOPS is the Africa Center’s flagship program for maintaining active, positive, and substantive Center relationships with communities of interest, referred to as “Community Members.” TOPS also strives to increase efforts to reach non-traditional audiences in Africa and to expand on the Africa Center’s presence on the continent in countries not visited through other Center programs. The Africa Center currently boasts 22 Community Chapters across Africa, with several new chapters envisioned.

 During the Mali TOPS symposium, Dr. Houngnikpo addressed the connections between the military and a nation-state and led discussions about the different actors and elements involved in the democratic process. More than 65 participants attended the TOPS, to include Mali Community Members, representatives from branches of the Malian security forces, government civilians, members of Parliament, and officials from local non-governmental organizations.

Following Dr. Houngnikpo’s presentations, the Mali Chapter called its members together to elect a new Executive Committee.

Ms. McGurn said the newly-elected Executive Committee is composed of 16 Community Chapter members, comprising civilians and military officials, several of whom were representatives from the original 2004 Executive Committee, as well as Community Members who have joined the Africa Center family within the past year.

“Sparked by deliberations during the TOPS symposium,” Ms. McGurn explained, “the Mali Community Chapter is developing plans to provide a series of briefings for members of the Malian Parliament, presenting information for more effective democratic control over the armed forces. Under the leadership of Brigadier General Lansina Koné, the newly-elected Executive Committee is poised to build upon the success of the TOPS and strive to further accomplish the Chapter’s mission.”

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