After four weeks of rigorous classroom and field studies work taught by African, American, and European experts, 62 military officers representing 38 African nations graduated March 26 from the Africa Center for Strategic Studies’ 2010 Next Generation of African Military Leaders Course.
Begun on March 1, the course provided an opportunity for the officers to gain greater insights into professionalism, ethics, and leadership in African militaries. They examined Africa’s contemporary and emerging security threats and analyzed civil-military relations on the continent to determine the role and place of professional military officers in advancing national security in democratizing states.
With rounds of applause from their classmates and the audience, the officers were awarded graduation certificates at the closing ceremonies held at the Key Bridge Marriott Hotel in Rosslyn, Virginia.
Realizing that all the Next Generation participants have distinguished backgrounds and promising futures, the course’s facilitators chose Senegalese Lieutenant Colonel Mbaye Cisse as the recipient of this year’s General Carlton W. Fulford, Jr., Award. Colonel Cisse’s selection was based on his intellectual achievement, personal values, and leadership potential. General Fulford was the Director of the Africa Center during 2003-2006.
Addressing the officers and congratulating them on their achievement, Africa Center Deputy Director Michael E. Garrison, Colonel, U.S. Army (ret.), said: “Four weeks ago, you were challenged to devote 100 percent of your time and abilities to the academic rigors of this course and a focused commitment to participating in an open and free flowing dialogue as you navigated the course syllabus. You exceeded our expectations. You have shown dedication, determination, esprit de corps, and hard work. And I salute you all.”
Colonel Garrison told the officers they had been chosen by their senior military leadership to represent their countries at the program. He said their participation was not only a reflection of their abilities but also a reflection of their countries’ dedication to advancing towards a safer and more stable Africa.
The Colonel stated that Africa faces many difficulties and despite democracy’s encouraging progress on the African continent, it remains a fact that without strong and effective leadership, healthy civil-military relations, and efficient utilization of scarce resources, Africa is unlikely to achieve the necessary stability to have sustainable development and be an equal partner in today’s global economy.
“While we know you did not, and, in fact, were not expecting you to agree with everything you have heard, read, or saw in Washington,” Colonel Garrison continued, “it is our hope that by exposing you to perhaps new theoretical thinking and practical ways of doing things you will embark on a new path towards your continent’s renewal.”
Stressing that the focus of the course is leadership, he added: “Our goal was to add to the wealth of experience and education you came with in hopes of helping you attain a broader, more diverse understanding of some essential leadership tools and perhaps understand the U.S. a bit better in the process. We hope to have reached that goal.”
Dr. Mathurin Houngnikpo, the Africa Center’s Academic Chair of Civil-Military Relations and faculty lead for the course, also addressed the officers by referring to a listing of criteria he and the faculty used to define the course’s level of success. After reading the participants’ papers and listening to their viewpoints during academic sessions, he called it an “exceptional class, and we are very proud of you.”
Dr. Houngnikpo closed by saying that he hoped the officers were now better prepared to confront the security challenges of their country and Africa by asking the “real questions, or you’ll never get the right answers.”