Sudan and Somalia were the principal topics of discussion at a well-attended roundtable forum held Jan. 13 at the Africa Center with principal guests H.E. Ambassador Mona Omar, Egyptian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs for Africa and Ahmed Abu Zeid, Minister-Counselor at the Egyptian Embassy in Washington, D.C.
The gathering supported several of the Africa Center’s goals in advancing U.S. security cooperation in Africa. Ambassador Omar and Mr. Zeid described in detail Egypt’s policies in Africa, pointing to a range of shared values and common interests with the United States.
Africa Center Director Ambassador William M. Bellamy (ret.) welcomed Ambassador Omar and Mr. Zeid, and introduced to the participants Kate Almquist, Adjunct Professor and Senior Fellow at the Africa Center, and Andre LeSage, PhD, Counter-Terrorism Fellow at National Defense University’s Institute of National Security Studies.
Ms. Almquist presented an overview of Sudan and the Horn of Africa, focusing on the status of the referendum in Southern Sudan. She spoke to the likely outcome of the voting and remaining issues dealing with oil resources and treaties and commitments a new nation of Southern Sudan would have to likely confront.
She also highlighted other matters in the region such as natural resources, to include the sharing of water from the Nile, and the ongoing crisis in Darfur. Ms. Almquist said the U.S. and international community continue to grapple with how to address the violence in Darfur, and described how the U.S. was dealing with the government of Northern Sudan over Darfur and the looming post-referendum period in the South.
Dr. LeSage, a former counter-terrorism professor at the Africa Center, turned the group’s attention to Somalia, which he said was experiencing the 20th anniversary of the “collapse” of the Somali state.
He spoke about U.S. policy towards Somalia in the ensuing years, touching on combating terrorism, regional stability, and resulting refugee issues impacting Kenya and Uganda. Dr. LeSage pointed to added challenges of humanitarian issues due to poor harvests and Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government’s (TFG) demonstrating little progress towards bringing unity and order to the country. He talked about the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and the uncertainties that lie ahead once the mandate for the TFG expires in August.
Dr. LeSage spoke at length about the expansion of Al-Shabaab through Somalia’s tribal system and solidifying itself in many towns, as well as the organization’s growing cooperation with Al-Qaeda. He remarked about the needed international response to Somalia and Al-Shabaab and the U.S. “dual track strategy.”
At the conclusion of Ms. Almquist’s and Dr. LeSage’s presentations, Ambassador Omar said how pleased she was to have received the invitation to attend the roundtable discussion and welcomed the opportunity to share views and perspectives and especially to listen to what the group had to share.
She said she wanted to discuss her nation’s foreign policy, calling Africa Egypt “home.” She cited the example of the 5 million Sudanese living in Egypt, who have had an impact on Egypt’s foreign policy with the expectancy of an influx of more refugees. The Ambassador called Sudan a top priority for Egypt, along with three other priorities: actively working with nine neighboring countries in the region dealing with the issue of water resources from the Nile River basin; security issues in the Sahel and countering radical extremists; and the maintenance of economic ties bilaterally across Africa and with regional organizations.
Ambassador Bellamy moderated a question-and-answer period for the remainder of the roundtable. Topics included Egypt’s and the African Union’s role on the continent; UN peacekeeping operations in Cote d’Ivoire and the Democratic Republic of the Congo; peacekeeping force compositions in Africa and mandates issued by the Security Council; repercussions of WikiLeaks; and the difficulties achieving reconciliation in Somalia in the face of tribal/clan competition.
Other roundtable participants included:
- - Ambassador Joyce Barr, Diplomatic Advisor, Industrial College of the Armed Forces
- - Kamal Beyoghlow, PhD, Professor of Security Studies, and Middle East, North Africa, and Islamic Studies at the National War College
- - Colonel Michael Garrison, U.S. Army (ret.), Africa Center Deputy Director
- - Carolyn Haggis, PhD, Academic Chair, Researcher and Analyst, Africa Center
- - John Kelly, PhD, Africa Center Associate Dean
- - Assis Malaquias, PhD, Academic Chair for Defense Economics, Africa Center
- - Colonel Gene McConville, U.S. Army, Senior Military Advisor, Academic Affairs, Africa Center
- - Vice Admiral Robert Moeller, U.S. Navy (ret.), Senior Fellow for Defense Policy, Africa Center
- - Ambassador Dan Mozena, National War College Distinguished Professor
- - Ambassador Richard Norland, National War College Diplomatic Advisor
- - Emily Renard, Africa Center Community Affairs Specialist
- - Colonel Bob Sharp (ret.), Military Advisor, Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies