The event took place Jan. 23 during a reception at the residence of Eric D. Benjaminson, U.S. Ambassador to Gabon and Sao Tome & Principe, with about 80 people attending. Newly appointed Minister of Defense Pacome OdZounga attended and delivered remarks.
According to Amelia Carvalho, Africa Center Community Affairs Specialist, following remarks and presentations, Africa Center Director Ambassador William M. Bellamy (ret.), Ambassador Benjaminson, and H.E. OdZounga participated in a press conference where the media was particularly interested in the role the chapter will play in addressing pertinent security issues such as maritime security. H.E. OdZounga answered questions regarding the chapter’s mission and its role with the Africa Center and the local government.
The following day the community chapter members held a strategic planning meeting and general assembly at the Ministry of Defense. Twenty community members attended. Joining them were Lieutenant Colonel John Aalborgm, U.S. Defense Attaché to Gabon; Ms. Carvalho; Colonel Xavier Collignon, Senior French Representative to the Africa Center; and Elisabeth Feleke, Regional Program Manager for West Africa for the Africa Center’s West Africa office in Dakar, Senegal.
Community members at the general assembly held an election for its executive committee and reviewed their by-laws and constitution. All present were given the opportunity to ask questions and propose edits to the document. Clarifications were made for levels of membership such as honorary members and vetted Africa Center community members.
Ms. Carvalho said “the level of organization and enthusiasm among the community members may place the Gabonese chapter among the strongest chapters.”
She added that community members have “everything in place including enormous government support, a diverse board and membership, and great synergy among the members as far as organization and planning.”
The Africa Center “community” is a global network of professionals who have participated in various Africa Center programs. While other institutions use terms like “alumni,” the Africa Center prefers to call these individuals “community members” to reinforce the long-term and mutually rewarding relationships between the Africa Center and its community throughout the world. The Africa Center works to maintain and enhance the relationships forged during its programs through a variety of efforts.
In many African countries, community members have organized to form their own associations in order to have a mechanism for continuing dialogue and networking events. Chapters can develop formalized programs of their own or simply provide members a venue to meet regularly and share thoughts and ideas with U.S. officials and colleagues in their country or region.
Go to http://africacenter.org/community/ to learn more about community members and community chapters.