The opening ceremony for the Africa Center for Strategic Studies’ 2011 Next Generation of African Security Sector Leaders Course was held Mar. 1 at the Sheraton Hotel Crystal City in Arlington, Virginia. Forty mid-level African officers, mostly majors and lieutenant colonels (army, police, and gendarmerie) representing 25 African nations are attending the course.
Conducted in English, French, and Portuguese, the four-week program continues through Mar. 25; it is providing the participants with practical and effective tools upon which they can draw to contribute to the enhancement of their nations’ security and development. The officers are deepening their knowledge on professionalism, ethics, and leadership in the security sector.
Professor Mathurin C. Houngnikpo, Academic Chair of Civil-Military Relations at the Africa Center and faculty lead for the course, said the course material and speakers are focusing on the discussion of governance, leadership, and ethics in the context of issues relating to civil-military relations, security/terrorism studies, and defense economics.
In his opening and welcoming remarks, Ambassador William M. Bellamy (ret.), Africa Center Director, said the timing of this year’s course was especially appropriate for a workshop devoted to the issue of military leadership.
“Across Africa, and indeed through areas adjacent to Africa,” he said, “we are today witnessing historic events. An upheaval that began with a single individual’s protest against injustice, a small act magnified many times over by the power of modern social media, is still unfolding.
“Citizens have claimed their rights. Long-serving political leaders have been expelled from office. Existing political orders have been challenged, shaken to their foundations, and uncertainty reigns as to what will replace them. But even now, it should be clear to us that in moments of crises such as those we are now witnessing, certain basic rules regarding appropriate military conduct must apply. And foremost among those rules is that modern, professional militaries cannot function as the agents of a ruler, or a ruling family, or ruling elite.
“Militaries do not serve families, or clans, or tribes or factions. They do not serve parties. They do not even serve governments. They serve the nation, in its broadest sense. They serve and protect the public. And for militaries to play this role, they must do within a legal and constitutional framework that has broad legitimacy.
“What is clear is that it is incumbent on the military that serves the nation to do everything possible to ensure public safety, to ensure public order, and to ensure a quick restoration of legitimate civilian authority. It is never the business of militaries to supplant civilian leaders–to govern.”
Vice Admiral Ann Rondeau, U.S. Navy, President of National Defense University, told the audience that the “Ambassador (Bellamy) proposed a number of ideas to all of us to think about. I would ask you do you agree with him? And it’s okay if you don’t. What is important is to have this dialogue and to understand what we actually understand about ourselves and our nations.
“Leaders matter. Leaders’ intellectual development is critical. So we will hear from the General (Mgwebi) about important things that are happening in South Africa and his views of the continent and leadership.
“Leadership is about influencing people to do something, to drive toward an object with a goal. We see so much in the way of different kinds of reactions by citizens in response to demands to be led well. The time is now ripe for great leaders to lead their countries.”
Keynote speaker Lieutenant General Derick Mgwebi, Chief Human Resources, South African National Defence Force, said to the officers that Africa was their home and they needed to “cherish our home by transforming our societies for the better. This can only be done through excellent leadership.
“For us as military leaders, we must focus firstly on driving the process of professionalizing our own armed forces, re-modelling and re-positioning our armed forces, to be aligned with the principles and demands of democratic societies. We must exert influence beyond the domain of the armed forces, in creating favourable conditions for, as well as directly supporting the reform of our entire societies.
“For these responsibilities, we, as military officers, are to be well educated across the entire spectrum of aspects impacting on the expanded concept of security and above all we need to be professional and ethical in all of our conduct.
“I have full confidence in the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, through this course, to provide you with a unique opportunity here in Washington, to enhance your knowledge and skills on how best to deal with our security and development challenges in Africa.
“You are the next generation of African military leaders. Grab this opportunity to prepare you for this responsibility. Work hard on this course and make the most of each opportunity given here, for your own development.
Your country and Africa at large need you as a well educated, professional and ethical military leader, to lead the way to security and prosperity.”