After four weeks of rigorous classroom and field studies work, 40 officers representing 25 African nations graduated March 25 from the Africa Center for Strategic Studies’ 2011 Next Generation of African Security Sector Leaders Course at the Sheraton Hotel Crystal City in Arlington, Virginia.
Conducted in English and French, the course provided the participants–mid-level African officers, mostly majors and lieutenant colonels in the army, police, and gendarmerie—with practical and effective tools upon which they could draw to contribute to the enhancement of their nations’ security and development. The officers deepened their knowledge about professionalism, ethics, and leadership in the security sector.
With rounds of applause from their classmates and the audience, Ambassador William M. Bellamy (ret.), Africa Center Director; John Kelly, Ph.D., Associate Dean; and Professor Mathurin C. Houngnikpo, Academic Chair of Civil-Military Relations and faculty lead for the course, presented graduation certificates the officers.
The course featured lectures by experts in the military, security, government, and civil society sectors. There were extensive reading assignments, homework, and writing a comprehensive paper that the officers then defended orally in small group sessions.
Participants went on trips to and met with senior officials at the Pentagon, U.S. Department of State, Congress, the Supreme Court, Gettysburg National Military Park, the Army War College, and the United Nations. There were also relationship-building daily meals and coffee breaks among participants and attended by facilitators and guests.
In his remarks, Ambassador Bellamy said: “Congratulations to all of you. You have worked hard these past four weeks. You have traveled widely these past four weeks. Hopefully, you have gained insights. You have gained some knowledge. You have gained some ideas that you can take back and apply when you return to your professions in your home countries.
“I hope, too, that all of you in this Next Generation of Africa Leaders Seminar have formed bonds with your fellow participants and with others here; with our facilitators, with our presenters, and with our ACSS staff. Bonds that will endure well into the future.
“If you walk away from this seminar with nothing else, I would hope you will have at least gained a much sharper appreciation of the challenges that our governments and our nations face, and of the fact that those challenges are very rarely ones we can address successfully by acting alone.
“International cooperation is vital. International cooperation is essential. And unless we as nations work together and succeed together, we are condemned to struggle and to fail acting alone.”
Professor Houngnikpo said: “Leadership has been the missing link, so we looked at the role of leadership throughout the course. We worked to convey the principle that security leaders must serve the people of their nation and be faithful to their country’s constitution.”
Following the ceremony, participants stressed that they looked forward to using the principles they learned in the course once they returned home. An officer remarked, “The most important principle I am taking out of this is the primacy of the rule of law and a sharper understanding that militaries don’t just serve governments but the nation’s peoples in the broadest sense.”
With the word “transformative” repeated by several officers, one said: “The important key for me was understanding the scope of the challenge for all of us and our citizens in transforming the way things are done so our countries will be better. Now I know not only the importance of thinking and planning ahead, but also different means to accomplish and implement effective plans.”
Another participants pointed out: “I am leaving this place with more knowledge which gives me a chance to share all I’ve learned with my colleagues back home. I have been exposed to a better way of doing my work and that even in my mid-level position as a leader I am in a position of influencing and transforming change.”