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The Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) held the Official Opening Ceremony for its Senior Leaders Seminar (SLS) on June 6 in Arlington, VA. The seminar (June 5-17) will provide a forum for senior-level military officers and civilian officials from Africa, the U.S., and Europe, as well as representatives from international and regional organizations, to review and analyze the evolving African security environment and to discuss strategies for addressing challenges and for enhancing Africa’s security. Sixty-five participants from thirty-seven countries are attending the event.
Addressing the participants in his welcoming speech, Africa Center Director Ambassador William Bellamy (ret.) pointed out that the SLS has a special place in ACSS programs because it is the longest running program of the Africa Center. He also emphasized the changes throughout Africa over the past decade: strong economic growth, decline in conflicts, and an increasing number of transnational crimes, to name a few. While Ambassador Bellamy acknowledged that there are numerous security challenges facing the continent, he also pointed out that there are many reasons for optimism. “We have all come a long way since 1999, when the Africa Center began, and I am pleased that twelve years later, we are still here, talking to each other.”
In her keynote address, Ambassador Vicki Huddleston, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for African Affairs, said first and foremost, “It is a great pleasure and honor to speak to senior leaders from all across Africa.” She went on in her speech to provide an overview of the state of security in Africa, and assess the relationship between civilian governments and the security sector in Africa, explaining that this relationship is important to security, human rights, and democracy.
Ambassador Huddleston also discussed the Arab Spring and its implications for the rest of the continent. She reminded the audience that General Carter Ham had been the Commander of the U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) for only two weeks when the international engagement in Libya began. Even with such a short lead time, General Ham successfully set up a mission aimed to enforce the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973 allowing the multinational coalition to protect civilians and implement a no-fly zone. Ambassador Huddleston pointed out that General Ham’s action as commander of Operation Odyssey Dawn, the international military operation in Libya, was a bold example of how a senior leader can show courage and dedication while completing his mission.
One of the participants said the talks by Ambassadors Bellamy and Huddleston were especially inspiring. “We need to hear more of this kind of lecture. But, we also need to have more opportunities like this one to share our views and experiences about our problems,” she said.
ACSS launched the Senior Leaders Seminar series in 1999 as a means for senior-level Africans and their international partners to reflect collectively on the key strategic challenges Africa faces in the security realm. Through the Senior Leaders Seminar, the Africa Center seeks to promote critical analysis and a spirit of cooperation and partnership in addressing Africa’s current and emerging security challenges. These seminars provide a forum for senior military and civilian leaders from across the continent to share their experiences and work toward joint solutions to their common security problems.
For more information regarding the Africa Center and its programs, please visit www.africacenter.org.