Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) staff members, Dr. Mathurin Houngnikpo, Mr. Bradley Anderson and Ms. Emily Renard were in Gaborone in mid-September to take part in the Botswana alumni chapter’s symposium on environmental challenges to the country’s security.
More than 100 Botswana civilian and military leaders and their US counterparts attended the September 19 conference, which was part of ACSS’s community chapter Topical Outreach Program Series (TOPS).
ACSS community member Augustine Makgonatsotlhe, Permanent Secretary at the Office of the President, opened the symposium by saying he was focused on engaging with civil society and improving citizens’ understanding of the military. He applauded the ACSS chapter for being a forum of debate and called its evolving maturity a sign of Botswana’s healthy democracy.
For her part, US Ambassador Michelle Gavin praised the professionalism of the Botswana Defence Force in executing its duties for the betterment of the whole nation.
The alumni chapter’s executive committee decided to devote the day’s major presentations to environmental challenges to stability and national security.
The audience first heard from the Institute for Security Studies’ Dr. Wilson Kipkore on the mounting concerns of climate change, natural disasters and food insecurity threatening the nation. He focused on the dangers inherent in competition for scarce water, saying that nations need to bolster regulations governing water allocation and use but, more importantly, must work to enforce the rules inside their own borders and regionally. He called on Africans to include the safeguarding of infrastructure and the environment when endeavoring in peacekeeping operations around the continent.
Later, ACSS’s academic chair of civil-military relations, Dr. Mathurin C. Houngnikpo, spoke about how leaders could better address environmental and security issues if they worked across borders to form regional collaborations.
The lectures sparked an energetic and frank discussion by attendees about the role of sustainable development and energy generation in the context of Botswana, environmental crimes, and the possibilities of regional cooperation. Many said they had never thought of environmental issues as security concerns. They decided that alumni must become advocates for environmental protection within the government of Botswana and in regional associations.
The chapter’s leadership said the Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security voiced hopes that the alumni organization would act as a bridge between generations, creating a platform for retired senior military and civilian officers to stay engaged and offer guidance to active leaders on the country’s security issues.
The ACSS community chapter Topical Outreach Program Series is the organization’s flagship initiative for maintaining active, positive and substantive Africa Center relationships with ACSS community members, expanding on efforts to reach non-traditional audiences in Africa, and continuing Africa Center academic programming on the continent in countries not visited through other formal ACSS programs. TOPS are run in 29 ACSS community chapters throughout Africa.
The Africa Center for Strategic Studies is the premier agency of the United States charged with advancing U.S. security interests in Africa through the development of a self-sustaining, networked and empowered community of current and future African security sector leaders.