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With Mali’s recent coup d’ etat still unfolding, military leaders across Africa must maintain professionalism and stay away from the lure of usurping executive power, a senior Liberian official told a gathering of the continent’s rising security sector leaders on March 30, 2012.
Brownie Samukai, Jr., Liberia’s Minister of National Defense, offered insights gained while helping his country rebuild from its long civil war. He spoke at the conclusion of the Africa Center for Strategic Studies’ (ACSS) Next Generation of African Security Sector Leaders Program.
“Please do not use the knowledge you’ve gained here to enter onto the political stage in your home countries,” Samukai told an audience of 42 military, police, and government officials representing 37 African countries. The participants took part in the three-week ACSS program in the suburbs of Washington, D.C.
“You, as senior officers, have been entrusted with enormous responsibility,” Samukai said. “The military and civilian institutions must be accountable to the civilian population you are trained to protect.”
Brownie Samukai, Jr., Liberia’s Minister of National Defense
Over the course of the ACSS program, participants investigated Africa’s security environment and ways to improve stability, security, and democracy. They analyzed civil-military relations to determine the role and place of security sector professionals in advancing national security in democratizing states. Several discussion sessions, which included leading experts in their respective fields, focused on aspects of human security including public health, economics, and environmental challenges.
To give participants a sense of how the United States shapes and implements foreign and security policies toward Africa, ACSS organized meetings with senior officials from the departments of State and Defense. They also met with United Nations officials to learn more about that organization.
ACSS Deputy Director Michael Garrison congratulated the group on completing a rigorous course that examined ethics, leadership, governance, transnational threats, and other tough issues.
“We challenged you to ask difficult and provocative questions,” he said. “You’ve been the most engaged, talkative leaders we’ve ever had in this course.”
Liberia’s Samukai, a past Africa Center program participant and a longtime friend of the organization, helped his country’s military institute a thorough vetting process, better training programs, and higher standards for prospective service members. He told attendees that they would return to their countries with a bounty of useful information and, perhaps more important, new relationships with those tackling similar problems in neighboring countries.
“The friendships you’ve developed should last you many, many years,” Samukai said. “You’ll be able to pick up the phone and call your friends in other countries and compare notes. I still do it today with my friends in Sierra Leone. The ACSS program allows you to network into the future.”
The Africa Center is the pre-eminent Department of Defense institution for strategic security studies, research, and outreach in Africa. ACSS offers a range of academic symposiums, workshops, and programs throughout Africa, the United States, and Europe. Since 1999, more than 4,500 African and international leaders have participated in ACSS programs.