The U.S. government believes a professional and accountable security sector will benefit Africa’s safety and governance, Dr. Reuben Brigety II, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Regional Security Affairs, told an assembly of security sector leaders June 22, 2012. Brigety was the featured speaker at a special plenary on security sector reform at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) flagship Senior Leaders Seminar. This year’s two-week seminar was taking place June 18-29 at in Arlington, Virginia.
Brigety tied his speech to the new “U.S. Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa,” released by the White House on June 14. He focused his remarks on the first strategic pillar set forth in the presidential policy document: Strengthening democratic institutions.
“Strengthening the security apparatus without doing the same for the political often leads to disaster,” said Brigety. “It is important that security sector leaders report to democratically elected civilians.”
To illustrate his argument, Brigety reminded the audience that on April 5, 2012, when Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika died, there were reports of an attempted coup intended to prevent vice-president Joyce Banda from becoming president as outlined by the constitution. The military stepped in and vowed to support and uphold the constitution of Malawi. This level of professionalism had a direct impact on the smooth transition of power. Brigety expressly applauded the commander of the Malawi Defence Force, General Henry Odillo, for his leadership and loyalty at that challenging time.
Brigety also pointed out two important aspects for successful security sector reform. It must be (1) comprehensive; it must include judiciary sector and correction facilities and (2) multitiered—countries must be willing to work with international partners.
“A security sector reform that follows those steps must provide the basis for a secure society,” said Brigety, “and a secure society paves the ground for economic growth.”
Brigety said the U.S. government is committed to improving the security sector in Africa and will provide ideas and assistance, – on both programs and policy — to whomever expresses the request.
“If any of you need assistance for reviewing, upgrading your security sector apparatus, the U.S. government is ready to assist you,” he told the audience.
The two-week Senior Leaders Seminar provided a forum for senior-level military officers and civilian officials from Africa, the United States, 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 enhancing Africa’s security.
Amanda J. Dory, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for African Affairs, gave the keynote address at the opening ceremony. Ambassador Johnnie Carson, Assistant Secretary State for African Affairs, and General Carter F. Ham, Commander—U.S. Africa Command , also spoke to seminar participants.
Article by Serge Yondou, communications specialist for the Africa Center for Strategic Studies.