LILONGWE, Malawi – In partnership with the U.S. Embassy in Lilongwe, the Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) conducted an academic symposium July 25-26, 2012, on the topic of civil-military relations in a democracy, an important topic in Malawi, which underwent a lawful change of leadership in April when Vice President Joyce Banda assumed the presidency following the unexpected death of President Bingu wa Mutharika. The Africa Center symposium also marked the launch of the ACSS Community Chapter in Malawi.
The creation of the Africa Center Malawi Chapter “marks an important milestone in the security sector for Malawi,” said Patrick V. Kachimera, Secretary of National Defence, who spoke at the symposium’s opening ceremony July 25.
Because Africa Center programs bring together professionals from across government sectors and civil society, Kachimera suggested the chapter could be used as a “conduit for institution-building in Malawi.” He added that he hoped the Africa Center chapter and its programs would continue to “encourage a culture of professionalism” within the security sector, as well as build greater trust between government agencies and between government and civil sectors.
Both days’ sessions were attended by approximately 50 people representing numerous sectors, including the Ministry of National Defence, the National Intelligence Bureau, the Malawi Police Service, the Ministry of Health, a member of Parliament, academic and media professionals, representatives of non-government organizations, and officials from the U.S. Embassy.
The Malawi Chapter became the Africa Center’s 31st chapter. ACSS chapters are intended to nurture the exchange of ideas within nations and regions, as well as between host nations and U.S. government representatives.
During the ACSS meetings in Lilongwe, Brigadier General Rodrick Chimowa was elected president of the ACSS Malawi Chapter. “Working together we can achieve great things,” Chimowa said. He added that the Malawi government’s support of the ACSS Chapter would contribute to Malawians developing increasingly effective approaches to national and regional security issues.
The sudden heart attack and death of President Wa Mutharika in April led to a temporary constitutional crisis in Malawi before his death was formally announced and, in accordance with the constitution of Malawi, President Joyce Banda, who was serving as vice president, was sworn in as the nation’s first female president. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in a July statement marking Malawi’s national day, said that “over recent months, Malawi has demonstrated an impressive commitment to the rule of law and democracy.” Ambassador Jeanine Jackson, the U.S. ambassador to Malawi, also has applauded the actions of the Malawi Defence Force for its actions during the presidential transition, saying the MDF “served as a model of what a professional military should do in a democracy.”
Speaking at the July 25 opening ceremony of the Africa Center event, Lisa Vickers, the Chargé d’Affaires at the U.S. Embassy in Lilongwe, also praised the professionalism of the Malawi Defence Force during the presidential transition and spoke of the “deep” partnership between the United States and Malawi. The establishment of the Africa Center chapter in Malawi, she said, would contribute to cross-sector relationships and cooperation between government and civil society. “Sustainable solutions grow from diverse opinions,” Vickers said.
Vickers also highlighted the new U.S. Strategy for Sub-Saharan Africa, announced in June by President Obama. The policy sets forth four strategic objectives for U.S. engagement in Africa: (1) strengthening democratic institutions; (2) spurring economic growth, trade, and investment; (3) advancing peace and security; and (4) promoting opportunity and development.
The Africa Center for Strategic Studies is a U.S. Department of Defense institution for security studies, research, and outreach in Africa. The Washington, D.C.,-based Africa Center sent a three-person academic and outreach delegation to the Malawi Chapter launch, including U.S. Colonel Saul Bracero, deputy chief of staff for ACSS, and Dr. Mathurin C. Houngnikpo, the Academic Chair of Civil-Military Relations at ACSS.
Africa Center programs and symposiums gather perspectives and recommendations from a cross-section of international security-sector officials, public servants, and civil-society representatives. Thousands of security, government, and civil-society professionals from across Africa have attended African Center programs since the Center’s founding in 1999. Prior to the July 25-26 symposium, approximately 60 Malawians from across diverse sectors participated in ACSS academic programs.
The July 25-26 event in Lilongwe was part of the Africa Center’s Topical Outreach Program Series (TOPS), which allow ACSS chapters and alumni to remain actively involved in regional security discussions. ACSS had conducted more than 90 TOPS visits to 35 African countries.