Dar es Salaam – The Africa Center for Strategic Studies, based in Washington, D.C., co-hosted the 5th U.S. Africa Command Academic Symposium in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, July 9-12, 2012. The event, conducted in partnership with the U.S. Embassy in Dar es Salaam, was also attended by General Carter F. Ham, commander of U.S. AFRICOM, and by Ambassador Alfonso E. Lenhardt, U.S. Ambassador to Tanzania.
Approximately 45 academic professionals from Africa, Europe, and the United States – with expertise in African security-related subjects – were attending the symposium. The goals of the event included soliciting input and engaging in dialogue on how the U.S. military can best support peace and stability on the African continent, as well as to increase understanding of the U.S. Africa Command and the role of the U.S. military in Africa among academic communities that work in and with Africa.
“I believe the symposium will enhance our ability to cooperate on shared security challenges,” said Major General Leonard Mndeme of the Tanzania Peoples’ Defence Forces, who also spoke at the opening ceremony. “We are all in this together.”
Ham, the commander of U.S. Africa Command, also spoke at the July 9 opening of the symposium.
“I think it is important to have this dialogue,” Ham said, “and for us military personnel to listen, to learn, to widen our thinking, and to look at problem-solving from a non-military perspective. And that’s what this audience provides.”
Under the theme “African Perspectives and the Africa Security Environment: Challenges and Opportunities,” the symposium has engaged academic professionals whose expertise includes history, political science, security studies, civil-military relations and conflict management. Participants were assessing U.S. Africa Command’s support of democratic civil-military relations in Africa and discussing challenges to the command in building security-sector capacity on the continent. Also scheduled was a session on how the African Union is responding to challenges in Somalia, as well as discussion of cooperation between the U.S. military and the academic community on countering violent extremism in East Africa.
Ambassador Lenhardt of the U.S. Embassy said that as Africans seek better futures for their children, “vigilance and preparedness are necessary to identify and defeat threats to national security worldwide.” Within the region, he added, security threats include violent extremism in nearby Horn of Africa.
“Violent extremism — and the challenges that accompany this ideology — crosses borders and poses a real concern not only for East Africa, but the entire African continent, and indeed the world,” Lenhardt said. “ It affects economies. It impacts African the livelihoods of farmers, fishermen, and families. It impacts the potential for children to get an education safely and securely, and to reach their potential in life.”
Addressing these challenges requires “a coordinated effort — between the academic, security, and diplomatic communities,” Lenhardt said.
The academic symposium in Tanzania builds upon previous engagements with African academic communities. Previous symposia included: June 2008 in Leesburg, Virginia; August 2009 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; April 2010 in Stuttgart, Germany; and July 2010 in Dakar, Senegal.