MBABANE, Swaziland – The essential connections and complex balance between security, development, and good governance were the themes of a daylong symposium attended by more than 50 security and government professionals August 1, 2012, in Mbabane. The event was co-sponsored by the U.S. Embassy and the Kingdom of Swaziland Chapter of the Washington, D.C.,-based Africa Center for strategic Studies (ACSS).
“We are not here to listen only. We are here to contribute,” Swazi parliamentary Senator Edgar Hillary said in opening remarks. “I’m sure that each and every one of us has a vast knowledge on the subjects that are going to be presented here today.” Hillary served as interim president during the first year of the ACSS Swaziland Chapter, which was launched in July 2011.
“Congratulations again on your chapter launch last July,” the Africa Center’s director, Ambassador Mark Bellamy, said in video-taped remarks presented at the symposium.
“Since its establishment 13 years ago, the Africa Center has earned a reputation for academic excellence and for a long-term commitment that we make to our alumni,” Bellamy said. “Our alumni programs are designed to strengthen the strategic capacity of African states to identity security challenges and address them with African-led solutions – solutions that promote civil-military cooperation, respect democratic values, and uphold human rights.”
Africa Center community chapters “provide networking opportunities, a way to engage with our embassies and with Africa Command, and a means to dialogue with senior American military and civilian officials,” Bellamy said.
Holly Mackey, political and economic officer at the US Embassy, said the symposium’s theme of security and development was a timely topic.
“As countries across Africa work to achieve sustainable development through economic growth, good governance, and sound investment, so too do they have the responsibility to provide for the security of their populations and to uphold the rule of law,” Mackey said in opening remarks at the symposium. “Sustainable development is not possible without a secure environment, something that you all know very well. But at the same time, the provision of security should not threaten or undermine democracy or other development goals. So it’s a balance that absolutely must be achieved.” Mackey said.
One year ago, U.S. Ambassador to Swaziland Earl Irving participated in the launch of the ACSS Swaziland Chapter. Irving said the community chapter would, “build on the already strong foundation of security sector collaboration between the United States and Swaziland, and be a forum for current and future security sector leaders to share viewpoints, ideas, and lessons learned.” (See related article.)
Senator Hillary, the interim president, noted in his remarks that the names of Swazi attendees to past Africa Center programs filled nine pages. “I’m sure that all those that have participated at the Center carry very sweet memories of the Center,” Hillary said. “Not just only the accommodation and the facilities that we put at our disposal, but the presentations that were made. I think we all came back much more intelligent in the field of security, good governance, and in other factors.”
After opening remarks by officials from the U.S. Embassy and the Africa Center delegation, Dr. Mathurin C. “Matt” Houngnikpo, the Academic Chair of Civil-Military Relations at ACSS, led academic discussions on the topics of security-sector governance in Africa, and the “security-development nexus.”
Following his presentations, Dr. Houngnikpo moderated discussion that addressed common factors that affect security, including: addressing population growth; wide income gaps; migration pressures; causes of corruption; instilling a culture of public service among security professionals; and ongoing dialogue between security stakeholders such as the military, police, and civil society.
Houngnikpo noted that, traditionally, security is thought of only in terms of military or police forces, but recent research has found that almost all elements of society are involved in and affected by issues related to security.
Participants in the symposium included members of the Umbutfo Swaziland Defense Force and the Royal Swaziland Police Service.
The August 1 symposium was part of the Africa Center’s Topical Outreach Program Series, or TOPS, which allows the Washington, D.C.,-based Africa Center to maintain an active network of relationships with community groups in nations across Africa. Typically, a small academic and outreach team visits nations with active ACSS communities once every one to two years to participate in workshops and symposiums.
Along with Dr. Houngnikpo, the Africa Center delegation in Swaziland included Mr. Vince Crawley, deputy director of communications and community affairs at ACSS, and Ms. Mary McGurn, the ACSS community affairs specialist whose portfolio includes Swaziland.
Members of the ACSS delegation underlined the importance of regular and active consultations with host nation counterparts. In the past half decade, the Africa Center has conducted more than 90 TOPS visits to 35 nations.
On July 31, the U.S. Embassy and ACSS delegation also conducted a half-day workshop with approximately 25 members of the Royal Swaziland Police Service, discussing the roles, missions, and responsibilities of a national police force.
The Africa Center for Strategic Studies is a U.S. Department of Defense institution for security studies, research, and outreach in Africa. 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 Africa Center programs since the Center’s founding in 1999.