• ‘Resetting US-Africa Relations’ – ACSS International Chapter Meets with Pentagon Deputy for African Affairs

    By Paul Nantulya, Africa Center for Strategic Studies DAS-D Dory meets with ACSS International ChapterAddis Ababa, Ethiopia — The ACSS International Alumni Chapter, based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, recently met with Ms. Amanda Dory, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for African Affairs, for an exchange of views on African peace and security and U.S.–Africa defense relations. The meeting, facilitated by the Addis Ababa-based, ACSS Regional Office for East Africa in Addis Ababa, brought together a select group of alumni and community members: Ambassador Olusegun Akinsanya, Director of the Addis Ababa Office of the South Africa–based Institute for Security Studies (ISS); Mr. Samuel Assefa, Resident Representative of the Africa Capacity Building Foundation and Former Ethiopian Ambassador to the United States; Mr. Tamrat Kebede, Executive Director of the Inter Africa Group (IAG); Professor Gebru Tarekegn, an African military historian; and Dr. Solomon Ayele Dersso, a Senior Researcher in the Peace and Security Council Program of the ISS. The meeting took place in late February.

    Democracy and Governance Issues

    Alumni members raised serious concerns about the political crises in Mali and South Sudan. The U.S., in their view, needed to craft more proactive policies based on balancing the need for short- to medium-term security assistance and conflict resolution while working with partners to support mechanisms to address deeper underlying grievances. Institution building, social development, transfer of skills and applicable technologies, and expansion of education needed to be prioritized as part of a comprehensive partnership, they said. U.S. assistance is perceived as militarily-focused, the group said, a perception that persists despite the vast amount of development work that the United States supports through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), U.S. Africa Development Foundation (USADF), Overseas Private Investment Cooperation (OPIC), and the Power Africa Initiative (PAI), among others. A strong case was made for these instruments to be better coordinated and leveraged so as to support diplomacy, development, and defense more comprehensively and to increase the added value of American strategic engagement. Members also noted that a significant amount of patience is required in resolving protracted conflicts such as has occurred in South Sudan, because even in the best of circumstances it takes time to heal the root causes of violence and to build resilient, transparent, and truly democratic institutions and systems. Africa, they noted, is not unique in this regard.

    Military assistance

    Much more needs to be done to develop more proactive and strategically-focused defense relations between Africa and the United States, the Chapter members said. Alumni members observed that too often, African and U.S. partners do not align their interests beyond narrow national security issues, as a result of which the broader U.S.-Africa engagement lacks depth, local African ownership, and longer term vision on the part of both American and African partners. Members suggested that U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) programs need to be more closely aligned to support the evolving African Peace and Security Architecture at the central level in Addis Ababa, site of the African Union headquarters, and the regional level among the Regional Economic Communities (RECS). Because African conflicts are deeply rooted in social cleavages, as well as a lack of strong institutions and uneven development, the application of combat power, though useful, is insufficient in bringing sustainable African development, the Chapter members said. Other instruments of national power, including development, economic support, trade and investment, and the provision of technical expertise in conflict resolution, also should be applied, they said. With regard to hard security, members urged the United States to focus on providing niche capabilities such as airlift, surveillance, and reconnaissance, but also advised the DOD to pay attention to improving the quality of professional military education on the continent. Much of this will depend greatly on the degree to which African military systems adapt the training that African military professionals receive in the United States to their own local conditions. Prof. Tarekegn, the historian whose book on Eritrean military history was published by Yale University Press, made the case for the for a better understanding among African and U.S. partners about each other’s strategic and military cultures so as to strengthen understanding at all levels of the U.S.-Africa defense partnership.

    The African Union

    The AU structures were discussed at length. The ISS produces the Annual Review of the AU Peace and Security Council, a product that captures policy, institutional, and operational issues in the Council and which could be a useful tool for DOD planners and policy makers, Chapter members said. Participants also urged American and African partners to incorporate civil society, media, and academia in defense programs and discussions so as to promote greater African awareness and ownership of the AU’s evolving architecture. Cases in point include the role of ISS and other non-governmental organizations, such as the Africa Center for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD), in developing the AU’s Civilian Peacekeeping Doctrine, as well as the AU’s mediation capability. Finally the meeting discussed the need to improve decision making in the African Peace and Security Council (APSC). The principle of consensus in decision making at times constrains the ability of countries to take on more robust leadership when required. The alumni community members also urged African nations to take more seriously the challenge of sourcing domestic funding for Africa’s peace and security operations. The ACSS International Chapter brings together African military and civilian leaders who have participated in various Africa Center programs since its founding in 1999. ACSS is the pre-eminent Department of Defense (DOD) institution for strategic security studies, research and outreach in Africa. The Africa Center engages African partner states and institutions through rigorous academic and outreach programs that build strategic capacity and foster long – term, collaborative relationships. Over the past 15 years, more than 6,000 African and international leaders have participated in over 200 ACSS programs
  • Message from the Acting Director on the Africa Center's 15th Anniversary

    dakar_1999 Colleagues and partners, The Africa Center marks its 15th anniversary this year, and I want to personally thank our participants, alumni, and stakeholders, our staff past and present, and the U.S. and African security professionals who have worked together over the past decade and a half to help build for us, one day at a time, the extraordinary reputation for excellence that we enjoy today. The Africa Center is unique among the five Department of Defense regional centers in that its creation was announced by a U.S. president (President Clinton during a visit to Senegal in 1998) as part of a comprehensive national security strategy. The Africa Center opened for business in rented offices in early 1999 and conducted its first academic program, the inaugural Senior Leaders Seminar, in Dakar, Senegal, in October 1999. Today, we occupy three historic buildings at the National Defense University on Fort McNair and conduct over 40 multi-lateral and bi-lateral academic, outreach and research programs annually. Our initial years were focused on extensive consultation with U.S. and African security practitioners, developing rigorous academic programs which addressed contemporary security challenges, and developing trust with our African partners. Starting in 2002 the center expanded program offerings and focused on more thematic security challenges such as Counter Terrorism, Civil Military Relations and Security Sector Resource Management. In 2006 we expanded the alumni network and establish formal Alumni Community Chapters. Our first chapter was launched in 2003 and today we have 33 formal Alumni chapters in Africa. Starting in 2008 we refocused academic programming functionally to address priorities while maintaining core foundational programs. We also established the Research Department to produce policy-relevant, evidence-based analysis by ACSS faculty and outside experts, primarily African voices. We also established the Topical Outreach Program Symposia as the primary bilateral alumni engagement program, extending our thematic security program dialogue with our alumni. Since mid-2012, the Center rebalanced all activities, to include alumni engagement, on core priorities and established the Center's capstone program, the African Executive Dialogue. We also started developing strategic partnerships with African universities and security studies centers with the intent to enhance program development and execution. During the last year, the Center added a new mission to support the Department of State's African Military Education Program. Currently, ACSS is facilitating, and synchronizing, U.S. support to African professional military education programs in six different African nations. Additionally, over the past year, we expanded our use of new technologies to support our resident and non-resident programing as well as heightened the gender balance in our programing participant requirements. Throughout these 15 years we have stressed and continued to ensure consistency and academic rigor in our programming, maintaining extensive consultation with African partners, and conducting all programs in a non attribution environment. We've been on a remarkable journey for the past 15 years, and we at the Africa Center and looking forward to taking our partnership forward into a even more remarkable journey. — Michael Garrison, Acting Director Garrison-245x300
  • Africa Center Hosts Outreach Symposium with Zambia Partners

    By Paul Nantulya, Africa Center for Strategic Studies P1010985LUSAKA, Zambia — The Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) in collaboration with the U.S. Embassy, Dag Hammarskjöld Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies (DHIPS) and the ACSS Zambia Community hosted a Topical Outreach Program Series (TOPS) Symposium in Lusaka, Zambia, on March 25–27, 2014. Three symposia were held: the first, held on March 25, discussed the African Union (AU) architecture and emerging patterns of insecurity in the Southern African Development Community (SADC); the second, conducted on March 26, focused on national security and security sector reform and the third, held on March 27, discussed collaboration between the military and police in security sector reform. Each of these seminars brought together about 60 mid- to senior-level military, civilian and police professionals from the Ministries of Defense and Foreign Affairs, Zambian Army, Air force, Zambia National Service and Zambia Police, Professionals from United Nations (UN) agencies, academia, and non-governmental organizations. The seminar on the African Union, which was held at the U.S. Embassy in Lusaka, examined the evolution of the African Union Peace and Security Architecture (APSA) and SADC’s role in it. Dr. Njunga-Michael Mulikita, a Senior Lecturer at the Dag Hammarskjöld Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies (DHIPS), traced the development of the Southern African Peace and Security Architecture to the 1992 Windhoek Treaty establishing the Southern African Development Community (SADC) to replace the Southern African Development Coordination Conference (SADCC), a regional initiative established in 1980 to reduce the economic dependence of the newly independent states in the region on apartheid South Africa as part of a broader decolonization strategy. SADC, according to Dr. Mulikita, is the most peaceful and developed region in Africa with a comprehensive set of peace and security protocols, institutions and agreements. The SADC Organ for Politics, Defense and Security (OPDS), established in 1992, is the region’s link to the African Union Peace and Security Architecture (APSA). The community has established several institutions including an Early Warning System (EWS) in Gabarone, Botswana, the SADC Parliamentary Forum, in Windhoek, Namibia, the Regional Peacekeeping Training Center (RPTC) in Harare, Zimbabwe, and more recently the SADC Standby Brigade. Nevertheless, Dr. Mulikita observed, the community faces several challenges including tension between member states, resource deficits, social discontent and poor coordination between regional security mechanisms. Dr. Mulikita also cited several institutional weaknesses; the failure of the Early Warning System (EWS) to warn about impending conflicts; the lack of effective response mechanisms; the lack of a security sector reform (SSR) policy framework; and the lack of a mediation unit to facilitate dialogue between conflicting parties. He urged the AU and SADC to put more emphasis on institutional development and strengthening and the inclusion of civil society in the region’s peace and security activities. In the seminar on national security strategy held at the Mulungushi Conference Center in Lusaka, His Excellency Edgar Lungu, the Zambian Minister of Defense, announced that the Government would hold a referendum on the country’s new constitution to make the process as consultative as possible. “We will have ample time to go through the draft constitution and when we complete the process we will be guided by what the citizens’ want, if they want a referendum we will go with that even though it is an expensive venture to undertake,” he said. The Minister also praised the country’s security sector institutions for supporting the democratic process, which he singled out as the most important guarantee of Zambia’s national security. “Our defense and security institutions are among the oldest and most experienced in Southern Africa and continue to be the bedrock upon which our democracy and peace are anchored, that is why our country remains a bastion of peace since independence.” Ambassador Royson Mukwena, the Dean of the School of Social Sciences and Director of Research and Postgraduate Studies at Mulungushi University in Kabwe, Zambia, observed that Zambia, like many African countries, does not have a consolidated national security strategy. “No single document,” he argued, “can be referred to as Zambia’s definitive national security strategy. … The country’s actual strategy is scattered in several legal, constitutional and policy documents.” Ambassador Mukwena however revealed that Zambia is considering embarking on a process leading to the adoption of the country’s first official national security strategy. He identified the following threats to Zambia’s national security: high levels of poverty, economic underdevelopment, high unemployment, organized crime and corruption. Institutions with national security responsibilities include: the Zambia Defense Force (ZDF), Zambia Police, Zambia Security and Intelligence Service (ZSIS) and other institutions including the Anti Corruption Commission (ACC). Prof. Owen Sichone, the Director of the Dag Hammarskjöld Institute, stressed that citizens’ security and state security are inseparable from the full and free exercise by citizens of their civic and human rights. He urged Zambian security sector professionals to operate within the confines of the constitution and respect citizens’ civic and human rights. Because many of Zambia’s national security challenges are economic in nature, a viable national security strategy, in his view, has to be based on a framework of good governance and improved service delivery. Speaking at the symposium on security sector reform (SSR), on March 26, Mr. Thomas Dempsey, Assistant Professor and Academic Chair for Security Studies at ACSS, noted that the focus of national security was shifting from regime survival and state security to human security. This new approach to security, an approach that is articulated in several African national security strategy documents, is, according to Mr. Dempsey, “citizen-centric and community based; emphasizes the “linkages between security and development” and has at its core the objective of “serving the people.” He identified several core competencies for the military and police on 27 March. The core competencies for the military are: countering military threats, expeditionary capabilities, and developing rapid and scalable responses. Those for the police are: community presence, arresting authorities, limited and appropriate use of force and international as well as regional cooperation. Shared functions between the two include intelligence and information gathering and analysis. Putting these competencies into effect, according to Mr. Dempsey, requires the development a whole-of-government national and human security process that enables effective military and police collaboration and planning. A highlight of the three-day program was the creation of the ACSS Zambia (alumni) Chapter, the result of several months of work by the ACSS Zambia Community, U.S. Embassy, Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Defense and the Dag Hammarskjöld Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies (DHIP). The Chapter, which brings the number of ACSS Chapters in Africa to 33, will be embedded in the DHIPS. It brings together ACSS alumni from the Zambian general staff and command including several in senior leadership positions in the Army, Airforce and National Service as well as security sector professionals from civil society and academia. The Zambia Chapter is highly organized, motivated, and populated with experts in security strategy and challenges. The Topical Outreach Program Series (TOPS) is the Africa Center’s instrument for providing close support to African partners through rigorous and structured engagement with alumni. ACSS is the pre-eminent Department of Defense (DOD) institution for strategic security studies, research and outreach in Africa. The Africa Center engages African partner states and institutions through rigorous academic and outreach programs that build strategic capacity and foster long-term, collaborative relationships. Over the past 14 years, more than 6,000 African and international leaders have participated in over 200 ACSS programs
  • The Fashion Industry, Female Entrepreneurs and Fiscal Regimes in Conflict-Affected Regions

    gilpin-usipBy Dr.Raymond Gilpin, Dean of the Africa Center for Strategic Women in conflict-affected regions, like Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, are looking for more than humanitarian assistance and hand-outs.  They want to be able to earn their way out of misery, inequality and deprivation, but a host of socio-cultural, economic and political factors make it difficult for them to do so. They have few marketable skills, limited opportunity and very little access to lucrative domestic and international markets.  Several global fashion houses, like New York-based Kate Spade, have launched initiatives that aim to help lift some of these women out of poverty by effectively integrating them into global supply chains for specific products. However, this model is becoming increasingly uncompetitive in a number of countries because of punitive tax and customs regimes that render the initiative prohibitively costly.  This article analyzes the outcome of research conducted by USIP's centers for Gender and Peacebuilding and Sustainable Economies in 2012, considers policy implications and provides a few recommendations.

    Although this article focuses on initiatives by the fashion industry, the model could be replicated across sectors.  Fundamentally, such initiatives focus on empowering women (and communities) in fragile and conflict-affected regions to become integrated into global supply chains in a manner that affords them greater ownership, the opportunity for expansion/growth and a modicum of predictability.  For example, the Kate Spade model adopts a life-cycle approach.  In partnership with NGOs like Women for Women, Kate Spade identifies communities in fragile regions where women are organized and have some capacity to produce products that Kate Spade could sell --- such as scarves, leather goods and textiles.  The company then provides both training and inputs to the women, who produce the goods to pre-agreed specifications.  Both timeliness and quality are of the essence, so Kate Spade also invests in local supervisory capacity.  In addition to producing for Kate Spade, these female entrepreneurs could use the skill acquired during this process to expand production for local and neighboring markets. Read More

  • “Comprehensive Approaches Required”: A Review of Africa Center Research on Terrorism

    By Paul Nantulya, Africa Center for Strategic Studies As the terrorist threat continues to evolve in North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa, the Africa Center through its various programs continues to bring together African, American and European civilian and military professionals to discuss its dimensions and possible solutions. » Countering violent extremism » The growing Boko Haram threat » Explaining the roots of militancy » The nature of the African post-colonial state » Ethnicity and identity » North Africa and the Sahel » Sources

    Countering violent extremism

    On February 24–27, 2014, ACSS convened African Union (AU), United States government and African partners in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, (ACSS) to examine terrorist use of communications. The meeting brought together civilian and military officials from approximately a dozen countries from the Horn of Africa and the Middle East. nickels-cve-messagingDr. Benjamin Nickels, the Assistant Professor and Chair, Transnational Threats and Counterterrorism provided a four-point framework for developing effective counter-messaging: 1) identify who is susceptible to terrorist recruitment; 2) identify the most pressing concerns that violent extremists exploit; 3) identify which populations, areas and institutions are most vulnerable to extremists; and 4) identify trend-lines to distinguish between individual, community and societal needs. “Radicalization is a process that begins with some form of alienation,” Dr. Nickels explained. “It also involves intermediaries working on many different levels and employing different platforms including social media. … What is required is a comprehensive approach based on in-depth research because there is no single profile; profiles shift over time and they are becoming increasingly diverse in the African context,” he noted. In the question-and-answer session, financial incentives, economic and societal cleavages, ideological, political and religious convictions, and coercion were all identified as push factors for recruitment. The pull factors identified were social networks and groups, religious and cultural organizations, criminal groups, social media and the internet. Dr. Nickels identified five issues for policy consideration: 1) Individual motivations for joining terrorist organizations vary significantly. 2) The role of perceptions in radicalization and recruitment makes strategic communication central to counterterrorism initiatives. 3) The reasons individuals join terrorist organizations are not always the same as why they choose to remain in these groups. 4) Poverty is not necessarily a root cause of terrorism. Participants worked in small groups for the duration of the meeting. There was a recognition that governments needed to be attentive to their own reputation by ensuring good governance, transparency and inclusion in order to solicit support from their populations to counter violent extremists. “The state, in making demands on its citizens to counter extremist messages needs credibility and legitimacy; therefore genuine democratization cannot be de linked from larger counter terrorism efforts,” Kate Almquist Knopf, an ACSS Adjunct Faculty member and former senior USAID official, stressed. CVE audienceSix recommendations were put forward: 1) Develop capacity to monitor, examine and analyze violent extremist messaging. 2) Address the issues of citizenship, national unity and national identity. 3) Design and implement a mix of interventions targeting vulnerable populations. 4) Support positive and credible voices. 5) Develop a media and communications framework. 6) Create trust between civil society and the state. Ms. Caroline Njuki, a Project Manager at the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) suggested that counterstrategies needed to incorporate “face-to-face messaging” in addition to more traditional messaging platforms. Governments, religious leaders, civil society activists and opinion leaders need to work together to construct counter narratives and deconstruct negative messages. Ms. Njuki called on governmental and non-governmental partners to establish networks, develop simple and concise messages, study and exploit the weak points of extremist messages and communicate government effectiveness in improving service delivery and meeting citizens’ needs. Ms. Almquist Knopf discussed the challenges of the international policymaking process. She urged participants first to recognize that they were the international community and therefore needed to take responsibilities to take the recommendations forward to their respective governments. Second, she urged partners to be modest in their expectations of what could be realized from processes of international negotiation. Third, she reminded participants that there was an international architecture for counterterrorism – the Global Counterterrorism Forum – an informal multilateral platform focusing on identifying critical civilian counterterrorism needs and mobilizing the necessary expertize to address such needs. Ms. Almquist Knopf also pointed out that a global fund for countering violent extremism was in the process of being established through public-private partnerships. She urged African countries to tap these mechanisms and continually inform themselves of what was happening at the international level. “We need to be comprehensive, collaborative and focused,” she said. “International bodies can offer broad frameworks and strategies but the solutions need to be African-owned.”

    The growing Boko Haram threat

    On December 18, 2013, one month after the U.S. designated Boko Haram and Ansaru as terrorist organizations, the Africa Center hosted a roundtable at National Defense University (NDU) in Washington, D.C., titled “Understanding and Mitigating the Drivers of Islamist Extremism in Northern Nigeria.” It brought together leaders, subject matter experts, military officers and civilian counterparts from the senior colleges at NDU. Dr. John Paden, a Clarence Robinson Professor in Public and International Affairs at George Mason University argued that Nigeria’s lack of a truly national identity lies at the root of violent conflicts in the country and support the growth of terrorist organizations such as Boko Haram. “Nigeria’s politics reflect deep socio-economic cleavages between the north and south,” he argued. “These dichotomies shape the political process and lend themselves to exploitation by politicians, military leaders and terrorist groups including Boko Haram.” Nigeria-Roundtable-300x200-2“The issue of identity is key to understanding conflicts in Northern Nigeria,” Mr. Michael Olufemi Sodipo said. “Rather than thinking about what you can do for – or with – them, most people care most about who you are and where you come from.” The organization Mr. Sodipo founded, the Peace Initiative Network in Kano, Nigeria, is working with young leaders to engender tolerance, citizenship and good leadership. “I saw people without skills and hope, full of anger and ready to kill because of faith,” he explained. “That created the idea of creating an organization that could help bridge the divides and today the Peace Initiative Network is working with young people in four states – Kano, Gombe, Plateau and Delta – to help them realize their potential and contribute positively to their communities.” Dr. Ousman Kobo, an Associate Professor of History at Ohio State University stressed the importance of strategic messaging to counter the Boko Haram narrative. “Boko Haram’s leader, Mohammed Yusufu, has created a powerful narrative based on rejecting Western education, and creating an alternative polity without social grievances, income inequalities, poverty and corrupt practices to rally the population to its cause,” he explained. “Defeating this terrorist group therefore requires government, civil society and international partners to work together to understand the roots of Boko Haram’s message and develop appropriate countermeasures.”

    Explaining the roots of militancy

    ASB-23-coverOn November 23, 2012, the Africa Center published an Africa Security Brief titled "Islamic Militancy in Africa." The brief, written by Dr. Terje Østebø, an Assistant Professor at the Center for African Studies and the Department of Religion at the University of Florida, makes three conclusions: 1) The appeal of terrorist organizations in parts of the Sahel and the Horn of Africa stems from their ability to tap into and persuade marginalized communities, particularly youth, that their grievances can be rectified by the establishment of a more pure Islamic culture. 2) Despite breakthroughs, Islamic militants in Africa typically do not possess great military power and may not seek to govern at the state level; rather, they tend to be homegrown phenomena focused on local concerns. 3) Islamic militant organizations in Africa generally only command the support of small minorities within Muslim communities; however, ill-considered interventions, especially those involving Western forces, can reinforce the militants’ narrative, thereby strengthening their credibility and increasing recruitment. Dr. Østebø also cautions that the gains of groups like al-Shabaab and Boko Haram are not attributable to military strength, but rather their influence is just as much a symptom of fragile and complex political contexts. ASB-20-coverDr. Peter J Pham, the Director of the Michael S. Ansari Africa Center at the Atlantic Council in Washington, DC, raises similar issues in an African Security Brief titled “Boko Haram’s Evolving Threat.” He concludes that support for Boko Haram among some of northern Nigeria’s marginalized Muslim communities suggests that security actions alone will be insufficient to quell the instability. Dr. Pham offers the following policy recommendations: 1) invest in better information and analysis; 2) reinforce counterterrorism operations with strategic communications and messaging at all levels, 3) address legitimate grievances, 4) prioritize specialized training for Nigerian security forces, and 5) strengthen regional cooperation and capacity building in Nigeria and neighboring countries. ASB-26-coverSimilar themes are discussed in the August 26, 2013, Africa Security Brief titled “Mitigating Radicalism in Northern Nigeria.” The Founder of the Peace Initiative Network in Kano, Nigeria, Mr. Michael Olufemi Sodipo argues that the resonance of groups like Boko Haram and Ansaru has much to do with the relationship between youth unemployment, limited economic opportunities and the emergence of terrorism. Mr. Sodipo warns about the lack of a unifying national identity in Nigeria: “Mutual distrust and strong ethno-religious identities in both north and south prevented a truly pan-Nigerian identity from developing. … Nigerian politics were and remain characterized by a keen competition for socio-economic resources with the state seen as the main dispenser of these benefits,” he explains.

    The nature of the African post-colonial state

    Prof. SolomonProfessor Hussein Solomon, a senior Professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of the Free State in Bloemfontein, South Africa, faults the weaknesses of the post-colonial African state for constraining African and international efforts to curb terrorism. “Not much policy attention has been given to the problems inherent in the structures and functions of the African post-colonial state,” he said in an April 4, 2013, Africa Center interview. “The fragility and the inherently corrupt nature of the African state provide fertile grounds for the growth of militant Islam. Islamists piggyback on existing social cleavages in society, such as ethnicity in Nigeria and Mali and clan identity in Somalia. The corrupt nature of the polity, on the other hand, provides them with the means to frustrate counterterrorism efforts through corrupt elements in the security forces,” he cautioned. Professor Solomon made similar observations in a lecture at the National Defense University (NDU) titled “Linkages between Islamic Groups in Africa: The Case of Boko Haram,” hosted by the Africa Center. He urged African and U.S. partners to focus on creating inclusive societies and states which truly care about the welfare of citizens. “Often Islam is merely a vehicle for a number of grievances citizens have with their respective state,” he told participants. A new social contract needs to be established between the political leader and citizens, and African political elites thus far have resisted this; it is therefore imperative that the international community critically engages with these and compel them to reform in the interests of their citizens and in the interests of international security.” ACSS Dean Dr. Raymond Gilpin, at a November 14, 2013, meeting with students from the National War College (NWC), which is co-located with ACSS at National Defense University (NDU), provided more analysis on the problems Prof. Solomon identified. Gilpin-NWC-visit“In the traditional understanding of statecraft, as understood in the West, the state provides services and security to its citizens who in turn pay taxes and offer allegiance and loyalty. Overtime a “social contract” develops between the state and the citizens. By contrast, Gilpin noted, the African state vests its survival on the control of lucrative natural resources which consequently “breaks the social contract and alienates citizens.” He observed that no amount of foreign aid would bring sustainable development so long as the relationship between the state and citizens remained violent and confrontational. “Addressing the problem requires sound structural and policy reforms and wise leadership.”

    Ethnicity and identity

    ASB-14-coverChris Kwaja, a Lecturer and Researcher in the Center for Conflict Management at the University of Jos, Nigeria, discusses the intersection between ethnic identity and terrorism in a July 2011 Africa Security Brief, “Nigeria’s Pernicious Drivers of Ethno-Religious Conflict.” He provides four recommendations: 1) eliminate indigene/settler classifications in government decision making; 2) strengthen, coordinate, and deconflict security institutions; 3) make protection of minority rights a priority; and 4) establish community-based, state-supported peacebuilding committees. Similar analysis can be found in an April 4, 2010, Africa Security Brief, “Misinterpreting Ethnic Conflicts in Africa,” by Father Clement Mweyang Aapengnuo, then a Doctoral Student in the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University. ASB-4-coverDr. Aapengnuo makes four policy-relevant observations: First, ethnicity is typically not the driving force of African conflicts but a lever used by political leaders to mobilize supporters in pursuit of power, wealth and resources. Second, recognizing that ethnicity is a tool and not the driver of intergroup conflict should refocus conflict mitigation efforts to the political triggers of conflict. Third, ethnic thinking and mobilization generally emerge from inequitable access to power and resources and not from an intrinsic hatred. Fourth, over the medium to long term, defusing the potency of ethnicity for political ends requires a systematic civic education strategy that helps build a common national identity, which so many African countries still lack.

    North Africa and the Sahel

    The nations of North Africa and the Sahel experience similar problems. ASB-15-coverCedric Jourde, an Associate Professor at the School of Political Studies, University of Ottawa, Canada, in a September 2011 Africa Security Brief titled “Sifting Through the Layers of Insecurity in the Sahel: The Case of Mauritania,” notes that security threats in the region are characterized by layers of intertwined and crosscutting issues at regional, national and local levels and that these dynamics are being manipulated by illicit actors. He explains that in Mauritania, like other African countries, allegiances to one’s ethnic group, tribe, clan or personal network can be stronger than those to the state and it is these allegiances that terrorists exploit to recruit followers. He urged African countries to focus on building stronger loyalties through genuine development and political outreach to marginalized communities and international partners to provide strong support to democratic regimes and those that are implementing democratic changes, while pressuring those that opt for authoritarian policies. Dr. Noureddine JebnounDr. Noureddine Jebnoun, an ACSS faculty member focusing on North Africa and the Sahel, reaches similar conclusions in a journal article titled “Changing Security Dynamics in North Africa and Western Sahel Region,” recently published in the Portuguese Journal of International Affairs. He argues that governments in the region needed to urgently shift toward a citizen-centered approach to governance in order to strengthen the social contract, build more inclusive notions of citizenship and reduce social inequalities in order to increase resilience against terrorist recruitment.

    * * *

    Three core issues emerge from the Africa Center’s body of work on terrorism in Africa: First, terrorism brings into sharper focus the need to address the social grievances and socio-economic inequalities that create violent conflict. Second, terrorism in many cases is symptomatic of the fragile nature of the post-colonial African state. Third, to be more effective, counterterrorism strategies need to integrate and coordinate all available instruments of national power – diplomatic, informational, military, political and economic – comprehensively and not rely on the application of coercive tools alone.

    * * *

    ACSS is the pre-eminent Department of Defense (DOD) institution for strategic security studies, research and outreach in Africa. The Africa Center engages African partner states and institutions through rigorous academic and outreach programs that build strategic capacity and foster long-term, collaborative relationships. Over the past 14 years, more than 6,000 African and international leaders have participated in over 200 ACSS programs.


  • Statement on the Situation in South Sudan by ACSS Adjunct Faculty Kate Almquist Knopf

    Kate Almquist Knopf testifies before Senate
  • Africa Center Co-Hosts Symposium in Gabon on Regional Maritime Safety and Security Cooperation

    tops_gabon_2014LIBREVILLE, Gabon — The Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) co-hosted a symposium on Maritime Safety and Security (MSS) in Libreville on March 13, 2014, in partnership with the ACSS Community Chapter in Gabon and the U.S. Embassy. The event was part of the Africa Center’s Topical Outreach Program Series (TOPS), which allows ACSS to maintain an active network of relationships with community groups in nations across Africa. The gathering featured U.S. and Gabonese officials who shared their views on the security challenges in Gabon and in the Gulf of Guinea. » Photo gallery of Maritime Safety and Security TOPS symposium in Gabon Dr. Assis Malaquias, ACSS Chair for Defense Economics, discussed the fundamental principles in developing a national maritime security strategy. He also provided regional context of maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea. Noting that “maritime security strategy is much more than just a naval strategy,” Dr. Malaquias underscored the need for an interagency and whole of government approach to MSS at all levels. Dr. Malaquias also underlined the key role representatives have to play by recognizing and understanding the domain and the threats, and giving the maritime domain funding in accordance with its importance. Maritime threats are rarely appropriated the resources they require, given the extent of the security threat emanating from the maritime domain in the Gulf of Guinea, he noted. In that regard, he said states in the region need to evaluate whether their primary threats are land- or sea-based and, through their strategy formulation, assign resources as appropriate. Commander Loïc Moudouma, of the Gabonese Navy, focused in his speech on why the participation of Central African states in developing regional maritime security strategy is crucial. He then provided an overview of the collaboration between the Africa Center and the Economic Commission of Central African States (ECCAS), collaboration which in June 2013 resulted in the heads of state summit in Yaoundé and approval of the Yaoundé memorandum and operational agreement.  Commander Moudouma also cited specific instances of recent pirate attacks in the Gulf of Guinea, namely the MT Kerala in January 2014 off the coast of Angola and the MV Cotton in July 2013 off the coast of Gabon, as proof that pirates are aware of the gaps in regional cooperation and seek to take advantage of them. The consensus among participants was that maritime piracy is a growing problem that needs to be addressed on a regional basis. Moreover, petroleum assets and the shipping of goods are critical for the economic viability of countries within the Gulf of Guinea shores. Therefore, a safe and secure maritime domain is essential to bolster economic development. 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 6,000 African and international leaders have participated in ACSS programs.
  • “Partners not Enemies”: ACSS Hosts Media & Security Sector Program in Liberia

    By Paul Nantulya, Africa Center for Strategic Studies Liberia06MONROVIA, Liberia — An Africa Center academic outreach visit to Liberia included in-depth presentations on the frequently distrustful relationship between the news media and security institutions, as well the media’s role in security sector reform. The often strained relationship between the media and national security institutions such as the military is as old as the foundations of the modern state, and African countries are no exception. The reason typically cited is that, like most bureaucracies, the security services prefer to operate behind closed doors – a preference heightened by the need to prevent potential enemies from learning harmful information. The press, n the other hand, responds to citizens’ demand for information and accountability, especially in the case of institutions as powerful and potentially dangerous as the security services. The Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) and its Liberia Community Chapter, in conjunction with the United States Embassy discussed these issues at the Topical Outreach Program Series (TOPS) symposium, in Monrovia, Liberia, March 2–7, 2014. The symposium brought together ACSS community members, public affairs officers from Liberian security sector agencies, editorial staff and reporters from various news organizations in Monrovia, and U.S. Embassy staff. Prof. Thomas Dempsey, the ACSS Chair for National Security Studies and a formerly U.S. military attaché in Liberia, explained that the relationship between the media and security sector requires careful and constant balancing. “This delicate relationship is a domain in public affairs that always needs to be negotiated and defined in a constructive way as part of the wider effort to implement institutional and political reforms, especially in the Liberian context,” he told participants. “Liberia in many ways is a unique case,” Prof. Dempsey said, “because a strategic decision was made to disband the army and rebuild it anew to reflect a fundamentally new vision of what Liberia should look like after decades of war and conflict.” “One of the most important lessons from this experience is that security sector reform, as well as the management of national security in general, should be an integral part of the broader processes and philosophy of political, social and institutional change,” he continued. Prof. Dempsey in his remarks also stressed the need for media and national security professionals to understand each other’s culture and roles in order to improve their relationship. Because the press is generally more fragmented, competitive and diverse, it can be unaware of larger security sector reform realities, he said. The military and other members of the security sector, on the other hand, tend to view the media as intrusive, irresponsible, and unaware of how security professionals operate. In extreme cases, security professionals might even view media professionals as threats to national security. “The Liberian model shows that the relationship, although tense, can be managed in healthy and constructive ways that stay true to the new principles that Liberians have fashioned to take their country forward after so much strife,” Prof. Dempsey concluded. Mr. James Momoh, a media consultant and ACSS Adjunct Faculty member, highlighted the media’s role in security sector reform. “Media professionals have a responsibility to familiarize themselves with the democratic principles that Liberia is trying to apply and advocate for these in not only dealing with the security sector but larger issues as well,” he counselled. Mr. Momoh also stressed the importance of professionalism. “To be credible, the media needs to hold its professionals to the same standards of accountability, professionalism, human rights, and transparency that it expects of the security sector and government,” he told participants. “There is an implicit assumption in many African contexts that civil-society institutions and activists are necessarily democratic and accountable, and yet this is not always the case.” “Conversely,” he continued, “democracy, good governance, and human rights are viewed by governments as foreign concepts.” Following that line of reasoning, “those promoting them must therefore be pursuing foreign agendas that might undermine the state.” Both assumptions, in Mr. Momoh’s view, undermine the process of nation-building in Africa. He argued that the media, as well as broader civil society, must apply democratic values and use democratic methods in their activities. Governments on the other hand should be aware that the concepts of human rights, human dignity, and democracy are intrinsic to African culture and aspirations. “How else can we explain the fact that African countries, on their own initiative, crafted the African Charter on Human and Peoples Rights, New Partnership for African Development and the African Conference on Democracy, Elections and Good Governance?” he asked. “What is needed therefore is a shift in attitude, both by media professionals and civil society as a whole, and the government and Liberians seem to be on the right track in as far as this is concerned,” Mr. Momoh concluded. Five key issues emerged in the plenary discussions:
    • First, the institutional cultures of the security sector and media, need not be in conflict.
    • Second, security sector reform should be part of the broader reform agenda and not isolated.
    • Third, Liberia’s post-conflict environment provides abundant opportunities to test and debate perspectives in ways that were not possible before the war.
    • Fourth, there is need to promote greater debate on national security issues within civil society.
    • Fifth, it is imperative that the security sector establishes a solid working relationship with the media, that it integrates them into its strategy – and that it not keep media professionals at arm’s length.
    The spirit of the debates was captured by a Liberian defense official who spoke at the program: “This exercise is perfectly fine … the press and security sector should work hand in hand … we are after all, Liberians and we must be bold in our efforts to build a new society … our constitution demands it, and our citizens expect it.”
  • Africa Center Supports U.S. Navy's Regional Security Education Program

    Dr. Monde MuyangwaDr. Monde Muyangwa, adjunct faculty and former dean of the Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS), provided strategic-level instruction on security and political-economy considerations in the Horn of Africa, onboard the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush from Feb. 15 to March 4, 2014. The Regional Security Education Program (RSEP) was designed by the Naval Postgraduate School to make senior naval leaders more aware of the strategic environments in which they operate. Dr Muyangwa's lectures included a strategic overview of the Horn of Africa, approaches to conflict management, country profiles and regional security institutions, strategic responses to security challenges in the Horn of Africa and U.S. interests in, and engagement with, Africa. This interdisciplinary exercise was attended by over 400 participants. Other RSEP team members included Admiral (Ret.) Steve Loeffler, RSEP Director; Dr. Robert Rook, Townson University (Maryland); and Dr. Douglas Streusand, Marine Corps University (Virginia).
  • ACSS’s Dr. Jebnoun Highlights Key Security Issues in Sahel

    By Serge Yondou, ACSS Communications Specialist SahelDr. Noureddine Jebnoun, an Africa Center faculty member who focuses on governance and security in North Africa and the Sahel, authored an article titled “Changing Security Dynamics in North Africa and Western Sahel,” recently published in the Portuguese Journal of International Affairs, No. 8 (Spring/Summer 2014). In the article, Dr. Jebnoun provides an overview of the volatile security situation in the Sahel region, and talks about what this situation in the region implies for U.S. foreign policy. Factors contributing to the unsettled security situation in the region include: organized crime, illegal immigration, and transnational illegal activities, as well as food insecurity and malnutrition. At the same time, the region is prone to alliances and regional connections that can undermine the modern state-building process. “For many indigenous people,” Dr. Jebnoun wrote, “systems such as tribalism, customary practices, and linguistic affiliations transcend international boundaries and, in many cases, their ethnic diversity and religious identity prevails at the expense of existing colonial borders.” Moreover, Dr. Jebnoun points out that the inability of central governments to deliver basic services to the inhabitants of the Sahel, as well as the lack of meaningful development projects, have paved the way for violent non-state actors such as al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and its affiliates. These groups have settled in the Sahel and forged alliances with local tribes to bolster their illegal activities rather than pursue a political/ideological agenda. The criminal economy also benefits members of the ruling government, as was the case for “northern elites” in the government of Mali’s former president, Ahmadou Toumani Touré, ultimately leading to the coup d’état of March 2012. The change of power hastened the fall of northern Mali into the hands of militant groups until a French intervention stopped their march toward Bamako and pushed them out of major urban centers. However, according to Dr. Jebnoun, AQIM and its affiliates have updated their tactics, showing their flexibility and adaptability. For example, while the French operation in northern Mali in early 2013 mitigated the grip of AQIM and its affiliates, Islamist insurgent groups sought to outsource their operations to neighboring countries, including Niger—where a military base in Agadez and the French-managed Uranium site of Arlit came under suicide-bomb attack in May 2013—and Algeria—where the oil complex of In Amenas came under attack by former AQIM leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar in January 2013. While the attack in Algeria came as a surprise for most observers, Dr. Jebnoun says “the surprise is more about the symbolism of the target than the country itself.” He also argues that the In Amenas attack could mark a major turning point in the modus operandi of AQIM and its franchises. Dr. Jebnoun also notes that the ousting of President Mohamed Morsi in Egypt in July 2013 could offer a new opportunity for AQIM’s expansion. Belmokhtar’s group and the Movement for Unity and Jihad in West Africa (MUJAO) recently emerged alongside AQIM, in an attempt to “unify Islamists militants groups across North Africa from the Nile to the Atlantic,” Dr. Jebnoun writes. Ultimately, Dr. Jebnoun says, the volatile security situation in the North Africa and Western Sahel (NAWS) countries “created a fluid but entirely different political context within which the U.S. needs to reassess its policy,” especially towards Mali and Libya. This encompasses rethinking military cooperation with those countries, but also providing them with adequate assistance to build a professional and efficient security apparatus. He also argues that Malian and Libyan leaders—and to an extent, all NAWS country leaders—should shift toward a citizen-centric government approach. This shift, he says, is critical if they want to strengthen the genuine elements of citizenship and set the conditions for peace and stability in the Sahel-Sahara region. Dr. Jebnoun joined the Africa Center faculty in January 2014. His research and teaching interests include governance and security challenges of North Africa and the Sahel region. In addition, he teaches at Georgetown University’s Center for Contemporary Arab Studies, where his curriculum focuses on politics of the Arab Middle East and North Africa.