March 2012

  • Security issues and regional stability in Africa: the experience of Burkina Faso in conflict mediation, prevention and management.

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    In his only major address during an official visit to Washington, D.C., His Excellency Djibril Bassolé, Foreign Minister of the Burkinabe government, devoted most of his remarks to the recent military putsch in neighboring Mali.

    “A coup d’état does not reinforce the power of an army,” said the minister, whose background includes military and diplomatic assignments. “It diminishes the power of the armed forces and weakens citizens’ trust.”

    Speaking at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars on March 23, 2012, Bassolé    said Mali needs powerful institutions to build great armed forces, and advised the new junta to work with all decision makers and state leaders to reach a deal that reinstates democracy and government legitimacy.  The Foreign Minister’s appearance was jointly sponsored by the Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) and the Wilson Center’s Africa Program.

    Following an introduction by Ambassador (ret.) William M. Bellamy, Director of the Africa Center,  Bassolé told a packed lecture hall of diplomats, scholars, and journalists that he could understand the grief of the mutineers now in power in Mali, but could not support the path they have taken.

    “War is not an answer to the situation in Northern Mali,” he said. “In fact, it [the war] unbalances the county’s budget because it increases military expenditures at the expense of health, social, and educational issues.”

    The Foreign Minister talked about the state of affairs in Northern Mali, where nomadic Tuareg tribesmen who recently returned from serving in the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s military have been fighting the government for control of what they consider their ancestral lands. The Malian army mutiny, leaders said, was triggered by what they perceive to be President Amadou Toumani Toure’s mishandling of the Tuareg rebellion.  Bassolé ruminated on whether Toure’s ousted government should have fought the Tuareg rebellion more forcefully.

    In prepared remarks Bassolé, a former African Union/United Nations Special Representative in Darfur, also spoke about regional stability and security issues on the continent. He said most African conflicts could be attributed to unequal wealth distribution and the refusal of leaders to relinquish power, even after they lose elections. Citing national interests, he said Burkina Faso has been involved for decades in conflict resolution and creating peace throughout West Africa.

    “Burkina Faso has millions of nationals all over the region. In fact, a great percentage of Cote d’Ivoire’s population, as an example, is of Burkina descent,” He said. “And we are a landlocked country. What happens in our neighborhood has a direct [economic and social] impact on us.”

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  • Ask the Expert: The Growing Threat of Oil Pirates in West Africa’s Gulf of Guinea

    DrMalaquias-WebWhen it comes to modern-day piracy, much of the world’s attention has focused on Somalia’s murderous maritime plunderers. But pirates are also a serious and growing problem off Africa’s West Coast, where a dangerous upsurge in vessel-based marauders is being fueled by a wealth of crude oil and cargo in transit. Dr. Assis Malaquias, the Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) Academic Chair for Defense Economics, is an expert on piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, an arm of the tropical Atlantic Ocean below Africa’s western hump where most of the crimes occur.

    Q: Where is the Gulf of Guinea? What types of maritime activities happen there?

    DR. MALAQUIAS: There is some dispute to that question. Most define the Gulf of Guinea as the waters from Guinea to Angola. That whole coastline sees a great deal of commercial maritime activities. The region's shipping includes, significantly, exports of hydrocarbons and minerals and imports of manufactured goods. There is also a considerable amount of commercial fishing in the gulf.

    Q: What are pirates targeting?

    DR. MALAQUIAS: Their main targets are oil tankers. They’re after the oil. They rob the tankers then transfer the oil to smaller ships, which transfer it again to other ships, until you lose track of it. They’re not really after cargo, ships, or anything other than oil.

    Q: Why is piracy happening in the Gulf of Guinea?

    DR. MALAQUIAS: The Gulf of Guinea is one of the hottest areas right now for oil exploration in the world. Department of Energy data show that nine of the coastal states on the Gulf of Guinea produced more than 5 million barrels of oil per day in 2010. That’s more than half of all Africa’s total production of crude. The U.S. is getting something like 21 percent of its oil from there and the trend is upward. This is an easy target of opportunity for criminals. There are many factors contributing to the problem—widespread poverty, the easy availability of guns and speedboats, and large amounts of rich cargo moving slowly offshore. Poverty’s not the main driving factor, though. If it were, there would be piracy all around Africa. Piracy is a vocation, just like any other pursuit where you make money illicitly, and pirates go out to sea because they feel they have a comparative advantage over their prey. They have incentives, opportunities, and means. They make a clear calculation of rewards versus costs. There are real costs they weigh—financing the operation, the chance of being intercepted by military forces, or of police waiting for them when they land on shore. The way they see it, the costs are high but the rewards are much higher. Of course, if you are hired on as part of a crew of pirates, then you don’t incur that many costs—except the possibility of losing your life.

    Q: From where are the pirates coming?

    DR. MALAQUIAS: No one knows where the pirates are coming from. There is a lot of speculation that they are Nigerian or at least based in Nigeria. Most of the problems originate from Nigeria, and it’s not just piracy of large ships. The media has reported on a recent bank robbery in Cameroon that was perpetrated by Nigeria-based robbers who were using speedboats. There’s also the case of the Nigerian group that took a boat and attacked the presidential palace of Equatorial Guinea. They were convicted in 2010.

    Q: What is the nature of the pirating enterprise in the region?

    DR. MALAQUIAS: The oil is moved from ship to ship on the black market until it eventually finds its way again into the legal global crude market. Gulf of Guinea piracy is the organized, sometimes highly sophisticated, illicit taking of oil. They steal the oil, make a couple of black market circles of the stuff, and then deposit it back into the global supply. It’s important to note that this phenomenon—the theft and illegal possession of crude oil—is bad enough that it has a name; it’s called illegal oil bunkering. Illegal bunkering isn’t just happening at sea, either. A Human Rights Watch report found that up to 10 percent of Nigeria’s daily crude production per day may be lost to illegal oil bunkering. This illegal oil bunkering has to be organized. My own sense is that it involves different groups going after targets of opportunity.

    Q: How many attacks are there per year? What is the rate of increase?

    DR. MALAQUIAS: It’s hard to get good numbers because many attacks go unreported. With that said, the International Maritime Organization reported that 47 incidents of piracy were reported in West Africa during 2010. Most of the attacks happened while the ships were at anchor and either in a country’s territorial waters or in port. The criminals took more than 40 crewmembers hostage and wounded six of them. Another monitoring group, the International Maritime Bureau, reported that pirates in Benin attacked 20 tankers in 2011. There were also 10 reported attacks on vessels in Nigeria last year, but the bureau said it was aware of more than 30 other attacks that went unreported. Fortunately, the area has seen fewer attacks than those perpetrated by Somali pirates in East Africa and the Indian Ocean, but the trend since about 1992 has been an increasing number of incidents. The Piracy Reporting Center’s 2011 map of incidents shows most in the Gulf of Guinea occurring in the waters off Togo, Benin, and Nigeria. The trend is definitely upward and I don’t think we have seen the worst of it yet.

    Q: Are countries in the region capable of dealing with the piracy problem?

    DR. MALAQUIAS: No single country can handle this very complex problem. Countries must coordinate their antipiracy activities. There is also a role for the private sector. The shipping companies and private actors are instituting some counterpiracy measures to neutralize threats as they draw near. But more needs to be done at both the strategic and operational levels within states, within regions, and between states and regions. The alarm over piracy in the Gulf of Guinea was sounded a while back. Countries in the region have been slow to respond because of a lack of capacity to mount a robust antipiracy campaign. They are working on intraregional and interregional strategies to answer the problem.

    Q: What needs to be done to stop Gulf of Guinea piracy?

    DR. MALAQUIAS: First, all countries need maritime strategies and operational plans to tackle these threats—not just piracy, but illicit trafficking, too. Second, each region also needs to put in place a strategy that sets a framework for interstate cooperation on maritime issues. Third, the regions should have mutually reinforcing strategies and frameworks to conduct broader regional operations. The affected countries can pool resources and come up with regional arrangements. That might look like an ECOWAS [Economic Community of West African States] regional naval force, where each country contributes what it can. They already have a nearby example of countries cooperating to face regional challenges together—South Africa is working with Mozambique and Namibia on maritime issues. International cooperation to fight Somalia’s piracy problem is another example.

    Q: Which local governments have the capacity to respond to piracy in the Gulf of Guinea?

    DR. MALAQUIAS: Out of all of them, I would say that Nigeria is the closest. Cameroon and Equatorial Guinea are developing some capacity—they are acquiring vessels and conducting training.

    Q: What is ACSS doing to contribute?

    DR. MALAQUIAS: The region has to put together its own regional strategies and so do the affected countries. ACSS is helping governments in the area and regional organizations. We are working with ECCAS [the Economic Community of Central African States] and ECOWAS to put together an intraregional framework for nations to cooperate on maritime issues. The AU [African Union] is also working on an overarching maritime strategy and we have helped them do some work on that.

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  • General Sekouba Konate visits with the Africa Center for Strategic Studies

    General Konate Visit His Excellency, General Sekouba Konate from The Republic of Guinea visits with Mr. Brad Anderson (Regional Program Manager for the Africa Center for Strategic Studies) on March 21, 2012 at the Africa Center's Regional office in Addis Adaba, Ethiopia.
  • Leaders Discuss Threats to Africa and National Security Strategies During ACSS Program

    Dr. Nickels SpeakingView Photos of this Event.

    Rising security sector leaders hailing from 37 African countries discussed current and emerging threats on the continent and best practices in developing national security strategies as part of an ongoing Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) conference on March 15, 2012.

    During the three-week Next Generation of African Security Sector Leaders Program, 42 participants are examining Africa’s security environment and ways to improve stability, security, and democracy. They are analyzing civil-military relations on the continent to determine the role and place of professional defense and police officers in advancing national security in democratizing states.

    The event’s participants, African majors and lieutenant colonels, were selected by their countries to take the course because of their significant command experience or staff responsibilities as well as their recognized leadership potential. ACSS has hosted the conference at least once a year since 2005 to provide a venue for the continent’s most talented young security sector leaders to interact and learn from each other.

    While speaking at the morning session on current and emerging threats, Dr. Benjamin P. Nickels, ACSS Assistant Professor of Transnational Threats and Counterterrorism, said Africa’s security landscape has changed dramatically in the last 20 years. The continent has seen significant economic development, democratization movements, and a reduction in conflicts.

    “There has been a shift away from traditional threats and toward newer nontraditional ones,” he said. “A variety of agents— violent non-state actors—are mobilizing anger against demographic shifts, social divisions, and environmental challenges.”

    Nickels pointed to clear trends of international terrorism in Africa’s east and north, drug trafficking in the west, and human trafficking in the south. He said terrorists, organized crime groups, pirates, and others are tapping expanding global interconnectedness and transportation networks for their own ends.

    “Transnational threats the dark side of globalization,” Nickels said. “Non-state actors are being empowered by globalization to contravene the authority of nation states.”

    A consensus on how to deal with transnational threats posed by non-state actors, who are using the most current technologies they can get their hands on, is slowly emerging among impacted states.

    “These threats require a transnational response: a whole-of-government response combined with international cooperation and civil society participation,” Nickels said. “In the long run, finding the most effective way of developing and coordinating efforts will require us to depend on globalization and to collectively solve this problem for a brighter future.”

    March 15 Participants

    Later in the day, participants sat down to discuss the importance of creating national security strategies with leading experts.

    One expert described formulating a national security strategy as an art that calculates a balanced relationship between ends, ways, and means. Its nature is dynamic, proactive, and anticipatory and it builds on trust fostered between a nation’s government, military, and people.

    Attendees were asked to think about how the relationship between their countries’ objectives, national concepts, and available resources would affect their specific strategy formulation and the suitability and feasibility of implementing a national security strategy. They were also asked to consider the relationship of a possible grand strategy for their countries to their national military and security strategies.

    “A national security strategy is nothing more than a rational way for society to mobilize and protect its interests,” said Colonel Gene McConville, ACSS Faculty Member and Military Advisor, one of the experts speaking at the plenary.

  • Mali's Coup: Echoes From A Turbulent Past

  • Military Leadership, Professionalism and Africa’s Security Environment Discussed at ACSS Conference

    Plenary SessionView Photos of this Event.

    Africa Center for Strategic Studies experts discussed military professionalism, ethics, and the continent’s security situation with young security sector leaders from 37 countries during the first two plenaries of a three-week ACSS conference.

    Throughout the Next Generation of African Security Sector Leaders Program, 42 participants will examine Africa’s contemporary and emerging security threats. They will analyze civil-military relations on the continent to determine the role and place of professional military, police, and other defense and security officials in advancing national security in democratizing states. Attending officers, mostly at the ranks of major and lieutenant colonel, were selected by their countries to take the course because of their significant command experience or staff responsibilities as well as their recognized leadership potential.

    ACSS has hosted the conference at least once a year since 2005 to provide a venue for the continent’s most talented young security sector leaders,  to interact and learn from each other.

    Dr. Mathurin Houngnikpo, ACSS Academic Chair of Civilian-Military Relations, focused on the link between democratic societies, strong leadership, and improved security, which ACSS hopes attendees will better understand after the conference concludes at the end of March.

    “What is leadership?” he asked participants during the first session. “People say leadership in Africa is a weak link or even the missing link. It is a continent rich in resources but also home to the most poor. What kind of leadership is needed on the continent and how can it be achieved?”

    Good leaders, Houngnikpo said, would make their country stronger by instilling professionalism and a sense of ethics in themselves and their military subordinates. The result would confer legitimacy on the government by citizens. But the opposite situation is often the case in modern Africa, with many citizens living in fear of the police and military who are supposed to be protecting them.


    “Defense and security forces remain the main pillar of governance, but they must be subject to democratic control exercised by effective leadership,” he said. “The military is the instrument by which state policy can be executed.”

    During the next plenary, ACSS Research Director Dr. Joseph Siegle offered a picture of Africa’s overall security environment. He said the continent held the greatest diversity of threats in the world, most of which come from nontraditional sources.

    Many of Africa’s security challenges—warlords, militias, extremist groups, natural resource competition, identity conflicts, insurgencies—are fed by poverty and economic problems.

    “Most people who joined conflicts respond that they join for employment-it’s an income opportunity,” he said.

    Siegle’s research has shown that low-income countries have been in conflict one year out of four, while middle-income countries have seen strife one year out of seven, and high-income countries see conflict one out of 55 years.

    But democratization and development, he said, are tools that African countries can use to improve security and increase stability. He has found that African democracies are more likely to realize 30% higher economic growth, 40% lower infant mortality rates, 40% greater high school enrollment, and 20% greater agricultural yield.

    “How we think about defense needs to widen,” he told the young leaders. “It needs to include the ministry of defense but it also needs to include the ministry of housing and others. Security strategy in the 21st century needs to be a function of development.”

  • African Democracies 'Represent Future' - Top U.S. Official (interview)


  • African Democracies 'Represent the Future,' Says U.S. Policymaker (interview), 15 March 2012
  • Promoting democracy in Africa has been a policy focus for successive U.S. administrations in the post-Cold War era. Since President Barack Obama took office in 2009, the American ... read more »

  • Resolving Conflicts Remains Priority, Says Top U.S. Official (interview), 12 March 2012
  • When he took office nearly three years ago as U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs, Johnnie Carson outlined an ambitious agenda for the Obama administration. ... read more »

  • Read also the ACSS Special Report:  Africa and the Arab Spring: A New Era of Democratic Expectations Africa Center for Strategic Studies, November 2011 Africa’s governance landscape changed remarkably in 2011. The Arab Spring demonstrated the possibility of tangible change from popular protest and sparked a broader debate about the legitimate claims on authority across the continent. The past year has also seen noteworthy democratic advances in Guinea, Côte d’Ivoire, Niger, Nigeria, and Zambia, among other places. While governance patterns have shifted, formidable crosscurrents complicate Africa's democratic more »
  • Experts Discuss Food Insecurity in the Horn of Africa

    ViceAdmiralAnnRondeauView Photos of This Event. Government, academic, and civil society speakers presented a range of insights into the human, political, and military implications of food insecurity in the Horn of Africa during a conference at National Defense University (NDU) in Washington, D.C., on March 8, 2012.

    The Center for Technology and National Security Policy hosted the “Horn of Africa Food Security Crisis: Implications for U.S. Africa Command” event, whose goal was to understand better how USAFRICOM can improve interactions with NGOs, international organizations, and other nontraditional stakeholders. More than 180 military and civilian personnel, journalists, and experts from nonprofits and academia attended the full-day conference.

    “The United States has a vested interest in the stability, prosperity, health, and wealth of the Horn of Africa region,” said NDU President Vice Admiral Ann E. Rondeau during her opening remarks. “What makes people feel secure goes the whole span of human wants. In today’s world, we can look at [these wants and security] as being interconnected.”

    Panel 1: Political and Security Issues in the Horn of Africa Moderator: Ambassador William Garvelink.  Panelists: Ambassador Richard Roth - Ambassador David Shinn - Mrs Amanda Dory - Ms Rajakumari Jandhyala

    USAFRICOM Commander General Carter Ham gave the day’s keynote address on how the regional military headquarters can help mitigate food emergencies. Dr. Rajiv Shah, Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development, also spoke about bridging the divide between development workers and the military. Ambassador William M. Bellamy, Director of Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS), moderated a panel on USAFRICOM’s methods for confronting humanitarian crises. The group explored how USAFRICOM’s mission—especially in the Horn of Africa—has evolved in light of recent developments, what roles the command can play in meeting humanitarian crises, and the challenges in meeting these demands.

    Other panels focused on political, security, and environmental issues; open information sharing; and NGOs, international organizations, and their roles in local capacity building.

    Ambassador William Garvelink, Senior Advisor at the Center for Strategic International Studies, said food security issues face nearly every country in the Horn. “Food security is going to get worse in the Horn before it gets better,” he said when introducing the panel that explored political and security issues related to food in the region.

    Ambassador David Shinn, Adjunct Professor of International Affairs at George Washington University, made three points to provide context in discussing the region’s food security problems.

    First, he said, governments and non-state actors use food as a weapon. From warlords stealing food from communities to governments and insurgents not allowing food to reach those who need it, citizens in the horn have been denied food in the pursuit of political goals. Second, for decades countries in the region have experienced “structural food deficits” where domestic production does not meet daily caloric demand. Third, predictions relaying the possible human toll of droughts and famines are often wildly misstated due to those with stakes in the response who cannot help but color statistics.

    Many of the day’s speakers used East Africa’s most recent drought to speak about lingering challenges to responding to large-scale disasters and disruptions to food production and distribution. The drought occurred during the latter half of 2011 and put nearly 11 million people in need of emergency assistance. It became a famine in southern Somalia due to meddling by the al Shabab insurgency. Tens of thousands died of malnutrition. Ambassador Richard Roth, Senior Advisor to Assistant Secretary of State Johnnie Carson, said the United States has so far provided $934 million in aid to counter the drought and famine.

    AmandaDoryAmanda Dory, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, said the combination of population growth, urbanization, and anticipated climate changes leading to hotter and drier conditions in the northern and southern regions of the continent require that African nations and the international community get better at predicting and responding to food supply crises. She said projects are underway to build systems that measure vulnerabilities, to conduct social science research to improve the response once an emergency occurs, and to find solutions through dialog.

    “The Department of Defense has a great logistics capability and we benefit from the experience of the UN family and NGOs,” Dory said. “ACSS engages countries in dialog that has longer-term dividends that we should endeavor to maintain. But there is still a lot of work ahead for African nations, the United States, and for international partners.”

  • ACSS Welcomes Next Generation of African Security Sector Leaders

    NextGenGroupPhoto2012-2webView Photos of This Event.

    The Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) welcomed 42 military officers representing 37 African nations during the opening ceremonies of its Next Generation of African Security Sector Leaders Program on March 12, 2012. ACSS is conducting the three-week program on March 11-30 for some of the continent’s most talented young military leaders.

    WASHINGTON, D.C. – The course focuses on enhancing professionalism, ethics, and leadership in African militaries. Throughout the program, participants will examine Africa’s contemporary and emerging security threats. They will analyze civil-military relations on the continent to determine the role and place of professional military officers in advancing national security in democratizing states. Attending officers, mostly at the ranks of major and lieutenant colonel, were selected by their countries to take the course because of their significant command experience or staff responsibilities as well as their recognized leadership potential.

    Welcome remarks by Ambassador William M. Bellamy (ret.), Director of the Africa Center for Strategic Studies

    “This course comes at the right moment,” said ACSS Director Ambassador (ret.) William Bellamy in his opening remarks. “African militaries today face enormous challenges. The continent is still experiencing the aftermath of the Arab Spring, and Sub-Saharan Africa has not been isolated from these events.”

    Bellamy said African militaries should never take the place of civilian governments as has happened in several countries. “It is a military duty to ensure respect for your country’s constitution,” he said.

    Colonel Emile Ouédraogo, Burkina Faso’s former Minister of Security, spoke during his keynote address about Africa’s security challenges and the importance of senior military leadership in the region. He drew a nexus between security, democracy, leadership, and ethics.

    “The legitimacy and operational efficiency of the security forces in a democratic context requires a flawless professionalism,” he said. “In this respect, the professionalism of the next generation of [African] security sector leaders will not be limited only to mastery of weapons and loyalty to a constitutional government. This new professionalism will incorporate into their traditional duties new areas that include non-traditional security aspects such as good governance and human security, and they will have to deal with challenges posed by rapid urbanization and transnational threats.”

    Ouédraogo said new security leaders must be loyal to the nation and cultivate a sense of duty, integrity, and selfless service in the face of widespread corruption. He also urged African countries to write and implement a national security strategy. More broadly, Ouédraogo advocated for better working conditions for security personnel and stronger collaboration between different branches of the armed forces as a precondition for them to achieve their mission.

    ACSS’s has offered the Next Generation of Security Sector Leaders course at least once a year since 2005.

    As a complement to the rigorous classroom work taught by African and U.S. experts, participants will also tour the State Department and U.N. headquarters in New York to learn more about effective civil-military cooperation, good governance, and democratization.

  • Narco-States: Africa's Next Menace

    drugwestafrica-300x199By Davin O'Regan. Africa Center for Strategic Studies, 2012. Op-Ed contributor - International Herald Tribune

    Since emerging as Africa’s first narco-state in the mid 2000s, Guinea Bissau’s slide toward instability has been swift and precipitous. The homicide rate has spiked by 25 percent and is now nearly three times the global average. Meanwhile, poverty levels have remained near the very bottom of world rankings. Over the last five years its score on the well known “Failed States Index” has plunged more than any other country. [Read More]