May 2012

  • African Liberation Day Observed Across a Continent and Around the World

    AU FLAGMay 25, 2012, marks the 54th annual celebration of African Liberation Day, when African countries commemorate the hard-fought achievement of winning freedom from European colonial powers. Considered a pan-African holiday, many citizens of Africa’s 54 countries enjoy official public holidays. “Symbolically, it's a celebration of African unity,” said Dr. Carolyn Haggis, an instructor and African Union expert at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS). The celebration began with the independence movements of the late 1950s and early 1960s, to mark “the willingness of … newly independent African countries to commit collectively to confronting colonialism and apartheid on the continent with the aim of achieving full independence for all Africans,” Haggis said. The holiday was originally called African Freedom Day when African leaders and political activists attending the Conference of Independent African States in Ghana created it on April 15, 1958. Representatives from eight independent African states attended the conference, which was the first pan-African meeting on the continent. Founders wanted an annual day to mark the liberation movement’s progress and to symbolize the determination of African people to free themselves from foreign domination and exploitation. Between 1958 and 1963, 17 African countries won their independence. The pace of change became so great during the period that 1960 has since been known as the Year of Africa. On May 25, 1963, 31 African leaders convened a summit to found the Organization of African Unity. They renamed Africa Freedom Day as “African Liberation Day" and changed its annual observance date to May 25. The OAU set the political groundwork for the creation of the African Union in 2002. For Africans around the world, the day is a reminder of the struggles against slavery and colonialism, the shared heritage and culture across the continent, and fraternity while working for real progress in peace and development. With today’s global Diaspora, many who trace their roots back to the continent but live in the Western Hemisphere or Europe also take part in African Liberation Day festivities. The day’s events include formal gatherings with panel discussions, street marches, speeches by political and social leaders, university lectures, and rallies featuring cultural entertainment, poetry, and speakers. In the United States, many observe the day by attending symposiums to discuss political and social issues relevant to African and African-American communities. Similar events were scheduled in African communities throughout Europe and around the world. “Forty-nine years later,” said Haggis, the Africa Center instructor, “African Liberation Day offers an opportunity for reflection, both on the achievements of pan-Africanism so far, as well as the new security and governance challenges that have emerged and that will also require collective approaches to solve them.”
  • The Nigerian National Security Advisor Visits ACSS

    The-Nigerian-National-Security-Advisor-Visits-ACSSThe Nigerian National Security Advisor (General Andrew Owoye AZAZI) accompanied by the Coordinator on Counter Terrorism (Major General Sarkin-Yaki BELLO) and Police and Security Service officials visited the Africa Center for Strategic Studies in Washington, DC on May 24, 2012. View Photos of the Event.
  • Faculty and Staff From the Nigerian National Defence College Visit ACSS Headquarters

    Nigerian National Defence College visited Faculty and Staff from the Nigerian National Defence College visited the Africa Center for Strategic Studies headquarters in Washington, DC on Thursday, May 17, 2012. View Photos of the Event.

  • Africa Center Researchers Provide Background for Senate Hearing on West Africa Drug Trafficking

    WestAfrica-GlobeWest Africa has become a major transit area for illegal drugs coming from South America and Southwest Asia en route to global markets, Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) researchers told U.S. Senate staff on May 9, 2012.

    The briefing provided background information to staffers in preparation for a May 16 hearing by the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control, which examined U.S. counternarcotics cooperation with West African countries.

    “The smuggling of illegal drugs through Africa, most notably cocaine and heroin, is increasingly alarming,” Ambassador Johnnie Carson, the assistant secretary of African affairs at the U.S. Department of State, said at the hearing. “West Africa is one of the most fragile regions in the world.”

    Caucus co-chairman Senator Charles E. Grassley of Iowa said West Africa’s weak and unstable governments are attracting drug traffickers after traditional routes through the Americas and Caribbean became perilous because of more successful government interdictions.

    “Mixed together, instability and corruption creates the perfect environment for criminal organizations, terrorist groups, and drug-trafficking organizations to take hold,” Grassley said. “Unfortunately, this is the current situation across many parts of West Africa.

    [caption id="attachment_18677" align="alignright" width="300" caption="Photo Credit: NDLEA "]Credit: NDLEA [/caption]

    During the prehearing briefing, ACSS Senior Diplomatic Advisor David Brown and researcher Davin O’Regan highlighted the growing quantity of cocaine moving through West Africa on its way to markets in Europe. Brown is completing an academic paper on drug trafficking in West Africa. O’Regan is conducting separate research on drug trafficking for the entire continent, with the intent of publishing an academic paper on the subject in coming months.

    According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, cocaine shipments through the region have grown by at least thirteen times those seen in 2004. Major seizures have been made in the Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Guinea, and in West African nations including Mauritania, Mali, Senegal, The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Benin, and Nigeria. The area has also become a major global distribution hub for heroin coming out of Southwest Asia and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) says major amounts of precursor chemicals needed in drug production pass through it.

    The ACSS team revealed to Senate staffers that West Africa’s drug problem has expanded beyond it being a transit route—Nigerian drug enforcement agents recently uncovered two methamphetamine labs in their country. The region has moved from an alternative drug-trafficking lane to a full production, transit, and distribution hub.

    “So, why should the United States care?” asked Senator Diane Feinstein of California, caucus co-chairwoman. “Cocaine transiting through West Africa is going to Europe after all, not the United States.”

    Feinstein discussed three reasons why the United States needs to concern itself with West Africa’s drug problem.

    First, she said, the same drug producers and traffickers the United States has been helping Latin American allies fight are running some of the smuggling operations through West Africa.

    “It is certainly not in our interest to see [these criminal organizations] enriched through illicit activities in West Africa,” Feinstein said at the hearing.

    Second, drug trafficking is financing the activities of terrorist organizations, like al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

    Finally, she said, evidence shows drugs produced in Africa like methamphetamine are being shipped to Southeast Asian markets, suggesting that they could also make their way to supply U.S. demand.

    DEA Deputy Administrator Thomas Harrigan told the caucus that his agency has “chronicled the significant increase in the use of Africa as a trans-shipment, storage, cultivation, and manufacturing point for narcotics destined for Europe, and, to a lesser extent, other consumer markets, including the U.S.”

    Harrigan said DEA is expanding its efforts in the region and working with other U.S. and international agencies to provide training and capacity-building support to African counterdrug authorities.

    The hearing also included testimony by William Brownfield, assistant secretary of state for international narcotics and law enforcement affairs at the U.S. Department of State, and William Wechsler, the U.S. Department of Defense’s deputy assistant secretary for counternarcotics and global threats.

    Wechsler made note of valiant efforts by some countries in the region to stand up to drug traffickers and the significant bribery money they bring. Still, he said, much more needs to be done to prevent the corrosion that smugglers inflict on societies.

    “Drug trafficking is destabilizing, promotes corruption, and undermines governance,” Wechsler said. “We are deeply concerned about these issues because of the pernicious effects of illicit trafficking in the region, and its links to supporting criminal and terrorist activity worldwide.”

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  • Africa Center Hosts Roundtable with Africa Diplomats and U.S. Government Employees

    Roundtable Africa Diplomats View Photos of the Event.

    African and U.S. diplomats offered their perspectives on U.S. relations with the continent and the current political turmoil in several African nations during a roundtable hosted by the Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) on May 3, 2012, at the National Defense University.

    The roundtable featured Ambassador Al-Maamoun Keita, Mali’s ambassador to the United States; Ambassador Robert Weisberg, former U.S. ambassador to the Republic of Congo; and Pascal Batjobo, minister-counselor at Burkina Faso’s embassy in Washington, D.C. The gathering was part of ACSS’s Introduction to African Security Issues (IASI) seminar, which helped 39 U.S. government employees working on U.S. relations with Africa to gain a richer understanding of the African security landscape as well as a more detailed understanding of U.S. interests, policies, and programs relating to the continent. Employees attending the four-day seminar included those who work for the U.S. Department of Defense and several other U.S. government agencies that work in and with Africa, such as the U.S Department of State and the Department of Agriculture.

    Panelists discussed the African Union (AU) Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance, which has been ratified by 15 nations and entered into force in February 2012. Recent political upheavals in Guinea-Bissau, Mali, and Senegal represented test for the Charter’s goal of political continuity in Africa. The discussions with African diplomats adhered to the Africa Center’s strict policy of non-attribution to for allow open academic dialogue. However, there was broad agreement that Senegal appears to have passed its recent test of governance while, while Guinea-Bissau and Mali remain works in progress. The recent military coups in West Africa were seen as anachronisms, representing serious setbacks for freedom and democracy. The coups also highlighted the fragility of Africa’s democracy and the daunting task of implementing the AU Charter.

    RoundtableAfricaDiplomats-AudienceDavid Brown, a career Senior Foreign Service officer with the U.S. Department of State and diplomatic advisor to the Africa Center, moderated a question-and-answer session after the presentations. Topics included corruption, democracy and governance in Africa, and the challenges to achieving better cooperation between the United States and African nations and regional organizations. The audience also discussed U.S. assistance to African militaries and China’s growing role on the continent. At the conclusion of the roundtable, participants expressed their pleasure at the opportunity to discuss African issues and challenges with diplomats who have deep experience on the continent.

    The Africa Center is one of five Department of Defense regional centers for research and academic outreach and supports U.S. policy by bringing civilian and military leaders together for informed debate on current security challenges facing Africa and the international community. Since 1999, more than 4,500 African and international professionals have participated in ACSS programs.

  • Africa’s Post-Colonial Generation Driving New Era in Politics, Anticorruption Crusader Says

    CenterforGlobalDevelopmentClick here for photos from this event.

    A new generation of African youth places less importance on ties with former colonial powers but seeks greater accountability from government, says John Githongo, a celebrated Kenyan anticorruption campaigner who spoke April 23, 2012, at the Center for Global Development (CGD) in Washington, D.C. Githongo, a former journalist, founded the Kenya chapter of Transparency International and served two years as Kenya’s Permanent Secretary for Governance and Ethics. In 2009, he was the recipient of the annual Visionary Award by the Africa Center for Security Studies (ACSS).

    The Seventh Annual Richard H. Sabot Lecture: Africa—A Second Independence: Redefining Old Relationships (Event Video)

    “Africa is at a very defining moment as countries move to consolidate their independence,” Githongo said during a presentation at the CGD, an independent, nonpartisan, and nonprofit research center that is not affiliated with ACSS. “Relations with former colonial owners are being recalibrated and, for most African youths, the white man is no longer a big deal.”

    Githongo, who has devoted much of his professional life to eliminating corruption in Kenya and across Africa, said Africans are looking for accountability as much as development. He pointed to the Arab Spring revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia, which were both considered models of African economic growth.

    “The Arab Spring had more to do with catastrophic governance,” he said.

    African countries have been experiencing steady economic growth for a decade, but citizens still struggle with poverty and inequality is growing. As a result, people question whether there will be a trickledown effect from growth and ask for more accountability from their governments.

    Githongo also discussed foreign aid to Africa, a major concern for the audience that included high-ranking government officials, economists, diplomats, and foreign policy scholars.

    Center for Global-Development-Audience

    “The foreign aid community is having a nervous breakdown right now,” he said. “They always ask me the same question: Are we doing the right thing in Africa?”

    Relaying anecdotes from his years of work in Kenyan slums, Githongo said Western development experts should refrain from acting too quickly, which can lead to haste. Sometimes, he argued, it is better to let a country find solutions to its problems at its own pace. He cited Uganda’s fight against HIV/AIDS in its military, saying the country’s armed forces successfully developed and implemented its own strategy to counter the disease’s spread.

    Githongo said transparency is a critical component needed in African elections and politics.

    “People must know where the money comes from,” he said. “It is very important to establish trust and accountability in political parties’ finances.”

    Most of the corruption in African politics, he asserted, would not be possible without the aid of Western financial institutions that offer their services to corrupt African governments.

    “Africa has moved from poverty being the number-one priority to inequality,” he said. “Moreover, constitutional changes have never been harder. But there is genuine pressure coming from the youth for a better future. How to deal with this new issue is going to define democracy in Africa.”

    Githongo was in Washington in part to present the CGD’s Seventh Annual Richard H. Sabot Lecture, titled “Africa—A Second Independence: Redefining Old Relationships.” In 2009 he received the Africa Center’s Visionary Award for Achievement in Peace and Security. Other honorees include Alpha Oumar Konaré, former chairperson of the African Union Commission and former president of Mali; Mrs Graça Machel, former first lady of Mozambique and South Africa; retired general Lamine Cissé of Senegal; and retired general William E. “Kip” Ward of the United States.

    The Africa Center for Strategic Studies is one of five Department of Defense regional centers for research and academic outreach and supports U.S. policy by bringing civilian and military leaders together for informed debate on current security challenges facing Africa and the international community.

    Since 1999, more than 5,000 African and international leaders have participated in ACSS programs.

  • Nigerian Leaders Discuss Disaster Management at National Defense University

    Nigerian Defence College Visit Group PhotoView Photos of this Event.

    Nigerian colonels designated by their country for future senior leadership positions visited the National Defense University in Washington, D.C., on May 3, 2012, to talk with U.S. experts about disaster management.

    The meeting, hosted by the Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS), was part of the Nigerian National Defence College’s geostrategic study program, which sends students on tours of important countries every year. The tour’s theme this year focused on disaster management and national development lessons Nigeria can learn from past U.S. experience. Eighteen visitors, including the defense college’s commandant, faculty, and students drawn from the country’s army, navy, air force, and civil service attended the roundtable.Disaster Management Panel

    Rear Adm. (ret.) John F. Sigler, the former deputy director of the Near East South Asia Center for Strategic Studies, discussed the hard lessons learned by the U.S. government after 2005’s Hurricane Katrina and by others during the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami.

    He said a nation would inevitably call upon its military for help in the event of a major disaster, whether it is natural or manmade.

    “Militaries bring organization and manpower, heavy equipment, command-and-control capabilities, and — perhaps most important — helicopters,” Sigler said. “A major disaster will wipe out your infrastructure, including roads, which will make areas that you need to get to inaccessible.”

    Among the lessons the United States learned from Katrina: cooperation between agencies and a quick response save lives; critical infrastructure must be made survivable; local responders and communities must be prepared to survive for a time without outside help; there must be a clear chain of command; and agencies should work hard on warning systems before a disaster strikes.

    “Preparing for a disaster is expensive,” he said, “but it’s always less costly than the response afterwards.”

    Dr. Raymond Gilpin, director of the U.S. Institute for Peace’s Center for Sustainable Economies, talked about expected climatic changes over Nigeria. He said the effects on the country would be just one potential problem for which the government must prepare.

    Gilpin pointed to data that shows northern Nigeria is already experiencing 25 percent less rainfall than 30 years ago. The desert, meanwhile, has been marching southward and research has found a 400 percent increase in sand dunes from two decades ago.

    In southern Nigeria, there has been a 20 percent increase in severe thunderstorms over the past decade. Looking ahead, a 1.5-foot (0.5 meter) sea-level rise would submerge 11,000 square miles of the country’s land.

    Dr. Gilpin“This pans out as resource shortages of land and water,” Gilpin said. “You will see population shifts from land pressure, migration, and accelerated urbanization. This will also lead to more difficulties to people’s livelihoods and productivity.”

    Both experts emphasized the need for proactive planning before a disaster to minimize its impacts. And Sigler said an effective response does more than save lives, it highlights good governance to citizens.

    “For a government to remain legitimate, it has to be able to manage disasters,” he said. “If you do it right, your citizens develop confidence in, and goodwill toward, the government and military.”

    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 4,500 African and international leaders have participated in ACSS programs.

  • U.S. Government Officials Begin ACSS African Security Seminar

    IASI - Group PhotoView Photos of this Event.

    The Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) is hosting 39 U.S. government employees for its Introduction to African Security Issues (IASI) seminar on May 1-4, 2012, at the National Defense University in Washington, D.C.

    The seminar is designed to help U.S. government personnel who are assigned to work on U.S.-Africa security policy, but possess limited experience or training in African issues, to learn more about the political, social, military, and economic aspects of security in Africa and major U.S. policies and programs on the continent. ACSS conducts the IASI seminar twice a year.

    Attending this year’s seminar are personnel from the departments of Defense, State, and Agriculture, Africa Command, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Guest speakers comprise Africa Center faculty as well as academics and subject-matter experts from various institutions.

    IASI - Dr. Haggis

    “Security threats in Africa are constantly evolving,” said ACSS instructor Dr. Carolyn Haggis. “This course takes a look at the current and emerging threats, and prepares U.S. government officials for over-the-horizon challenges.”

    The Africa Center is one of five Department of Defense regional centers for research and academic outreach and supports U.S. policy by bringing civilian and military leaders together for informed debate on current security challenges facing Africa and the international community.

    Since 1999, more than 5,000 African and international leaders have participated in ACSS programs.