October 2011

  • ACSS Congratulates Veteran Staff Members on Promotions

    ClaudeKareemv1wKareem Oweiss Named New ACSS Director of Operations. The Africa Center is pleased to announce that Kareem Oweiss has been appointed the new Director of Operations of the organization. In this capacity, he manages and develops policy and overall guidelines affecting operational functions for ACSS. Kareem brings to the Africa Center a strong interest and significant professional experience in Africa. Kareem is a veteran of the organization, where he has held many positions, including Special Events Coordinator and Operations Officer. Most recently, Kareem served as Regional Operations Program Specialist at ACSS’ Regional Office for West Africa, in Dakar, Senegal from 2008 to 2011. 

    Prior to coming to ACSS, Kareem worked as an aid coordination program officer at the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Rwanda. He earned a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in culture and politics at Georgetown University and a Master of Arts (MA) in poverty reduction and development management from the UK’s University of Birmingham

    Kareem is fluent in French and speaks conversational Arabic. In his spare time, he enjoys playing piano.

    Claude Toze Appointed New Regional Operations Program Specialist in Dakar. The Africa Center for Strategic Studies is pleased to welcome Claude Toze as the new Regional Operations Program Specialist at the ACSS Regional Office for West Africa in Senegal. In this position, Claude will provide management support and coordinate ACSS activities throughout the sub-region. Claude is a veteran employee of the Africa Center, having recently celebrated his fifth anniversary with the center. In early October he transitioned from a contractor position as Contracts and Finance Manager to government service and will soon transfer to Dakar.

    Claude brings to his new position a wealth of experience including thorough knowledge of the organization, an ability to predict needs and determine priorities, and excellent financial and budgetary skills. Claude’s prior international experience includes work as Program Officer for the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in Libreville, Gabon.

    A native of Benin, Claude graduated from Benin National University in Economics and Finance before attending the MBA Bridge Program at the University of Utah. He is fluent in French and speaks four African dialects. In his spare time, Claude loves camping with his family. The Africa Center is excited to welcome Claude to the Regional Office West Africa team.

  • Military and Civilian Leaders Join ACSS for Seminar on Managing Security Resources

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    Resource scarcity during bleak economic times is the best opportunity for countries to become more efficient at conducting the business of government, the head of the Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) said during opening remarks for the organization’s annual Managing Security Resources in Africa Seminar.

    ACSS Director Ambassador William M. Bellamy (ret.) told the meeting’s participants, 32 high-ranking civilian and military officials from 15 African nations, that every country, including the United States, should not let the moment pass to look objectively at how to better provide security for its citizens.

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

    “Managing resources requires good instincts and good policy measures,” Bellamy said. “Leanness is a virtue. It applies to us as much as to Africa. It’s up to all of us here today to build organizations that are smart, strong, and quick.” Building better defense and security capabilities, he said, would require leaders to rethink national strategies and objectives while at the same time realizing that no organization could be everywhere or do everything. The remarks were part of the Oct. 17, 2011, beginning of ACSS’s annual week-long resource management seminar, which provides a capacity-building opportunity for practitioners and policymakers in Africa’s security sector. Seven seminar participants presented case studies from their home countries on various aspects of budgeting and procurement in the defense sector, which added a new chance to cross-pollinate good ideas across Africa. Attendees also broke into small discussion groups to focus on key topics that emerged in plenary sessions and heard from ACSS defense economics and civil-military reform experts. Dr. Assis Malaquias, ACSS Academic Chair for Defense Economics, asked the African leaders to consider the highest aspirations of their countries 100 years from now and to develop national security policies to reach those goals. “What should the society look like? In security, what is our primary function—defense of the homeland or projection of force?” he asked those assembled. “Efficient resource management that ensures effective national security is the link that gets us from here to there.”

    Remarks by Dr. Assis Malaquias, ACSS Academic Chair for Defense Economics

    But Malaquias cautioned that wasteful spending and poorly prioritized objectives could short circuit the path to national goals. “The steps that need to happen are one, we need to eliminate waste and two, we need to increase transparency,” he said. “We need to be honest in performing our fiduciary responsibilities.” ACSS experts all said that security services in African countries need to become more flexible to counter the growing internal and external threats facing them. If leaders do not make those hard choices, their societies risk becoming destabilized. “When the state doesn’t provide security and citizens have to provide their own, that’s when the real problems begin,” Bellamy said. “That’s when ethnic conflicts begin. That’s when militias begin. People try to protect themselves, their villages, their families, or their clans.” Dr. John Kelly, ACSS’s Associate Dean, said increasing the flexibility of security forces is only one aspect of a broader approach Africa must take to meet the challenges of the 21st century. The United States and its African friends, he said, must become better at the art of cooperation and learn to carry on as teammates. “Terrorist and criminal organizations change all the time,” he said. “We need new rules to deal with new circumstances. We need to consult with each other. We need to work together to come up with shared solutions.”
  • ACSS Delegation Visits Uganda Community Chapter

    P1000021An Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) delegation comprised of Associate Dean Dr. John Kelly, Transnational Threats and Counter-Terrorism Chair Dr. Benjamin Nickels and Interim Chief of Communications Michelle Cavalcanti visited Uganda on September 19-22. The trip was part of the Topical Outreach Program Series (TOPS), the Africa Center’s initiative designed to increase the quality and quantity of communications and networking among ACSS alumni.

    During the four-day visit, the group met with the Uganda Community Chapter president, Constitutional Court Justice Steven B.K. Kavuma, to discuss the state of the affiliate, which was founded in 2006. They also talked about challenges for the organization. Separately, the delegation took the opportunity to meet with newly appointed US Embassy staff.

    ACSS’s visit to Kampala included the always well-received TOPS Symposium on an African security issue chosen by the chapter. Nearly 50 people—diplomats, military and civilians—gathered at the Serena Kampala Hotel on September 20 for discussions concerning al Shabaab in Eastern Africa and strategies for preventing terrorism. Both topics featured Dr. Nickels as the guest speaker.

    US Ambassador to Uganda Jerry P. Lanier gave the conference’s opening remarks. (Link to speech) He spoke about security challenges and transnational terrorist networks, and focused on the US administration’s comprehensive approach to counter the threat. A key part of that approach, he said, would be to discredit al Qaida’s propaganda in the region. He also called for the state and civil society to work together to counter radicalization in Uganda.

    Dr. Kelly echoed Lanier’s remarks during his talk, insisting on the need to recognize, analyze and fight extremism, especially “its destructive tendency and anarchistic philosophy” that foster “spiritual colonialism.” Kelly said this should be a core principle not just for Uganda and the United States, but also for the international community.

    Lanier and Kelly’s talks paved the way for the first lecture, in which Nickels gave an overview of Somali terrorist group al Shabaab and described the current situation. He showed how the nature of modern terrorism presents a tremendous challenge to global security and stability and bears international and multinational characteristics. In his second presentation on strategies for preventing terrorism, he discussed various factors that contribute to it, but also pointed out the difficulty in defining specific triggers. He stressed the importance of dealing with the root causes of terrorism and not the symptoms by getting ahead of problems, recognizing early signs of radicalization in young people and allocating resources to fight it.

    Nickels’ presentations sparked many questions about al Shabaab’s finances, whereabouts and agenda. A number of participants said the ideals of the youth must be addressed along with poverty and unemployment to prevent young people from joining the ranks of terrorist groups. Audience members said poverty has made locals vulnerable to indoctrination and recruitment into terrorist activities. Questions about the international community’s commitment to the fight were also raised.

    To wrap up the day, Justice Kavuma thanked everybody for coming, and pledged the chapter’s continued engagement with the government to work on addressing security issues.

    The ACSS community chapter Topical Outreach Program Series is the organization’s flagship initiative for maintaining active, positive and substantive Africa Center relationships with ACSS community members, expanding on efforts to reach non-traditional audiences in Africa and continuing Africa Center academic programing on the continent in countries not visited through other formal ACSS programs.  TOPS are run in 29 ACSS community chapters throughout Africa.

    The Africa Center for Strategic Studies is the premier agency of the United States charged with advancing U.S. security interests in Africa through the development of a self-sustaining, networked and empowered community of current and future African security sector leaders.

  • ACSS Conducts Botswana alumni chapter’s symposium on environmental challenges to the country’s security

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    Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) staff members, Dr. Mathurin Houngnikpo, Mr. Bradley Anderson and Ms. Emily Renard were in Gaborone in mid-September to take part in the Botswana alumni chapter’s symposium on environmental challenges to the country’s security.

    More than 100 Botswana civilian and military leaders and their US counterparts attended the September 19 conference, which was part of ACSS’s community chapter Topical Outreach Program Series (TOPS).

    ACSS community member Augustine Makgonatsotlhe, Permanent Secretary at the Office of the President, opened the symposium by saying he was focused on engaging with civil society and improving citizens’ understanding of the military. He applauded the ACSS chapter for being a forum of debate and called its evolving maturity a sign of Botswana’s healthy democracy.

    For her part, US Ambassador Michelle Gavin praised the professionalism of the Botswana Defence Force in executing its duties for the betterment of the whole nation.

    The alumni chapter’s executive committee decided to devote the day’s major presentations to environmental challenges to stability and national security.

    The audience first heard from the Institute for Security Studies’ Dr. Wilson Kipkore on the mounting concerns of climate change, natural disasters and food insecurity threatening the nation. He focused on the dangers inherent in competition for scarce water, saying that nations need to bolster regulations governing water allocation and use but, more importantly, must work to enforce the rules inside their own borders and regionally. He called on Africans to include the safeguarding of infrastructure and the environment when endeavoring in peacekeeping operations around the continent.

    Later, ACSS’s academic chair of civil-military relations, Dr. Mathurin C. Houngnikpo, spoke about how leaders could better address environmental and security issues if they worked across borders to form regional collaborations.

    The lectures sparked an energetic and frank discussion by attendees about the role of sustainable development and energy generation in the context of Botswana, environmental crimes, and the possibilities of regional cooperation. Many said they had never thought of environmental issues as security concerns. They decided that alumni must become advocates for environmental protection within the government of Botswana and in regional associations.

    The chapter’s leadership said the Ministry of Defence, Justice and Security voiced hopes that the alumni organization would act as a bridge between generations, creating a platform for retired senior military and civilian officers to stay engaged and offer guidance to active leaders on the country’s security issues.

    The ACSS community chapter Topical Outreach Program Series is the organization’s flagship initiative for maintaining active, positive and substantive Africa Center relationships with ACSS community members, expanding on efforts to reach non-traditional audiences in Africa, and continuing Africa Center academic programming on the continent in countries not visited through other formal ACSS programs. TOPS are run in 29 ACSS community chapters throughout Africa.

    The Africa Center for Strategic Studies is the premier agency of the United States charged with advancing U.S. security interests in Africa through the development of a self-sustaining, networked and empowered community of current and future African security sector leaders.