September 2011

  • Senior Gabonese Officials Visit the Africa Center for Strategic Studies

    [caption id="attachment_14837" align="alignleft" width="300" caption="Dr. John F. Kelly , The Africa Center for Strategic Studies Associate Dean welcoming Gabon's National Security Council Secretary General M. Leon-Paul Ngoulakia"]Dr. John F. Kelly , The Africa Center for Strategic Studies Associate Dean  welcoming Gabon's National Security Council Secretary General M. Leon-Paul Ngoulakia [/caption]

    WASHINGTON, D.C.- A Gabon National Security Council (NSC) delegation led by Secretary General M. Leon-Paul Ngoulakia visited the Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) headquarters on September 27, 2011. The officials were guests of ACSS Director Ambassador William M. Bellamy (ret.). The sides discussed expanding relations between Gabon and the Africa Center. The Gabonese party arrived in the US on September 24 for a week-long visit.

  • Senior Ethiopian Officers Visit the Africa Center for Strategic Studies


     Click here for photos from this event.

    WASHINGTON, D.C.-A delegation of the Ethiopian National Defense Force visited the Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) headquarters on 21 September. Colonel Alemseged Hadera Teklu, the Commandant of the Ethiopian Command and Staff College, and his colleagues were the distinguished guests.  ACSS Deputy Director Michael E. Garrison presented an overview of the center’s mission and programs during the visit, which included a questions and answers session between the Ethiopian representatives and ACSS’s leadership and academic teams. The discussion focused on fostering relations between the Ethiopian military and the Africa Center.

    The group discussed current security challenges facing Africa including failed states such as Somalia and the transnational issues of drug trafficking and crime. The Ethiopian visitors inquired about the US perspective on such problems. Both delegations voiced hope that they could partner on future initiatives to tackle the region’s greatest concerns

    The  delegation is on a two-week US visit, which is aimed at exposing senior Ethiopian officers in command of the country’s military training institutions to US counterpart organizations and other government agencies. The trip is focused on promoting courses available to the Ethiopians under the US International Military Education and Training (IMET) program. IMET is a component of U.S. security assistance that provides grant-based training to students from allied and friendly nations.

  • Sierra Leone Forms a Community Chapter

    Senior members of Sierra Leone’s government and diplomatic corps were among the 47 people who attended the ceremony to launch ACSS’s 29th Community Chapter, August 17, in Freetown. The new chapter provides a forum for community members to develop independent programs in support of common defense and security interests, maintain communication with the Africa Center and in-country U.S. Embassy colleagues and have networking opportunities with military and civilian colleagues in their country and region.

    Following opening remarks by Michael Owen, U.S. Ambassador to Sierra Leone, Ambassador Joseph Blell, chapter vice president thanked the audience for coming at this important event. The Honorable Alfred Paulo Conteh, Sierra Leone’s Minister of Defense, also offered congratulatory remarks to the new chapter.

    The chapter launch was an important component of the first Topical Outreach Symposium held in Sierra Leone. The symposium was an opportunity to integrate ideas on Transnational Threats and Organized Crime as well as Elections and Security. Simon Davis, an expert in anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing - and Dr. Monde Muyangwa, ACSS’s Dean of Academic Affairs and Faculty, made presentations during the event.

    Participants heard from Davis about the current issues in combating terrorism and other illegal global activities. He provided a comprehensive review of transnational threats and organized crime including terrorism, drug trafficking, weapons and minerals smuggling, and human trafficking. These discussions helped the participants re-shape their perceptions on drug trafficking and transnational threats. Resources –human and infrastructure- were also a key theme in the discussion. Davis acknowledged that even though financial resources were limited, government officials can be more creative in their resource management, and also seek a greater engagement with civil society in addressing the transnational threats. Davis also addressed future threats and threat assessment.

    Dr. Muyangwa followed with a presentation on elections and security, a timely topic with Sierra Leone national elections scheduled for 2012. She reminded participants that elections are not an event; but rather a key and essential part of a much larger democratic process. She talked about overall trends and trajectory of democracy and elections in Africa, as well as the key principles and benchmarks underpinning credible elections.  While using case studies to acknowledge the progress that Africa has made in this regard, she also highlighted several key challenges including the very high stakes associated with elections, which are a key and integral part of democracy, the imbalance of power among government branches as well as the lack of capacity of key agencies. She talked about the need to enhance qualitative democracy in Africa, including the need to hold leaders and governments more accountable on what they do to improve the well being of their citizens in between elections.  She then concluded by addressing the key elements of successful elections to include: the development of frameworks, planning of elections, election administration and management bodies, best practices and lessons learned in the execution of elections, and mechanisms for addressing post-election grievances.  When the question of ethnicity came up, she encouraged participants to think more broadly about a vision for Sierra Leone, encouraging policy makers and scholars to, rather than shy away from ethnicity and what it means to be a citizen, who can and can’t be a citizen, and how one becomes a citizen. She cautioned however, that given the sensitivities involved, this national discussion on ethnicity and citizenship should not be held at the same time as or in close proximity to elections.

    During the panel-led discussion, numerous hot-topic issues and views were presented, discussed and farther examined by participants, to include corruption, unemployment, power-sharing arrangements in Africa, ethnicity and nationality in elections, and life after elections.

    In his closing remarks, Ambassador Blell reiterated that the new chapter was committed to helping the government focus on creative resource management and implementation of policies and community members will address issues related to ethno-centrism during non-election periods. Corruption will continue to be a serious impediment to progress in Sierra Leone, Ambassador Blell said, but with the launch of the ACSS chapter, participants will work to use academic principles to address some of these current challenges.

  • National Defense University’s New Vice President Visits the Africa Center for Strategic Studies

    mceldowney_acss-visit WASHINGTON, D.C. - Ambassador Nancy McEldowney, the new Senior Vice President for  National Defense University (NDU), visited the Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) on September 16. Ambassador McEldowney was the guest of ACSS Director Ambassador William M. Bellamy (ret.). ACSS Deputy Director Michael E. Garrison presented an overview of the Africa Center’s mission and programs during the visit.


    Ambassador Nancy McEldowney Senior Vice President, National Defense University

    mceldowneyAmbassador McEldowney assumed her current position as Senior Vice President of the National Defense University on August 1, 2011. In this capacity, she coordinates the University’s international programs and outreach. Prior to this, she served as Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, with oversight responsibility for 49 countries in Europe and Eurasia, as well as the NATO alliance, the European Union, and the Organization for Security Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). Previously, she served as the U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of Bulgaria, as well as Deputy Chief of Mission in Ankara, Turkey and Baku, Azerbaijan. During the Clinton Administration, Ambassador McEldowney served at the White House as Director of European Affairs on the National Security Council staff.

    Ambassador McEldowney has also served overseas at the U.S. Embassies in Cairo, Egypt and Bonn, Germany. In addition, she was a member of the U.S. Delegation to the Strategic Arms Reduction Talks with the Soviet Union in Geneva, Switzerland.

    Within the Department of State, Ambassador McEldowney has worked in the Office of Soviet Affairs, the office of European Security Affairs, and the Office of the Deputy Secretary. She has also served in the Office of the Secretary of Defense at the Pentagon.

    Ambassador McEldowney has been granted the Stated Department’s Superior Honor Award on five occasions, and is also a recipient of the Sinclair Linguistic Award.

    Ambassador McEldowney is a member of the Senior Foreign Service. She completed her undergraduate studies at New College and holds graduate degrees from Columbia University and the National Defense University. A native of Florida, Ambassador McEldowney is married and has two daughters.

    Source: National defense University

  • Africa Center Provides U.S. Government Officials With Enhanced Understanding of African-Security Issues

    iasi_2011Click here for photos from this event.

    The Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS), located at the campus of the National Defense University at Fort Lesley J. McNair, welcomed 43 U.S. government officials at its “Introduction to African Security Issues” seminar. The four-day program, conducted 6 to 9 September, was designed to  help U.S. government personnel who work on some aspect of 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. Participants also received  an overview of major U.S. policies and programs on the continent.

    Attending this year’s seminar were civilian officials and military officers from the Department of Defense’s Joint Staff, Office of the Secretary of Defense, U.S. Strategic Command, Department of the Army, Defense Threat Reduction Agency, Defense Security Cooperation Agency, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency,  and Institute for Defense Analyses. Representatives from the Departments of State and Agriculture also attended the seminar. In addition to Africa Center faculty, guest speakers included university professors and subject-matter experts from the Africa Bureau at the U.S. Department of State, and the Office of African Affairs, Office of the Secretary of Defense.

    Participants discussed the historical, political, economic, and social roots of some of today’s security challenges that are critical to the development and implementation of U.S. policies in Africa. They also examined current and emerging security threats and challenges such as terrorism, the proliferation of small arms and light weapons, and human and narcotics trafficking.

    Subject-matter experts helped participants examine U.S. interests on the continent and specific U.S. political, defense, and economic policies aimed at supporting those interests. Also studied was the role of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) and the growing influence of Africa’s other international players and partners such as China, India, and Brazil. The seminar concluded with a discussion of the responsibility of multilateral institutions and non-governmental organizations in Africa’s security. According to many participants, the gathering was a successful forum for the attendees to discuss strategies addressing African security challenges.

    The Africa Center has offered the Introduction to African Security Issues seminar for more than five years.  For more information about this program, go to our website at

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

    Dr. Joseph Siegle, Director of Research at the Africa Center for Strategic Studies Session 1 - Africa: History and Politics

    Mr. Richard Downie, Deputy director and fellow with the CSIS Africa program Session 3 - U.S. Policy Toward Africa I: History and Current Interests and Priorities

    Prof. Adrienne LeBas: Session 4 - Conflict in Africa


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  • Africa Center Releases New Brief on Insecurity in the Sahel

    mauritania_armyBy Cedric Jourde, Africa Center for Strategic Studies

    Concerns over instability in the Sahel have been on the rise with the return of mercenaries and flow of arms from Libya, the persistence of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, and the growing presence of narcotics traffickers in the region.   In this just released Africa Security Brief, Cédric Jourde cautions against responding to these threats based solely on what is observable on the surface.

    Rather, the transborder illicit economy, Islamism, and other phenomena in the Sahel are constantly shifting and are shaped  by actors who interpret  external influences through local lenses. In Mauritania, for instance, grievances with the national government, ideological motivations, clan and caste affiliations as well as practical business interests all converge and shape how local communities engage one another or other state and nonstate groups.

    The intersections of local, national, and regional dynamics are similarly complex. Political rivalries among regional neighbors rooted in several unresolved conflicts frustrate cooperation on seemingly unconnected political developments. Regimes in the Sahel that face legitimacy deficits have also been known to wave a false flag of “insecurity” in order to target political opponents or assume greater authority, sometimes with the support of misinformed international partners.

    Understanding these layers of influence is vital to addressing the security challenges facing the Sahel. Policymakers and analysts must devote more time and resources to considering the complexity of the region. Marginalized communities who have grown extremely suspicious of national governments must also be convinced that their interests can be realized through nonviolent means. Governments in the region with relatively greater legitimacy have been less subject to the opposition of armed groups and better equipped to respond to societal demands – and are therefore deserving of greater support from international partners and regional organizations.

    Dr. Cédric Jourde is an Associate Professor at the School of Political Studies, University of Ottawa, Canada. His research focuses on the politics of identities in Sahelian countries and on dynamics of regime change and regime survival.

    Download the Brief in:  [ENGLISH]