Africa Snapshot: Botswana

Located north of South Africa, Botswana is the site of this year’s Southern Accord, an exercise that fosters security cooperation while conducting a combined joint humanitarian assistance/disaster relief, peacekeeping operations, and aeromedical evacuation exercise.

Population: According to the CIA World Factbook, the estimated population for July 2012 was about 2 million people.

Languages: While the official language of Botswana is English, only about 2% of the population speaks it.  The majority (78.2%) of the population speaks Setswana, while a small percentage of the population speaks Kalanga, Sekgalagadi, or other languages.

Religion: 71% of the population practices Christianity; 6% practices Badimo.  The rest of the population’s religion is unspecified.

History: The name “Batswana” is a term used to denote all citizens of Botswana. “Batswana” also refers to the name of the major ethnic group, the Tswana, which came to the area from South Africa during the Zulu wars of the early 1800s.  Until the arrival of Europeans, the Batswana were farmers and herders under tribal rule.  The Batswana asked for British assistance in the 19th century, when hostilities broke out between the Batswana and Boer settlers from the Transvaal.  In 1885, Britain put “Bechaunaland” under its protection. The northern territory is what is today Botswana, while the southern territory is now a part of South Africa. Britain honored Botswana’s request to be self-governed in June 1964, and the first general elections were held in September of 1965.  The first president of Botswana was Seretse Khama, a leader in the movement toward independence.  He ruled until his death in 1980. The current president, former Vice President Ian Khama, was elected as president during the general election held on October 16, 2009.

Economy: Botswana has had one of the fastest growth rates in per capita income since its independence in 1964, but it has significantly slowed due to the global economic downturn. Botswana’s economic record is a result of wise use of revenues from diamond mining.  Mining, tourism, and agriculture are the primary economic industries of Botswana, but the high rate of HIV/AIDS among the people has hurt the economy.  The government has been providing leadership to combat this deadly disease, including free anti-retroviral treatment and a nationwide Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission program.

Relationship with the United States: The U.S. and Botswana have a very strong relationship, with America recognizing Botswana as an advocate and model of stability in Africa.  During Exercise Southern Accord, more than 1,200 military personnel from the Republic of Botswana and the United States came to train together on humanitarian assistance/disaster relief and peacekeeping operations, to practice aeromedical evacuations, and to enhance military capabilities and interoperability. The U.S. has also worked in collaboration with Botswana to combat HIV/AIDS. Of adults ages 15 to 49 in Botswana, about 25% are infected with HIV, as of 2009. Botswana is one of the 15 focus countries for PEPFAR, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief.

Sources: State Department; PEPFARCIA World Factbook

10 Things about the National Guard State Partnership Program

The National Guard State Partnership Program matches up foreign countries with the National Guard from certain U.S. states. For example, the Wyoming National Guard is paired with Tunisia. The State Partnership Program grew from a 1991 U.S. European Command decision to set up the Joint Contact Team Program in the Baltic Region with Reserve component Soldiers and Airmen. The National Guard then proposed pairing U.S. states with three nations emerging from the former Soviet Bloc. The State Partnership Program was born. It has since become a key U.S. security cooperation tool, facilitating relationships across all aspects of international civil-military affairs and encouraging people-to-people ties at the state level. Here are 10 more facts about the program:

1.  The State Partnership Program (SPP) is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2012-2013. The 20th anniversary year kicked off with a video about the program’s history.

2.  The first three partner relationships were established between Maryland and Estonia; Michigan and Latvia; and Pennsylvania and Lithuania in 1993.  The newest SPP partnership is between South Carolina and Colombia, which was just announced in July 2012.

3.  Today, the program encompasses 65 partner affiliations with 70 countries across the globe — over a third of the world’s recognized countries.

4.  The State Partnership Program currently accounts for 44% of all mil-mil engagements in U.S. European Command, 46% in U.S. Africa Command, and 38% in U.S. Southern Command.

5.  The program supports the security cooperation objectives of combatant commanders, as well as the country objectives of the chiefs of mission within their areas of responsibility.

6.  Twenty-two State Partnership Program nations have provided nearly 11,000 troops in Afghanistan. Read a short story about members of the Pennsylvania National Guard serving in Afghanistan alongside Lithuanians, and together helping to train Afghan policemen.

7.  Forty countries that partner with the National Guard through the State Partnership Program currently provide a total of 31,309 troops and military experts to United Nations peacekeeping efforts.

8.  Nearly 20 National Guard states have deployed with their State Partnership Program partners to Iraq and Afghanistan.

9. State Partnership Program partner-country deployments reduce pressure on U.S. forces worldwide and hedge against the need for more direct and costly U.S. military involvement in future contingencies.

10.  The State Partnership Program is all about relationship building, which was important 20 years ago and has become even more important in the post-9/11 era. Our future is in establishing enduring relationships with our friends and allies around the world and working together to develop our mutual capabilities to ensure peace and stability in the world.

10 Things about Western Accord

During June 26 to July 24, 2012, more than 1,200 military service men and women are participating in Western Accord, an inaugural exercise in Thiés, Senegal, designed to improve peacekeeping capabilities and proficiencies. Participating nations this year include Senegal, Burkina Faso, Guinea, The Gambia and France, along with another 600 military personnel from the United States. Below are ten facts regarding the exercise.

1.  Exercise Western Accord 2012 is a multi-lateral training exercise with West African nations to increase understanding and interoperability, prevent conflict by enabling Africans to provide for their security and stability, strengthen relationships with partner nations, and promote and support U.S. national security priorities.  Task Force Commander, Colonel Anthony Fernandez, III said, “Our combined efforts and shared purpose will not only pave the way for future regional exercises but also forge a personal bond amongst our warriors.”

2.  Western Accord 2012 is led by U.S. Marine Forces Africa and sponsored by U.S. Africa Command.

3.  The exercise includes: live-fire and combat marksmanship training, peacekeeping operations, disaster response, and intelligence capacity building.

4. Concurrent with the exercise, U.S.military professionals from the Vermont Army National Guard, along with a Senegalese Medical Detachment, will provide medical assistance to the local residents in and around the communities of Dakar and Thiés.

5.  The U.S. and African medical and dental staffs  treated nearly 1,800 patients in Senegal during Western Accord 2012.  “It’s a great opportunity,” said Air Force Captain Jason Galipeau, the project officer with the 158th Fighter Wing located in South Burlington, Virginia. “It feels great. It is something that will stick with [the service members] through their whole career.”

6.  Participating U.S. forces include Marines from the 3rd Battalion and 25th Marine Regiment, who will be making up the primary element of the task force, along with reservists from all across the U.S. to include the 4th Medical Battalion, Vermont Army National Guard, and Marine Wing Support Squadron 473.  “It’s been a really great experience being able to share and work with our African partners.  I think it’s important for us to be on the same level of training as much as we can be,” said Lance Corporal Ryan M. Logan, an assistant gunner, Lima Company, 3/25.

7.  One theme of the exercise is listening to the perspectives of African leaders and citizens.  This enables participants to understand the challenges Africans face, to conduct programs in response to their requests, and to ensure their security needs are being met.

8.  Western Accord is designed to provide combined arms training for ground combat elements while simultaneously providing humanitarian assistance to local residents.

9. As part of Western Accord 2012, U.S. Marines from the 3rd Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment will be spending time with joint forces from the various West African nations to train and exchange their shared experiences of non-lethal weapons and crowd-control tactics.  “First thing we did was find out what kind of experiences they had because it’s a possibility they have more real-world experience in these kinds of scenarios than us.  We also want to know what they can teach us,” said Sergeant Jonah L. Saylers, an instructor for non-lethal weapons and crowd control techniques from Lima Company, 3/25.

10.  Distinguished visitors of Western Accord 2012 included: General Carter F. Ham, the commander of U.S. Africa Command; Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Jones, U.S. Defense Attaché to Senegal; Colonel Douglas Fairfeld, chief of staff for U.S. Marine Corps Forces Africa; The Honorable Robert Yamate, Charge d’Affairs of the U.S. Embassy in Dakar; Brigadier General Richard N. Harris Jr., chief of joint staff of the Vermont Air National Guard; Admiral Ousmane, Ibrahima Sall, deputy chief of staff of the Armed Forces of Senegal; Brigadier General Pape Samba Kamara, chief of the Senegalese army; Brigadier General Gregoire Saint-Quentin, commander, French Elements in Senegal; Colonel Vinta Some, Burkina Faso Contingent commander, ECOWAS Standby Force; Abdoulie Kah, Deputy Permanent Secretary of Ministry of Defense, Gambia; Brigadier General Namory Traore, deputy chief of staff of the Armed Forces, Guinea.

A Firsthand Account of AFRICOM’s Pandemic Response Program

This blog post was written by Brigadier General Stayce Harris, U.S. Africa Command’s mobilization reserve assistant to the commander.

Over the past 2 years, I have had the honor of working with AFRICOM/J5’s Pandemic Response Program (PRP) run by AFRICOM, funded by USAID and implemented by CDHAM (Center for Disaster and Humanitarian Assistance Medicine).   One of Africa Command’s strategic objectives is “assisting partner nations with protecting populations from emerging infectious diseases.” The role of PRP is to assist in strengthening African partner military nations’ capacities to respond to a pandemic in support of their national pandemic response plan.  The key themes of PRP are the importance of preparedness for a response, clear command and control in multi-jurisdictional disasters and regional cooperation during a severe pandemic disaster.

I’ve witnessed this exercise transition and mature, moving from the facilitators and presenters coming from the United States to our most recent exercise in Burkina Faso where the facilitators and presenters were our African partners!  What a success, “African solutions for Africa”! 

During this Burkina Faso PRP exercise, the Partner Nation’s civilian government leaders, military leaders, NGOs, IOs and regional partners that have an expertise in Pandemic Disaster management gather for a week-long tabletop exercise.  The exercise “stress tests” and validates the nation’s pandemic response plan in areas that include health, security, logistics, communications, operations amongst others areas depending on the nation’s requirements.  We must keep in mind that health and security issues are closely linked. 

In addition to the national exercises, PRP has regional exercises.  Regional cooperation is the key as pandemics and disasters know no borders, and the stronger the regional communication and cooperation in the event of a pandemic disaster, the greater chance of saving more lives.  The regional partnerships enable partners to share their best practices, capabilities and capacities to better work with each other.

It was a pleasure being in Burkina Faso for the last exercise and having the opportunity to visit regional fire brigades Sapeurs Pompiers and the nation’s firefighting school in Bobo Dioulasso.  The men and women truly live up to their motto of “Sauver ou Perir” (Save or Perish)!

Our women’s luncheon in Burkina Faso was a particular highlight, as we bonded in sisterhood and together are committed to saving lives in our nations as well as serving as mentors and positive role models for those (women and men) that follow.  

I hold firm to the personal belief that there is no greater duty than saving lives, and that’s what the Pandemic Response Program accomplishes.  It enables a nation to test their national disaster response plan in order to maximize the lives saved in the event of a pandemic or other disaster.  Thank you for the opportunity to serve with this beneficial and rewarding program and more importantly to create working relationships and lifetime friendships with our African partners!

Africa Snapshot: Senegal

Senegal is this year’s host of Western Accord, an annual exercise designed to improve cooperation and connection among West African nations. More than 600 people are participating from the Armed Forces of Senegal, Burkina Faso, Guinea, The Gambia and France, along with another 600 military personnel from the United States. The exercise runs from June 26 to July 24, 2012.

Population:About 13 million people live in Senegal, as of 2011. The median age is 18 years old.

Flag of Senegal (CIA Factbook)

Languages: French is the official language. Other languages spoken include Wolof, Pulaar, Serer, Diola, Mandingo, Soninke.

Religion: The Senegalese population is 94% Muslim, 5% Christian (mostly Roman Catholic) and 1% indigenous beliefs, according to the CIA Factbook.

 History: Based on archaeological findings, Senegal was inhabited during the prehistoric era. Islam came to the Senegal River valley in the 11th century. A few hundred years later, the Jolof Empire of Senegal was founded.

Senegal is home to the first French settlement in West Africa, Saint-Louis. In 1959, Senegal and the French Soudan formed the Mali Federation. That federation celebrated independence from France on April 4, 1960. Senegal split from Soudan (later Mali) in 1960, when its first president was elected.

In 1982, Senegal joined with The Gambia to create Senegambia, a union that fell apart in 1989. A Socialist party ruled Senegal for four decades until 2000, when Abdoulaye Wade was elected president. He ruled until 2012, when Macky Sall defeated him in a spring runoff election. He is serving a 7-year term and is eligible for a second term.

Map of Senegal (CIA Factbook)

The White House released a statement after the runoff, which included: “Senegal has, through this election, reaffirmed its tradition as a leading example of good governance and democracy at work in Africa and remains an example for its neighbors. The government and people of Senegal have once again demonstrated their commitment to political expression through peaceful, democratic elections, making it harder for non-democratic forces near and far to prevail.”

Economy: Its natural resources include fish, phosphates, iron ore. Donor assistance remains a major contributor to the economy.

Geography: Senegal is located the farthest west of any country on the continent. Located on the North Atlantic Ocean, Senegal has a sliver carved out of it around the Gambia River, which is The Gambia. Its other neighbors are Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Mali and Mauritania.

Relations with the United States: America has a very good relationship with Senegal. The government often has supported the United States in the United Nations, including supporting peacekeeping efforts through Senegalese troops. The United States also provides economic and technical assistance.

 “Since its independence, Senegal has been one of America’s strongest and most consistent friends in francophone West Africa,” Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Johnnie Carson said in a statement in February 2012.

Fun Fact: The lion is the national symbol of Senegal.

National pride: The national anthem is “Pincez Tous vos Koras, Frappez les Balafons,” which means “Pluck your koras, strike the balafons.” Koras are stringed instruments; balafons are a type of xylophone. Listen to the anthem here by going to the national anthem section.

Sources: CIA World FactbookState DepartmentLonely Planet; U.S. Embassy Senegal

10 Things about Africa Partnership Station

Here’s a brief introduction to Africa Partnership Station (APS), U.S. Naval Forces Africa’s (NAVAF) flagship maritime security cooperation program. The focus of APS is to build maritime safety and security by increasing maritime awareness, response capabilities and infrastructure:

1)   One major focus of APS in 2011 was the beginning of African partners taking the lead in training other APS participants.

2)   APS engagement has involved over 30 African, European and South American nations, and interest to participate continues to grow.

3)   APS is inspired by the belief that effective maritime security will benefit all nations and contributes to development, economic prosperity and security, and will help deter violent extremist ideology ashore.

4)   Since 2007, APS has progressed from a series of bilateral port visits to a series of regional training engagements ashore and at sea.

5)   APS is developing African solutions to global problems and builds upon long-standing relationships.

6)  APS seeks to improve capabilities with partner naval forces using four “pillars” to increase maritime safety and security: Develop Maritime Domain Awareness—maintaining a clear picture of the maritime environment; build maritime professionals;                   establish maritime infrastructure; and develop response capabilities while building regional integration.

7)     Djibouti, Kenya, Mauritius, Mozambique, Uganda, Tanzania, and Seychelles participate in exercise Cutlass Express for the first time in October 2011.

8) Through APS, U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) and NAVAF conduct engagement activities with international partners and governmental/non-governmental organizations to enhance African partner nations’ self sustaining capability to effectively maintain maritime security within their inland waterways, territorial waters, and exclusive economic zones.

9)     African, European and North and South American partners, and non-governmental organizations share a common goal of regional prosperity, stability and peace.

10)  In port for Africa Partnership Station 2012, High Speed Vessel Swift sailors recently completed their community service project at Kinondi Muslim High School in Tanzania.

Africa Snapshot: Cameroon

Cameroon lies at the junction of western and central Africa. The nation is currently hosting this year’s Africa Endeavor, an annual 1n-day communications exercise focusing on interoperability and information sharing among African partners.  The goal of Africa Endeavor is to develop command, control, and communication tactics, techniques, and procedures that can be used by the African Union in support of future combined humanitarian, peacekeeping, peace support and anti-terrorism operations.

Population: According to the CIA World Factbook, the population will be around 20 million this summer.

Languages: English and French are the official languages of Cameroon, but there are 24 major African language groups in the country, as well.

Religion: 40% of the population practices indigenous beliefs.  Another 40% of the population is Christian, while the other 20% is Muslim.

History: Malaria kept Europeans out of Cameroon until the 1860s, when they began establishing coastal trade and slave trade. Christian missions put down roots in the late 1800s, and they continue to play a role today.  In 1884, all of present-day Cameroon and parts of its neighboring areas became a colony of Germany called Kamerun.  After World War I, the colony was divided between Britain and France. In 1955, an armed struggle to gain independence in French Cameroon began. Independence was achieved in 1960.  A year later, the largely Muslim, northern two-thirds of British Cameroon voted to join Nigeria, while the largely Christian southern third voted to join the Republic of Cameroon, thus forming the Federal Republic of Cameroon. The federation was replaced with a unitary state in 1972. Paul Biya has been president since 1982. He was re-elected to another seven-year term in October 2011.

Economy: Cameroon faces some of the same challenges as other underdeveloped countries, but it does have oil resources and good conditions for agriculture. Foreign investors have become interested in diamond mining projects in Cameroon. Because Cameroon has one of the worst business environments in the world, many foreign investors do not pursue business ventures with the country. Human trafficking is also a serious issue.

Geography: Although Cameroon may look tiny on the map of Africa, it’s actually larger than California. Periodically, volcanos will release toxic gases. The most active volcano in West Africa is Mount Cameroon.

Relations with the United States: Relations between the two nations are good.  According to the U.S. Department of State Background Note on Cameroon, U.S. assistance to the African nation was over $26 million in 2010.

Sources: CIA Factbook State Department Background Note – Cameroon , Britannica Online, AllAfrica, Presidency of the Republic of Cameroon


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