This is from General William Ward’s introduction on our website, originally posted October 6, 2009, at http://www.africom.mil/africomDialogue.asp?entry=856
From Gen William "Kip" Ward<!– –>
My staff and I spend much of our time traveling and meeting with people across Africa, throughout the United States, and around the world. A lot of those people ask us: What is U.S. Africa Command really about? Why has the United States created this organization? What did the American government expect to gain for the American people by building U.S. Africa Command?
These are all excellent questions. The U.S. Africa Command works with Africans and the international community to promote the fundamental idea that establishing professional military service is an effective approach for building self-sustaining stability and fostering conditions that promote development.
Everything we do works toward that goal. We became responsible for all U.S. military activity in Africa in October 2008. Since then, we have worked continuously to listen and learn from our partners so that our activities and programs support the needs of the Africans to provide for their own security and stability.
I personally have learned enormously from our African partners, and I greatly enjoy every opportunity I get to engage with African leaders and their people on the continent and its island nations. Although Africa comprises more than fifty different and independent nations, I have found some common elements of concern:
— Economic security – This includes the safe and secure movement of people and goods. It also includes complex factors such as how to prevent piracy, reduce corruption, provide greater access to health, and promote good governance;
— Respect for rule of law, civil authority, human rights, and valuing dignity for all – I’ve been repeatedly told and seen firsthand that mutual respect is an essential building block of stable, prosperous communities;
— Self-empowerment – People tell me they want to be capable of solving their own problems. They do not want others doing their work for them. Nor do they want others telling them what to do or how to do it.
— Self-sustaining stability The Africans remind me consistently how security and development go hand-in-hand. They want a better tomorrow, and recognize this means coming to terms with the threats to peace in their midst.
Some of these concerns are not the business of the U.S. military, or anybody’s military. Recognizing that at the most basic level, a nation’s armed forces exist to protect its people — all of its people — these concerns can be addressed by engaging other elements of government and civil society.
I believe that the U.S. military can be an effective long-term partner in Africa, because we share the same goal of an Africa that is secure, stable and developed in ways meaningful to its people and our global society. Our men and women in uniform bring capabilities to help the Africans achieve their security goals while demonstrating how pride in ones service can make a difference in how the people of a nation feel towards their military, their government, and each other especially in places where ethnic tensions remain a factor.
The U.S. military can serve as an example of the value added by a professional force. Our Servicemembers include people of many ethnicities, of many major religions, with origins from around the world. They represent the remarkable diversity of our nation. They are also versatile, able to serve as facilitators, trainers, role models, even cultural ambassadors in uniform. The feedback we receive from our partners is that our engagements are having a very positive impact. We strive to foster opportunities across the continent, not just among a few partners.
We believe our approach is working very effectively. Nations and leaders who once were vocal critics now seek ways to work together with us and with their neighbors as dynamic partnerships flourish across the continent. Through our activities and programs, we are demonstrating that our goal is to help strengthen African security organizations in positive ways so that the people of Africa can better protect their sovereignty, their resources, and their futures. After all, these programs are requested by Africans, approved by our State Department, authorized by our U.S. Congress and paid for by the American people, to help promote long-term stability in Africa. I truly believe that the work we are doing is going to add value to the lives of millions of people in Africa and around the world.
I invite you to keep watching the work of Africa Command, to keep offering intelligent insights gained from your many varied experiences, and most importantly, to travel with us on this profound journey as we work together to help build a secure, prosperous Africa where dignity and respect are shared by all.
Thank you for visiting the Africa Command website,
General Kip Ward
Commander, United States Africa Command