Addressing the Heart of the Matter

Sergeant Daniel T. West, 358th Public Affairs Detachment wrote:

Delegation heads and dignitaries from several nations and international organizations sat down today to address members of the media about exercise Africa Endeavor.

Central to the group were Brigadier General Robert Ferrell, U.S. Africa Command J6 director, and Commodore Madani Senghore, the commander of the Gambian Navy and the chairman of the host nation council. Also represented were the African Union, Economic Community of West African States, the Eastern African Standby Force, the Economic Community of Central African States and the European Union.

The key point stressed by each representative was the necessity for African nations to work together in facing the challenges of a modern world. The key to that cooperation? Communication.

That is the point of Africa Endeavor. This year, 39 African nations are here, joined by four western nations and six international organizations.

Each year’s exercise has been a little larger than the last, and this year was marked by remarkable growth, with the number of sites expanding from one to three and the addition of a command post exercise.

The goal, said Ferrell, is to divide Africa into regions and for each to develop communications first within those regions, then to their higher organizations such as ECOWAS and the AU.

Once all the connections were made in the exercise and all three locations were up and running, the scenario – a disaster relief scenario – was set to begin, with oversight from the African Union.

Each representative at the conference gave a statement to the media after Senghore and Ferrell, and each offered messages with the same theme. Without communication, there can be no unity.

Some offered examples from personal experience, such as interventions in the years before Africa Endeavor had increased interoperability of communications systems, when military elements couldn’t communicate with each other, costing lives and causing chaos.

While all supported Africa Endeavor, Colonel Leon-Rodance Ndinga spoke passionately in his presentation about the need for African nations to stand up and work together to improve their relations, rather than relying on American support.

We have to go home and tell our people it’s time to help ourselves, he said.

Following the presentations, members of the media representing two electronic media outlets and six print outlets, had a few questions they wished to raise with the representatives.

One questioned the level of commitment to the exercise by the participants. While the exercise is good, will the progress it represents continue?

The answer was a definite yes, with examples of not only long-term commitment by AFRICOM, but also by the African Union to grow the exercise and to continue to shift responsibility to the African Union, until the U.S. would provide support only as observers.

The final question addressed fears that the U.S. commitment carried with it ulterior motives, ultimately control over African militaries.

Ferrell fielded that one by stating simply that the American focus is on helping Africans help themselves. He continued, saying his people were here to assist and to provide support wherever it was needed.

The communication was clear and concise and proved once again that while the exercise is about interoperability of communications systems, the most basic communication system in the world is two people, right in front of each other.

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