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10 Things about Africa Center for Strategic Studies

Here’s a brief introduction to the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, the Department of Defense’s top center for strategic security studies, research, and outreach in Africa:

1) Part of the inspiration for the Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) was its European counterpart: the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies. The Marshall Center focuses on security studies and cooperation among nations in North America, Europe and Eurasia. It hosts resident programs with a strong academic focus and non-resident programs geared toward current issues and problem-solving. The Marshall Center’s home in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany, was officially dedicated in 1993.

2) The Africa Center was officially established in March 1999 just outside the nation’s capital, in Arlington, Va. Today, it is headquartered at the National Defense University at Fort McNair, Washington, D.C.

3) The Africa Center also has regional offices in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and Dakar, Senegal.

4) The Africa Center offers a variety of programs, seminars and conferences each year. It is not an academic institution, and thus does not bestow degrees or credits.

5) Rather than call participants “alumni” after they have attended an ACSS program, the Africa Center prefers to call them “community members.” This wording highlights the importance of mutually beneficial relationships forged at the center that will connect the participants and Africa Center around the globe, far into the future.

6) Those “community members” number about 4,400. The Africa Center community includes African heads of states – current and former – as well as senior military leaders, ambassadors, diplomats, academic professionals, senior leaders from the U.S. government, directors of international organizations, and many others.

7) Africa Center encourages “community chapters,” rather than alumni associations. Dozens of ACSS community chapters have been started all over Africa. Read about the 29th chapter, started in Freetown, Sierra Leone.

8) The Topical Outreach Program (TOPS) is one example of an ACSS program. During a TOPS, ACSS staff members visit an African country that has an ACSS community chapter. The Africa Center will co-sponsor with the chapter a topical program on a security subject. Read about a topical symposium in Swaziland that focused on transnational threats in the sub-region, as well as gender, security and development.

9) The Africa Center website includes a compilation of analyses on security issues, including counter narcotics, electoral security, piracy, peacekeeping, preventing and reversing military coups, stabilization of fragile states, and much more. The views are those of the authors, only, and do not represent endorsement by the Africa Center.

10) Africa Center’s planned 2012 schedule  includes several TOPS events, an African Air Chiefs Conference, an Introduction to African Security Issues seminar in D.C., an East African workshop on countering illicit networks and irregular threats, a maritime safety and security seminar, and much more. What else do you think the center should be tackling?


10 Things About Africa Endeavor

Here’s a brief intro to the annual exercise Africa Endeavor, going on right now:

1) In cooperation with the Armed Forces of Cameroon and the support of the African Union, U.S. Africa Command is sponsoring Africa Endeavor 2012, the largest military communications interoperability and information sharing exercise in Africa

During Africa Endeavor 2011 last year, Mauritian Lt. Azize Saud Ghingut holds the antenna for a spectrum analyzer, used to show radio frequency emitters in a search for interference sources, during a practical exercise at Africa Endeavor, Falajar Barracks, The Gambia, July 15, 2011. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Daniel T. West, 358th PAD)

2) The exercise will be held June 18 to 27, 2012, in Douala, Cameroon. Look for our regular feature on African nations, “Africa Snapshot”, highlighting Cameroon next week.

3) About 35 African nations and 250 participants, including Africans, Europeans, Canadians and Americans, will be involved in Africa Endeavor 2012.

4) Africa Endeavor 2012 is modeled after Combined Endeavor, the largest command, control, communications and computers interoperability event in the world. Combined Endeavor is sponsored by U.S. European Command and draws 1,400 communications professionals from more than 40 NATO and Partnership for Peace countries each year.

5)  Ensuring African nations can communicate smoothly with each other in times of crisis is critical to peacekeeping and regional stability. Africa Endeavor 2012 focuses on testing command, control, communications and information systems to prepare for future combined humanitarian, peacekeeping, peace support and anti-terrorism operations.

6) One of U.S. Africa Command’s goals is to help its partner African nations improve their military capabilities. The exercise was planned together to identify, test, and document how different communications systems and other systems work together. Read about the initial planning conference, hosted by Lesotho, and the final planning conference, hosted by Ghana.

7) The results from the tests will help improve support of the African Union and its Standby Force by creating a common standard for joint military operations in the future.

8) After the exercise is finished, an updated African Interoperability Guide will be produced.

9) The first Africa Endeavor was held in over five days in 2006 in South Africa. Participants came from 24 African nations. Read about that first Africa Endeavor exercise.

10) Each year, the exercise builds on its learnings from the year before. Watch a video of the opening ceremony of Africa Endeavor last year, in Banjul, The Gambia.

Starting this week, you can find stories, photos, video and more covering Africa Endeavor on our website, Flickr page and YouTube channel. For frequent updates, follow us on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

If you are participating in Africa Endeavor, tag your Tweets with #AfricaEndeavor and post your thoughts from the exercise on our Facebook wall.

Africa Snapshot: Sierra Leone

Located in West Africa, Sierra Leone is nestled between Liberia and Guinea on the coast of the North Atlantic Ocean.

Population: According to the CIA Factbook, the estimated population for July 2012 is 5,485,998.


English is the official language of Sierra Leone, but the regular use of it is limited to the literate minority.  Mende is the vernacular in the south, and Temne is the vernacular in the north.  Krio, an English-based Creole, is spoken by the descendants of freed Jamaican slaves who settled in Freetown.  It is understood by 95% of the population.

Religion: 60% of the country is Muslim, 10% are Christians.  30% of the population practice indigenous beliefs.

History: The first slaves were brought into North America from Sierra Leone in 1652. Their rice-farming skills were in great demand by plantations in Georgia and South Carolina during the 18th century.  In the 1780s, the British returned 400 freed slaves from various parts of the world back to Sierra Leone. They settled in an area they called “Province of Freedom,” which is now the capital of Sierra Leone, Freetown. Britain colonized Freetown in 1792. Thousands of returning Africans, who were originally from all over Africa, settled in Freetown. They came to be known as Krio.

During the 19th century, Sierra Leone become a prime spot for education in West Africa. Modeled after European universities, Fourah Bay College was established in 1827. It became the foundation of the present-day University of Sierra Leone.

Sierra Leone achieved independence from Britain peacefully in April 1961. Controversial elections in 1967 led to multiple coups.  Finally, in April 1968, Siaka Steven, the Freetown mayor and All Peoples Congress party leader, become the prime minister and the constitution was restored. Steven was the head of state until 1985, when Major General Joseph Saidu Momoh took power.

Under Steven’s leadership, the constitution was changed to ban all political parties except the All Peoples Congress. The multi-party system was restored in 1991, a Major General Joseph Saidu Momoh took power. , who practiced many abuses of power.  Eventually, a coup forced Momoh into exile in Guinea, leaving a new group, the National Provisional Ruling Council (NPRC) as the ruling authority.

The 1990s saw much turmoil over the control of the country, including coups. A group called the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) took over much of the countryside by the mid-90s and repeatedly tried to overthrow the government. Eventually, in 1999, President Kabbah and the RUF leader signed a peace agreement that included an international peacekeeping force. Fighting, though, continued into the 21st century, prompting help from Guinean troops.

In January 2002, President Kabbah declared the end to the civil war. He was re-elected in May 2002. The UN peacekeeping mission wrapped up in 2005.

Ernest Koroma was elected president of Sierra Leone in 2007. Both presidential and parliamentary elections are scheduled for 2012.

Economy: Sierra Leone relies on other countries for financial assistance. Nearly half of the country’s exports come from alluvial diamond mining. Almost half of the working-age population engages in subsistence agriculture.

Relationship with the United States: The United States established an embassy when Sierra Leone gained its independence in 1961.  Assistance from the U.S. focuses on health education, especially in the fight against HIV/AIDS, human rights and the development of human resources.

Sources: CIA Factbook , State Department Background Note – Sierra Leone , Britannica Online, the University of Sierra Leone

Africa Snapshot: The Gambia

The smallest country on the continent of Africa, The Gambia is surrounded by Senegal and borders the North Atlantic Ocean.  From June 4 to 8, 2012, a workshop on “Practical Tools for Surveillance, Diagnosis, Prevention and Control of Major Transboundary Animal Diseases” is being held in Banjul, the capital of The Gambia.  The workshop is supported by US Africa Command and organized by the United States Department of Agriculture-Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service Office for West and Central Africa, in collaboration with United States Agency for International Development-United States Department of Agriculture Sanitary and Phytosanitary adviser for West Africa and the Ministry of Agriculture of The Gambia.  Epidemiologists and lab technicians from The Gambia, Ghana, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone will be learning practical tools for the surveillance, diagnosis, prevention and control of six transboundary animal diseases. These diseases hamper the production of livestock and constrain economic development.

Population: According to the CIA World Factbook, the population was 1.78 million in 2009.

Languages: English is the official language, but Mandinka, Wolof, Fula, Jola, Sarahule and other indigenous languages are also spoken.

Religion: 90% of the population is Muslim.  8% practice Christianity, while 2% practice other religions. Gambians officially observe the holidays of both Islam and Christianity and practice religious tolerance.

History: Through written accounts of Arab traders coming through the region in the ninth and tenth centuries A.D., it is known that The Gambia was once part of the Mali and Kaabu Empires.  Arab traders established a trade route in that area for ivory, gold and slaves.  Using maritime routes, the Portuguese took over trade in the 15th century.  Exclusive trade rights to the Gambia River were sold to English merchants in the late 1500s.  In 1783, after years of struggle between England and France for control in the region, the Treaty of Versailles granted England possession of The Gambia.

It is believed that as many as 3 million slaves were taken from the region while the transatlantic slave trade operated.  In 1807, slave trade was abolished in the British Empire, and England tried unsuccessfully to abolish slave trade in The Gambia.   It finally came to an end in 1906 when slavery was abolished.  By that time, The Gambia was almost completely self-governed.

The Gambia’s troops fought with the Allies in Burma during World War II.  During this time in history, President Franklin D. Roosevelt spent the night in Banjul while en route to the Casablanca Conference.  This was the first visit to the continent by an American president in office.

Full self-government was granted in 1963, followed by independence from Great Britain in 1965.  The Gambia became a republic on April 24, 1970. The Gambia and Senegal signed a friendship and cooperation treaty in 1991, but tensions have sporadically flared between the two nations.

Economy: Agriculture accounts for 24% of the gross domestic product.  Peanuts and other crops are grown in the region, but livestock, fishing and forestry are also important.  Manufacturing activities include peanut processing, soap  and clothing.

Sources: CIA Factbook , State Department Background Note – The Gambia

10 Things about CJTF-HOA

A change of command ceremony for Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa was held at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti on May 26, with U.S. Army Major General Rob Baker relieving U.S. Navy Rear Admiral Michael Franken.  Here is a brief introduction to CJTF-HOA:
1) The U.S. government created Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa as part of its overall response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998.

2) CJTF-HOA (pronounced C-J-T-F-Ho-Ah) was established on October 19, 2002, in Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. The task force then operated out of USS Mount Whitney for a few months, before moving in May 2003 to Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti City, Djibouti, where it currently resides. Learn more about the task force’s history here.

3) The mission of CJTF-HOA is to enhance partner-nation capacity, promote regional stability, dissuade conflict, and further U.S. and Coalition interests in East Africa.

4) Service members from each branch of the U.S. Armed Forces, civilian employees and representatives of coalition and partner countries serve on behalf of CJTF-HOA.

5) The CJTF-HOA area of operations includes the countries of Kenya, Tanzania, Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Djibouti, and Seychelles. The CJTF-HOA area of interest includes Yemen, Mauritius, Madagascar, Mozambique, Comoros, Chad, Egypt, Sudan, South Sudan, Central African Republic, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

6) CJTF-HOA has supported development by building and renovating numerous schools, clinics and hospitals. (Check out one story about CJTF-HOA dedicating a primary school in Ethiopia.)

U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Peter Tunis, Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa judge advocate general, right, converses with a Tanzanian Peoples’ Defense Force legal officer during the Military Law Symposium held at the Peacekeeping Training Center. Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa courtesy photo)

7) Staff members from CJTF-HOA have also helped with clean-up projects and distributing school supplies in support of local residents of Djibouti.

8) One of the goals of CJTF-HOA is to assist partner nations in generating their own security and civil-military operational capacities. For example, in April, five personnel assigned to CJTF-HOA traveled to Rwanda to exchange best practices with soldiers from the Rwandan Defense Force during a five-week training course. Read more here.

9) CJTF-HOA uses an indirect, whole-of-government approach to foster partnerships with host nations and regional organizations, increase security capacities, encourage better governance and build trust and confidence among host populations. In the remote area of Karamoja, Uganda, an Army Civil Affairs Team offers training in animal health skills, such as identifying diseases and treating livestock, to help promote development.

10) CJTF-HOA’s capabilities include military-military/law enforcement engagements and training. In May, two members of the CJTF-HOA legal staff visited Tanzania for a symposium. “We learned that the U.S. and Tanzania militaries have many more similarities in military law than differences,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Michael Deegan. “The week was a huge success that we hope transcends to future engagements.” (Click here to read more.)

Sources: CJTF-HOA

Africa Snapshot: Djibouti

Located on the Horn of Africa, the Republic of Djibouti shares borders with Somalia, Eritrea and Ethiopia.  The country sits on the Bab el Mandeb Strait, which separates the Red Sea from the Gulf of Aden. Djibouti gained its independence from France on June 27, 1977, but keeps close ties with the European nation.  More than 75% of its population lives in urban areas.

Population: According to the CIA Factbook, the estimated population for July 2012 will be 774,389. The entire country is almost as big as the state of Massachusetts.

Languages: Most Djiboutians are multilingual; Arabic and French are the official languages of Djibouti, but Somali is the most widely spoken language. Afar is spoken in the Afar areas.

Religion: 94% of the population is Muslim, while 6% is Christian.

History: Early history of Djibouti was recorded through poems and songs. The earliest natives traded hides and skins for perfumes and other goods with people in Egypt, India and China.  Because of its proximity to the Arabian Peninsula,

the Somali and Afar tribes were the first on the continent to adopt Islam.

The French became increasingly interested in the area, then named French Somaliland, after the Suez Canal opened in 1869.    Trade flourished, and a new Franco-Ethiopian railway further increased trade relations. France struggled to maintain control of the region; after reorganizing, the colony was almost completely self-governed in the late 1950s.  In 1977, the colony became the Republic of Djibouti, and Hassan Gouled Aptidon was elected  the first president.  Djibouti still remains close to France, which provides economic aid and security.

Djibouti is the headquarters for the European Union’s “Atalanta” naval task force, which aids in the fight against piracy off the coast of Somalia. 

Economy: With few natural resources and little industry, Djibouti relies heavily on banking, telecommunications and trade. Due to its ideal location and status as a free-trade zone, Djibouti is considered to be the trade hub in the Horn of Africa. It is quite reliant on imported consumer products.  The Djibouti-Addis Abba railway is a crucial source of revenue for the country, especially since more than three-fifths of Djibouti’s workforce is unemployed.

Relationship with the United States: Djibouti has maintained a healthy relationship with the United States since its independence in 1977.  The U.S. has been instrumental in providing humanitarian aid to the country, particularly in famine relief.  In 2002, Djibouti agreed to host an American military presence of about 2,200 at Camp Lemonnier, a former French base.  The USAID’s Food for Peace program has a warehouse for pre-positioned emergency food relief in Djibouti.  It is the only one of its kind outside of the continental United States.

Sources: CIA Factbook , Brittanica Online , U.S. Department of State Background Note – Djibouti

Africa snapshot: Algeria

Bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to the north and Niger and Mali to the south, Algeria is the largest country in Africa, according to the CIA World FactBook. The country covers a total of nearly 2.4 million square kilometers, most of it desert.

It is a popular tourist destination, with several UNESCO World Heritage Sites, nature preserves and national parks.

Algeria is one of 11 nations participating or observing in Exercise Phoenix Express 2012, a currently taking place in the Mediterranean Sea.

Population: 35.4 million. Ninety one percent of the population lives in just 12 percent of the country’s land mass, concentrated along the Mediterranean coastline.

Religion: 99 percent Sunni Muslim.

Language: The official language is Arabic, with French and some Berber dialects also spoken.

History: Algerian culture dates back to at least the 5th century B.C. Remainders of a 750-kilomter Roman defensive barrier dating to the 4th century A.D can still be seen. Islam came to the region during the Arab invasions of the 8th and 11th centuries A.D., and is still the predominant cultural influence today. Algeria gained independence from France in 1954, and made several political reforms last year in the wake of the Arab Spring uprisings.

Geography: Mostly high plateau and desert, with the mountainous areas prone to strong earthquakes. A 2003 tremor killed at least 2,266 people, injured 10,261 and left 150,000 homeless.

Health and safety: Algeria has one of the lowest rates of HIV/AIDS infections among adults of any country in Africa. Life expectancy at birth is 74 years.

U.S. partnerships: The U.S. allocated $950,000 in 2010 and 2011 for training Algerian military personnel in the U.S. under the International Military Education and Training Program. Algeria also participates in the Trans Sahara Counter Terrorism Partnership, which focuses on enhancing counterterrorism capabilities, as well as the current Phoenix Express, a multinational naval security exercise.

“The Pledge:” Algeria’s national anthem, called “Quassaman,” or “The Pledge,”  was written in 1956 in the wake of independence from France. The first verse states “We swear by the lightning that destroys, by the streams of generous blood being shed … that we are in revolt.”

Sources: CIA FactBook Algeria , USGS Earthquake Center, State Department Background Note – Algeria,, United Nations – Algeria 


This is the latest in our “Africa Snapshot” series, which takes a brief look at the countries in the AFRICOM area of operations. Click here for previous posts.

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