Category Archives: U.S. Africa Strategy

The time Africa came to DC (Well, some of it.)

Today marks Day 1 of the inaugural U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, which is being held in Washington, DC from August 4-6, 2014. Yours truly will be observing the Summit’s events from afar, as my invitation appears to have gotten lost in the mail…

In the weeks leading up to the Summit, there were concerns that the event might not contribute to advancing the Obama Administration’s objectives in Africa, to which Amadou Sy offered counterarguments as to why the Summit was ‘far from bungled’ and Mwangi Kimenyi articulated five indicators of a successful Summit.

Most African heads of state or government and the Chairperson of the African Union, Dr. Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, have been invited to DC, but the Presidents of Liberia and Sierra Leone have cancelled their trips to deal with the Ebola outbreak in the Mano River region, which has killed over 700 people since March of this year. (Btw, check out Kim Yi Dionne’s very informative take on the limits of local and international responses to the disease.)

Countries that have not been invited are the Central African Republic, Eritrea, Sudan, and Zimbabwe, which are not in good standing with the United States and the African Union for various reasons – transitional governments, sanctions, war crimes, etc.

Yet, some of the countries to be represented, such as Ethiopia, Rwanda, and Uganda, are currently restricting the space for political dissent and have attempted to adopt anti-homosexuality legislation, as Sarah Margon highlights in “Human Rights Shouldn’t be Sidelined at Africa Summit.” Furthermore, as Jeffrey Smith and Todd Moss write in “Obama Should Embrace Africa’s Democratic Standard-Bearers,” leaders who have been in power for over two decades are expected to be in attendance – including Teodoro Obiang of Equatorial Guinea, who celebrated 35 years in power on Aug 3, Cameroon’s Paul Biya (in power since 1982), and the Gambia’s Yahya Jammeh (in power since 1994). Acknowledging the complexity of U.S. relations with such states, Assistant Secretary of State for Africa Linda Thomas-Greenfield had previously stated “You cannot change people if you do not engage them. You have to engage them, and this [Summit] will be that opportunity.”

The Summit comes on the heels of Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) (now renamed The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders), whose fellows had been in the U.S. since June studying at 20 top American universities. This year’s class consisted of approximately 500 young leaders, selected out of an applicant pool of 500,000.

Before this year’s program wrapped up, the fellows convened in DC, where I had the true pleasure of meeting some of them last Wednesday, when the Diaspora African Women’s Network (DAWN) hosted fellows from Eritrea, Sudan, and South Sudan for a candid two hour discussion. You’re probably aware that I tend to focus on death, destruction, and world domination for a living, so it was a pleasant change of pace to witness the exchange of human and social capital between Mandela Fellows and DAWN members. As we discussed our respective career paths, we covered the challenges of leadership, institutional access, conflicting identities both within and across the diaspora, and common aspirations. The evening ended with Mandela Fellows asking for DAWN – and the diaspora in general – to be available for collaboration, motivation, two-way mentorship and skills transfer.

In anticipation of the first U.S.-African Leaders Summit, DAWN partnered with FEMNET and Oxfam America to create a U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit Social Media Guide, with the purpose of amplifying the need for continued civil society engagement in shaping U.S.-Africa bilateral relations and providing general guidance on using the event as a social media platform for pushing for a wide range of policy recommendations. This way, those of us who haven’t been invited to the Summit (sniffle) can share ideas and visions for the future during the #USAfricaSummit with #TheAfricaWeWant.

Fostering Democracy, Good Governance, and Human Rights in Africa Through Security Sector Assistance

Yesterday, I presented on a National Endowment for Democracy panel on “Fostering Democracy, Good Governance, and Human Rights in Africa Through Security Sector Assistance.” Video of the event can be found here and links to the papers we presented are below:

During the panel, we touched on the Presidential Policy Directive 23 on Security Sector Assistance, released by the Obama Administration last spring. Although the ends of PPD-23 are stated in the factsheet, little is known about its ways and means. Perhaps the upcoming U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit (August 4-6, 2014) might offer additional details on the implementation of PPD-23 as it relates to Africa.

The Trans Sahara Counter Terrorism Partnership: Building Partner Capacity to Counter Terrorism and Violent Extremism in the Sahel & Maghreb

A few months ago, I published the study I had been working on during my IPA Assignment at the Center for Complex Operations at National Defense University – The Trans Sahara Counter Terrorism Partnership: Building Partner Capacity to Counter Terrorism and Violent Extremism. The study discusses the origins of TSCTP, which is rather unique by U.S. government standards, for its regional and interagency focus . It dissects the “anatomy” of the program (including which U.S. government agencies are involved, what their roles are, and who their partner nation counterparts are), and derives six functional areas of TSCTP engagement in order to better understand the program’s lines of effort across the various agencies. These are: Military Capacity-Building, Law Enforcement Anti-Terrorism Capacity-Building, Justice Sector Counterterrorism Capacity-Building, Public Diplomacy and Information Operations, Community Engagement, and Vocational Training. The study then discusses some of the planning and implementation challenges associated with a program of this nature, derived from the over 70 interviews I conducted across the interagency and in nine of the ten TSCTP countries (Algeria, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, and Senegal) last year.

 The study contains a lot of information on TSCTP, but as it’s rather dense, I also published a handful of shorter articles that either summarize or draw out some of the more salient points of the larger study:

Happy reading!

U.S. Foreign Policy and Security Cooperation in Sub-Saharan Africa (& musings on PPD-23)

This is a month overdue, but in case you missed it, Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield and Commander, U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) General David Rodriguez held an online press conference on U.S. Foreign Policy and Security Cooperation in Sub-Saharan Africa. You can find a video with closed captioning on YouTube and remarks on the State Department’s website. U.S. Embassies in Ethiopia, Malawi, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zambia held watch parties and sent in questions for Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield and General Rodriguez to answer. I also tuned in and submitted a question on how the Presidential Policy Directive (PPD) 23 on Security Sector Assistance, announced in April 2013, would affect security assistance in the AFRICOM Area of Responsibility (AoR). In my opinion, PPD-23 had gone under the radar for several months, and I was genuinely interested in how the policy directive may or may not be influencing the evolution of U.S. security assistance in Africa. Oddly enough, it was the only question from the chat room that wasn’t answered during the session.

Anyway, if you look at the wording of PPD-23, it seems rather straightforward and, to be quite honest, mundane. According to PPD-23, the principal goals of U.S. security sector assistance are to:

  • Help partner nations build sustainable capacity to address common security challenges.
  • Promote partner support for U.S. interests, through cooperation on national, regional, and global priorities.
  • Promote universal values, such as good governance, transparent and accountable oversight of security forces, rule of law, transparency, accountability, delivery of fair and effective justice, and respect for human rights.
  • Strengthen collective security and multinational defense arrangements and organizations.

The policy guidelines for Security Sector Assistance are to:

  • Ensure consistency with broader national security goals.
  • Foster United States Government policy coherence and interagency collaboration.
  • Build sustainable capacity through comprehensive sector strategies.
  • Be more selective and use resources for the greatest impact.
  • Be responsive to urgent crises, emergent opportunities, and changes in partner security environments.
  • Ensure that short-term interventions are consistent with long term goals.
  • Inform policy with rigorous analysis, assessments, and evaluations.
  • Analyze, plan, and act regionally.
  • Coordinate with other donors.

But going back to my earlier comment about the PPD being mundane, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that what the PPD says isn’t as significant as what the PPD represents – a high-level forcing mechanism to 1) improve the way in which U.S. government agencies provide foreign (security) assistance and 2) clarify and expand upon what the government understands to be “security sector assistance.”

For example, on the first point, interagency and international donor coordination have always been implied when it comes to security assistance. Yet, the fact that there’s a high-level policy directive spelling out why this is important and in what sectors coordination should take place serves to force (or more realistically, will) this cooperation to improve.

On the second point, PPD-23 emphasizes that building partner nation capacity in the public safety, security, and justice sectors remains an area of focus to the Administration. You can see previous references to building partner capacity in the 2010 National Security Strategy under “Invest in the Capacity of Strong and Capable Partners.”  However, note the expanded reference to the sectors the U.S. seeks to develop according to PPD-23: ” Security sector actors include state security and law enforcement providers, governmental security and justice management and oversight bodies, civil society, institutions responsible for border management, customs and civil emergencies, and non-state justice and security providers.” I have always believed that the 2010 NSS expands the concept of “security” when compared with previous National Security Strategies. Now, when compared with the 2010 NSS, it appears that PPD-23 has expanded the concept of Security Sector Assistance.

In any event, I look forward to seeing what any of this means for U.S. security assistance in Africa – if anything at all.

Lesley on Africa attends DAWN Weekend


Dear Readers,

This weekend, I attended the Diaspora African Women’s Network (DAWN) 6th Annual Leadership Awards and had a blast meeting fellow DAWNers and supporters of DAWN. DAWN’s mission is to develop and support the next generation of African diaspora women leaders focused on African affairs by promoting the role of the diaspora in Africa’s development, diversifying the African affairs workforce, and advancing women’s leadership in the workplace. At the reception, DAWN handed out three awards:

The reception provided some very interesting food for thought, as I became involved in a sidebar on how the United States underutilizes its African-born, U.S.-educated population – many of whom maintain familial and commercial links with the continent – in its efforts to engage politically and economically on the continent. But I’ve digressed and shall leave it to a diaspora expert to expand upon how the U.S. could better leverage this talent pool.

The next day, DAWN held a conference whose theme was “Looking Ahead: Investing in Diaspora Leadership Today.” DAWN’s Founder and Executive Director Semhar Araia reminded participants that the African Union has recognized the African Diaspora as the “Sixth Region” of Africa. (The other five regions being North, South, East, West, and Central Africa).  With this recognition comes the acceptance that the diaspora is more than remittances; it can also wield political and professional capital.

So in sum: I had a fantastic DAWN Weekend and really enjoyed meeting the truly talented women that contribute to this organization. As a relatively new DAWNer, I look forward to being a part of DAWN and DAWNers’ contributions to the field of African Affairs. (DAWN is a global organization and it’s continuing to grow, so if you’re not already a member, join today!)


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