AFRICOM commander visits East African partners
The commander of U.S. Africa Command, U.S. Army Gen. David Rodriguez, finished a weeklong trip to Djibouti, Somalia, Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda with U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for African Affairs Amanda Dory Oct. 2.
Dory and Rodriguez met with officials in each country to discuss how AFRICOM and the U.S. Department of Defense can continue to help partner nations strengthen their military capacity.
“Defense cooperation is one of our core missions at U.S. Africa Command because we know that partnering with African states and regional organizations to constantly improve their capabilities and knowledge is important in addressing shared security challenges,” Rodriguez said.
Legions of Merit for AMISOM Support
Rodriguez also presented the Legion of Merit to six officers from the Uganda People’s Defence Force Sept. 30. The recipients are among less than 200 foreign citizens who’ve received the U.S. award and the first from Uganda.
The awards specifically recognized the Ugandan officers for contributing to the African Union Mission in Somalia, known as AMISOM, which is charged with reducing the threat of violent extremist organizations like al-Shabbab. First deployed in March 2007, the AMISOM military component has achieved significant territorial gains against the al-Qaeda-affiliated terror group al-Shabaab.
“Continued support to AMISOM is one of the important multinational efforts in place today. As a result of improved security, the Somali people and government have greater opportunities to make progress in the development of governance and economic institutions,” Rodriguez said.
In 2014, the Ugandan People’s Defense Force liberated the port city of Barawe, Somalia, cutting off al-Shabaab’s access to what was a base and source of revenue. The UPDF also foiled a major al-Shabaab terrorist attack in Kampala.
In Kenya, Rodriguez and Dory oversaw the formal establishment of the Massachusetts National Guard as the U.S. military partner for Kenya as part of the Defense Department’s State Partnership Program Oct. 1.
The State Partnership Program is a coordinated effort between the Defense Department, the Department of State, the National Guard Bureau and the combatant commands where the partnered efforts occur.
“Our shared objective is to build professional militaries that, not only are capable of delivering on security priorities, but also respect human rights and adhere to the rule of law,” Rodriguez said.
The partnership between the Massachusetts National Guard and Kenya is one of 12 ongoing state partnerships in Africa.
“AFRICOM recognizes the importance of partnership. A stable Africa ultimately means greater opportunities for collaboration toward shared goals and values that bind all our countries together,” Rodriguez said.
Recognizing Partner Efforts
During the trip Rodriguez also discussed how partner militaries in Djibouti, Ethiopia and Somalia support regional security:
Djiboutian training for the Somali National Army has strengthened Somalia’s capacity to defend its government and its people from al-Shabaab. In addition, Djibouti hosts Camp Lemonnier, the sole enduring presence for the U.S. military in Africa.
The Ethiopian National Defense Force contributes troops in support of United Nations peacekeeping forces worldwide, making it the fourth largest contributor globally and the largest in Africa.
With support from the U.S. Department of State and Department of Defense, the Somali Armed Forces continue to make progress in partnership with AMISOM to secure ungoverned space, defeat al-Shabaab, and create the conditions for a peaceful Somalia.
Rodriguez said Africa is home to some of the fastest growing economies in the world, and global leaders are increasingly recognizing the power of Africa’s diversity in people, resources and economies.
“The link between security and prosperity is undeniable. For this reason, President Obama also identified building defense capacity among African partners as essential to advancing peace and security on the continent. As it works to meet these challenges, Africa is full of opportunity and promise and is becoming a major international player in world security,” Rodriguez added.