Security studies, defense economics and civilian-military relations came under discussion at the leadership seminar. Some of the 20 speakers highlighted the continuing clash between civilians and the military in Africa, which they said is hurting efforts to create democratic and viable governments. Colonel Kofi Danso is director of legal services of the Ghana Armed Forces. He says he learned a lot.
///DANSO ACT 1///
I think this workshop has been very useful for us. For me and for all the people who attended, we’ve learned quite a lot, especially about civil military relations. You know in Africa, for a long time the military has taken center stage, especially in politics. And now, as the democratization process is going on, the military’s role is more or less going back to our traditional role. And we are there to support the political authorities.
///END DANSO ACT 1///
Ghana has had a series of coups d’etat since independence. Colonel Danso says the country has learned from them.
///DANSO ACT 2///
We’ve learned quite a lot. You know, when the military was in power, we were not practicing democracy so to speak. So a lot of things went wrong, especially in the area of human rights abuse. Now that we are in the democratic state, the rule of law is now paramount. So we’ve learnt a lot that the military should not get involved in politics. The military should confine to their traditional role so that the civil society will prevail.
///END DANSO ACT 2///
Colonel Danso says no matter the situation, Africans should find ways other than military coups to change their governments, because he says coups have proven not to be useful for Africa. ///OPT/// But some military participants took issue with the assumption that civilian control of the military is always a good thing. They pointed to some undemocratic civilian leaders who they say used the military to strengthen their control over society. ///END OPT///
Another key topic discussed at the seminar was defense economics; the delegates examined the challenges facing African countries in providing for security in the face of severe economic constraints. Liberian opposition leader Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf said while good security is essential for development and private investment in Africa, scarce resources are being diverted to the military at the expense of economic development.
Some participants expressed concern about the proliferation of small arms as a major factor in Africa’s civil conflicts. Ambassador Joseph Mutaboba of the Rwandan foreign ministry talked about small arms in the context of defense economics.
When you talk about defense economics it’s to see how we can better plan and how we can better budgetize for the persons that we want to professionalize and train and so on. So it’s not an opportunity for Africans to embark again on this trafficking of small arms. For we have to realize that they do more harm than good for us, and we hope that those who manufacture them and who sell them ought to be aware of the damage that they cause on our people.
///END MUTABOBA ACT///
The Africa Center for Strategic Studies began its Senior Leader Seminar series in 1999 as a way to help Africans and their international partners reflect on the key strategic challenges facing Africa. The center’s director, Nancy Walker, talks about the purpose of the seminars.
///WALKER ACT ///
One of the things that the Africa Center does is we’ve taken an approach where we serve as a catalyst for discussion and a forum for ideas. So I can’t actually say that we have a list of suggestions. But what I can say is that civilian officials, generals, colonels, and leaders of civil society talked to each other, broke down barriers, built bridges, and have a better understanding of the roles they play. What they take back to their individual countries will determine their individual success. But we think that our contribution is in furthering the dialogue between these communities.
///END WALKER ACT ///
The participants talked about how to manage conflicts in Africa. Some speakers said African countries need to take the lead in managing conflicts in their respective regions. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Mark Bellamy says regional conflict management is of high priority to the Bush administration, and that the administration is reviewing the five-year-old African Crisis Response Initiative.