U.S. Defense Official Rates African Seminar Successful Partnership
(Walker comments on ACSS in Dakar) (720)
By Jim Fisher-Thompson
Washington File Staff Correspondent
Dakar, Senegal -- Nancy Walker, the U.S. Defense Department official
who strove for more than two years to establish a permanent
U.S.-African seminar on civil-military relations, says she is happy to
see this dream of "partnership" finally come true.
Toward the conclusion of the October 30 to November 12 African Center
for Strategic Studies (ACSS) seminar, Walker, who is both interim
director of ACSS and director of the Defense Department's Office of
African Affairs, recalled the challenge of implementing the permanent
dialogue on civil-military relations that President Clinton pledged
during his visit to Africa last year.
According to a U.S. Defense Department mission statement, "ACSS
supports democratic governance in Africa by offering senior African
civilian and military leaders a rigorous academic and practical
program in civil-military relations, national security strategy, and
At the opening of the conference -- which drew 120 high-level military
officers, civil servants, and representatives of civil society from 43
African nations, England, France, and other European nations, Walker
said, "I would consider this pilot senior seminar a success if our
participants were really open and direct in discussing the problems
and challenges of militaries in Africa." Now, she said later, "we are
seeing that happen."
The seminar also attracted African ministers of defense, ambassadors,
and representatives from such African subregional organizations as the
Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), the Southern
African Development Community (SADC), the East Africa Community (EAC),
the Organization of African Unity (OAU); U.N. representatives;
Generals Wesley Clark, commander in chief of the U.S. European
Command, and Anthony Zinni, commander in chief of the U.S. Central
Command; and the French chief of defense forces.
Before joining the Office of African Affairs, Walker served as the
Defense Department's United Nations Headquarters Division chief,
developing and managing programs to strengthen U.S. and U.N.
The two-week ACSS conference featured workshops on a wide range of
issues, including defense economics, efficiency in the allocation of
defense resources, and civil society, non-governmental institutions,
and the military. It culminated in a problem-solving session called
"Capstone Exercise" that featured a mythical country in Africa called
According to Colonel Pat Thomas, the U.S. Army officer who designed
and supervised Capstone, the exercise was a "role-playing event meant
to mirror real-world problems the military might have to confront."
As a U.S.-African partnership, ACSS seeks to do for Africans what
ongoing U.S. seminars on civil-military relations have been doing for
Europeans at the Garmisch, Germany, center, for Asian officials from a
permanent seminar site in Hawaii, and for Latin American militaries at
the National Defense University in Washington, D.C.
Walker, who said Congress had devoted money to fund ACSS for at least
two years, said a follow-up ACSS seminar for lower-ranking officers
and civilians will take place in Botswana at a later date.
As well as creating a "sharing environment," which Walker said made
"people feel comfortable to discuss ideas as well as criticism," the
official said she was also pleased that the seminar inspired a high
degree of cooperation among the Africans, Americans, and
representatives of six European nations that participated in it.
"I am really proud of the many partnerships we have created" with this
initiative," Walker said.
In addition, she said, the Senegalese created an ACSS-related team
which included "representatives from all the components of their armed
forces," including the gendarmerie (paramilitary police), who provided
600 men for security, the Senegalese military, and the ministry of
The Senegalese ministry of foreign affairs also provided help with
protocol, transportation, waiving of visas, and airport arrival and
departure coordination. "They hosted us on a tour of Goree Island and
even put together a number of excursions for our participants," Walker
The official added: "We told them [the Senegalese] that we could not
have asked for a better partner."
Walker said, "Our European partners have been supporting ACSS," noting
that "the British government has very generously provided financial
support to enable the participation of representatives from
subregional organizations, and the French have been outstanding
partners in this initial seminar in a Francophone country."
(The Washington File is a product of the Office of International
Information Programs, U.S. Department of State.)