AFRICOM Hosts First Africa Military Legal Conference, Nearly 15 African Nations Participating

The first Africa Military Legal Conference to be hosted by U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) began May 18, 2010 at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Center in Accra, Ghana. The three-day conference brings together lawyers and other



By Nicole Dalrymple U.S. AFRICOM Public Affairs ACCRA, Ghana May 19, 2010
The first Africa Military Legal Conference to be hosted by U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) began May 18, 2010 at the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Center in Accra, Ghana. The three-day conference brings together lawyers and other legal experts from nearly 15 African countries. During the conference, representatives from each country will provide information about their nations' military legal structures and their legal challenges. AFRICOM's Office of Legal Counsel intends to hold annual legal conferences, moving the location to aid in drawing participants from different regions. This year's conference has participants largely from west and central Africa. During his opening remarks, Colonel Jon Lightner, chief legal counsel for AFRICOM, welcomed the group and explained that the conference has been three years in the making. He also challenged them that being the first brings responsibility. "I mentioned earlier that this is our first legal conference -- or should I say this is your first legal conference," Lightner said. "You should be rightly proud of this fact, but along with this honor will come responsibility of helping to set the stage and chart the course for future legal conferences for years to come. "We brought you here to actively participate and share your views and opinions. We have nearly 15 of our African partners with us and over the next three days we have a unique and rare opportunity to leave this conference with a better understanding of each other." Air Vice Marshal Christian Edem Kobla Dovlo, the commandant of the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Center, extended his welcome to the conference attendees. He explained that the center's mandate is to secure peace by helping the United Nations and African Union in building peacekeeping capacity for West Africa and Africa, helping to ensure peace in the region. "Critical to this mandate is the issue of the Rule of Law," Dovlo said. "Those of us in uniform in Africa…should be the first to confess that to some extent we have been some of the primary causes of instability. This has been because of our disregard for our own regulations, customs and rules. What you do here will not only benefit our military institutions but will also broaden our minds as to what the whole issues are." Speaking also about Rule of Law, Lightner said that the role of military legal advisors is "crucial" and that accurate and timely advice ensures that militaries conduct their activities in keeping with the Rule of Law. "Our advice helps to set the proper ethical and moral tone that preserves the public's trust in our institutions," he said. "Our work in the area of military justice supports good order and discipline amongst the ranks, as well as promoting fairness and transparency. Our sensitivity and adherence to the Rule of Law reinforces the military's subordination to civilian control. It is our legal engine that drives the military and its leaders to be respected and trusted members of society at large." By mid-morning, following the senior leader remarks, the first of the country briefs began with simultaneous translation in English, French and Portuguese. Starting first was Colonel Moussa Diallo, director of personnel management and training for Burkina Faso's military legal counsel. Diallo discussed the military's legal system, competencies and specialties, as well as current challenges. Diallo explained that Burkina Faso's legal system was put in place in 1992 and the military legal system was established two years later. Prior to 1992 Burkina Faso was using common law. He said he has seen positive changes through the years, crediting the establishment of a legal framework for the military. "Establishing a legal system has created more discipline in the armed forces," he explained. "There is now a quicker and faster response when military personnel do something inappropriate, and the awareness of our personnel to legal issues is increasing." He also stated that he believes the legal system has "moved to a higher level," highlighting the fact that the legal system held a trial for presidential guards who had abused their power, something that would not have happened in the recent past. Country briefs from Guinea-Bissau, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Liberia were also given during the conference's first day. Also speaking on Tuesday was AFRICOM's Legal Engagements Sergeant Major Rod D. Celestaine, who provided a lunch time speech, discussing the role of the non-commissioned officer in the modern military, highlighting the role of NCOs in the legal career field. The conference continues May 19 with the remaining country briefs as well as two discussion groups covering areas of common interest -- military justice and maritime law and counter-narcotics authorities.
More in Media Room
Joint Statement from the U.S. Department of Defense and the Department of National Defense of the Republic of Niger
The effective cooperation and communication between the U.S. and Nigerien armed forces ensured that this turnover was finished ahead of schedule and without any complications.
Read more
"Stronger Together": U.S. and Congolese Bands Unite for Joint Tour in Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire
This initiative marks the 64th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the United States and the Republic of the Congo, highlighting both nations' commitment to peace, cultural exchange, and mutual understanding.
Read more
United States turns over C-130H to Botswana Defence Force
U.S. Ambassador Howard A. Van Vranken, U.S. Ambassador to Botswana, and U.S. Marine Corps, Gen. Michael Langley, Commander, U.S. Africa Command, participated in the official transfer of a former U.S. military C-130 Hercules aircraft to the Botswana Defence Force in a significant step towards enhancing Botswana's defense capabilities.
Read more
More in Media Room
Joint Statement from the U.S. Department of Defense and the Department of National Defense of the Republic of Niger
The effective cooperation and communication between the U.S. and Nigerien armed forces ensured that this turnover was finished ahead of schedule and without any complications.
Read more
"Stronger Together": U.S. and Congolese Bands Unite for Joint Tour in Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire
This initiative marks the 64th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the United States and the Republic of the Congo, highlighting both nations' commitment to peace, cultural exchange, and mutual understanding.
Read more
United States turns over C-130H to Botswana Defence Force
U.S. Ambassador Howard A. Van Vranken, U.S. Ambassador to Botswana, and U.S. Marine Corps, Gen. Michael Langley, Commander, U.S. Africa Command, participated in the official transfer of a former U.S. military C-130 Hercules aircraft to the Botswana Defence Force in a significant step towards enhancing Botswana's defense capabilities.
Read more
More in Media Room
Joint Statement from the U.S. Department of Defense and the Department of National Defense of the Republic of Niger
The effective cooperation and communication between the U.S. and Nigerien armed forces ensured that this turnover was finished ahead of schedule and without any complications.
Read more
"Stronger Together": U.S. and Congolese Bands Unite for Joint Tour in Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire
This initiative marks the 64th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the United States and the Republic of the Congo, highlighting both nations' commitment to peace, cultural exchange, and mutual understanding.
Read more
United States turns over C-130H to Botswana Defence Force
U.S. Ambassador Howard A. Van Vranken, U.S. Ambassador to Botswana, and U.S. Marine Corps, Gen. Michael Langley, Commander, U.S. Africa Command, participated in the official transfer of a former U.S. military C-130 Hercules aircraft to the Botswana Defence Force in a significant step towards enhancing Botswana's defense capabilities.
Read more