GARMISCH, Germany- More than 60 journalists and military public affairs from Africa officers gathered during a week-long Public Affairs and Media Symposium hosted by the U.S. Africa Command Public Affairs Office in Garmisch, Germany, May 12-16, 2014.
The symposium gave participants the chance to connect and learn about each other’s roles and responsibilities. Topics included humanitarian aid, covering conflicts, social media and mobile technologies and how to communicate with military PAOs. This was the second such symposium organized by U.S. AFRICOM for military PAOs and civilian journalists from various countries across Africa.
“The partnership between African nations and the United States is important,” said U.S. Army Gen. David M. Rodriguez, commander of AFRICOM. “The African continent presents significant opportunities and challenges to African and U.S. interests, including matters of security and stability.
“In the long term, Africa Command will support U.S. Government efforts to deepen relationships with countries that have the greatest potential to bring positive influence to regional security and stability,” he said. “In the near term, we are working with multinational partners and interagency to address immediate challenges of violent extremism and regional instability including threats to both U.S. personnel and facilities.”
“This meeting is very good because it is between soldiers and civilian journalists,” said Col. Arouna Abdoulaye, director of information, public relations and sports for the Nigerien Armed Forces. “In my country, there are so many prejudices about the two institutions, and this kind of non-attribution forum is very good because it helps bring the two together.”
An entrepreneur and social media expert, Teddy Ruge from Uganda, engaged the participants in a lively interactive session about the influence of social media and how to leverage it as part of a strategy to reach intended audiences.
Other presenters included U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Robert Firman from the office of the Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, and Eduardo Cue, an experienced journalist with France 24, led discussions about reporting during crisis events, ethics in journalism and covering military operations.
Guest speakers included Brent Colburn, Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, Amb. Phillip Carter, AFRICOM Deputy to the Commander for Civil-Military Engagement (DCME), and Camille Dawson, Director of U.S. State Department’s Africa Media Hub, based in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Journalists and military public affairs officers represented several African countries and organizations to include Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Cote d‘Ivoire, Gabon, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo, the African Union (AU), and the Economic Community of Western African States (ECOWAS).
“It is important to synergize various security agencies and the media for our countries and international communities to know, understand and appreciate what we do,” said Nigerian Navy Commodore Kabir Aliyu, Director of Nigerian Navy Office of Public Affairs.
A journalist from Togo, Anoumou Kate-Aziaglo, said he learned more about how the military operates and will be able to work closer with the military. “This is an opportunity for me as a director of the editorial staff of my journal to get closer with the Army (military) to know their problems and understand their issues before I form my public opinion.” Kate-Aziaglo said.
“In today’s hyper-connected world, it is usually very important that we take time to meet each person,” said Colburn, who a top spokesperson at the Pentagon. “The good thing is that some of you are already working together on some of the world’s most difficult problems, and the problems facing your nations. Exchanging contact information, sharing best practices and making use of this forum will really add value to the work that you are already doing and the partnership you’ve already started to build,” he said.
For more photos of the symposium, click here