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Nigeria Conference Looks at ECOWAS Security Sector Reform; Africa Command Deputy Attends
ABUJA, Nigeria - ECOWAS, the 15-nation Economic Community of West African states, plays an important role in regional security, U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria Robin Renee Sanders told reporters April 20, 2009, on the first day of a Security Sector
ABUJA, Nigeria - Reporters meet with U.S. officials April 20, 2009, at the U.S. ambassador's residence in Abuja to discuss security partnerships with West African nations. U.S. officials were, from left, retired Ambassador William M. Bellamy, director of the Washington, D.C.,-based Africa Center for Strategic Studies; U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria Robin Renee Sanders; and U.S. Africa Command's Deputy to the Commander for Civil-Military Activities, Ambassador Mary Carlin Yates. Yates was in Nigeria to attend a region seminar on Security Sector Reform, co-sponsored by the Economic Community of West African States, the government of Nigeria, and the Africa Center for Strategic Studies. (Photo by Vince Crawley, U.S. Africa Command)
1 photo: U.S. AFRICOM Photo
Photo 1 of 1: ABUJA, Nigeria - Reporters meet with U.S. officials April 20, 2009, at the U.S. ambassador's residence in Abuja to discuss security partnerships with West African nations. U.S. officials were, from left, retired Ambassador William M. Bellamy, director of the Washington, D.C.,-based Africa Center for Strategic Studies; U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria Robin Renee Sanders; and U.S. Africa Command's Deputy to the Commander for Civil-Military Activities, Ambassador Mary Carlin Yates. Yates was in Nigeria to attend a region seminar on Security Sector Reform, co-sponsored by the Economic Community of West African States, the government of Nigeria, and the Africa Center for Strategic Studies. (Photo by Vince Crawley, U.S. Africa Command) Download full-resolution version
ABUJA, Nigeria - ECOWAS, the 15-nation Economic Community of West African states, plays an important role in regional security, U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria Robin Renee Sanders told reporters April 20, 2009, on the first day of a Security Sector Reform conference co-hosted by the U.S. Defense Department's Africa Center for Strategic Studies and attended by U.S. Africa Command's civilian deputy, Ambassador Mary C. Yates.

"We see ECOWAS as the leading regional body for West Africa in a number of ways," Sanders said at an early evening news conference at the U.S. ambassador's residence in Abuja, "certainly the area of Security Sector Reform, maritime security issues, and also encouraging democratic progress in the region so that the economic and political integration that we all want for West Africa truly becomes a reality."

The Nigerian National Defence College, along with ECOWAS and the U.S. Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS) hosted the five-day conference, which began April 20. Military and civilian officials from across West Africa are attending the conference, formally called the 2009 ECOWAS Strategic Level Seminar on Security Sector Reform in West Africa.

Nigeria currently chairs ECOWAS.

"We have a broad cross section of senior military and civilian officials who are here for five days specifically to look at the subject of Security Sector Reform and governance," said retired Ambassador William M. Bellamy, director of ACSS, which is based in Washington, D.C.

"That is an issue that the ECOWAS member states themselves designated as one that needed particular focus," Bellamy told reporters, referring to Security Sector Reform. "So we hope that after these five days of intensive discussions, we'll be in a position to make some recommendations and to offer ECOWAS some concrete ideas on how to enhance its capabilities, and how to build and reinforce best practices throughout the West Africa region."

Yates, U.S. Africa Command's deputy to the commander for civil-military activities, emphasized that U.S. AFRICOM plays a supporting role in the region.

"It's important to know that the new Africa Command comes in a supporting capacity because the ECOWAS leaders have chosen to work on important security and stability issues," Yates told reporters. Yates is a former U.S. ambassador to Ghana and Burundi.

"I'm here really to listen to the African civil and military leaders who have come to this conference," Yates said, "to hear their concerns and let me take that back to the Africa Command so we can work and tailor our programs to be supportive of the priorities that are coming from this region."

During a question-and-answer session with reporters, Yates added, "I think the leadership role the Nigerian military plays is wonderful, and we'll continue to work and find new opportunities."

Yates also was asked about current and future locations of U.S. Africa Command.

"Both my commander, General [William] Ward, and the secretary of defense [Robert Gates] have decided for the foreseeable future it will be in Stuttgart," Yates said.

Asked when U.S. Africa Command will" take off" and formally launch, Sanders, the U.S. ambassador to Nigeria, responded, "Basically, AFRICOM already has already taken off."

Sanders added, "One of the reasons that we have the programs that we have today with Nigeria, and with the region and with the continent, is because AFRICOM has taken off."

Africa Command "has been an idea that works with partnership with all the regions and particularly with all the African countries," Sanders said. "There was never a sense that there was going to be a boots on the ground in Nigeria vis-à-vis AFRICOM. The idea certainly was to ensure that, through our partnership, we work together to be supportive of the things that we were asked to support."

Examples of this partnership include support of Nigerian peacekeeping troops and a recent visit by the U.S. ship Nashville to Lagos, Nigeria, with an international crew that included West African personnel and a Nigerian Navy officer in a leadership position on the Africa Partnership Station (APS) staff.

Africa Command "really has always been about partnership and coordination and support to the region as opposed to something nefarious that unfortunately was thought about earlier in terms of the press here in Nigeria," Sanders said. "It was never intended to be anything nefarious, but only good friendship and good partnership, whether it's on military-to-military cooperation, whether it's on humanitarian disaster issues, whether it's on capacity building and training, and I think that APS shows a wonderful example of what we mean by AFRICOM and reaching out to our partners."
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