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Commander of U.S. Africa Command Engages with University Students in Mozambique
More than 200 journalists, students, business leaders, and officers from African countries assembled at the Politechnical University auditorium in Maputo on May 14, 2009, to hear General William E. Ward, commander of U.S. Africa Command, speak
MAPUTO, Mozambique - Speakers participates in an open forum at Politechnica University in Maputo. From left to right: while Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Olson, defense attache to Mozambique; Todd Chapman, charge d'affaires, U.S. Embassy in Maputo; General William E. Ward, commander of U.S. Africa Command; Belmiro Rodolfo; and Ines Nogueira da Costa. More than 200 students, journalists, local businessmen, foreign military officers, and defense attaches were in attendance. Ward give a speech and answered questions about the command's current engagements in Africa. (Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Daniel P. Lapierre, U.S. Africa Command)
1 photo: U.S. AFRICOM Photo
Photo 1 of 1: MAPUTO, Mozambique - Speakers participates in an open forum at Politechnica University in Maputo. From left to right: while Lieutenant Colonel Andrew Olson, defense attache to Mozambique; Todd Chapman, charge d'affaires, U.S. Embassy in Maputo; General William E. Ward, commander of U.S. Africa Command; Belmiro Rodolfo; and Ines Nogueira da Costa. More than 200 students, journalists, local businessmen, foreign military officers, and defense attaches were in attendance. Ward give a speech and answered questions about the command's current engagements in Africa. (Photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Daniel P. Lapierre, U.S. Africa Command) Download full-resolution version
More than 200 journalists, students, business leaders, and officers from African countries assembled at the Politechnical University auditorium in Maputo on May 14, 2009, to hear General William E. Ward, commander of U.S. Africa Command, speak about the command's mission and current engagements.

Those present had the opportunity to ask questions and share their concerns regarding Africa Command (AFRICOM).

"The reason I really came here was to learn about the desires, concerns, and challenges that Mozambique faces," said Ward. "We are a listening and learning command…it helps us to hear things from the Mozambican perspective."

Ward welcomed all comments from the audience and took the opportunity to address misperceptions about U.S. Africa Command.

"Don't judge us by what you think we are doing or by what we are saying. Judge us by our deeds and what we are actually doing," he said.

Ward also talked about the command's current programs and engagements in Africa.

"It's not who we are that is important, but what we do and the programs and partnership that we share with African nations," Ward said.

Among the various students who voiced concerns was one who questioned whether U.S. Africa Command would take away the programs and organizations already in place to address security issues in Africa.

"No," replied Ward. "We are working very closely with the African Union and United Nations …When we set programs, we try our best to harmonize with the work that's already being done."

Another participant asked if it is true that Africa Command is trying to "take over the continent."

"Our goals for the command are not to take over and dominate the continent, but to partner with African nations to help bring security, stability, and help nations build their own security capacity so African nations can take care of themselves," Ward explained.

Quoting the famous peace activist Nelson Mandela, Ward said, "The African nations are able to take care of themselves. We just need enough help to build our capacity."

In response to a question regarding U.S. Africa Command's position on the current political situations in Somalia, Madagascar, and the Darfur region of Sudan, Ward emphasized that U.S. Africa Command does not set foreign policy.

"Let me be very clear. When it comes to U.S foreign [policy], I don't set policy. The president of the United States and Congress [do] that. But I will tell you, we are closely watching those situations, and if called to act in support of U.S. foreign policy, we will do so," Ward stated.

Ward highlighted a few of U.S. Africa Command's current programs to include its support for the U.S. State Department's African Contingency Operations Training and Assistance (ACOTA) program, which helps to train and equip African militaries for peacekeeping missions; its HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment programs; and the Africa Partnership Station (APS), a U.S. Navy-led initiative to help African militaries improve maritime security off the coast of Africa.

Of particular interest to the Mozambicans in attendance was the question of why U.S. Africa Command is interested in partnering with their nation.

"Working with the African continent isn't new to the United States," Ward explained. "We have had a relationship here for many years. Instead, ask yourselves, 'How do you see your country being able to work with our nation and what do you want to get out of our relationship?'"

Ward ended the event with this comment: "We are all bound by common goals, we all want protection for our countries, and each person old enough to have children wants to have things better for them than they had growing up. Hopefully, partnering together can make a difference that will last long into the future."


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