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TRANSCRIPT: Ward Addresses U.S. Embassy Personnel in Sierra Leone
<i>In an address at the U.S. Embassy in Sierra Leone on September 14, 2009, General William E. Ward, commander of U.S. Africa Command, reaffirmed the importance of the relationship between the United States and Sierra Leone. <br /> <br />"What we
In an address at the U.S. Embassy in Sierra Leone on September 14, 2009, General William E. Ward, commander of U.S. Africa Command, reaffirmed the importance of the relationship between the United States and Sierra Leone.

"What we come here to do is to listen to our friends in Sierra Leone; to consult with other parts of our United States government so that as we plan our activities, we have a greater understanding of what's being done by others in pursuit of common objectives that will help create a more stable environment," Ward said.

This marked Ward's first visit to Sierra Leone, where, in addition to visiting with U.S. Embassy staff, he discussed security-related issues with military officials of the Sierra Leone Armed Forces and met with Sierra Leone President Ernest Bai Koroma.

The complete transcript of Ward's speech is below: (Applause.) GEN. WILLIAM WARD: Well, after that I don't think there's anything else for me to say. (Laughter.) That was very, very good there, Glenn. I think you have taken my Web site and you've mastered everything in it. (Laughter.) I think I can go down there and finish having something to drink and eat there. Let me first acknowledge all of you here -- and forgive me for not singling you out individually -- but to all the ministers who are here, the excellencies, the diplomatic corps, my fellow general and flag officers who are here present, all of you very distinguished guests, and as was pointed out, all protocol observed. It is indeed a privilege and honor to be here in Freetown for what is my first visit to Sierra Leone. I was reminded earlier today that it has been 1990 -- 1-9-9-0 -- since a four star American general last visited Sierra Leone, and that was General Colin Powell. I'm going to see Colin in about three weeks, so when I see him I'm going to let him know that I finally followed up on his visit here to Sierra Leone. (Laughter.) I have been warmly welcomed by the people of Sierra Leone, and I appreciate that very, very greatly. I don't take it for granted that being a friend is automatic. And so when I experience something that says to me, typically in an unspoken way, that, Ward, you are welcome there, the people whom you've met with are generally happy that you have come, and the relationship is on solid ground. As I've had my interactions today, and I will continue tomorrow, that feeling has come through in so meaningful ways from the great work that was done in preparation for this visit by the chargé and this team here. Glenn, let me thank you and the entire U.S. embassy team here for what you have done to make this visit possible; to the government, military and the people of Sierra Leone, what you have done to welcome me and make me feel so at home, I appreciate all of that, as well as those whom I brought with me on this visit. I've had a productive day of visits today, and as I mentioned, we hope to continue those tomorrow. I'll have a chance to meet with His Excellency, the president tomorrow, as well as ministers, to include the finance minister, who I just met but I will certainly see him tomorrow again as well. I come to Freetown for one purpose, and that is to reaffirm in my small way this great relationship that exists between the United States of America and the republic of Sierra Leone. And to take the words that Glenn indicated, not that I see that relationship based on the military-to-military cooperation that we have so thankfully been able to have but to see how, as we do that military-to-military business, we can be more harmonized in the work that's being done by other parts of our government -- State Department; other agencies of our government; others of you who are here this evening representing other international organs, other private organs -- because we know that for stability to be realized in a region, it is the result of three things working more or less together. And you have to have an environment that is secure enough such that the development that its people need to advance in many ways -- economically, socially, education, health -- that that can be there. You have to have institutions of governance that do the best it can in taking care of its people, representing its people, for true stability to be resident. And then, so, what we come here to do is to listen to our friends in Sierra Leone; to consult with other parts of our United States government so that as we plan our activities, we have a greater understanding of what's being done by others in pursuit of common objectives that will help create a more stable environment. That's good for Sierra Leone; that's good for Sierra Leone's neighbors; that's good for the continent of Africa and its island nations; that's good for the global society, including the United States of America. So when I get asked, well, Ward, what's the real reason that U.S. Africa Command was created? What's your real purpose in mission? That's it -- to try to work in coherent ways with others who have similar goals to reach a more stable globalized society. And all we have to look at what went on in this past year or so with the global economic crisis to know we're all linked. No longer do vast seas or great deserts or extended mountain ranges separate us. If it happens in one corner of the world, it will have an effect on us where we live. And for each of us, one thing that I think is universal that we can all agree on, and that is having stability serves our common interests as global citizens. And so in some small way, if Kip Ward and the great team of the United States Africa Command can be a partner in more effective ways in working with you, our international friends, our interagency friends, and the friends that we seek to work with on the continent -- helping to achieve that stability -- that's what we want to do. That's all it is. And so, when the decision was made -- well, I'll just say this: When a decision was talked about now almost 30 years ago to have a single geographic command, looked at Africa as we look at the rest of the world. And it was discussed a bit more, and then finally, about 3-and-a-half years ago, some serious work began on making that a reality. Many thought it was about time. And so what you have now is a command that, instead of three commands -- U.S. European Command, my most recent command where I was deputy commander; U.S. Central Command; and U.S. Pacific Command -- all having some level of military-to-military activities on the continent of Africa, doing that work, and quite frankly not always in a coordinated way, not always in a synchronized way. You had the African Union saying that we look at the continent of Africa in its entirety, its island nations, working to increase stability. You have regional organizations that look at Africa in discrete ways, trying to bring additional economic stability as well as through their standby forces to their regions. Our government, our Department of Defense said it's about time that we also reorganized how we do our business with our partners and friends on the continent. So the creation of the United States Africa Command is a realization of those activities coming together. Nothing changed in what we've been doing, engaging in military-to-military activities. We've been doing that for a while on the continent. But it does change how we do it, and it changes our approach, and that approach being an approach that is hopefully more cognizant of, pays greater attention to, these other things that go on, not that we seek to be in charge of development for our country. That's the U.S. Agency for International Development. Not that we seek to be in charge of diplomacy for America; that's the United States State Department. But we do seek to have greater clarity of insight into what's going on so that when we do that small part that we are asked to do in pursuit of our national interests, we have a better chance than not of doing our activities in a more supportive way of these other activities, so that those issues of defense, development and diplomacy have a better chance of working together at least as it pertains to what we do. And so to the degree that we can work with the security structures of Sierra Leone, as the chargé pointed out, without military-to-military activities, resulting in things such as the Maritime Law Enforcement Program that -- (inaudible) -- recently was able to assist the Republic of Sierra Leone's armed forces in identifying illegal fishers in its territories, such that those revenues, such that those natural resources rightly belonging to the people of Sierra Leone could in fact be consumed and used for the good of the people. We're happy to do that. And so this command, along with those sorts of activities, as well as others, working with our military partners in ways that make a difference to them, to do as -- I know the constitution here talks to helping to create a more professional force under the able leadership and guidance of the minister of defense, and with us this evening, the chief of defense staff, such that those forces operate, protect and safeguard as best as they can in ways that show regional cooperation that helps produce stability. That's what we want to do. My command is in Stuttgart, Germany. As far as I can tell, it's staying in Stuttgart, Germany because our work is not about where that planning effort goes on. Our work is right now in 46 different countries on the continent where we have military programs in place helping our African friends and partners increase their capacity to provide for their own security, not bringing large garrisons of forces and stationing them, but working with programs through our embassies to cause our African partners and friends to be in a greater position to do, as Nelson Mandela said in 1995, "a continent of Africa whose peoples and institutions can provide for their own security, but with the help of our friends." And so in that regard, U.S. Africa Command, as but one instrument of the United States government, is a friend, not seeking to do for you but seeking to do in a partnership with you to help you provide for your own security. And so my being here today was to -- and tomorrow -- to help better understand that as we go about doing work, we have a better chance of collectively achieving the success that we all see as important. And, again, that's in our best interest as Americans as I think it is for all of us. So thanks for being here this evening. I apologize for going on so long, but I never miss an opportunity to talk to such a distinguished group of folk who are influential and knowing, and hopefully, through a few words that I've said this evening, maybe have provided you a higher degree of insight to what this is about, and letting you know that, indeed, this journey that we are on together is an important journey, but not for Kip Ward, and, quite frankly, not to most of us. It's for -- as I rode through the city today and saw a lot of little kids, what are we doing today to make their tomorrow better? That's what this is about. That's what this is about. Thanks very much. Thanks for your hospitality. Thank you. (Applause.) (END)