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TRANSCRIPT: Gen. William "Kip" Ward introduces Nigerian Gen. Agwai (Ret) at "Visionary Award" presentation Ceremony
Gen. William "Kip" Ward, commander U.S. Africa command (AFRICOM) introduced retired Nigerian General Martin Luther Agwai at an awards ceremony, June 23, 2010, during the Senior Leaders Seminar hosted by the Africa Center for Strategic
Gen. William "Kip" Ward, commander U.S. Africa command (AFRICOM) introduced retired Nigerian General Martin Luther Agwai at an awards ceremony, June 23, 2010, during the Senior Leaders Seminar hosted by the Africa Center for Strategic Studies. Agwai was awarded the "Visionary Award" in recognition of his outstanding contributions to promoting democracy, improving civil-military relations, countering ideological support for terrorism and fostering good governance in Africa.

Following is the transcript of Gen. Ward's introductory comments:


GEN. WILLIAM E. WARD: Well, thank you. Ambassador Katz, I appreciate that introduction. And no doubt that many bridges have indeed been built over the last two weeks among new and old friends here in Lisbon.

As I look out at this very distinguished gathering, it's very plain to me that two things are apparent. One, Portugal is indeed a great friend and partner. This wonderful hospitality that's been displayed over these past two weeks are things that all who have participated will long, long remember. So, sir, on behalf of all of us who have been able to participate and partake, thank you. Thank the Portuguese government -- (applause, inaudible).

I'd also like to thank the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, Ambassador Mark Bellamy and you great team, as well as Ambassador Katz and your team here at our embassy in Lisbon for hosting this evening's wonderful event, a great meal and certainly an opportunity to spend time together among friends with great conversation. As I sat here, I heard the buzz. There was a lot of buzz going on back here -- (laughter) -- which meant that folks were engaged in good, deep conversations; conversations that I know will last long beyond this time here in Lisbon, which is precisely one of the objectives.

But we're here this evening to do something very special. And so I won't add onto Ambassador Bellamy's remarks with respect to the excellent overview of this visionary award and what it means and why it's being conferred this evening to our honored guests, Gen. (ret.) Martin Luther Agwai. And Ruth, Ms. Agwai, it's so wonderful to have you here with this guy. Thank you, because I know he is who he is because of you. Thank you. (Applause.)

Now, in Africa, challenges are great but opportunities are greater. The dedication, conviction, moral courage, leadership of those who speak out and act to promote democracy, good governance and the wellbeing of their people is indeed a cause to celebrate. And for the positive contributions that they make, such conditions by which a professional militaries can form and ultimately contribute to peace and stability. This is hard work.

It's not glamorous and sometimes makes them unpopular with the ones they are working hardest to support. But the rewards are great and those who have received this award previously and the great leader who we honor this evening exemplify the courage, the spirit that inspires so many toward a lasting vision of peace and hope in Africa and among its island nations.

This great leader, my friend, Martin Luther Agwai who I've come to know and love because of who he is, is a man of that reputation. A great soldier who rose up the ranks of the Nigerian Defense Force, a great thinker who won the ambassador's award for research and writing at the National Defense University, the first foreigner ever to win that prestigious award, a great leader who served as chief of the Nigerian Defense Force, then followed as commander of the African Union mission in Darfur, a peacekeeping force of 20,000 soldiers and 6,000 police working in one of the toughest environments in the world, and a great statesman who has taken his tremendous experience and now is sharing it with others as he still continues his work of trying to bring peace and stability to our world.

I could not be prouder to be a part of this ceremony this evening to recognize and honor our friend. Mark, thank you, sir, for inviting me to be here to say something about that great soldier. Gen. Agwai, sir, congratulations to you on this achievement. And thank you for your tremendous service to your nation, Nigeria, to your continent, Africa, and to the people of the world, as you indeed have made such great, great contributions.

The recognition that is about to be bestowed upon you this evening, the visionary award, is one that is so justifiably deserved. You are a man of peace. You are a man of vision, character, integrity and competency that we all admire and respect so mightily for. I salute you. I congratulate you. And most importantly, I'm very proud to call you my friend. Thank you very much. (Applause.)