Contact Us Press Releases AFRICOM Portal
TRANSCRIPT: Defense Department's Huddleston Says Safeguarding Africa's Waters is Vital for International Trade
Ambassador Vicki Huddleston, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Africa addressed the Maritime Safety and Security: Towards Economic Prosperity Conference October 13, 2010, at the Millennium Hotel in Stuttgart, Germany. <br /> <br />The
Ambassador Vicki Huddleston, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Africa addressed the Maritime Safety and Security: Towards Economic Prosperity Conference October 13, 2010, at the Millennium Hotel in Stuttgart, Germany.

The two-day conference, co-sponsored by the U.S. Departments of State and Defense and hosted by U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM), concentrated on forging partnerships, identifying projects that support maritime security activities, and strengthening collaborative strategies.

Huddleston emphasized the importance of maritime security in Africa and noted the sea's significance as a resource for Africans.

A complete transcript of the ambassador's comments is below.

Thank you, General Ward. Good morning everyone. I'm delighted to be here. It's a pleasure to see a room so full of people from all over this continent here in Europe, but as well as the great African continent. General Ward, thank you very much for inviting me and I'd like to acknowledge Dr. Mwencha, the vice chairperson of the African Union, and also here is the Chief of Staff of the African Union and of course from the Department of State, Ambassador Johnnie Carson. Looking down this front row I'm seeing all sorts of ambassadors from the United States to Africa. It's very nice to see you here this morning; so it's a pleasure to see you as well and welcome.

The Department of Defense is delighted to be a co-sponsor of this event and with the Department of State and I want very much to thank the staff of Africom. (side discussion) I know how much work goes into a conference like this, so thank you, thank your staff. Thank all those gentlemen who were pointing us in the right direction as we were all rubbing our eyes and saying, "We all need to look at our speeches one more time."

My speech this morning is not meant to be a long speech. It's actually just meant to reiterate and reinforce what General Ward has said about the importance of maritime security in Africa and one of the most important points I wanted to build upon is that the sea is such an important resource for Africa. I remember beginning my career in Sierra Leone. And in Sierra Leone you could look off the coast and see these huge Chinese trawlers just gobbling up all the fish along that coast, and I said to somebody, because this was a long time ago, this was at least 30 years ago, I told some of that story and they said, "Oh, that's still going on today. Only there are a few more trawlers from a few other nations out there as well." So here is this immense resource that Africa has but has been unable to control because it lacks its own resources to control the coast. And it lacks in some cases strong judicial systems that even if these illegal fishing companies are caught then they aren't brought to justice so it goes on with impunity. And here is a richness, here is a resource that Africa needs to use for its development. So to the degree that APS and all of us working with Africa can help Africa build up its coast guards, its navies and its justice systems to deal with this problem, we will make Africa richer and more prosperous and more capable of development across the board.

Obviously, we're seeing any number or problems in the maritime areas around Africa now. Everyone knows and talks about piracy on the east coast. Yet that piracy probably only impacts .001 percent of all shipping but it makes just about every headline in the world when a major ship is taken. I think the reason that this happens is the idea that pirates can get away with taking major vessels and holding up the trade of nations in and out of Africa; holding up food that's so badly needed when countries are impacted by drought; holding up oil that's going around the horn and down the coast. Holding up Africa's goods that are coming out of Africa supplying the rest of the world because Africa has been a great source not only of oil but of minerals to the rest of the world. Those shipping lanes need to be safe not only to help the rest of the world but to make the trade with Africa prosper.

Then I look over also on the west coast that we don't talk about as much. In fact the bunkering of oil on the west coast is a bigger business and a more lucrative business than piracy on the east coast. It's just less spectacular. But it drains off Nigeria's immense oil wealth. And of course in the end it makes oil prices go up for all of us around the globe. There are the other issues that we are becoming increasingly worried about of drug trafficking because here is Africa, as Gen Ward indicated, small nations in some cases trying to cope with huge drug cartels. Drug cartels that probably have a larger GDP then some of the countries. Individuals who are willing to offer bribes that are probably larger than the country's GDPs. So how do we help Africa deal with this and if we don't help Africa deal with this will there be a nexus between non-state actors, extremists and illicit trade.

We're beginning to see some indication of that and I'll be interested to hear from you and to learn whether this is a serious and growing concern. Because certainly if drug trafficking cartels hook up with al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb or if piracy hooks up with al-Shabab then not only does Africa have a serious problem, we all have a serious problem. Because the wealth that would flow into the coffers of these extremist organizations would only make them more able to disrupt the trade and the potential prosperity of Africa.

I think that's enough of a perspective from me because I want to hear from you. I'm by no means an expert on this. I'm an observer only of what happens in Africa and how it impacts the rest of the world. Because as President Obama has so many times said that Africa is for Africans, but it is also very much connected to the whole world. (side comments)

Now I get to my favorite part of my presentation this morning and that's the honor to be able to introduce to you Assistant Secretary Johnnie Carson. And it's an honor and it's also very easy Johnnie. Not only because Johnnie is probably a legend already, known by almost everyone in this room, if not everyone in this room, but also I've had the great pleasure of working with Johnnie in my career. In fact, the first time I had met him, he had been named the principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State to Ambassador Susan Rice, and I was one of the other deputy assistant secretaries but you notice that the principal before his name. It was such a pleasure to work with Johnnie.

I almost always was a bit jealous because I would be scrambling to get my work done and Johnnie would be in his office and there would always be three, four, five of the officers up there and they just wanted to learn from Johnnie. And I thought, "Johnnie, how do you do it? Everybody wants to come and learn from you. How do you get your work done?" But now I've learned, now that I'm over at the Defense Department, I've figured it out. He doesn't go home until 8 or 10 o'clock at night, he works all weekend and so I've now learned that beneath that calm demeanor, the man who is so patient and always willing to share his time with everyone, whether they're a junior officer or whether it's the Secretary of State, he's making up for it in many, many extra hours. I think everybody has always appreciated that so much about Johnnie. And from that job, as principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Africa, Johnnie went on, he went across the river, as I have done, only he didn't go to the Pentagon, he went to the CIA, and he was the national intelligence officer for Africa. I often run into his colleagues and they always say how much he brought to the intelligence agency. I think he just brought intelligence. Johnnie was also the vice president of the National Defense University. So you see, General Ward, he has already been on the defense side once and now he's Assistant Secretary of State for Africa. And I have to tell you that one of the things that Ambassador Rice said to me, when the three of us were working together. She said, "You know Vicki, if there is one thing I want to see, its Johnnie Carson become the Assistant Secretary of State." And there you are Johnnie.

I want to just mention a couple more things about Johnnie. I think you all know he was a Peace Corps volunteer in Tanzania, but he was also ambassador in Kenya, in Zimbabwe and in Uganda. And in Kenya, Johnnie was absolutely instrumental in helping President Moi and the leadership in Kenya organize elections and have a peaceful turnover in a democratic way. Which started this democratic process in Kenya and that is so typical of Johnnie's ability to work with leaders and people everywhere and find comprises and solutions. Johnnie, I've only scratched the surface and I just want to say here, publicly, that it has been a great pleasure and honor to have worked so often with you and to have learned from you. Johnnie Carson.
PARTNERSHIPS OPERATIONS READINESS