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TRANSCRIPT: RFI Interviews Gen. Ward During Maritime Safety and Security Conference
Radio France Internationale's Billi Kadameri interviewed General William E. Ward, commander, U.S. Africa Command, during the Africa Maritime Safety and Security: Towards Economic Prosperity Conference held at the Millennium Hotel in Stuttgart,
Radio France Internationale's Billi Kadameri interviewed General William E. Ward, commander, U.S. Africa Command, during the Africa Maritime Safety and Security: Towards Economic Prosperity Conference held at the Millennium Hotel in Stuttgart, Germany October 13, 2010.

General William E. Ward, commander of U.S. Africa Command, hosted a conference attended by 19 African nations, five European nations and the U.S. The two-day conference, co-sponsored by the U.S. Departments of State and Defense, concentrated on forging partnerships, identifying projects that support maritime security activities, and strengthening collaborative strategies.

The following is a transcript from the interview.

RFI: (Inaudible) since the Africa Command once said it has achieved its objective of helping Africa build its security challenges?

GEN. WARD: Well, the objective is a work in progress. These are objectives that are ongoing. We clearly have been doing things that are assisting, provide that type of support to our AFRICOM departments that they've asked us to provide. But it is a work in progress, so the objectives are things that we are taking now, and they will continue to go on as we continue to work with our partners both bilaterally but also regionally, as well as a continental globalization with the African Union.

RFI: Now, at this conference, American security comes at a very important time, when Africa is facing those challenges. How practical - in what practical way do you think you can help them?

GEN. WARD: Well, the conference is a conference sponsored by the Department of State, the Department of Defense, hosted here by U.S. AFRICOM, but our role is in causing our activities to be supportive of the totality of the effort that is being undertaken by the nations of the continent, by the regional organizations, by the African Union. And the conference is a way to help us synchronize, coordinate the activities so that when we are doing something, these activities that we do complement, support and then cause a greater effect overall to be achieved as the nations of Africa work to increase their ability to provide security over their maritime domain.

RFI: You have traveled across Africa since you were in charge of this command -

GEN. WARD: And before.

RFI: - and before, and initially, there was some kind of suspicion about the mission of AFRICOM, and people have begun to appreciate its work doing some humanitarian activities in countries like Uganda and Mali. What do you think caused the change of mind? Was it your approach?

GEN. WARD: Well, I think there is two things. First, the suspicions that were there from the beginning were never the reality, but people did not know. And so what we have done now that we've been operating the command is continue to reinforce the message that our role is to provide support and assistance to our African partners in helping them to provide for their own security, not out there doing it for them.
And then, in addition to saying that, our activities now over these last two-plus years have demonstrated just that. And so it's been because of what we have said, and then based on what we have said, the things that we have done have reinforced all of those messages.

And so the things that were being questioned by some on the continent and elsewhere have been proven to be not the case because of what they have seen and because of what they have understood us to do, because of how we have demonstrated our work as we work with our partners, our exercises, our programs - I have been - programs and exercises - that in no way imply our domination, our coming to stay, our constant presence, but have been done in ways that say, we come in, we provide assistance, training support, activities, maintenance, training, other activities that have increased the ability of African nations to work together regionally, to have additional work that they see for their own benefit and things that we have only been a partner to and not in charge of.
And so it's been by what we have said, but more importantly, they have seen our activities that have led to increased professionalism, increased capacity for Africans themselves in working together in pursuit of their own security objectives.

RFI: (Inaudible) - don't you, because initially, some people would say, we don't want U.S. troops on African territory, and others would say, they are there in Stuttgart, working on behalf of Africa. You are not there, they didn't want you. You are here, some of them are saying, how can they help us when they are based far away in Europe? How do you resolve that dilemma?

GEN. WARD: Well, here in Stuttgart is only a planning headquarters. The work of the command is being done on the continent, and so when it comes to our activities where we assist and where we work with our Africa partners and friends, that's done on the continent of Africa in all of its environs and regions and all of its diverse locations and varied locations. The planning function can be done from anyplace, but it's - the important aspect is the work that we do, and that work is being done on the continent of Africa.

And the partners on Africa are seeing our troops there conducting exercises, leaving once the exercise is completed. And so where we plan those activities, where we sit and discuss those and we coordinate and we get the resources, my working with Washington, my working with other international partners - those activities can be done from anyplace, quite frankly.

The important thing is the fact that we are doing our work on the continent. Our Africa partners see it because we are there with them, we are there at the African Union, we are there in the regional economic communities as they look to build up their standby forces. We are there with our partner nations, working with them day in and day out every day on the continent of Africa.

RFI: Thank you very, very much, General Ward. Thank you for giving us your time.

GEN. WARD: Thank you.