U.S. Africa Command’s Deputy to the Commander for Civil-Military Engagement, Ambassador Andrew Young, and Director of Intelligence, Rear Adm. Heidi Berg, visited the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) to demonstrate support for the Congolese commitment to enhancing military professionalism and welcome the countries’ re-established security cooperation relationship, Jan. 27-30.
The trip marks the first visit of a U.S. Africa Command delegation to the DRC since the signing of the U.S. and DRC Memorandum of Understanding in October 2020. Leaders emphasized U.S. Africa Command’s commitment to the U.S.-DRC Privileged Partnership for Peace and Prosperity.
“The Privileged Partnership for Peace and Prosperity is an example of how we work together, how we set joint objectives and set steps to take together to foster a more stable, secure, and prosperous Democratic Republic of the Congo,” said Young. “With this foundation in place, the DRC can move toward professionalizing its military and contribute to wider peacekeeping operations, thus enhancing regional security while improving the quality of life for the Congolese people.”
During the trip, Young and Berg, along with U.S. Ambassador to the Democratic Republic of the Congo Mike Hammer, met with high-level Congolese military and civilian leaders, including President Felix Tshisekedi, Foreign Minister Marie Tumba Nzeza, Defense Minister Aime Ngoy Mukena, Deputy Minister of Defense Sylvain Mutombo, and Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the DRC Gen. Célestin Mbala Munsense.
“We are looking to build a new future with a new generation of military leaders and the Democratic Republic of the Congo,” said Berg.
During the engagements, the U.S. leaders commended President Tshisekedi’s commitment to professionalize the Congolese military, protect human rights, and make progress on the anti-corruption agenda.
"President Tshisekedi's commitment to bringing change to the Congolese people has resulted in concrete progress in combating corruption and protecting human rights, which has been essential in facilitating this high level of military engagement,” Hammer said. “I'm pleased to welcome this delegation from U.S. Africa Command for discussions with Congolese leaders on how a stronger defense partnership can help the DRC achieve its true potential, for the benefit of the Congolese and American people."
The DRC and U.S. Africa Command have a history of partnership through Armed Forces of the DRC (FARDC) participation in U.S.-led military exercises, where emphasis is placed on the value of professional military forces, best practices in military justice, and respect for human rights.
“The United States supports the DRC’s ongoing efforts to strengthen its military justice system,” said Hammer. “Therefore, we will continue to explore ways we can advance these efforts as it is in both of our countries’ interest to back the FARDC’s efforts to improve human rights and fight corruption, as well as to hold perpetrators accountable.”
The military training and cooperative engagement opportunities that U.S. Africa Command offers to partners is unique and allows for mutually beneficial development of each nation’s forces.
“We are known for the strength of our military training, the professionalism of our forces, and the quality of our engagements. The DRC has experienced this first hand in our Obangame Express, Flintlock, and Shared Accord military training exercises. We look forward to future cooperative activities with the DRC to include military training, women, peace and security efforts, as well as a host of other activities,” said Berg.
Addressing mutual security challenges requires a steadfast commitment and partnership.
“Overcoming security challenges and today's complex global problem sets requires tenacity, leadership, understanding, enhanced capabilities, cooperation, and partnerships,” said Young. “This engagement helps solidify each and charts the future of our new partnership.”
The delegation also participated in a roundtable discussion with representatives from Congolese civil society, including from human rights, women’s, and youth organizations. It was important to hear their perspectives on the progress that has happened in the last two years but also the challenges that persist.
“Partnership in Africa is on the rise,” said Berg. “It’s important we continue to look for ways to work together toward shared security goals.”
Young echoed the importance of future engagement.
"The work of today sets the stage for security, stability, and prosperity possibilities. It opens the door to a stronger future," said Young.