A delegation from U.S. Africa Command, led by U.S. Ambassador Andrew Young, deputy commander of military engagement for the command, participated in a dedication ceremony at the Daan Viljoen National Park in Namibia on Sept. 2. The delegation also included the U.S. Agency for International Development Senior Development Adviser to U.S. Africa Command, Barbara Hughes, and Deputy Director for Strategic Engagement, Brig. Gen. Pete Bailey.
U.S. Africa Command donated vehicles and other equipment through the Overseas Humanitarian, Disaster, and Civic Aid (OHDACA) program to assist Namibia with their counter-poaching and anti-smuggling efforts.
The four Land-Cruisers and other specialized equipment that were part of the $595,000 donation will help the Ministry of Environment, Forestry and Tourism combat poaching in Namibia, where illegal wildlife trade continues to be an acute problem.
Wildlife trafficking is the fourth most profitable transnational, illicit trade and is of a regional security concern in southern Africa, where countries work to protect endangered wildlife, trace illicit cargo and secure their borders. Left unchecked, illegal wildlife trade can have spillover effects on the overall stability and security of the region.
“This visit really illustrates the U.S. whole-of-government approach to what we are doing with our Namibian partners,” Young said. “This is a true example of what we can accomplish when we work together not just across borders but also across different government agencies so that we can bring the Department of Defense’s unique support to addressing regional security issues like wildlife poaching.”
The group was briefed by the Blue Rhino Task Force, an interagency task force funded by the U.S. government to combat international poaching. The task force, which sets a global standard for interagency cooperation when it comes to combating wildlife trafficking, combines efforts of local communities, non-governmental organizations, law enforcement and national security institutions to create an effective operational, investigative and analytical team that has led to more than 750 arrests and shut down numerous international syndicates between southern Africa and market destinations in Europe and Asia.
“Meeting with the Blue Rhino Task Force helped illuminate the wider role all of us have to protect natural resources for future generations,” Young said. “While the command may provide assistance to the brave members of Namibia’s anti-poaching squad, each of us need to do our part to reduce the demand globally that is responsible for endangering these beautiful creatures.“
The dedication ceremony of anti-poaching assistance was just one part of a visit by the command delegation to help understand and see how the command’s efforts in Namibia complement other U.S. government efforts.
As the largest bilateral donor in the health care sector in Namibia, the delegation heard firsthand from community outreach workers at the Katutura Village in Windhoek - beneficiaries of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control’s efforts under the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and USAID’s support for HIV/AIDS prevention, care, and treatment.
The delegation also met with Defense Minister Frans Kapofi, with whom they discussed the strong partnership between the U.S. and Namibia and expressed their commitment to working together on shared security interests like anti-poaching, infectious disease control, maritime security, and integrating women into peace and security initiatives.
The delegation also met with Dr. Ester Utjiua, deputy minister of health and social services, to discuss how the U.S. and Namibia can best continue to collaborate in health security and to reinforce Namibia’s extraordinary progress on meeting U.N. targets to control HIV/AIDS.
“We had a very productive meeting,” Hughes said. “Namibia is rightly proud of their enormous progress towards reaching HIV/AIDS epidemic control and we are proud that the U.S. government’s PEPFAR played a part in this success. We also discussed the Critical Mobile Health Facility support that AFRICOM is pleased to be providing with OHDACA funding. Our partnership in the health sector is extremely strong.”
Ambassador Young and Bailey rounded out the trip with a visit to the USS Hershel “Woody” Williams, which conducted her second port call within a year in Namibia. The ship belongs to the expeditionary sea base class of ships, which offer a highly flexible platform that can act as a mobile sea base to support the deployment of forces and supplies and may be used across a broad range of military operations.
“Namibia’s partnership with the United States is advancing across a broad front. From investments in healthcare that have saved countless Namibian lives, to our shared interests in protecting the natural resources of the beautiful country, to deepening our security exchanges including the second visit in a year of our U.S. naval ship,” Young said. “This visit truly demonstrated what we can do together when defense supports diplomacy and development. We look forward to the ways our partnership will continue to grow.”