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18th Apr 13Managed by Chatham House
Financed by DEFRA
AFRICOM Commander General William Ward visits Sierra Leone
General William “Kip” Ward, commander of the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM), visited the Republic of Sierra Leone earlier this week at the invitation of the United States Embassy. General Ward met with several government and military officials, including President Koroma, Defense Minister Conte, and Chief of Defense Staff Major General Nelson-Williams.
General Ward is the first commander of AFRICOM, which was established in 2007 in recognition that peace and security require new solutions, and that military capabilities are but one element in the three Ds—defense, diplomacy, and development—embodying the cooperation and collaboration required to effectively guide U.S. foreign policy into the future. To meet those challenges, the United States established a new model of international engagement, bringing military activities in Africa under a single umbrella. General Ward leads that effort.
Recently, the effects of this kind of engagement were highlighted right here in Sierra Leone, with the seizure of a fishing vessel by a combined team of Sierra Leonean officials working from a U.S. Coast Guard Cutter. The Cutter was here in support of Sierra Leone as part of AFRICOM’s Africa Partnership Station, an example of military assets harnessed in support of our shared diplomatic and development goals. The seizure, the largest in Sierra Leone’s history, clearly demonstrated the capability of Sierra Leone’s maritime security personnel to police the nation’s waters, and protect the nation’s resources. General Ward recommended Sierra Leone impose the maximum penalty on the poachers, including fines and forfeiture of the boat and over 90 tons of illegal catch, which should help support future independent RSLAF Maritime Wing operations and act as deterrent to other potential poachers.
A career infantry officer, General Ward commended Sierra Leone and the Republic of Sierra Leone Armed Forces (RSLAF) on their commitment to the upcoming peacekeeping operations in the Darfur region of Sudan. He emphasized that they should do everything possible to understand the overall UN mission in order to perform well. He also stated the United States Department of Defense has learned it is critical to understand and perform well those smaller tasks that are associated with more difficult missions prior to moving on to more complex operations.
The general was complimentary to the Sierra Leone government for signing the first comprehensive maritime security agreement, substantially increasing the chance for the United States and Sierra Leone to collaborate on areas of mutual interest such as illegal fishing, overfishing, illegal drug trafficking, commodities smuggling, and human trafficking. General Ward was impressed with the government’s support of anti-narcotics efforts and their turnover of three indicted drug traffickers to the United States last April. He noted that further efforts and coordination against traffickers are needed, as these criminals pose a tremendous risk to the stability of the entire region.
General Ward’s visit marked the first time a United States Four Star General has visited Sierra Leone since the visit of then-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Colin Powell visited in 1990. It was a recognition of the enduring connections between the United States and Sierra Leone, and our ongoing commitment to supporting Sierra Leone’s efforts to enhance security, stability, and the rule of law.
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