Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Ambassador Sanders' Remarks at AFRICA ENDEAVOR 2008

Remarks of U.S. Ambassador Robin Renée Sanders

Delivered at the Closing Ceremony of Exercise AFRICA ENDEAVOR 2008
(As prepared for delivery)
Nigerian Air Force Base, Abuja
July 23, 2008

Minister of State for Defense Njeze, Chief of Defense Staff GEN Azazi, representatives of the Service Chiefs, representatives of the Service Directors, Heads of Delegations of the 26 nations participating in the African Endeavor exercise, As the U.S. Ambassador I would also like to recognize the Head of the U.S. Delegation, General Ward, All Delegation senior officers, Member nation participants, members of the press, ladies and gentlemen, all other protocols duly observed:

I want to begin by thanking the host country – Nigeria – for its leadership role and dedication in continuing the African Endeavor exercise. This is the second time that this exercise has been held on the African continent, (in South Africa in 2006), and all of us appreciate the support that the Federal Republic of Nigeria, particularly the Minster of Defense and Chief of Defense Staff General Azazi, have provided over the last few days to make this exercise truly a resounding success. In the global environment in which we all live today, partners and friends like Nigeria are key to moving international military-to-military cooperation forward. I personally recognize the importance of mil-to-mil cooperation on several fronts, not only because I am a product of a U.S. military family, but also because I have recently served as the Deputy Commandant at the U.S. National Defense University just prior to my arrival here as the U.S. Ambassador to Nigeria.

I also would like to recognize and congratulate every participant who took part in Africa Endeavor 2008. Without your professionalism and commitment to the interactions and activities over the last several days, the goals of this exercise would have not come to fruition. Together, you made significant progress in integrating shared military communication systems and improving not only the hardware capability, but also the importance of military networks on an international level.

As you all know, good communication is the backbone of any successful undertaking, whether it is a United Nations Peacekeeping operation or a humanitarian relief mission in response to a natural disaster. Good communications, during joint operations, begins with interoperable equipment, systems and procedures that permit military units not only to speak to, but also to share information with units from other nations and organizations, such as the 21 African nations and two key regional organizations – ECOWAS and the African Union -- represented here today.

One of the great deliverables – which I like to call the intangibles -- from exercises such is this – is another important element -- building mutual understanding among militaries -- as communication among the people behind the systems you used in the exercises this week is also so very, very critical. I know that the relationships you have developed during this exercise will remain part of your professional experiences throughout your careers, and the knowledge you have gained over the past six days of intense testing and collaboration will pay dividends many times over as you, your countries and organizations continue to work together to ensure continued peace and security – on this great continent of Africa in general, and the sub region in particular.

The United States Government and the people of America – through the Department of Defense - are honored to be a sponsor of this event along with our host, the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Africa Endeavor is a groundbreaking venture, which you all should be proud of. It embodies the growing military and civilian cooperation among the nations of Africa—both at the bilateral as well as multilateral levels. The standards and procedures you have established during this exercise will serve as a touchstone for improved, coordinated responses to the myriad security challenges facing Africa. As the lessons learned from these exercises take hold throughout your respective organizations, I hope increased communication will serve as the catalyst for developing strategies to prevent conflicts before they escalate, as well as the catalyst to continue to build mutual understanding, and respect between the militaries of our nations.

Economic and social progress cannot occur without physical security, just as operations to improve physical security cannot occur without cohesive communication. Through your participation in these exercises, you have demonstrated the collective commitment of the countries and organizations you represent to improve the lives of the people of Africa by cooperating to ensure their peace and security and exercises like this one do just that.

Once again, thank you to the Government, Military, and people of Nigeria, and to all of the participants, facilitators and Exercise Directors Brigadier General Kwabe and LTC Dollesin.

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