Summary

  • The U.S.-Africa Leaders’ Summit (ALS) will bring leaders from across the African continent to Washington, D.C. on December 13-15, 2022. It is expected to convene African governments, civil society, diaspora communities across the United States, and the private sector in pursuit of a shared vision for the future of U.S.-Africa relations.

    As part of the ALS, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin III is scheduled to co-chair a forum on Peace, Security and Governance, with the intent of highlighting how collaboration with African nations, institutions, and peoples is essential to the U.S. approach to working with partners to promote stability in Africa.

    Ms. Chidi Blyden, is the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for African Affairs and expert and socio-cultural advisor on Africa’s conflicts, security and development issues. She comes to the role with policy, national security, and practitioner experience from her career in government, academia, and non-profit sectors.

THE WASHINGTON FOREIGN PRESS CENTER, WASHINGTON, D.C.

MODERATOR:  Good morning.  My name is Zina Wolfington, and I will be moderating today’s discussion.  On behalf of the Foreign Press Center, I would like to welcome everyone in the room and all those who joined us online for today’s briefing.

Today we are honored to welcome Chidi Blyden, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for African Affairs.  Ms. Blyden will share the Department of Defense perspective ahead of the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit on Africa’s critical leadership role in confronting global peace, security, and governance challenges.

A quick review of the ground rules for today’s briefing.  This briefing is on the record and is being recorded.  We will post the video and transcript of this briefing on our website, fpc.state.gov, as soon as it is available.

For those of you joining us online, please include your full name and your outlet as well as the country where most of your readers or viewers are located.

And now I would like to invite our distinguished guest to share opening remarks, after which we will open the room for questions.  Chidi Blyden.

MS BLYDEN:  Thank you.  I would like to extend my sincere appreciation and thanks to the Foreign Press Center, and to all the foreign and domestic press outlets for allowing me to address you here today in this venue.

In a rapidly changing world, we are excited that the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit comes at an extremely consequential time.  On the one hand, if you were take your finger and point to anywhere on the map of Africa, you will easily discover the limitless opportunities that exist on the continent.  From the ingenuity of the youth population, to the critical minerals necessary to power our future through technologies, to the burgeoning private sector industry that could create opportunities for millions across the globe.

I’m a firm believer that the solutions to many of the world’s most pressing problems and many of the inventions that will change our lives are found in Africa.  There are many African solutions to global issues.

On the other hand, the limitless potential is consistently threatened by episodes of political instability, challenges to access to basic human needs, access to education, democratic backsliding, physical insecurity, the threat of climate change, and environmental degradation, and violent extremism.

I would say luckily for humanity, the story of Africa, like other regions of the world, is still being written.  I think with a pen in Africa’s hands, we must work hard to ensure that story’s next chapters are filled – are no longer with just the potential hopes and dreams of a great people and a great continent, but that it is filled with the reality that reflects the promises of today and the prosperity that Africa hopes to see.

At the African Leaders Summit kicking off next week, the U.S. Government and the Department of Defense hopes to communicate our desires, goals, and interests for partnering with Africa.  We hope to use the valuable time to collaborate with many of your leaders.  Without their engagement and support, the U.S. find itself in a difficult position to address mutual security challenges, protect our national security interests, and support African governments’ objectives to deliver the security dividends necessary to thrive in the 21st century.

To establish flourishing democratic institutions and economic opportunities, people need to feel safe and secure and must have confidence in their governments to create environments that are conducive for governance and development.  We are not interested in working in Africa without African consultation, collaboration, and coordination.  And as such, African voices helping is not a suggestion, but it will actually be a requirement, I think, to shape the world going forward.

I think the United States and the Department of Defense also understand that to accomplish these goals and address the challenges of the continent, we must remain fully aware, engaged, and working with our partners.  Engagements like the African Leaders Summit will allow us the opportunity to learn from each other, share lessons and best practices, and most importantly, hear from our partners about things that they are interested in and the objectives that they want to achieve.

The U.S. has recalibrated its approach.  We will not only seek to empower the African continent in the field of security, development, and governance, but we will also strive to help them address the drivers of instability and conflict to meet the ambition and promise of Africa.  In this vein, the U.S. will work to employ a whole-of-government approach to empower African partners to tackle the threat and security challenges that we all face, such as VEOs, political instability, violent conflict, pandemics, food insecurity, democratic backsliding, climate change, environmental degradation, and others.

In order for us to work through these issues with our African partners, we follow a set of strategic documents that serve as a guiding mechanism for our policies and engagements in Africa.  For my work at the Department of Defense, our newly released National Defense Strategy prioritizes three areas of engagement: countering violent extremist organizations, strengthening and enabling allies and partners to support mutual security objectives, and addressing targeted strategic competition concerns that would have negative ramifications for the U.S. and our partners.

In addition to the National Defense Strategy, the U.S. also engages through the Sub-Saharan Framework, also known as the National Security Council’s U.S. Strategy for Sub-Saharan Africa.  This Africa strategy will refocus U.S. through four lines of effort: delivering democratic and security dividends, advancing pandemic recovery and economic opportunities, supporting conservation and climate change adaptations for strengthening a just energy transition, and strengthening our bilateral and multilateral partnerships in Africa.

Under these strategies and approaches, DOD will work in a 3D construct, using development, defense, and diplomacy tools to achieve our outcomes.  And we will seek to refine our defense tools to support our partners.  Some of these tools include supporting institutional capacity-building, combatting corruption, advancing security sector reform, enhancing our partners’ ability to be able to lead and promote peace and security, but most of all leveraging civilian-led defense institutions and building partner capacity and capability to deliver security dividends.

Our approach has prioritized enabling the development of organic and localized solutions that places African partners in the lead.  This carefully calibrated approach leverages the niche capabilities of African countries and – that we have worked with, and have developed over time several capabilities that are strengths to their contributions to African security.  As such, we will continue to encourage that you leverage your comparative advantages in the field of security and defense, and we will partner with you to do just this.

Further, we will continue to build existing capabilities of African partners on the continent.  We have seen over time several partners pulling together in a multilateral fashion to address some of the most stark security challenges on the continent.  For example, we have seen the SADC region, or the Southern African Development Corporation agreement members, intervene and – excuse me – respond to the crisis in Cabo Delgado in Mozambique.  We have seen this also in nearby DRC where the regional leaders of the East African Community are employing their diplomatic and military solutions to bring stability to a conflict, not just using military interventions but also using dialogue.

These African-led solutions are ongoing in both the diplomatic and governance and development realms.  We have also just recently seen in Ethiopia the AU recently broker a temporary peace deal between the Ethiopian Government and the TPLF which has allowed for humanitarian assistance and a pathway towards permanent peace.  These – as these solutions are unfolding in real time, the U.S. wants to support these types of African-led efforts as necessary and as determined by our partners.

In my building where I work, the Department of Defense goal is to improve interoperability among Africans’ regional – Africa’s regional security leaders and to continue the tradition of Africans being first responders to African crises.  The DOD will work across our agency partners in a whole-of-government fashion to allow the private sector to also enter into this approach.  We have seen that at every level of global development and supply chains, there is a need for African participation to be a part of the solutions that will bring underlying stability in both the development, defense, and sector – development and defense sectors.

The U.S. has developed multiple programs that many of you may be familiar with, such as Power Africa, to help grow the energy sector; Digital Initiatives for Africa, to help close the gap on technology; and the digital divide and cyber security challenges are being addressed through Prosper Africa and the private sector as well.  The U.S. will continue to seek to empower African nations to mitigate these threats that we see happening across the continent.

Many times I hear from my international partners that they continue have an expressed intention to partner with Africa and African nations, and the partners that we partner with.  We’ve seen that multilateralism has provided severe dividends – sorry – has provided dividends very positively when we work together to try and achieve our multiple goals.  Our goal is to ensure that African countries do not feel like they have to turn to malign actors to deliver security dividends.  As we have seen, many of these actors oftentimes have exacerbated already tenuous situations in the country and are challenged with their ability to be able to handle their own security issues.  In that regard, we see partnership and working with as many international partners as being a plus side, and we want to work with African partners to find good partners that they can work with to meet their objectives and goals.

Finally, I would say that security exists to enable prosperous societies.  This idea is at the center of our approach to the continent.  Security forces need to be responsive and accountable to the public.  To do this, it is necessary to bring to the table all of society, especially those that are most vulnerable to conflicts.  For more than two decades, Women, Peace and Security programs have empowered women and young girls to have a voice in both domestic and international security concerns.  We as a global community to need to ensure that they continue to be included in every discourse.

The youth also have a very big role to play in ensuring security.  The youth population encompasses a diverse range of stakeholders, such as peacekeepers on and off the battlefield, and future policy-makers and the next generation of young women and boys.  We must ensure that they can play an active role in shaping the countries that they are to inherit.  As a defense official, it is also crucial to actively build trust between the citizenry and security forces.  Community-based dialogues have shown promise by empowering local leaders to work together with each other and the state to ensure security dividends exist in the peripheries and marginalized communities with the help of state security actors.  Both entities must interact with one another to foster trust and commitment for strong societies.  I think this interaction is exactly why we feel that having the Africa Leaders Summit is a very key moment in time to engage with Africa.

The Department of Defense is actively engaged on the continent and will use the African Leaders Summit to seize the opportunity to continue these types of engagements.  We look forward to hosting the Peace and Security Governance Forum where Secretary Austin will work and speak with his co-hosts, the Secretary of State and the USAID administrator, to listen to African leaders on lessons learned on security challenges on the continent and where they meet the nexus of development, defense, and diplomacy.  Through these various engagements and discussions that will happen during the summit, we will also be listening earnestly and taking the feedback from your governments to continue to refine our approach and our continued engagement in Africa.  Our goal is to enable the development of implementable solutions that are centered on what African nations desire and what we believe we as partners can actually provide.  For me, security is inextricably linked to the development, creating opportunities, and empowering of African societies.

So I look forward to answering many of your questions, and I thank you for your time, and I look forward to welcoming your governments at the Africa Leaders Summit.

MODERATOR:  Thank you for the remarks.  We will now open for Q&A.  For journalists in the briefing room, please raise your hand if you have a question.  If called upon, please wait for the microphone so that everyone online can hear your question, and kindly identify yourself with your name and outlet.  For journalists joining us online, please raise your hand using the “raise hand button” and turn on your camera so our briefer can see you.

Do we have questions in the room?

QUESTION:  Thank you.  Carolina Chimoy, Deutsche Welle, Germany’s international broadcaster .  What you were just saying sounds very similar to Germany’s foreign policy, and they also see this as a key moment to cooperate with countries in Africa.  Is there also a cooperation between the United States and Germany or the European Union on this?

MS BLYDEN:  Thank you for the question.  I think we have had a number of areas where both our European partners and the United States have had shared or similar objectives in Africa’s security.  We have already worked very closely, I think, with – not just on a bilateral level with Germany, but we also work through the European Union to address a number of security challenges.

I think the biggest area where we work together is to complement each other so that we’re not doing the same thing.  And we’ve had a number of coordination meetings with our EU partners, our African partners on both the bilateral and multilateral level to ensure that we are doing and putting our resources towards the actual objectives that we’re all trying to achieve.  I think the change and shift is now we’re putting, I think, a bit more emphasis on the African-led opportunities that Africans have provided to us, and we’re working with, I think, European partners so that they can help coordinate with African partners as well.

MODERATOR:  We will go to questions – do you have a question?  Okay.

QUESTION:  Hi.  I’m Alexandria Williams, also from Deutsche Welle.  I have a question about where the Department of Defense stands on Africa’s relationship with China in the realm of trade, partnerships, and technology.  Do you have any thoughts about that?  Thank you.

MS BLYDEN:  Thank you.  We’ve worked with our African partners on a number of different programs and projects.  As I mentioned, we have a lot of digital initiatives that we’re doing.  From a Department of Defense standpoint, we work with them, our African partners, on cyber security.  And I think where we work with our African partners on those particular areas of telecommunications, it does make it challenging for us to work with them if they are working with China.  We have been told by our African partners – and we completely agree – that they don’t want to have to choose between working with the United States, other international partners, and China.  And we respect that.  I think the biggest part of that is just finding a niche area where we can support our African partners on the things that they’re interested in working on that doesn’t conflict with where we can’t work with areas where China may have a relationship with our African partners.

I think, to your question on the trade piece of it, African partners are working with the partners that they – that can provide what they need.  And as I said, we respect that and are able to work with our African partners on the things that we provide and we need, and those things are different.  So I am open to understanding more – excuse me; frog in my throat this morning – I’m open to understanding more about what our African partners need, and we’ll learn a little bit of that from the Africa Leaders Summit.  And that’s part of the, really, engagement that we’ll be doing, is listening and understanding where we can fill in the gaps or where we can work and complement other partners that they’re working with, to include China.  Excuse me.

MODERATOR:  I see a couple questions online.  Please, Pearl Matibe, unmute yourself and ask a question.

QUESTION:  Good morning and thank you so much for taking my question.  I just want to begin by just saying thank you so much to our briefer this morning.  I’d like to directly ask that you at least do more of these so that our audience can better understand the Department of Defense’s motivations and intentions.  Remember, we are – all of your discussions with African leaders will not be complete if you exclude us as journalists, so I think in engaging with us, I really appreciate it.  And so that’s why I really appreciate you doing this for us this morning.

So my question is actually a three-part question; it is one question but a three-part one.  The first part is: what has changed in DOD’s mission?  So what is different between your mission and former President Trump’s administration, and now under President Biden’s administration?  How are these two periods different, from your perspective, since – first of all, since the last three years and bearing in mind that this year marks Africa Command’s 15th anniversary?

The second part of my question, I want to go back to the issue about China.  Do Chinese private military companies exist on the continent, and in what ways are they a challenge or a success?

And the last part of my question is on holding you accountable to the American people.  To what extent can the American public understand the state of the Department of Defense’s planning, programming accounting, evaluation processes?  Do you have a repository that is publicly available to the American people on how many African military personnel have you trained with their hard-earned tax dollars over the last, say, seven years, and how you’re ensuring benefiting countries understanding their responsibilities?  Is there need for any reform?  Thank you so much for your responses on these, and look forward to more engagement with you.  This was very good and thank you for being available.

MS BLYDEN:  Thank you for the question, and I would love to do more of these, time permitting.  I’m looking at my PA team here with me to see if I’m able to do this, but I think you’re right that the engagement part of ensuring that media and civil society and journalists are a part of the larger process of understanding what the U.S. approach and interests and objectives are with working with African nations.

I think, to your first part of the question, what has changed in the DOD mission in the last three years since the changeover in the administration – the first I would say is engagement.  I think there was a lack of engagement from the U.S. writ large in Africa in some of the areas where we had traditionally seen in other administrations, particularly maybe the Obama administration, on Africa.  For DOD, we kept up our steady engagement through AFRICOM, and that is continuing the work that we were doing to conduct exercises, do partner engagements, and doing the work that we do as far as building partner capacity on the continent.

You rightfully noted out that AFRICOM is celebrating its 15th year, and since that stand-up of AFRICOM, we have seen a little bit of a change in what the U.S. has been focused on.  If you remember, AFRICOM was stood up as a 3D construct in 2007.  It has always had leadership of the combatant commander, it has leadership from the Department of State, and from USAID all in its leadership structure at Stuttgart.  That has meant that whatever challenges have come about over the last 15 years – and most recently in the last three years we’ve seen a surge in one area of security, which I’ll touch on – we have had the capacity within house in the Department of Defense and with these 3D partners to address those issues.

So very early on we saw governance challenges or maybe we were doing development work, and so we focused on the USAID arm of that – our work that we do through AFRICOM.  Later on we saw there were some challenges with democracy and governance issues, and so we’ve exercised a little bit more of our State Department arm of the DOD AFRICOM.  And now I think we’re also seeing more of the physical security challenges – the threat from violent extremist organizations, climate change, the effects of pandemics – and so we’re focusing how we swing the pendulum to make sure that we are addressing those issues as they’re coming about, but the command was designed to do that.

I think what is important about how that fits into what you’re hearing now about the new approach writ large for the U.S. is that what we have been exercising as a 3D approach to be able to mitigate the threats and interests that are challenges that come from the continent the whole of government now is looking to do and be supportive of.  So it’s now longer just DOD thinking about it in a 3D way or USAID or Department of Defense, our Commerce colleagues, our Trade colleagues, our folks in the private sector are now joining this.  So where we’re seeing democratic – or backsliding happening, we know the tools that we have within our U.S. Government to be able to address those.

And so I know that you asked specifically about DOD, but I think from a DOD standpoint, we don’t see the military solution being the only and right solution on the African continent.  It is a combination of all of these sectors sort of coming together to address the challenges across these multiple nations.

To your question about sort of keeping Americans accountable to what we are doing and where we are training, I’m not sure that we have a public record of that, but I will tell you that we are extremely active through state and local levels of making sure that your congressional members and your interlocutors I think on the continent are aware of what we are doing.  We do a lot of enabling and partner exercises and engagement to build capacity.  Our job is not to train so that we can use African militaries or forces for anything other than helping them better secure their nations through the kinds of work and things that we do.

So we have a certain amount of money that we put towards these efforts, but this money is disbursed amongst the different organizations and the different departments that do this kind of work.  For example, the Africa Center for Strategic Studies, who’s in the Defense Security Cooperation Agency at the National Defense University, does a number of programs on the continent that deal with parliamentary security sector governance work.  They do work on managing security resources, so things that are done at the institutional level alongside what maybe AFRICOM is doing at the operational level to help with training and advising and assisting.

So it’s – I know that’s a roundabout, maybe, answer to your question, but it’s not easy to sort of codify the money that is sprinkled amongst the multiple agencies that touch on the different works that security encompasses.

And then to the – to your third question on the Chinese PMC companies, I’m not tracking – I’m not monitoring Chinese PMC companies on the continent.  I’m sure there maybe are some that exist, but we work with our African partners to ensure that they have the right kind of security options, whether that be with a number of different international partners, whether they be traditional bilateral partners, or those that they may seek from the private security sector.  We are challenged, I think, in understanding what other nations are doing in African nations, but we try to make sure that the work that we’re doing is what we’ve been asked to do and complements other efforts that partners are doing.

MODERATOR:  Next question goes to Simon Ateba from Today Africa news.  You’re muted.  We don’t hear you.

QUESTION:  Thank you.  Thank you, Chidi, for doing this.  That was a beautiful, long speech at the beginning but thank you, and thank you for the national press – the Foreign Press Center for taking my question.  This is Simon Ateba with Today News Africa in Washington.  My question is also on China.  When it comes to maritime, I don’t know if you can be a bit more specific.  I know that the U.S. has raised concern about some of the ports and some of the things, the infrastructure that they are building around the Gulf of Guinea.

And also when it comes to countering false narrative – narratives against the U.S. – is the U.S. doing enough?  Do you guys have a program at the Defense – at the Department of Defense to counter all those false narratives?  I know that when it comes to communication, for instance, I don’t think you are doing enough demonstrated by the way you are treating Today News Africa and myself, not having our backs.  So if you can address those two issues that would be great.  Thank you.

MS BLYDEN:  No, thank you for the questions.  I think I got the second part, and it was on what the U.S. is doing to counter false narratives in the misinformation space?

QUESTION:  Yes.

MS BLYDEN:  Okay.  To your question on China’s involvement in the maritime domain, we remain concerned about the illegal fishing that is happening in the Gulf of Guinea.  As you noted, this seems to be an area where China has a lot of interest and is making inroads into not just maritime waters, but as you, I think, described, infrastructure on the continent.  As we’ve noted, we’ve worked with our African partners so that they understand the risks and challenges of partners who are doing work in their areas or in their countries that may not have the best output for them, and we are in communication with our partners in Africa so that they know the ramifications of the partnerships that they are entering into.  We wouldn’t be a good partner if we didn’t share that information.

I think our challenge is that we’re not interested in trying to counter partnerships that African partners desire.  We want to make sure that we are the partner that they want to work with and we’re providing the things that they actually need and that they want to create the types of governments and societies that they think are prosperous for them.  And so our engagement has been to increasing – increase training and awareness and knowledge on maritime safety and security.  We work with them on exercises in the Gulf of Guinea and other parts of the continent in the maritime domain so that they understand how to counter piracy, how to counter illicit trafficking and transnational threats that might come across the waters.

And so we’ve increased our engagement with African partners and militaries and navies to understand the multiple steps of not just interdicting some of these transnational threats but also the prosecution process that happens over – after there have been apprehension of illegal fishing and other sort of illicit activities that are happening.  So that’s where our focal point is, I think, in the Gulf of Guinea and when it comes to maritime, and we think that’s our strongest suit or our strongest way to be able to enable African partners to work on the things that are most important to them and that is protecting their blue economies so that those feed back into their government-economic structures.

On the false narratives piece, this is a challenge.  We have a longstanding history of working with our African partners, being very close to them at diplomatic levels, but I think you – as you noted, the social media space and misinformation avenues and outlets that are out there are able to reach a wider audience than what we might always engage with from a diplomatic level.  And so I think it is a goal of ours, an objective of ours, to be able to help not just media outlets but I think the civil society groups and the average African citizen understand what information is truly correct or truthful, as it is becoming a large tool to, I think, destabilize some societies.

We are working, I think, not necessarily at the Department of Defense to counter misinformation, but across the U.S. Government to ensure that we are putting forth truthful information.  We are working with partners so that they can understand and sift through what else is being put out from other outlets that may not have – not be able to be verified.  But this is a concerted effort of the U.S. Government to ensure that African partners can feel comfortable with the information that they receive, and there are a number of programs that we’re doing, as I said, across the U.S. Government to do this.

MODERATOR:  Mesfin Bezu from Ethiopia.  Mesfin Bezu, do you have a question?  Please unmute yourself.

We’ll go to Peter Fabricius from South Africa for now.

QUESTION:  Okay, thanks very much for the briefing.  Peter Fabricius from the Daily Maverick in South Africa.  I wanted to ask you about the situation in West Africa.  We’ve seen a massive retreat of France and other European powers from the region because of hostility from the local populations, probably very much provoked by the military juntas in several cases and creating, I think, an unconducive environment for any kind of foreign military assistance in fighting extremism.  How is the U.S. dealing with that?  I mean, the U.S. is staying the course, is it?  Is it changing its locations?  Is it changing its partnerships?  What is its strategy for dealing with the – a new kind of threat to efforts by foreign powers to help African countries deal with violent extremism?  Thank you.

MS BLYDEN:  Thank you for the question.  The U.S. remains committed to working with our African partners to address the challenges in West Africa as well as in the Sahel.  I think we are continuing to move forward with our 3D approach.  We believe that this is probably the best way to address the challenges, as we’ve seen it shift a little bit from just the violent extremist organization challenge to, as you rightfully noted, some democratic backsliding with having some political instability, as well as some of the development challenges.

And so rather than trying to address this purely from a military standpoint, which I think has been what has challenged many of our partners who have put resources in this region, is that we have to try and address all of these things at the same time.  And so we are trying to learn from past efforts in the Sahel and ensure that we have engagement, partnership, and collaboration with our African partners to do this.  We also note that there is an effort to try and address the root causes, and we believe we can work with our partners to prevent the spread of violent extremist organizations’ root in some of these countries if we can get at some of those root causes.

And so I think you’ll see an effort from the U.S. Government to promote programs and work with international partners to do more to try and address whole-of-government, whole-of-society approaches to mitigate some of the threats that we’re seeing, not just from violent extremist organizations but from political instability as well.

MODERATOR:  Next question, Youssouf Bah, Al Jazeera, Qatar.

QUESTION:  Good afternoon.  Thank you very much for the briefing today.  My question is about – the U.S. has done some training – African military.  Don’t you think some of the – the impact of some of this training that the U.S. Government is giving to Africa is responsible to some of these coup d’états in Africa?  For example, in my country, when the U.S. military were training Guinean military – when they overthrow President Alpha Condé.  And during the day of the coup, a group of U.S. military (inaudible) coming out from the military barracks where they were training the U.S. and the Guinean military toward the U.S. embassy.  So don’t you think some of this assistance you are giving directly to train these people is responsible for some of these coup d’états in Africa that is (inaudible) the effect of some of these – some of the people suffering in Africa?

MS BLYDEN:  Well, the – Department of Defense engages with our partners by providing programming and training that supports democracy and governance alongside maybe what you would see as far as traditional military training, which would enhance their skills to be able to go after certain security threats that we work with our partners to do.

But the training that we do includes, as I said, democracy, governance, civilian control, and professionalization of the military.  I think the reality is – is that many of our African partners receive training from our governments, but they also receive training from other governments.  And it is our hope that our African partners will internalize the lessons and the values that we emphasize – democratic control of the military and civilian control and professionalization.  But we are one part of, I think, the security architecture that African partners desired to have.

DOD always seeks to ensure our cooperation has human rights components, and I think we have stressed to our partners whenever we do training that good governance and democracy is the foundation for strong security, not necessarily the military forces.  And so we will continue to – continue to do programming and training with African militaries, emphasizing all of these points as a part of our training, as we’ve consistently done.  And as I said, we’re always hopeful that they will internalize our training over others, but we are realistic that there are a number of different influences that come to African militaries, depending on the security training and needs that they desire.

MODERATOR:  Next question, Ahmed Duquesne (ph), (inaudible).

QUESTION:  Thank you so much.  So my question is on – it’s about the request of the African countries to get a seat, a permanent seat, on the Security Council, UN Security Council.  So this summit will be an opportunity to – is it an opportunity for the U.S. to talk with the African leaders on this issue?

MS BLYDEN:  Absolutely.  I think the United States has come up very strongly at the last UN General Assembly in September and announced that we are committed to ensuring that Africa not just has seat, but seats on the Security Council, recognizing their importance in global politics and global security challenges and issues.  So I don’t doubt that that won’t be a focal point of conversations that happen between the African heads of state as well as with the U.S. Government senior officials who will participate in the Africa Leaders Summit.

QUESTION:  Thank you.

MODERATOR:  Next question, Sho Beppo from NHK Japan.

QUESTION:  Yes, hi.  Do you hear me?  I’m Sho Beppo, a Japanese journalist and the bureau chief of NHK Japan’s public broadcaster.  I’m currently in Windhoek, in Namibia, so I’m sorry if the lines are weak.  What can you tell us about how you see Wagner’s activities in Africa, please?

MS BLYDEN:  Thank you for the question.  The U.S. remains very concerned about Wagner’s presence in the region.

Can you hear me?  Okay.

MODERATOR:  Sho, would you please mute yourself?  Perfect, thanks.

MS BLYDEN:  No, thanks for the question.  I was just saying that the U.S. remains very concerned about Wagner’s presence in the region.  The Wagner Group continues to commit violence and – against civilians, alongside the work that they’re doing, and we remain deeply concerned about their activities not just in Mali, but also in CAR, Libya, and elsewhere in Africa.  We’ve seen them operate in a way that does not always protect the rights of civilians on the ground.  And in the places that we’ve seen Wagner operate in the past, human rights abuses tend to exacerbate already challenging situations and suffering of people while eroding the security of the forces that they are typically working work for or with and the country that they’re working with.

I think we are – have strongly advised in the past countries in Africa not to work with Wagner, realizing that Africans have a choice of security actors and – that they want to work with and partner with.  But I think we have made it our priority to try and work with African partners who have a desire to increase their capabilities or their capacity to address security challenges in their countries with other options and with other alternatives.

And so while we are not present on the African continent to put U.S. boots on the ground, we are interested in making sure that African partners have the capacity to be able to do what they can do with the resources that they have as – if they pull the resources together and work together.  So it’s challenging to comment on another security force’s impact, but what we’ve seen thus far with Wagner’s presence on the continent, it has not been positive for African partners in the long run.

MODERATOR:  We have time for one last question.  I see a question in the chat from Christine Madison.  Would you like to unmute yourself and ask your question, Christine?

QUESTION:  Yes, good morning.  Can you hear me?

MODERATOR:  Yes, we hear you.  Please name your outlet and country.

QUESTION:  Okay.  I’m working for Financial Afrik in Senegal.  Can you hear me?

MODERATOR:  Yes, we do.  What is your question?

QUESTION:  Okay.  Thank you very much for your presentation, but I was wondering about the 3Ds that you brilliantly describe.  My remark is that the U.S. is still the biggest seller of weapons in the world, and I was wondering about an eventual change of policy towards the sending weapons to the African continent?  Is there going to be any announcement being made during the summit?  And how are you going to help African countries to a better afford their security issues, which in west and Central Africa are bigger and bigger?  Thank you very much.

MS BLYDEN:  Thank you for the question.  So I think you were rightfully curious about our announcements that we will make at the Africa Leaders Summit.  And unfortunately, I can’t get ahead of what will be announced of the summit, because we’ll leave that to the principals who will have the pleasure of doing that.  But I think we will talk a little bit more about how we will be employing this 3D approach and what that will actually look like.

So to the approach that we’ve laid out with it being defense, diplomacy, and development, we intend to increase not just engagement in those areas, but I think the way that we will try to engage partners will be a lot more focused on African-led opportunities.  And so to your question about how we will enable African partners to do more to address the security situations on the continent.  Our focus with our 3D approach is to really lean into African institutions, African-led opportunities, African-led initiatives, to try and address some of the challenges.  We’ve seen a lot of work come from the regional economic communities and the African Union.  We have examples of – obviously of Somalia, where the African Union and regional forces have been a strength in making sure that that situation has been stabilized as much as possible.  But we want to do more of this type of engagement where we really lean into African-led opportunities.  And so that is where the 3D approach will really help us figure out how we work with African partners to address their security concerns.

I think that’s what – maybe what we have time for.  But maybe just quickly touching on your point on the weapon sales, the U.S. weapon sales that we do in Africa are minimal in comparison to what we actually do, I think, elsewhere in the world.  And I think African partners have chosen a variety of partners to get their weapons or defense materiel from, but we also are heavily engaged in working with African partners on ensuring that they have the technology to be able to strengthen their ministries of defense, as well as have operability for their soldiers and their militaries to be able to perform in peacekeeping operations, whether that’s using different types of defense materiel that the U.S. provides, from cars and trucks to equipment and gear.  And so we will continue to, I think, provide as much as African partners need to get the – after the security challenges that they face.  But it is a part of our training and – that they are engaged in the U.S. private sector to work on some of these issues.

MODERATOR:  This ends the Q&A session.  I would like to express our special thanks to Chidi Blyden and all FPC journalists who participated.  This concludes today’s briefing.  Thank you.

U.S. Department of State

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