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Security Challenges in East Africa: U.S. Army Tabletop Exercise in Tanzania

By Nadav Morag, Ph.D.

CTU’s Global Security Series offers background on current national and homeland security topics. Dr. Morag recently participated in the Eastern Accord 2012 Counter Violent Extremism Exercise  in Arusha, Tanzania.  In this series on east African security issues he will begin with an overview of the exercise and a brief look at the current concerns facing the region.

AFRICOM - CTU Homeland Security DegreeDuring the first half of September, I had the opportunity to speak at and participate in an exercise held by the U.S. Army’s component of USAFRICOM (one of the United States’ regional combatant commands).  This exercise brought the United States together with senior military officers and police officials from seven African countries: Djibouti, Uganda, Tanzania, Rwanda, Burundi, Zambia, and the new country of South Sudan, as well as representatives of the East African Union (EAC), to share best practices and concerns regarding violent extremism in east Africa.  This was a unique opportunity to gain insight into the concerns and issues facing east African countries.

In addition to east Africa being a geographic region, it is also a political and social one in which many of the countries share a common national language, Swahili, and view themselves as part of a cohesive region.  At the same time, there are also very profound differences between the countries and societies and these, not surprisingly, reflect their history and current makeup.  Rwanda, for example, is a country whose population is still traumatized from the genocide that took place there between April and June of 1994 and the Rwandans are still faced with a threat from an insurgent army (made up, at least in part, of those who carried out the genocide) that is based in the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a huge country the size of western Europe that is barely functioning and has little or no control over much of its territory. The Rwandans, unfortunately, know better than anyone else where violent extremism can lead.  Uganda, while not having the same degree of experience with violent extremism as Rwanda, is still coming to terms with the bloody dictatorship of Idi Amin (who murdered thousands of Ugandans while he was dictator of the country between 1971 and 1979). The country also faces a brutal insurgency in its territory, though it has made progress against it.  By contrast, Tanzania and Zambia have enjoyed peace for most of their history and enjoy fairly stable relations between their different tribes and religious communities.

The U.S. delegation discussed various practices and approaches to uncovering violent extremism and ways to mitigate it. My role was to provide a survey of violent extremist beliefs, ideologies and methods of operation. Next week we will focus on regional security issues in east Africa relating to global Jihadi groups operating there.

Photo credit: Flickr/US Army Africa