Ambassador Sullivan’s Lecture at the Ghana Armed Forces Command and Staff College 

Ambassador Sullivan’s Lecture
at the Ghana Armed Forces Command and Staff College 
Tuesday, May 12, 2020


Commandant of Ghana’s Command and Staff College,
Rear Admiral Moses Beick-Baffour;
Distinguished faculty and students of Course 41;
All protocols observed.
Good afternoon! Bon apres midi!

Thank you so much for the warm welcome, and this opportunity for today’s exchange. I hear you have been in lockdown longer than most of us. This is only my second time leaving my residence since March 25, and my first speech wearing a face covering. I hope you and your families are staying healthy during this COVID-19 pandemic.

My name is Stephanie Sullivan, or Ama (Saturday born). As the U.S. Ambassador to Ghana, I’m as proud to serve my country as you are to serve yours. I am sure your great nations are proud of your service as emerging military leaders.  I have spent most of my 34-year career focused on Africa, during which time, I have visited all but one of your beautiful countries. I graduated from the U.S. National War College, so know what a great year of reflection, networking, and renewal of commitment to service your time at the Command and Staff College can be.

The fact that you are studying here underscores your commitment to professional military education, to expanding your knowledge, and sharing lessons with each another as military partners. Among other things, I am sure you are focused on the need to earn the confidence and respect – not fear – of the citizens you serve. The first job of military forces is to protect people and defend human rights. Then comes fighting the enemy, under the internationally recognized laws of armed conflict, to which each of our countries is signatory. The violation of human rights undermines security efforts. In the same manner, when citizens know an institution is professional and impartial, built and based on values of service, then
that institution thrives. Today, the Ghana Armed Forces enjoy high respect among the Ghanaian public.   The GAF’s professionalism, training, commitment, and protection of human rights have earned that respect.

Your selection to this school underscores the high trust your superior officers have shown by placing the future of the institutions they love and serve in your capable hands.  That future brings with it awesome responsibility for the people and nations you serve. If there is a silver lining to the current pandemic, it’s that it has made our priorities crystal clear.  I’ve been able to reflect on my values, to consider what is important to me, and to focus on our most mission critical responsibilities.  Most importantly, I have used this time to connect with my closest family and my longtime friends… some of them Ghanaians whom I met over 20 years ago during my first assignment here.  Old friends have always been there to support each other, and continue to stand together when times are tough.  We might not always agree, but we can always count on each other to share the ground truth. There is depth to these relationships: we share values, and we trust one another to do what is right. This same sense of clarity about what is important also applies to international relations, so let me turn now to what you invited me here to address – the U.S. relationship with Africa.

I’m proud to serve my country, not just because of the United States’ economic or military strength, or tradition of extending its hand of partnership around the world, but also because we weave our values into everything we do. Just like there is depth in relationships shared by family and friends, there is depth to the U.S. relationship with African nations.  We’ve been there through good times and bad, and we share values and trust.  We may not always be perfect, but we strive to do what is right and learn from our mistakes, as well as build on our successes.

Looking at Africa through the front windshield rather than the rearview mirror, we see a continent whose population will double over the next thirty years. The United States is committed to collaborating with African countries to help harness this youth bulge and turn away the destabilizing influence of violent extremist organizations. The Trump Administration’s National Security Strategy identifies three broad Lines of Effort for Africa: Economic, Military and Security, and Political.

First, Economic: The United States will expand trade and commercial ties to create jobs and build wealth for Americans and Africans. We will work with reform-oriented governments to help establish conditions that can transform them into trading partners and improve their business environments.

Second, Military and Security: The United States will continue to work with partners to improve the ability of their security services to counter terrorism, human trafficking, and the illegal trade in arms and natural resources. We will work with partners to defeat terrorist organizations.

Third, Political: The United States will partner with governments, civil society, and regional organizations to end long running violent conflicts. We will encourage reform, working with promising nations to promote effective governance, improve the rule of law, and develop institutions accountable and responsive to citizens. We will continue to respond to humanitarian needs while also working with committed governments and regional organizations to address the root causes of human suffering.

These priorities are mutually reinforcing and interdependent. Security is an essential precondition for sustainable economic prosperity, viable institutions, and the ability of people to reach their full potential. Security underpins access to education, food security, health, and entrepreneurial activity. A more secure Africa will attract the foreign direct investment that opens the door to opportunities at all levels, and creates a more diverse economic base, which is less vulnerable to shocks in any one sector. However, true security is impossible unless governments are willing and able to meet the needs of their populations through good governance, including promoting economic opportunity, inclusive political participation, and social justice. In this vein, the African Union’s 2018 theme of fighting corruption, must be a sustained effort for us all.

Promoting economic growth can help stimulate opportunities in areas where underemployment has left young adults few options other than to join extremist groups. Such an integrated approach helps counter violent extremism and prevent terrorism at the root. Consider this a type of community-level inoculation, just as a vaccine prevents disease in an individual, and preempts epidemics in a community. To advance
our mutual goal of defeating terrorists, the United States has committed to building the immediate and long-term counterterrorism capacity of African partners to take full ownership over your own security  and address the drivers of radicalization.

Strong and professional militaries, civilian security forces, and institutions that respect human rights and reflect ethnic, clan, religious, and gender diversity, are essential to effectively serving populations, deterring recruitment, and discouraging terrorist activities. According to a 2017 UNDP study, 71 percent of those radicalized in sub-Saharan Africa became that way after they, or someone close to them, had had a negative experience with security personnel. So, respecting human rights not only builds trust between the state and its citizens, but also reduces radicalization and is an important element in any approach to countering and preventing violent extremism. When states are able to provide for their own security, when security services are trusted by the communities they serve, and when leaders can safely access – and support – the communities they are charged with governing, then girls and boys – our children – can focus on achieving their dreams, and be all that they can be.

To elaborate on U.S. policy in the economic sphere, just like many other countries, we want to do business with you.  Sub-Saharan Africa has seen some of the highest economic growth in the world in recent years.   U.S. companies abide by high standards, to which the U.S. government holds them accountable.  They respect rule of law and transparency, maintain high labor and environmental standards, and hire significant numbers of local people into their workforces.  The U.S. government also is working to boost trade and investment in Africa and to improve the business climate in African countries through the Prosper Africa Initiative, the African Growth and Opportunities Act, the Better Utilization of
Investments Leading to Development or BUILD Act, and other mechanisms.

And it should come as no surprise that the United States, Ghana’s largest bilateral partner, is working hard to promote sustainable, equitable economic growth.   A number of countries on the continent are industrializing and increasing exports. Countries that experience economic growth are able to increase their tax base, helping them stabilize, reduce poverty, provide opportunities for youth, and inoculate communities against radicalization. To accelerate this virtuous cycle, keep in mind that investors vote with their feet. Foreign investors are attracted to peaceful, secure countries that follow the rule of law, treat their own private sector fairly, and have transparent banking systems that facilitate the repatriation of profits.  With all the choices available around the world, business men and women seek to invest in countries that, for example, reliably protect farms, factories, workers, and transportation routes. For these reasons and more, security is vital to Africa’s economic growth.

Democracy and security are mutually supporting. Good governance is essential to developing and sustaining a professional security sector that protects its citizens and responds efficiently to crises. The security and economic prosperity of the United States are closely linked to Africa. Without security, long-term stability, and access to economic opportunities, Africans – and particularly youth – will not be able to participate fully in the expansion of the global market. Expanding your economies and achieving prosperity are both critical to responding to the needs of a rapidly growing population.

The United States is your partner in that effort, and I am pleased to share with you some of the ways we work together. While American and other partner assistance is highly sought after, we know that you do not want to depend on such external support indefinitely. The American approach is to empower you as partners to address your priority concerns. This serves both you, our partners, and the United States, by creating a more stable future for all of our children.

In the regional security sphere, the United States has an interest in supporting the leading efforts of African nations to stop terrorists operating in West Africa, because they also threaten the United States.   But our security assistance predates the threat of violent extremism, and our capacity-building efforts go well beyond counter-terrorism and peacekeeping operations.

The U.S. Department of State and the Department of Defense are the primary U.S. government agencies providing security sector assistance and related support to foreign governments, militaries, and international organizations and groups.   State Department programs under what we call Title 22 have averaged more than $300 million per year in security assistance programming to sub-Saharan Africa over the past five years.  This is delivered primarily as in-kind support, such as through advisors, logistics, equipment, and other items that help relieve the burden placed on African forces.   We direct resources where we can help build longer-term and more durable capabilities. We work with the United States Africa Command, or AFRICOM, and interagency embassy country teams to develop multi-year efforts to build specific capabilities that respond to the needs identified by our African partners, tailored country by country, while looking though a strategic regional lens.

There are several groups that continue to pose the gravest threats to regional peace. In the Sahel and the Lake Chad Region, Boko Haram; ISIS; JNIM; and other groups continue to adapt and show resiliency. These groups do not confine their heinous acts within a country’s borders, and we have seen that strong regional cooperation among African partners is the best way to counter these threats. For example, we
commend Ghana’s leadership in the establishment of the Accra Initiative, to improve information sharing and cross-border operational coordination.

You can see U.S. support for African solutions to African problems in our assistance to G5 Sahel countries.  Since our initial pledge of $60 million in October 2017, U.S. assistance has nearly doubled, to approximately $111 million to fulfill capability gaps prioritized by the G5 as an entity as well as by the five individual member states. This is in addition to other bilateral aid that is not specifically designated for the G5 force.   You can see U.S. support in our assistance for maritime security as well, particularly here in the Gulf of Guinea.  This year, the United States serves as co-chair with Gabon for the G7++ Friends of Gulf of Guinea initiative. While this has been overshadowed for the moment by the COVID-19 pandemic, we are continuing to focus on “FOGG” issues and concerns even when we can’t be as hands-on and in-person as we would like.

Among our focal areas is the need for enhanced African coast guard capacity to promote African commerce and foreign direct investment. The double threats of piracy and illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing continue to threaten Africa’s maritime countries, and constrain their trade and commercial opportunities. Working with Gabon and others, we plan to expand maritime security to improve maritime governance, to promote commerce and freedom of navigation, and to protect seafood stocks and the seafood supply chain of the Gulf of Guinea littorals and inland states.  Some of the naval officers here may have participated in the annual U.S.-sponsored multinational exercise known as Obangame Express.

And of course, you can see U.S. support in our bilateral cooperation with Ghana.  This includes  significant investments in professional military education in which GAF officers and soldiers are trained at military schoolhouses across the United States. It includes regional conferences and exercises each year, many of which have been hosted right here in Ghana. And it includes bilateral security cooperation programming and activities focused on building capacity in mutually agreed-upon focus areas. We know that you have options when you go on exchange programs, when you acquire arms, when you conduct operations, and when you sign cooperation agreements.  We want you all to think of us as your ideal partners of choice, because we consider you to be our ideal partners on so many fronts.

In the political sphere, good governance works based on trust – and evidence – that the elected or appointed leaders have their citizens’ best interests at heart. Even within relatively stable states, security sector governance remains critical to long-term stability. We must continue to work together to strengthen efforts to prevent – rather than react to – the next bout of political violence, human rights violations, or mass atrocities.

Current efforts by the United States and other international friends of Africa to work with African governments, civil society organizations, and local communities to prevent, mitigate, and resolve violent conflicts are as important as ever.

Your jobs are complicated, and the political, military, and even diplomatic situations you face have life or death consequences. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of long-term capacity-building for justice, rule of law, and public sector reform – all of which are critical to both U.S. national interests and to African development.

Today, the COVID-19 pandemic has turned the entire world upside down.  Our health systems are stretched, but sustained by heroic medical professionals.  Our economies have been deeply affected, with possible long-term ramifications we can’t yet see. And our way of life has been forever altered in ways we don’t yet know. Even as the United States is facing our own health crisis, we are increasing our support to African partners fighting COVID-19. The pandemic has not stopped us; it encouraged us to pivot and to strengthen our efforts.  As military leaders, you know that, in combat, setbacks cause us to regroup and launch an offense towards victory, in this case, against an invisible foe.

The GAF has deployed one state-of-the-art Level II Field Hospital not that far from here, at the El Wak sports stadium in Cantonments, as part of the government of Ghana’s COVID-19 response to directly serve those most in need.  The hospital is one of two that I handed over February 4 this year on behalf of the United States.  Also in early February, even before Ghana had its first known case of COVID-19, the U.S. National Institutes of Health, through its longstanding partnership with the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research, made testing material available for a thousand samples.

It is heartwarming to see that many partners are bringing protective equipment, test kits, and so on to the fight. I am pleased that members of my embassy team – from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Naval Medical Research Unit Three (NAMRU-3), U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and others – are working closely with the Government of Ghana on combatting this pandemic.  They are helping Ghanaian health officials to conduct contact tracing, to structure the health system’s response, to acquire urgently needed equipment, and to connect medical professionals with expertise.

The American public health officials operating here did not just arrive to fight the pandemic. They were here already, helping countries like yours combat malaria, polio, HIV, influenza, and other diseases long before COVID-19 emerged. Indeed, over time, the U.S. has funded and trained many Ghanaian doctors and public-health professionals. America funds nearly 40% of the world’s global health assistance programs, adding up to $140 billion in investments in the past 20 years.  Since 2009, American taxpayers have generously funded more than $100 billion in health assistance and nearly $70 billion in humanitarian assistance globally.  Our partnership is a commitment.

Here in Accra, the United States is committed to working side by side with Ghanaians on health, security, education, economic development, democratic governance, and a host of other issues of mutual benefit to our peoples.  At any given time, the U.S. Embassy is filled with people working on these issues because we share your values and want the best for Ghana, just as we do in your home countries and
throughout Africa.  When Africa achieves its potential, it’s good for Africa, it’s good for the United States, and it’s good for the world!

I’d like to leave you with this thought:
The United States has shown time after time that our partnerships with Ghana and other African nations are not just a series of transactions.  We have a long history of bilateral consensus on U.S. policy toward the continent. Just as you reflect on your priorities and turn to your closest family and friends during this crisis, I urge you to consider your values as you make decisions throughout your career, and to choose partners who want the best for your home countries. It is a great privilege for us to accompany you on Africa’s journey to a more stable, more prosperous, and more self-reliant future for its people. The role of the United States in these regional and multilateral efforts is to support our partners as they build the capacity to provide their own security, whether in economic, security, or governance areas.

In conclusion, the United States remains committed to addressing these challenges in partnership with the nations of Africa, so that the continent can increasingly become a place of prosperity and freedom in the 21st century. You all have an important leadership role to play in this respect. Africa’s future is bright, and will be even brighter if we all continue to cooperate to achieve these key goals. Remember, after all, it is all about the people we serve. Thank you for your service and your kind attention. I look forward to your questions.