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Fellow addresses US Africa Command military leadership


2014 Tutu Fellow Mireille Tushiminina has given a keynote address to the US military Africa Command leadership (AFRICOM) in Garnish, Germany, where she spoke about the socio-economic dimension of conflict in African fragile states and the dire need for security reform. She was joined on stage by United States Marine Corps General Thomas D. Waldhauser, who is the fourth Commander of the United States Africa Command.

Addressing an small, select audience consisting of the senior US Africa Command leadership, people from the US State department and USAID, some spouses, and other diplomatic corps officials, Mireille’s half-hour keynote speech was part of an initiative aimed at understanding how Africans perceive the military and other security forces.

Mireille’s inspiration to address this issue stems from years of working in post-conflict countries and witnessing security forces brutality. This was a golden opportunity to be a voice for the people she serves.  She also received a medal of excellence. 

Her speech began with a recognition that Africa's problems are not trivial and vary from military coup d’etats, economic and political corruption, civil conflict, gender-based violence, surging terrorism, unfair elections, gross human rights violations and insecurity.  She said that conflict on the socio–economic development of Africa has been profound.  In the Central African subregion of Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the war for minerals has fueled conflict as factions fight for control of crude oil, timber, gold, iron ore, and bauxite. She said the sub-region is grappling with a fight against a Boko Haram insurgency and a conflict in the English-speaking regions of Cameroon. All these challenges are borne of decades of unending dictatorship and economic and political deprivation.  Rape has become systemic in the DRC.  She went on to say that as long as governments' responses to dissent - especially often well-founded dissent -  is an iron fist, no progress is possible. 

Instead, she said, there should be an emphasis on achieving equitable access to national resources and power sharing. Attention should move beyond the narrow confines of ethnicity to embrace all the dimensions along which discrimination has been engineered in the past, especially regionalism. For her military audience, Mireille said that there was a dire need for a security reform. Civil-Military relations have to be strengthened because Africans see the military as the enemy. The military is considered to be an accomplice to dictators and failed governments inflicting pain on the masses and the recent cases of military excesses in Anglophone Cameroon are an example of a people who no longer trust the military. She said her organisation, the African Development Solutions Lab (ADSL) and the Center for Human Rights and Democracy in Africa, have authored several reports denouncing gross human rights violations which have led to over 50,000 refugees, over 411,000 Internally Displaced Persons and over 1,000 arbitrary arrests along with the militarization of the North West and South West regions of Cameroon. There have been untold atrocities perpetrated by soldiers - arson, rape, looting, torture, victimisation, and killing.

She said that AFRICOM could play a positive role in Africa by adopting strategies that require that post-conflict regimes to implement strategies that are explicitly aimed at addressing the root causes of Central Africa’s fragility. Other solutions include institution building, fostering political stability and good governance, promoting the Rule of Law and youth economic employment.



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Thursday, 28 May 2020

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