“The Biden administration believes that the future is being written today in Africa. And we want to move forward together, through growing partnerships rooted in mutual cooperation and mutual respect,” said Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin during his first trip to Africa as secretary.
Speaking in Angola after visiting Djibouti and Kenya, Secretary Austin focused on defense partnerships in an area of the world on the front lines of the 21st century’s most urgent shared threats:
“These threats include violent extremism, piracy, cyber vulnerabilities, and climate disasters – all too often made worse by weak governance, and predatory institutions, and persistent poverty. So we’re determined to work with our valued African partners to develop the capabilities that they need to keep their people safe. ... That includes professional military education, capacity-building, counterterrorism, logistics and much, much more.”
“Our work together supports our shared interest in a secure, resilient, and open Africa, governed by laws and rules that allow everyone to prosper,” said Defense Secretary Austin.
“Africa deserves better than outsiders trying to tighten their grip on this continent. And Africa deserves better than autocrats selling cheap guns, pushing mercenary forces like the Wagner Group, or depriving grain from hungry people around the world.”
Africa,” he said, “needs civilian leaders who keep faith with their citizens and heed their voices.”
At a time when several African countries have recently experienced military take-overs, Secretary Austin emphasized the importance of civilian control of the military:
“When generals overturn the will of the people and put their own ambitions above the rule of law, security suffers – and democracy dies. … Africa needs militaries that serve their citizens – and not the other way around.”
The United States, said Secretary Austin, “will continue to invest in professional, civilian-led militaries. We will work together to deepen the norms against toppling democratic governments. And we will be candid with our partners when their security institutions fall short of those universal standards.”
Democracy, Secretary Austin said, is neither easy nor perfect. “But it is the best and shortest path to lasting peace and prosperity. It is the path that millions of men and women across this continent have freely chosen. And the United States,” he declared, “is proud to stand with all those who seek free, open and democratic governments in Africa.”