Humanitarian Peace Support School Commandant Colonel Gitonga
Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance (ACOTA) Program Representative Colonel Don Zimmer
Most importantly, Graduates
All other protocols duly observed.
Thank you once again for inviting me to speak with you this morning. I am pleased and honored to participate in this important graduation ceremony – this is the fifth time that I have participated since becoming the U.S. Special Representative for Somalia.
I enjoy events of this type given my experience both in the military and civilian sectors. Before entering the U.S. Foreign Service, I served as an Officer in the United States Air Force, upon graduation from the U.S. Air Force Academy in 1977 – many, many years ago. I served as an Officer on active duty for over six years and later in the Reserves. From my service in both the military and diplomatic corps, I know first-hand the types of sacrifices that you make on a daily basis to serve your respective countries and the people of Somalia. I commend you for your willingness to undertake such sacrifices and service.
I also congratulate all Troop Contributing Countries in the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) for the successes that you have achieved in liberating major towns from al-Shabaab during Operations Eagle and Indian Ocean during the last year. Such actions have enhanced the well-being of Somali citizens and lessened — but not eliminated — the ability of al-Shabaab to conduct attacks against innocent civilians. Your successes have moved Somalia towards a much better situation than existed just a few short years ago before AMISOM’s entry into Somalia and will help to transform this strategic country into a more secure, stable, peaceful, and prosperous nation. Indeed, AMISOM is a genuine success story, serving as an important example of an African solution to an African problem with global implications.
As I often remind my military and civilian colleagues, defeating al-Shabaab involves not just a military activities but also setting up governing institutions and delivery of public services to citizens in liberated areas. That said, degrading the capabilities of al-Shabaab remains vital to promoting the security of the entire East Africa Region, as demonstrated by this terrorist group’s attacks against innocent civilians not only inside Somalia but in neighboring countries, including here in Kenya. We must help Somali authorities to establish local government institutions and provide public services to the residents of these liberated towns. I encourage you to assist this process of stabilization by engaging constructively with civilians in liberated areas. I also encourage you to promote the professionalism of your Somali colleagues in uniform – whether in the military or the police — so that they can ultimately assume responsibility for preserving the security of their country when AMISOM has completed its mission.
The profession of arms is a noble one that seeks to protect civilians and enhance their well-being. You should be proud of your work in securing the peace and security of a fellow African nation. At the completion of your respective deployments in Somalia, I am confident that you will look back on your mission with pride and satisfaction at working selflessly towards improving the lives of Somali citizens.
I commend each of you on completing this course, and I am confident that you will apply what you have learned here towards fulfilling your important work in Somalia. Once again, I would like to reiterate my appreciation to International Peace Support Training Center staff and ACOTA instructors on the outstanding work that all of you continue to do in supporting African peace-keeping missions.
We have now entered a critical moment for the region, marked by a great opportunity for the East African community to work together toward common solutions to help Somalia become a unified, peaceful, and prosperous country in the Horn of Africa. My Government will continue to support these efforts through provision of training, equipment, technical assistance, and other material support to AMISOM Troop Contributing Countries, the Somali National Army, and the Somali National Police.
Congratulations once again on the completion of your training.
Good luck — and safe journeys.