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 – the sixth time that I have participated since becoming the U.S. Special Representative for Somalia in August 2013.
I enjoy these types of events, given my experiences in both military and civilian professions. Before entering the U.S. Foreign Service, I served as an Officer in the United States Air Force after graduating from the U.S. Air Force Academy in June 1977 – nearly 38 years ago! I served as an Officer on active duty for over six years and later in the Air Force Reserves, including during my recall to active duty for a few months at the Pentagon during the First Gulf War. From my service in both the military and diplomatic corps, I know first-hand the kinds of sacrifices that you make – day-in and day-out — 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 in the previous year. Such actions have enhanced the well-being of citizens of Somalia and other countries in the region — but have not eliminated the ability of al-Shabaab to conduct cowardly attacks against unarmed men and women, as witnessed by tragic attacks against hotels in Mogadishu and Garissa Community College. 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 that has global impact. I encourage you and your colleagues in both AMISOM and the Somali National Army to complete your important mission by moving soon against remaining al-Shabaab objectives in the Juba Valley and Gedo regions.
As I often remind military and civilian colleagues, defeating al-Shabaab involves not just military activities — although they are certainly important — but also setting up governing institutions, delivery of public services to citizens in liberated areas, creating employment opportunities for youth, and countering the terrorist narrative. We must continue to work together to help Somali authorities to establish local governing institutions and to provide public services to the residents of liberated towns. I encourage you to assist this process of stabilization by working proactively to protect citizens in recovered areas from terrorist attacks and by engaging constructively with them. 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.
My Government will continue to support your efforts at promoting promote peace and security in Somalia by providing 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.