Director of U.S. Africa Center Stresses Long-Term Outreach
Washington -- Ambassador Peter Chaveas, the new director of the Africa Center for Strategic Studies (ACSS), is as keen now on outreach and community-building as he was during his previous service as a Peace Corps volunteer and later as a top diplomat to Africa. The center, based in Washington, is one of five U.S. Department of Defense regional centers for security studies. It works in support of the U.S. Department of Defense and other U.S. agencies to counter ideological support of terrorism, foster regional collaboration and cooperation on security matters and strengthen defense establishments in Africa.
(Media-Newswire.com) - Washington -- Ambassador Peter Chaveas, the new director of the Africa Center for Strategic Studies ( ACSS ), is as keen now on outreach and community-building as he was during his previous service as a Peace Corps volunteer and later as a top diplomat to Africa.
The center, based in Washington, is one of five U.S. Department of Defense regional centers for security studies. It works in support of the U.S. Department of Defense and other U.S. agencies to counter ideological support of terrorism, foster regional collaboration and cooperation on security matters and strengthen defense establishments in Africa.
During a January 18 interview in his office at the National Defense University's campus in Washington, Chaveas told USINFO, "I think I bring a useful range of experiences to this job, including the many years I worked on the continent on development and conflict issues."
Chaveas said ACSS' "flagship" training effort -- the Senior Leadership Seminar -- will be held February to March at the new center, which was established in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in October 2006. "Our intent is to open three other offices in Africa in the next few years," he added.
After seven years of operation, Chaveas said, ACSS has worked with “2,500 defense officials, half of whom are civilians, and many of them are in influential positions" in their home countries.
"What I would like to do now," he told USINFO, is to build on that base by expanding local ACSS alumni centers, called "community chapters." Sixteen already have been set up by African alumni to discuss defense issues and operate civic projects, he said.
"We underline to the Africans that this is their initiative, and if they decide to set one up we're prepared to be supportive with limited funding, usually no more than $5,000 to $10,000," the official added.
A good example of what a chapter could do, said Chaveas, is "the Kenya group, which has been particularly active. It recently conducted an interesting study on terrorist threats in the subregion."
Burkina Faso is another example of a chapter's effectiveness, he said. There, ACSS alumni "have focused on developing conferences to sensitize people on the issues of peace and reconciliation."
Chaveas said European Union officials were so impressed with that effort that they financed an expansion of the project. "And so with the Burkina Faso alumni we got a two-for-one benefit -- and that's the type of homegrown multiplier effect we're looking for."
Chaveas said building long-lasting relations is "particularly important to me because 'long-term' has not usually characterized U.S. relations with Africa. Instead, our policy has often been crisis-driven."
Chaveas was a rural development volunteer in Chad with the Peace Corps from 1968 to 1970. He later joined the State Department serving as U.S. ambassador to Malawi and Sierra Leone before joining ACSS as deputy director in 2004.
His service as chief political adviser to the U.S. European Command from 1997 to 2001 -- responsible for security programs in most sub-Saharan nations -- is also a plus, Chaveas said. The military now understands that it has to work with aid organizations when supporting peacekeeping missions and relief efforts, he said. "On the other side, I tell the NGOs [nongovernmental organizations], 'If you're going to do development, you've got to have security,'" which means a working relationship with the military.
The Africa Center was established in 1999 as a defense-related academic institution to bring civilian and military defense specialists from Africa together for training seminars held in both the United States and Africa. Its goal is to promote military professionalism and democratic civil-military relationships on a continent beset by civil-military strife.
Centers like the Africa Center at NDU are part of the university's efforts to provide educational opportunities for foreign civilian defense and military personnel spanning every continent.
"If I have a vision," Chaveas said, "it would be to build on the legacy of reaching out to the African defense community that my predecessor, [Marine] General Carl Fulford, left when he moved on last year ."
Chaveas said he wants to build on the work of his predecessor in reaching out to the African defense community. "Fortunately," he added, "I'm able to build on an outstanding academic foundation that offers a dozen courses, ranging from a few days to four weeks, covering topics like military budgeting to civil-military relations in a democracy." The center has 15 major academic programs planned for 2007, covering topics like maritime security and counterterrorism.
More information on the center is available on its Web site.
( USINFO is produced by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov )
This story was released on 2007-01-31. Please make sure to visit the official company or organization web site to learn more about the original release date. See our disclaimer for additional information.