Remarks for Eastern Accord 2015 Closing

Deputy Chief of Mission Patricia Mahoney

Friday, March 13, 2015

Jinja, Uganda

It is a pleasure to be with you today and see the great work you are doing with Maliza Ugaidi 2015 and how the militaries from all our partner nations are working together to make the continent of Africa safer and more secure.

Some of you may ask what interest the U.S. has in Africa’s security and stability.  Why do we care?  We care because the promotion of democratic governments that are peaceful, stable, and respect human rights reflects and advances our own values.  And we also care because advancing the security and stability of Africa as a region is in our interest.  As President Obama said in his Presidential Policy Directive on sub-Saharan Africa, “As we look toward the future, it is clear that Africa is more important than ever to the security and prosperity of the international community, and to the United States in particular.”

The President’s strategy has 4 pillars:  Strengthening Democratic Institutions; Spurring Economic Growth, Trade and Investment; Advancing Peace and Security; and Promoting Opportunity and Development.  These pillars are interdependent and mutually reinforcing.  None can be fully successful without the others.

I believe those are likely the same goals that your governments also have.  Our goals are dependent upon each other because we are dependent on each other.  The world used to be a big place.  Now it’s a small place, and we’re all stuck in this ever-shrinking world together.  In today’s world, a threat to one country can very quickly end up being a threat to every country.  Disease, terrorism, trafficking. . . These aren’t problems that stay in one place.  They spread.  We’re all in the same boat.  And if that boat springs a leak over where you’re sitting, that’s not just your problem.  That’s also MY problem.

But the same interconnectedness that makes us vulnerable to the same threats also allows us to share in the same opportunities.  Trade, investment, information, technological advancements—those benefits also don’t stay in one place anymore.  Just as the U.S. benefitted from peace and prosperity in Europe and Asia, so too will the whole world benefit from peace and prosperity in Africa.

While the aspirations of African nations are not new, we know that many of the challenges they face—challenges we all face—are.  Issues like disease, trafficking, the environment, terrorism—once considered secondary in geo-politics—are now central to the thinking of world leaders on a daily basis.

The threats may be new, and the tactics that we adopt to counter them may be new, but the underlying principle that guarantees our success in meeting these threats is an old one.  Very old.  A story that’s over 2000 years old illustrates this:

Once upon a time in India there was a flock of birds that lived in a forest.  They were happy; there was plenty of food; life was good.  But one day a hunter came and said, “I can catch those birds and eat them.”  So the hunter started catching these birds in a net.  New threat—they’d never even seen a net before, they didn’t know what it was, but they definitely noticed that their friends and relatives were disappearing one by one.  They said to themselves, “We need a plan.”  First, they identified the threat—a hunter with a net.  And then they realized, “No one bird can solve this alone.  The net is too big.  We have to work together.”  So they set up a system.  If the birds got caught in the net they would stick their beaks up through the holes and flap their wings and rise up together and fly to a bush to undrape the net and duck free from it.  Problem solved.

Those birds 2000 years ago recognized two basic truths that remain valid:  1)  Even if you’re not caught in the net yet, sooner or later that net is coming for you, so you’d better deal with the threat now.  And 2) We have to work together.  Our gravest threats are just too big for us to prevail if we try to counter them alone.

If we’re all in the same boat and that boat springs a leak, to make it to the other shore without sinking we need cooperation and we need partnership.  The cooperation piece is making sure we all know how to row, that we’re good at it, we’ve practiced together, we have the systems and the communications and the training so that we can row together.  That’s what I understand this exercise is intended to support, to build the relationships we need so we can all row together.

The partnership piece is broader; it’s the agreement on the destination, on where we’re headed, on the outcome.   That’s based on shared values, on an agreement on basic principles about what we’re aiming at—principles like democracy and human rights.

That’s the kind of partnership we have with the UPDF.    Whether in Somalia, or the effort against the LRA, Uganda time and again has demonstrated its commitment to secure peace where there isn’t any and to bolster security where it is fragile, to protect the vulnerable and help them live lives of dignity.

Just as important, Uganda and the UPDF understand the need to tap the talents of all its citizens to meet these challenges.  All of its citizens.  Not just the men.  Uganda recognizes that women have a crucial role to play in regional security.  How do I know?  Just last week General Wamala showed that commitment when he helped the U.S. Mission honor Uganda’s Women of Courage, one of whom was the UPDF’s own Colonel Rebecca Mpagi, who was honored not only for her courage as a combat pilot, but also for championing women’s issues in the UPDF.  Colonel Mpagi knows that Uganda cannot succeed unless all its citizens can make a meaningful contribution, and General Wamala’s support for her accomplishments shows that Uganda’s leadership knows this, too.

These shared values underpin our partnerships with our partner militaries.  And partnership is a two-way street.  We learn from all of you, and what we’ve learned from you makes us better, more knowledgeable and more capable partners.

The challenges are real, they are serious, and they must be met.  They put good governance, stability, economic growth, and the well-being of our societies at risk.  The threats are new, but the solution is old—as old as humankind.  Whatever the danger, whatever the threat, we’re not helpless if we help each other.  If we really infuse our effort with the values we say our societies are built on, we will always be stronger than our strongest enemy.  We in the U.S. see the challenges with you, we share the risks with you, and we’re rowing right along with you toward our common goal of a peaceful and prosperous East Africa.