Liberia: U.S. Africa Command Convenes in Zambia Amid Rising Coups in Africa

General Michael Langley, a Marine Corps and sixth commander of U.S. Africa Command.

Liberia, Ghana Others in Focus

The fifth annual U.S. Africa Command ( AFRICOM) Senior Enlisted Leaders Conference has officially commenced in Lusaka, Zambia, with a focus on Liberia, Ghana, Malawi, Senegal, Botswana, and Kenya.

The ongoing conference will last from September 10 to 13th 2023. It is intended to enable fruitful and useful talks about how to better handle crisis response, the rule of law, safeguarding natural resources, and measures to lessen the myriad elements that contribute to instability. 

“It is an honor to be here in Zambia for the fifth AFRICOM Senior Enlisted Leader Conference, and the first one held on the continent of Africa,” said General Michael Langley, who is a U.S. Marine Corps and sixth commander of U.S. Africa Command.  

“Now, in many ways, this conference mirrors the annual AFRICOM Chiefs of Defense Conference, where we listen to each other, we share best practices, and we continue to strengthen our relationships and mutual understanding,” he said.

Over one hundred and twenty participants from 27 African countries are attending the Senior Enlisted Conference with a running theme, “Empower, Delegate, Trust”. 

The conference is an opportunity to bring together senior enlisted military leaders from across Africa to discuss mutual challenges and opportunities, from crisis response, rule of law, protecting resources, factors of instability, technology impacts, and security cooperation.  

Langley spoke along with Sergeant Major Michael Woods, Command Senior Enlisted Leader during the U.S. Department of State’s Africa Regional Media Hub digital press briefing yesterday. The duos appeared  to provide overview of the event.

Sergeant Major Michael Woods, Command Senior Enlisted Leader

Headquartered in Stuttgart, Germany, the U.S. Africa Command is one of seven joint-service geographic combatant commands and is responsible for all U.S. military operations and activities to protect and advance U.S. national interests in Africa.

Woods added that the conference is an opportunity to hear the concerns of colleagues and their collective experiences to share ideas and create a plan that offers multiple courses of action to enhance skill while tailoring to the exact need of that particular country and branch of service. 

“The bottom line is we are stronger together, and I’m very proud of the work that we’re doing here.  Thank you for that,” Woods added.

“[There] are common challenges that everyone in the military faces despite nationality or branch of service,” he added. “We all agree it’s the senior enlisted leader’s objective to ensure all of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines are highly trained, disciplined, and fit for duty.  We do this by recruiting the best individuals and then training and developing them to share the future force.”

The conference comes at a time when there have been growing coups reported in Africa with Gabon being the latest where a group of senior military officers appeared on local national TV announcing that they have seized power overthrowing President Ali Bongo Ondimba who had won a third term in office in the disputed elections.

Also, in July 2023 some members of Niger’s presidential guard  detained President Mohamed Bazoum inside his palace and appeared on public  television declaring that they had seized power.

Other Africa Countries who have had coups include Burkina Faso, Guinea, Chad, Mali and Sudan. 

According to an Al Jazeera August 30, 2023 report Out of the 486 attempted or successful military coups carried globally since 1950, Africa accounts for the largest number with 214, of which at least 106 have been successful.

Based on data compiled by American researchers Jonathan M Powell and Clayton L Thyne, at least 45 of the 54 nations across the African continent have experienced at least a single coup attempt since 1950.

So far no English-speaking country has had coups, but the fifth annual U.S. Africa Command ( AFRICOM) Senior Enlisted Leaders Conference presents a platform for senior military leaders to discuss ways to address the rising coups on the continent. 

The Armed Forces of Liberia (AFL) has been privileged to receive some training from the Michigan National Guard, in the state of Michigan, the United States of America.

AFL personnel who participated in the annual war simulation training exercise known as Northern Strike have returned to the country, following their successful completion of the course.

According to Woods the objective of the training was to enhance the army  leadership development and a number of military skills.

“The U.S. Security Assistance Training Management Organization conducted drill instructor training at Edward Binyah Keselly barracks in Liberia. 

“Twenty-four soldiers from the Armed Forces of Liberia, from private to first sergeant, received training on instructional techniques, tactical combat, casualty care, land navigation, physical readiness, training and drill.  They then built, prepared instructors, and briefed plans for the Liberian soldiers, and are using them as instructors at the Liberian basic leader course,” Wood added.