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Home : Press Room : Transcripts
SPEECH | July 25, 2019

Remarks As Delivered by Admiral James G. Foggo III at the International Maritime Defense Exhibition and Conference in Accra, Ghana, July 25, 2019

Well, ladies and gentlemen, it's a great honor for me to address this diverse crowed today.  And it's great to see (inaudible) supporting a maritime event like this.  It was truly a joint force experience for the armed forces of Ghana, yesterday when I see the Air Force (inaudible) one of our troops, honoring him.  And so it's been an absolutely pleasure to be a part of this very important conference and 60th anniversary of the Ghanaian Navy.

Now, before I get too far into my speech, I want to introduce a member of my staff who's standing to my left, Petty Officer Ahmed Tabsoba, an American sailor who comes from Ghana.

He's from the Ashanti region, city of Kumasi and his family still lives there.  He joined the United States Navy to get an education and he became a citizen of the United States of America.  I am also a naturalized citizen of the United States of America.  We're both living the American Dream.

He's been in the United States Navy for seven years.  Most recently, I just promoted him to first class petty officer. He got another stripe.

Without a doubt, his next promotion he will be to chief petty officer in the United States Navy, Sadly, because he's one of the hardest-working people on my staff.  He will depart Naples here in a few weeks headed out to Bahrain to work with the toughest guys in our Navy, the Navy SEALs.  And you could see he already has the body for it.

The bottom line, and the reason I introduced Petty Officer Tabsoba to you is number one because I’m proud of him and number two, he represents the diversity of the United States Navy, which is one of our greatest attributes.  And so I thank the country of Ghana for lending him to us.

So as I said, yesterday we went down to the water front in (inaudible) where we had a chance to see two Ghanaian ships (inaudible), two Nigerian ships, spectacular platforms and the U.S. naval ship Carson City who is down there with sailors and coastguardsmen from the United States, conducting training and maintenance and most importantly, building relationships with our African partners.

What better way to commemorate 60 years of loyalty and devotion and excellence. For Ghana’s Navy (inaudible) for this inaugural conference.  I hope there are many more to come that bring us together for maritime sake. From all of us (inaudible).

I have something in common with the Ghana Navy, this is the 60th anniversary of the Ghana Navy, September, is my 60th birthday.  So the West African Naval Chiefs of Staff that are here and I have been working together for a very long time on the issues of importance to the Gulf of Guinea nations. Because I’ve been in positions as a one-star, three-star Fleet Commander and now, four-star for almost a decade. So from my 50th year to the present I have watched the expansion and the incredible progress the nations of the Gulf of Guinea.

As you know I count on many close friend one of them is Admiral Ibas, who is the host -- from Nigeria.  He was the host of Obangame Express last year. And Admiral (inaudible) from Senegal and Captain (inaudible) and Captain (inaudible) from Capo Verde. We’re all battle buddies from the company known as the Gulf of Guinea. And all the officers and key leaders that are here today are ready to act when called upon

I must single out our Ghanaian Chief of Staff Rear Admiral Seth Amoama   He's a friend, he's a cornerstone of security and leadership in the region, and I'm inspired not just by his leadership, but the impressive legacy that he follows in terms of my friend Real Admiral Geoffrey Biekro who I first met here in 2015 at Obangame Express his successor Rear Admiral Peter Faidoo who is out there somewhere today, I saw him this morning and I saw him last night. And for this reason last night at dinner amongst our African partners and France (inaudible), Admiral Amoama told the gathering that "Foggo has been doing this for about 10 years, 10 years a decade, so that makes him one of us.  He is, after all, African."

Now, Admiral Seth isn’t here, but I wanted to tell him, "That was one of the greatest compliments I've ever been paid in 10 years' service."

It really came from the heart, and it went to my heart.  It was the ultimate compliment.

And when the admiral sat down, he and the chief of the defense staff looked at me and said, "Well, if you're one of us, then you must have an African name.  What day were you born on, Foggo?"  And I said, "Actually, I was born on a Wednesday, 2 September, 1959."  And they said, "Okay, in that case we re-baptize you Kwaku Foggo."

"He who was born on Wednesday."  And I will -- I will wear that new name and that new moniker with great pride as I operate here in the Gulf of Guinea or in the seas and the oceans around here.  Thank you very much.

I'd also like to recognize today a young lady and a group of great minds, (inaudible) she has a very interesting background part American, part Nigerian.  She's done a great job organizing this event.  Let's give her a round of applause (inaudible).

Doing this type of thing is like herding cats; it's very difficult and (inaudible) and her team can do it.

Now, on the serious side, as we look at Africa as a continent, the promise of prosperity here is unparalleled.  There are 54 countries on the continent, and 38 of with are coastal nations with more than 800 ethnic groups.  Remember, I talked about Petty Officer Tabsoba and how I'm proud of the diversity in the United States Navy in a thousand ways.

There are 1.2 billion people living on the African continent right now.  Statisticians, smart people who write about the economies, they say by 2050 there will be 2.5 billion people on the African continent.  One in four citizens of the world will be African.  Sixty percent of that population will be at or under the age of 24, so by 2050, the Ghana navy will 90 and so will I.

And so we're going to turn over to the huge (inaudible).  People call that 60 percent of that 2.5 billion below the age of 24, a youth bulge. I, frankly, take offense to the term.  Believe it or not, I was young once, too, and when I was a Lieutenant in the United States Navy, I was hungry, I wanted to do things.  And the young people of Africa are hungry, they want to do thing too.  They want to get an education. 

At my house in Naples on the weekends when we have some down time, my wife and I turn on the TV and we watch programs.  Not movies, not soap operas, we like to watch the news.  We watch CNN.  And one of our favorite programs is "African Voices" on CNN.  That's a great show.  It's a show about young people.  It's a show about business people.  It's about entrepreneurs and the next generation and innovation.

These people are the future of Africa, and when you have that many young people they want to live out their dreams.  They want to be educated.  They want to have a family.  They want to live in a safe place.  In fact, parents want their children to have more than they had.

And so it's important that we start with rule of law and governance in the maritime domain to stimulate the flow of economy, so that the economies in the Gulf of Guinea and the rest of Africa can be safe and secure and stable.

This is also known by my friend from (inaudible).  He's a Ph.D. in African (inaudible) Your interest is in developing (inaudible) and you are absolutely right.  Without a (inaudible) governance, without capable law enforcement, without a fair and equitable judiciary system. The future hangs in the balance.

I ask my African friends do you wonder why we bring the United States Coast Guard here.  We have a Coast Guard come to the base for several months operating along with the navy. It's because the maritime law enforcement means that it comes from the Coast Guard.  They know what they are doing.  They know what maritime governance is all about.  And we share your results with the United States Navy and with African navies and with African maritime law enforcement program.

We just did that in Operation Junction Rain and it was not an exercise it was real world.  We went with African navies and friends and several different countries in the maritime, and where we saw illegal activity, we advised our counterparts and we made recommendations, and they had to make the ultimate decision whether or not to board a ship and contain a ship or charge a ship with illegal activity so they ensure success of the world economy.

Todays Coast Guard leadership in the United States feels the same way I do  I talked to Commandant Karl Schultz about a month ago and he said he’s convinced, he wants to take this kind a deployment for a Coast Guard cutter, perhaps not every year but every other year in the future. And I will look forward to that because they are the ultimate professionals in the maritime domain and work very well with us, and very well with you.

Maritime security is critical for coastal nations for a couple of reasons.

First, as I said, seaborne trade is the lifeblood of any nation in the world economy.  When maritime trade sails freely across oceans, economic development and opportunity and prosperity are possibilities for those young people at or under the age of 24.

Second, maritime resources are inherited for current and future generations.  The stewardship of the environment of the maritime domain of the sealines of communication, of the world economy.  (inaudible) now and the actions that we take will impact those generations in the future.  So this is very important for them.

Policing waters is more than just stopping pirates or stopping kidnappers or stopping illegal fishing.  (It is solving ?) the issue, and the only way you observe (inaudible) resources for future generations to act.  As one of my African partners told me, "No shipping means no stopping, and that's no good."  So we've got to take care of the Gulf of Guinea

The coast from Senegal to Angola is 4,000 miles of shore. Last year, 40 percent of the world's recorded incidents of seaborne attacks occurred there, and last year where every reported ship hijacking occurred globally.  Clearly, we still have work to do.

(Inaudible) partners, international (inaudible) organizations (inaudible) side by side, shoulder to shoulder.  Look at all the (inaudible):  3,300 people, 95 ship of all sizes, 12 maritime aircraft.  Most importantly, we tied together 19 maritime operation centers:  Europe, Africa, North America.  That's very important, and that's the key metric for our future of our success.

So we've had many successes, and I'm a glass half-full kind of guy – and I’m going to tell you there's still a lot of things out there that we're going to work on, and here's my view of the work(?). 

As far as the policy goes information sharing and inter-operability – we are doing a lot better. We didn't have – when I started this business in 2010 with my African partners.  There was no Yaonde Code of Conduct in 2012 it came into existence, and it's been operating very effectively for about seven years.  I'll see some of that when I go to the MOD this afternoon and hear about it – I’m very interested in that.

Vessels can get underway and challenge illegal activity in the maritime domain, and collaborate with other countries and pass tracks across maritime borders. The example of a motor vessel Maximus and it’s piracy – it started here in Ghanaian waters, and went to Togo, Benin, and ultimately Nigeria – where my friend Henry Babaloba, who was one of the special boat operators who went out on the coast guard cutter Okpabano and took the ship back and arrested the pirates. Henry is currently retired, but Adm. Ibas is here and knows we are friends. This was a maritime operation of great significance, a milestone in the history of both Guinea and also the Yaonde code of conduct.  This kind of thing we want to continue doing in the future.

Another success is the development of tactical skills, from patrolling to boarding teams – HVBSS, Adm. Ibas and his teams, the special boat units, air dropped and rappelled onto a ship during Obangame Express – we’ve never done that before.  The Cote D’Ivorians brought some drug sniffing dogs so we could inspect cargo at sea. Truly, sea dogs,in Naval terms, and they were very effective.  We had great leadership and training exercises from our Brazilian counterparts, as well as the Portuguese and the French. We’re doing an exercise at the end of the year here, and I talked to Admiral Rossetti about that earlier.

Nearly every year the U.S. is partnered with allies and friends and African nations in Operation Junction Rain, the African maritime law enforcement program, and Obangame Express.  Everywhere I go, we talk about Obangame Express and Junction Rain, and it'll be Ghana, who is the host nation and lead nation doing the heavy lifting. Adm. Amoama has volunteered to do that for 2020.

And sir, I'm looking forward to coming back for a very professional exercise.

At this year's Junction Rain we had P-8 patrol aircraft with a brand new, smells like a new car, maritime ISR patrol aircraft along with U.S. Coast Guard cutter Thetis – who was here for several months. This is our first ever combined maritime law enforcement operation with Nigeria, and in turn, a veteran partner – Cabo Verde. Carson City will visit Cabo Verde later this month.  And while she was here, Thetis not only did Junction Rain.  It's stopping illicit activity and it's doing humanitarian rescue and assistance, two fisherman from Sierra Leone were lost at sea and presumed dead – they waved an orange life jacket and Thetis rescued them. Thetis also rescued two sea turtles – why do I put that in my remarks – because the environment is as equally important as the economy. They are inextricably linked. That's important to all of us.

So patrolling the economic zones is difficult, but the Gulf of Guinea days are improving.  And with all of this and the opportunity I'll have this afternoon to talk to defense minister, when I heard his remarks, I was very encouraged about OPEs and base infrastructure.

We have to do more.  We have to resource navies more, and you're doing that but, the more we do it, the better off they are.  We have to take care of repairs, and maintenance, and logistics and sustainment.

And that's why I brought the Carson City here.  I have engine repair,  I have construction battalion mechanics to work on small boats.  And they are assisting our African partners with best practices, training and some parts from the parts locker to help get the ships back -- going again.

As we heard yesterday and this morning from Admiral Amoama, the Ghana navy is prioritizing interoperability, joint operations and working with other -- other government bodies for law enforcement.

With a whole-of-government approach, I think Ghana and other navies can do incredible things.  We're talking in Ghana about a potential moratorium on fishing, from the ministry of fishing and agriculture - for about a month -- from August to September -- so that the fish stocks can replenish and regenerate.

You heard the defense minister say this morning, 60 percent of the protein in the mouths of Ghanaians comes from those fish stocks.  And about 10 percent of the GDP of the country comes from employment in the fishing industry.  This must be regulated for now and in the future.

Combating illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing -- IUU fishing -- requires time, energy and determination.  It's a marathon, not a sprint.  You've got to be in it for the long game.  I've been doing this for about 10 years, so I'm still in the game.  And it's going to go on for another decade before we get a handle on it.

So that's one area we could use some more progress, in the EEZs of Gulf of Guinea nations.  The callous activity that takes place out there and the irresponsible, illegal fishing place out there robs food from the mouths of African people and food security and food sovereignty are parts of the economy.

Now, an area we need some work, prosecution.  Prosecution is not a Navy task.  Our job is to go out there, detect and arrest the illegal actors and bring them ashore, and let the judiciary take it from there.  The legal finished process is a deterrent.

So if somebody's arrested, they have a right to a fair trial.  They have a right to a lawyer, in your country and my country.  Sometimes some lawyers are better than others, some courts are better than others, some judges are better than others.  But there needs to be a system that these individuals who've been accused of illegal activity can be fed into so there can be justice.

If they're innocent, they walk.  If they're guilty, they pay a price; it could be a fine, it could be incarceration, it could be loss of their ship -- whatever.  There needs to be finality in the criminal justice system for acts that take place in the maritime domain.  And I think that's a shortfall throughout the nations of the Gulf of Guinea but it's not an alternative issue.

So we talked to your political leadership about it and we've raised that issue with our political leadership -- leadership.  And we urge the development of a very capable and forthright judiciary so it can help us help the nations protect themselves.

Early this month, President Buhari in Nigeria signed an anti-piracy bill that provides penalties upon conviction of maritime crimes.  It's an important piece of legislation and it's a good example that all of this should follow.

The professionalism and cooperation of our maritime security organizations, institutions and partners continues to save lives and make a difference in the maritime domain.

Improvements in the MOC-to-MOC process, I talked about in maritime operations centers and maritime operations centers sharing practices, information, coordination, interagency communications and even public-private partnerships, many who are represented here today, many sponsors of this event.  I thank you for what you're doing.

Last December, I was honored to host the Combined Force Maritime Commanders Conference in Naples.  I'm going to do another one in October.  And that's when we all get together and do something like this and bring in (in a few ?) leaders.  And it does have to be the CNO.  I tell the CNOs, you guys are busy.  Send me your relief.  Send the guys who are coming up in the ranks -- the captains, the commodores, the one-stars, the two-stars -- they're going to take your spot.  And we will work with them and European partners for a week of quiet solitude and training in Naples.

I heard one senior Gulf of Guinea leader say, "We're no longer suffering from sea blindness; we only suffer from sea fog."

And so in conclusion, Admiral Amoama, I -- I congratulate you on 60 years of excellence in the maritime and sponsoring what will surely be a very memorable forum for all of us.

And I challenge all of us to build trust and confidence with our neighbors and partners in the Gulf of Guinea in the maritime domain.  And I think that after this conference we'll all be better for it.  So may we all continue to advocate for progress in the maritime.

Thank you for your indulgence today and God bless.

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