By Lt. Donyelle Davis
During the final week of Exercise Obangame Express, leaders from around the world participated in a four-day virtual Senior Leadership Symposium facilitated by the U.S. Naval War College, March 23-26, 2021.
“Maritime Africa continues to lead the way,” said Rear Adm. Shoshana Chatfield, president of the U.S. Naval War College. “The global maritime community is quickly learning that a commitment to the rule of law, interagency coordination and international cooperation inevitably leads to a larger and more prosperous Blue Economy and a better life for all.”
Panelists included naval leaders from the U.S., Angola, Senegal, Cameroon, Benin, Nigeria, Ghana and Côte D’Ivoire, along with maritime security and strategy specialists and advisors from around the world. Leaders discussed a series of topics and maritime priorities. Topics ranged from piracy activities in the Gulf of Guinea and national engagement with the Yaoundé Architecture for Maritime Security (YAMS), to current stakeholder cooperation to achieve safe waterways.
“What has been clearly demonstrated over the last four days is that no one country can [work] alone…working together is therefore, critical,” said Rear Adm. Issah Yakubu, Ghana Chief of Naval Staff. “Through the excellent presentations and the networking that took place, there is no doubt that the objectives of the Obangame Express Senior Leadership Symposium have been achieved. It is my fervent hope that what has been discussed during this symposium will set the stage for follow up actions.”
Leaders analyzed ways to refine current operations to counter illicit maritime activities and strengthen alliances to advance naval security. Participants collectively expressed the value in joint discussions that provide a way for strategic minds to convene and work toward a path for solutions.
“Patience, commitment, mutual trust and respect are qualities that we all need to develop or reinforce,” said Cameroon Navy Capt. Emmanuel Sone. “Obangame is a word that means ‘together’ and if we work together, we can conquer all.”
The 32 nations who participated in Obangame Express included Angola, Belgium, Benin, Brazil, Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Denmark, Equatorial Guinea, France, Gabon, Gambia, Germany, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Italy, Liberia, Morocco, Namibia, The Netherlands, Nigeria, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Congo, Sao Tome & Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Spain, Togo, and the United States. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) also participated.