The Horn of Africa: Building the Future
What does service in the Horn of Africa mean? Usually it’s associated with humanitarian efforts or international military training in exotic locations. These images belie the breadth and complexity of military operations in the Horn of Africa. Service in the Horn of Africa is a challenging, multinational, interagency environment, combining operational fiscal law, international law, the domestic laws of partner nations, and joint military justice. Harmonizing these authorities requires resourcefulness, an astute sense of cultural and political boundaries, as well as the courage to break from past practices in order to shape the future role of the U.S. in East Africa.
Consider some of the exceptional events of 2009 to 2010 in the Horn of Africa: the expansion of Camp Lemonnier, the arrival of the Japanese Self-Defense Force, the organization of East Africa’s first joint field exercise, and combined operations with the European Union’s antipiracy force. These groundbreaking evolutions required innovative legal support in a theater where policies, procedures, and traditions remain works in progress.
A Brief History Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa (CJTFHOA) was formed in 2002 as a U.S. Marine Corps-led joint unit. Its original mission was to engage terrorist cells in East Africa. In 2006 it transitioned into a Navy-led force, which focused on regional stability, capacity building, and humanitarian missions. As the only substantial U.S. presence in East Africa, CJTF-HOA was uniquely devoted to non-kinetic “soft power” missions. In 2008, CJTF-HOA became the newly formed U.S. Africa Command’s (USAFRICOM), first operational mission.
Concurrent with the evolution of CJTF-HOA, Camp Lemonnier evolved into a full-fledged installation. Initially a subordinate unit of CJTF-HOA, Camp Lemonnier now falls under Commander, Navy Region Europe, Africa, Southwest Asia. Led by a Civil Engineer Corps captain, it manages all port operations in Djibouti, as well as air operations and base services for several Combatant Commanders and partner nations.
Camp Lemonnier - Not an Ordinary Installation Camp Lemonnier is the first and only U.S. installation on the continent of Africa. Nearly everything we associate with installations - relations with local authorities, importing supplies, or military justice - lack precedents at Camp Lemonnier. While installations in Italy, Germany, Korea or Japan can rely on six decades of shared experience, Camp Lemonnier has existed as an independent installation for only three years.
As the installation staff judge advocate (SJA), I devoted most of my efforts to building relationships with our Djiboutian hosts. The U.S. agreement with the Republic of Djibouti is not a traditional Status of Forces Agreement. Less detailed than the NATO Status of Forces Agreement, for example, it addresses a limited number of international issues. Moreover, Djiboutian society relies on relationships rather than written agreements to establish political and business organizations. Accordingly, everything from resolving routine customs disputes to negotiating a new $10 million dollar airport services contract required meeting local authorities in person.
These meetings would not have been possible without the generous support and guidance of the U.S. Embassy. The Ambassador, Deputy Chief of Mission and every other member of their small, dedicated staff graciously advised and educated Camp leaders on local politics, customs, and negotiation strategies. They shared their valuable experience as career Foreign Service Officers, gently but frequently reminding us that change takes time - certainly more time than a 12-month deployment.
The Japanese Arrive -History in the Making Camp Lemonnier hosted the first deployment of the Japanese Self-Defense Force outside of Japan since the end of World War II. The Japanese Deployment Air Force for Anti-piracy Enforcement arrived early in 2009. The Japanese contingent contained judge advocates from both the Japanese maritime and ground forces. My predecessor, LT Mike Layne, reached out to the Japanese attorneys in the spirit of cooperation and fellowship. Since then, U.S. and Japanese attorneys have participated in Japanese cultural events, meals, and discussions over the role of a deployed judge advocate. Sea stories about U.S. 7th Fleet, baseball, and sushi made for warm introductions and common ground. A new international agreement between the U.S. and Japan, signed in 2009, enabled the Japanese presence at Camp Lemonnier. Until recently, the U.S.-Japan Acquisition and Cross-Servicing Agreement (ACSA) applied only to operations in Japan and its territorial seas. Recently amended, it now applies to operations throughout the world. Led by CDR Tim Stone of Region Legal Service Office Europe, Africa, Southwest Asia, a team of attorneys from U.S. Pacific Command, U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM), and the Japanese Joint Staff negotiated an implementing agreement to support Japanese operations in Djibouti.
Combined Joint Task Force Horn of Africa-Uncharted Territory While my efforts as the installation SJA focused on building relationships with our Djiboutian hosts and Japanese partners, the CJTF-HOA attorneys supported operations in over a dozen states. On any given day, CJTFHOA’s attorneys were involved in various issues, including planning support of multinational operations, uniting civil affairs teams and nongovernmental organizations, negotiating legal clearances for future operations, advising on counter-piracy operations, or providing law of armed conflict training. In addition, they were also responsible for “normal” SJA duties including joint military justice, ethics advice, and administrative investigations.
Coordinating the legal authorities needed to plan, fund, and execute operations in myriad sovereign states taxes even the sharpest legal minds. U.S. Air Force fiscal law attorneys at CJTF-HOA, in particular, had the herculean task of figuring out how to pay for training, civil affairs, medical, and humanitarian operations without violating U.S. or international law. Adding to the confusion, East Africa’s history has created a patchwork of legal regimes. East Africa’s recent history is complex and, for most Americans, largely unknown. While many of us remember famines in Ethiopia or conflicts in Rwanda or Somalia, few recall the Ethiopian civil wars or Eritrea’s border disputes with Djibouti. The success stories are less publicized. Rwanda, for example, emerged from the conflict of the 1990s to develop a self-sustaining, modern economy. These diverse histories explain, in part, the challenges facing our African partner nations.
East African Standby Force-Field Exercise 2009 The fractured post-colonial history of Africa informed the decision of the African Union to form a multinational intervention unit, the African Standby Force, in 2003. The regional component, the East Africa Standby Force (EASF), held its inaugural field exercise in Djibouti during November 2009. It was the first time a brigade-sized East African force conducted a joint and combined operation. CJTFHOA provided logistical support and organizational guidance during the course of the operation.
Essential to the exercise, the CJTFHOA legal team directed an innovative use of the ACSA with Djibouti to support the exercise. Unlike most ACSA transactions, the supply exchanges with the EASF used the Djiboutian military as an intermediary. The CJTFHOA legal team of LCDR Ken Ian, MAJ Bob Sander and Maj. Airon Mothershed had to coordinate efforts with USAFRICOM to ensure that this exceptional transaction remained legal.
Through CJTF-HOA’s efforts, the EASF exercise succeeded. Hopefully, it inspired future cooperation in African security affairs. Although demonstrating that African militaries could function as a combined unit dispelled many assumptions about Africa’s militaries, much remains to be done. USAFRICOM’s theme of “African Solutions for African Problems” remains only partially fulfilled; future opportunities abound.
Service in the Horn of Africa-Something Different Africa is new terrain for the U.S. military. Today’s operations in the Horn of Africa will create USAFRICOM’s future identity. Too few Americans, let alone members of the U.S. Armed Forces, have lived and worked in Africa. For too long, Africa has been misunderstood through stereotypes or romanticized images. The only way to truly understand the Horn of Africa is to see it firsthand.