Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh speaks to delegates and staff during African Land Forces Summit closing ceremony, May 14
Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh speaks to delegates and staff during African Land Forces Summit closing ceremony, May 14.

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh told a gathering of more than 100 senior African military leaders Friday that America draws strength from the fact its military is subservient to civilian authority.

"It is a bedrock principle," McHugh told the inaugural African Land Forces Summit in the final address before the historic gathering of delegates from more than 30 nations across the African continent closed. Organized by U.S. Army Africa, the summit was the largest gathering of the region's leaders on American soil.

The aim of the conference was to promote partnerships that advance the aims of security, stability and peace in Africa. The leaders heard remarks from top experts on topics including humanitarian relief and peacekeeping operations. The delegates also visited the Pentagon and the Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Ga.

McHugh told the leaders that nations from differing continents and cultures can find common ground against mutual threats by identifying their own fundamental values. And in America's case, a military that follows the wishes of the people is a fundamental value.

"We in the Army believe military organizations should be the people's military," McHugh said. "But you can't just claim it. You can't just put it in your title. You have to earn it."

The secretary said African nations differ in traditions and can find their own balance of interaction between civil and military authority.

As you leaders go back home, perhaps the American civil model can help you with the African values you deeply hold, McHugh said. "The traditions you seek will be fragile and difficult to cultivate. There will be repeated challenges to these traditions. But you, the military leaders of your nations can lead the way to a brighter more prosperous tomorrow."

McHugh said by organizing the gathering of military leaders from across the continent, the U.S. Army was working to cultivate allies against the threats posed by violent extremists as well as partners in response to humanitarian disaster assistance.

"We welcome your friendship and we cherish your partnership as we work together for a better day and a better tomorrow for all our people," McHugh said.


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