LUSAKA, Zambia - Senior army leaders and delegates from Tanzania, Malawi, Botswana, South Africa, Mauritius, Seychelles, United States, Zambia, and Mozambique gathered Aug. 4, during this year's Southern Regional Leader Seminar to increase dialogue, develop relationships and continue security collaboration.
Started in 2015, the Southern Regional Leader Seminar is an annual event, which is also one of four regional seminars facilitated by U.S. Army Africa designed to increase long-term security cooperation.
This year's Southern Regional Leader Seminar kicked off with an introductory ceremony led by Stardy Mwale, Zambia's ministry of defense permanent secretary.
Mwale praised the seminar for unifying the region and fostering security cooperation against common threats.
"Regional solutions are key to the region, and we must continue to cooperate against these threats," Mwale said.
Lt. Gen. Paul Mihova, the Zambia army chief of staff, hosted this year's event with Maj. Gen. Joseph P. Harrington, the U.S. Army Africa commanding general.
"Each regional leader seminar is designed to create opportunities for regional cooperation with African partners," Harrington said. "They are key to providing a common understanding of the threats and we must develop long-term solutions to address them."
Mihova stated that security cooperation has been successful in the region, due to the relationships built by the Southern African Development Community.
SADC is composed of Angola, Botswana, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. It is an inter-governmental organization headquartered in Gaborone, Botswana, with the purpose of increasing economic cooperation and integration, while furthering political and security cooperation amongst the 15 Southern African states.
"Security cooperation is important," Mihova said. "We must continue to build trust and work as a region in order to combat security threats and challenges; SADC is key."
"Our partners in the south have good relationships and regional security systems in place, such as SADC, that allows them to not only collaborate, but also train together in exercises," stated Lt. Col. Hector A. Montemayor, the USARAF international relations chief and lead planner for the RLS program.
Harrington concurred that trust is important, while adding that the regional leader seminar creates opportunities for information sharing and finding comprehensive, long-term solutions.
"Relationships matter," Harrington said. "Anytime we can bring leaders together in one location is a win for security cooperation."
Due to Africa's vast geographic size, combined with a fast-growing and diverse population, the complexity of the threats and the drivers of instability differ in scope and size in each region.
In the southern region, security cooperation between countries is strong. African countries are not only professionalizing their armies but also exporting security to unstable locations in the continent.
As the seminar came to a close, Harrington thanked Mihova for hosting the event and the delegates for mapping a way ahead that will lead to more security cooperation in the future.
"For our way ahead, we will continue to work with our country teams to develop long-term, comprehensive approaches that are closely coordinated with our African partners," Harrington said. "We look forward to continued security cooperation in next year's Southern Region Leader Seminar."