GABORONE, Botswana – The North Carolina National Guard sponsored the sixth African Military Law Forum with the Botswana Defence Force Aug. 6-10.
The forum was co-sponsored by U.S. Africa Command and brought together African military legal professionals from 37 African countries to discuss the legal dynamics of preparing their military forces and executing military operations.
The event included the launch of the Women’s African Military Professional Legal Network to further integrate women legal advisers into every facet of the military. To do this, Shannon Meehan, an expert in gender considerations in armed conflict, discussed integrating the concept of the Department of Defense’s Women, Peace and Security strategic framework during the first plenary session. The framework underscores the DOD’s role as a global model for diversity and inclusivity while working with partner nations to support women’s meaningful participation in defense and security sectors.
Kundai Mashingaidze, the interim deputy U.S. ambassador to Botswana, said U.S. policy has recognized that when women are fully involved and consulted in efforts to build peace and security, there is a positive correlation with reducing armed conflict, sustaining peace agreements, developing democratic systems of governance, and ensuring long-term security and recovery of communities and nations.
“Despite evidence that when women directly participate in negotiations, a peace accord is 35% more likely to last more than 15 years, women are still consistently absent from places where decisions are being made,” said Mashingaidze. “Incorporating a WPS strategy requires a whole of government approach. It cannot be the singular domain of the military, or the diplomats, or the politicians. We all need to work together to achieve this.”
Brig. Gen. Cristina Moore, NCNG assistant adjutant general of sustainment and the state’s first Hispanic female general, believes these conversations are the first step to gender integration of African militaries. Moore spoke of her personal and professional experiences and challenged the male-dominated audience to look beyond societal norms.
“We’ve talked about it, and you’ve asked how women can be employees, mothers, military professionals, business owners, or wives at the same time,” said Moore. “And I will tell you, this is how you do it. I’m all of these things and in a dual-military home. I don’t say this to boast; I say this to show you that it can be done and done successfully. I encourage all of your countries to take these steps and you’ll find that you will have a stronger force because of it.”
Moore and retired Col. Rick Fay, NCNG chief legal adviser, participated in a panel to discuss the interplay between commanders and their legal advisers and effective ways to enhance the relationship. Moore emphasized the importance of commanders understanding the legal limitations of what they can and cannot do and building a trusted relationship with their legal advisers.
“The legal adviser’s role is to identify the rules of law for you to make your decision, but as the commander, it’s solely your decision,” said Moore. “Whether in peacetime or combat operations, this relationship does not work if you start the relationship in a time of crisis. As a commander, your time with your legal adviser shouldn’t be only when it’s needed; it should be on a regular and consistent basis – a top priority.”
After the event, the general body voted for the next executive leadership council of the AMLF – electing five women and three men – many of whom are Botswanan.
“I am honored I was chosen to be a part of the AMLF and witness the leadership of our Botswanan partners as well as the representatives from the other countries,” said Moore. “The minority, alone, cannot advocate for gender integration and equality; it takes the acknowledgment and support of the majority to begin true change, which was mentioned in the AMLF and seen in the election results. The election of the majority female leadership council by their male counterparts paves the way for women in all African nations.”
The NCNG has a bilateral partnership with Botswana, part of the DOD National Guard Bureau State Partnership Program, which consists of military-to-military and civilian-to-civilian engagements.
The program began in 1993 with partnerships between the National Guard of designated states and newly independent Eastern European countries.
There are 13 state partnerships between the United States and African nations: North Carolina and Botswana; California and Nigeria; New York and South Africa; Michigan and Liberia; Utah and Morocco; Vermont and Senegal; Wyoming and Tunisia; Kentucky and Djibouti; Massachusetts and Kenya; and Indiana and Niger. The North Dakota Guard is partnered with three countries: Ghana, Togo and Benin.