Story & photo by Brenda Law
U.S. Africa Command Office of Public Affairs
Eight journalists from Africa concluded a week-long visit to AFRICOM with an interview of the command’s deputy to the commander for Military Operations, U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Steven Hummer.
The journalists, all accredited with the African Union, represented a variety of news organizations in Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa and Uganda.
During the media delegation visit Feb. 9-12, AFRICOM staff presented briefs on the command’s multiple and diverse programs.
“I had limited understanding of AFRICOM before coming here,” said Andualem Sisay Gessesse, a correspondent to Nation Media Group of Kenya who is based in Ethiopia. “Now I have a better picture of what AFRICOM does, like in the areas of maritime activities, humanitarian assistance and defense programs – we can see how big is the mandate of this organization.
“For example, I can now see how PEPFAR [President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief] is integrated from the president to USAID to AFRICOM,” said Gessesse.
The highlight of each visit is the opportunity for the journalists to interview a senior leader from AFRICOM. Lt. Gen. Steven Hummer said he felt honored to meet the journalists and answer their questions.
“Our design was to develop programs to help the security apparatus,” said Hummer. “We have more civilians than military personnel on our staff, and our work is theater security cooperation plans. Ninety-nine percent of what we do is through the African military partners.”
“These visits are a unique opportunity to educate and inform African journalists about the command’s mission and our role in working with African partners to support their efforts to build more secure environments,” said AFRICOM’s Chief of Public Affairs and Communication Synchronization, U.S. Army Col. Mark Cheadle.
“This week has been very worthwhile for me,” said Eskinder Firew Azmatch, who reports for the Voice of America Amharic and is based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
“Hearing this kind of information really helps provide a better understanding when I write stories. AFRICOM can do this for other organizations – show them the benefit of bringing journalists in to help further understanding,” said Azmatch.
AFRICOM’s media delegation visit program dates back to 2009 when AFRICOM Public Affairs first proposed it as a way for the command to connect in a face-to-face environment with professional journalists from across the continent. Since then, journalists from 20 countries and countless media organizations have been hosted in nearly a dozen visits, making it one of the most high-profile outreach events sponsored by the command.
Journalists who participated in the delegation visit were Eskinder Firew Azmatch, a reporter for Voice of America Amharic, based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Jenine Coetzer, executive producer, English Current Affairs at Channel Africa in Johannesburg, South Africa; Andualem Sisay Gessesse, correspondent to Nation Media Group of Kenya, based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia; Emmanuel Igunza Kinyaga, a journalist working as BBC Africa’s bilingual correspondent in Ethiopia and Kenya; Robyn Lee Kriel, eNews Channel Africa’s East Africa Bureau chief, based in Nairobi, Kenya; Aggrey Mutambo Nyongesa who writes on foreign relations and regional humanitarian affairs for Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper; Charles Onyango-Obbo, editor of Mail and Guardian Africa, based in Nairobi, Kenya; and Elias Meseret Taye, a correspondent for the Associated Press for Ethiopia and the African Union. Escorts for the AU journalists were Lina Mohammed Ibrahim, the local national escort official from the U.S. Mission to the AU, and David Benton, senior international press officer with the U.S. State Dept. based in Washington.