United States Navy Rear Admiral Anthony M. Kurta (picture, right) has assumed command of Combined Joint Task Force – Horn of Africa (CJTF-HOA), the Africom
structure charged with building security capacity in the continent’s north-east.
The ceremony took place yesterday at CJTF-HOA headquarters at Camp Lemonier in Djibouti.
Africom says Kurta is a 27-year Navy veteran who previously was director of Navy Europe Programs, Resources, and Support and Director, Transformation Activities, US Naval Forces, Europe, Naples, Italy.
Kurta holds a Masters degree with honours in National Security Studies from Georgetown University, and is a distinguished graduate of the U.S. Air Force Air Command and General Staff College in Montgomery, Alabama.
He took command of from Rear Admiral Philip H. Greene.
Africom commander General William E. Ward (picture, left) presided the ceremony on African soil and passed the command flag from Greene to Kurta, marking the first change of command ceremony under the new US regional command.
“I have been impressed since day one. The work you all have done has made a positive difference and you have made an impact,” Ward said. “You have had an impact on capacity-building efforts – and not just short term – an impact with potential to sustain and endure.
“The work of building security capacity in Africa is important to us all,” Kurta said. “The entire team is ready, willing and eager to address the challenges ahead.”
Greene assumed command of CJTF-HOA last February. His next assignment is Deputy Chief of Naval of Operations of Integrations of Capabilities and Resources at the Pentagon in Washington, DC.
Greene expressed confidence that the command is in good hands.
“[Admiral Kurta] is no stranger to Africa, having spent the last year working maritime security issues throughout West and Central Africa,” Greene said. “There’s no doubt Kurta is the right leader at the right place and the right time. I wish you the very best success over the next year.”
The UN News Centre
meanwhile reports that nine Indian Ocean and Red Sea countries late last month signed a Code of Conduct formalising cooperation in seizing, investigating and prosecuting pirates off the coast of war-ravaged Somalia.
UN International Maritime Organization (IMO
) Secretary-General Efthimios E. Mitropoulos says the nine signed on at a high-level meeting in Djibouti convened by his agency.
”The adoption of this instrument shows that countries in the region are willing to act concertedly and together, contributing to the ongoing efforts of the broader international community to fight the scourge of piracy and armed robbery against ships in the area,” he said.
Nine countries – Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Madagascar, Maldives, Seychelles, Somalia, Tanzania and Yemen – have already signed the code, which calls for shared operations, such as nominating law enforcement or other authorized officials to embark in the patrol ships or aircraft of another signatory.
The meeting was attended by ministers and senior officials from Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, France, Jordan, Kenya, Madagascar, Maldives, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Seychelles, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania and Yemen, as well as observers from other IMO members, UN specialized agencies and international and regional inter-governmental and non-governmental organizations.
The code is open for signature by the 21 countries in the region.
“Like the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against ships in Asia (RECAAP), which was concluded in November 2004 by 16 countries in Asia, I have every faith that the Code of Conduct will prove to be the starting point for successful cooperation and coordination in the region, which will bear fruit in the suppression of piracy and armed robbery against ships,” Mitropoulos said.
Representatives of States that have sent naval forces to protect shipping off Somalia, including China, France, Italy, Japan, Russia and United Kingdom, also attended the four-day meeting, as did the UN World Food Programme (WFP
), whose chartered food aid ships have been hijacked on several occasions.
Mitropoulos stressed that the contributing alliances of Governments, organizations and individual countries such as the European Union, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and China, India, Russia and Saudi Arabia had done their duty in seeking to protect shipping and the time had now come for regional states to add their own contribution.
But he stressed that that while the contribution of regional states was hugely important, the long-term solution to the problem still lay onshore, within Somalia itself, which has not had a functioning central Government since 1991 and is riven by warring factions.
In December, the UN Security Council unanimously called on countries and regional bodies with the necessary capacity to deploy naval ships and military aircraft off the Somali coast to fight piracy, including possible action against pirate bases on land.
Apart from chartered WFP ships, recent seizures by pirates have included a Saudi oil tanker and a Ukrainian ship with arms on board.