Obangame Express brings a multinational approach to security in African waters

469

Exercise Obangame Express 2022, the largest multinational maritime exercise in West Africa, concluded its 11th iteration with a closing ceremony in Dakar, Senegal, on 18 March.

“Obangame Express is about the motivation of our people to dig into some wicked problems together and unearth ways to make our waters safer,” said Lieutenant General Kirk Smith, deputy commander, US Africa Command. “It’s about the young men and women who became fast friends this week and who will continue to learn from each other in the months and years to come. Our nations face complex challenges today. ‘Togetherness’ means no one nation has to tackle these challenges alone, and that we each stand a little taller while shoulder to shoulder in the pursuit of peace and prosperity.”

The exercise featured an in-port training period followed by an at-sea portion that tested the participating ships’ and maritime operation centres’ abilities to conduct maritime interdiction operations.

Training opportunities included boarding techniques, search and rescue operations, medical casualty response, radio communication, information management techniques and various military operations.

“Exercise scenarios this year were designed to be as relevant as they were challenging, incorporating energy security; illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing; and cross-boundary maritime domain awareness,” said Smith. “These were meant to be responsive to the everyday, real world issues our maritime teams face here in West Africa, and to be tailored to regional concerns and interests – striking the right balance between security and law enforcement.”

The exercise took place across five zones in the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Guinea, stretching from Senegal to Angola and across the Economic Community of West African States and Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) states.

Additionally, the Senior Leader Symposium was held from 16 to 18 March in conjunction with Obangame Express 22. The symposium provided an opportunity for senior naval leaders from Africa, Europe, and North and South America to come together to discuss maritime threats and solutions in the Gulf of Guinea and Western Africa, the US Navy said.

“The Gulf of Guinea is a critical nexus for African prosperity and that of the entire globe because of the economic resources that flow from it and through it,” said Smith. “The work we do here together as part of the Express series is important to overcoming regional threats that threaten that prosperity.”

The 32 nations that participated this year included Angola, Belgium, Benin, Brazil, Cabo Verde, Cameroon, Canada, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Denmark, Equatorial Guinea, France, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Italy, Liberia, Morocco, Namibia, Netherlands, Nigeria, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Congo, Sao Tome & Principe, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Spain, Togo, and the United States.