Horn of Africa Symposium 2012
At a time when the attention of the world has been focused, and quite appropriately, on Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, the election of Putin in Russia, and the financial stability of Greece and Europe in general, there is good reason for the global community also to be paying attention to what has been unfolding in the Horn of Africa. So during a semester that featured Wilson Center programs on Afghanistan and Russia, it was appropriate that the Center and Hampden-Sydney College pause to reflect on what is happening in countries such as Eritrea, Djibouti, Ethiopia and Somalia. It was just a little more than a hundred years ago when President Theodore Roosevelt travelled through British East Africa, including countries such as Kenya and Sudan, on his way to Egypt and then to Europe. In an observation that bears repeating today, reflecting on all that he had seen during his trip, Roosevelt reminded his audience at the Sorbonne in Paris, that "the welfare of each of us is dependent fundamentally upon the welfare of all of us." It is in this spirit that we gathered in March to deepen our understanding of the challenges facing the people who reside in the countries that make up the Horn of Africa. Our speakers were especially well equipped, by training and experience, to address the complex mix of cultural, political, social, economic and security issues that are at the heart of the seemingly intractable problems that have defined the way of life of millions of people in the region of the Horn for much too long.
Our first speaker was Ambassador Lange Schermerhorn. A 35-year veteran of the Foreign Service, Ambassador Schermerhorn has represented the United States in various assignments in Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Iran, the United Kingdom, Belgium, and lastly as Ambassador to the Republic of Djibouti (1998-2000) during which time the year-long Arta Somalia Reconciliation Conference sponsored by the Government of Djibouti took place.
Since retiring in 2001, she has continued her interest in Africa and the affairs of the Horn, with consulting assignments in Egypt, Somaliland, and Djibouti. She participated in election observation missions for Nigeria's April 2003 and April 2007 Presidential elections, Somaliland's September 2005 parliamentary election, and Kenya's December 2007 Presidential election.
Ambassador Schermerhorn served from October 2003 through June 2004 as the Political Advisor to the commanding general of the U.S. Central Command's Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa in Djibouti and then as Charge d'Affaires of the America Embassy in Gambia in the summer 2007.
Our second speaker, Lieutenant General Samuel Helland, began his military career by enlisting in the Army in 1968. He served three years with U.S. Army Special Forces, leaving after a combat tour of duty in Vietnam with the 5th Special Forces Group. General Helland graduated from Marine Officer Candidate School in 1973, and was designated a Naval Aviator in 1974. He is qualified as a CH-53 pilot.
General Helland's Marine Corps career assignments included tours of duty with Amphibious Units, Aviation Combat Elements, and Joint Task Forces. During these tours of duty, he participated in exercises and contingency operations that ranged from the Arctic Circle, throughout the Mediterranean and Caribbean Seas, and finally to the Persian Gulf, where he saw combat during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. General Helland assumed command of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) in August 1996 and led the Unit through two Mediterranean deployments. During this period, the MEU conducted five successful real world contingency operations, including Joint Task Force Nobel Obelisk in Sierra Leone in May 1997. In April 1999, after returning from his second deployment, he was assigned as the Deputy Commander JTF-Shining Hope providing humanitarian assistance to Albanian Kosovo refugees in Albania and Macedonia. In May 2004, General Helland assumed command of Combined Joint Task Force, Horn of Africa based in Djibouti, Africa.
General Helland is the recipient of the Bronze Star, Legion of Merit, Purple Heart, and the Meritorious Service Medal with gold star, among numerous other awards.