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Statements

Obangame Express Exercise Launch

Douala, March 21, 2011

Your Excellency the Minister-Delegate at the Presidency Charged with Defense, Your Excellencies the Ambassadors, Officers and Sailors of the participating countries, Special guests, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Good morning.  It is a pleasure for me to be able to speak to you on this important day.  The United States is committed to helping Cameroon and its neighbors stop piracy and other illegal activities in the Gulf of Guinea.  The Obangame Express exercise is one mechanism for helping Cameroon and its neighbors to accomplish this objective.

Other mechanisms include:

  1. ongoing American efforts to train Cameroonian marines and the BIR in maritime interdiction techniques;
  2. making sure the Navy and the BIR have appropriate equipment, such as high-speed boats; and
  3. helping Cameroon’s military forces use technology to identify pirates and coastal bandits and to stop acts of aggression before the attackers reach their targets.

In that context, the United States has just assisted Cameroon to complete the installation of an active radar system that will allow Cameroonian authorities to identify unauthorized ships and high-speed boats moving in its waters, especially off the Bakassi peninsula.  I look forward to sharing more information with you about that project at a future time.

I am pleased the United States has collaborated so closely with Cameroon and other members of the Economic Community of Central African States (CEEAC) to conceptualize, plan, and execute the Obangame Express exercise.

As you know, this is a multi-national maritime exercise being held off the coast of Cameroon that involves two full days of maneuvers by navy vessels and high-speed boats from seven countries.  The command center for the exercise is CEEAC’s Center for Multinational Coordination (CMC) located here at the naval base, which will be staffed by Americans, Cameroonians, and other international staff from the nine participating nations during the exercise.

The U.S. Navy ship that is now in Cameroonian waters for this exercise is the USS Robert G. Bradley, a U.S. Navy frigate that sails with a crew of over 200 personnel and which has its home port in Mayport, Florida.

Over the course of two days the many ships and boats involved in this exercise will carry out a series of communications and ship boarding exercises that will simulate several distress scenarios (including scenarios involving pirate attacks, kidnappings, drug trafficking, and the illegal trafficking of ammunition).

At the end of this exercise, we expect Cameroon and its neighbors to be in a better position to stop illegal activities in the Gulf of Guinea, and our commitment to help Cameroon accomplish this objective will continue.

Our ultimate goal with this exercise, and all military cooperation with Cameroon, is to help Cameroon maintain peace and stability in its waters and along its borders so that investment, trade, and economic growth will result in increased standards of living for Cameroonians.

Thank you very much, and I wish you all great success in the Obangame Express exercise.