DAKAR, SENEGAL --
Marines and Sailors from 27 African nations, eight European allies and Brazil, totaling 36 nations, gathered at the Naval Infantry Leaders Symposium-Africa 2022, co-hosted by the Senegalese Navy and U.S. Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa in Dakar, Senegal. July 6-7, 2022.
NILS-A is an Africa-focused, multinational forum, designed to bring together partner nations with marine forces and naval infantries to foster relationships, share crisis response experiences and build a better understanding of Africa’s maritime domain awareness and security challenges. A key participant and member of the panel discussions this year included the Brazilian Marine Corps, or Corpo de Fuzileiros Navais.
Senior hosts for the event were U.S. Marine Maj. Gen Tracy W. King, commander, Marine Forces Europe and Africa, and Senegalese Naval Chief of Staff Rear Adm. Oumar Wade.
“We come from different countries, we come from different cultures, we come from different religions, but we all came here for the same reason, and that is to defend freedom,” said King. “We do that as a community of like-minded nations, we all believe in the rule of law, we all believe in an international rules-based order.”
Africa is of significant interest to the United States and in an engagement with 15 West African countries in Abuja, Nigeria on Nov. 19, 2021, U.S. Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken acknowledged that the United States can no longer expect to advance global foreign policy priorities without the partnership of African governments, institutions, and peoples.
“We come from different countries, we come from different cultures, we come from different religions, but we all came here for the same reason, and that is to defend freedom.” Maj. General Tracy W. King, Commander, Marine Forces Europe and Africa
Brazil’s history in Africa, specifically West Africa, traces back to colonial ties from the Portuguese Empire as well as the slave trade. An irreconcilable portion of human history, the slave trade is responsible for forcibly moving more than four million Africans to Brazil. African culture has infused itself within Brazilian identity and Brazilian culture has been brought back to Africa. With several Portuguese-speaking countries in Africa, Brazil and Africa share much more than a language and cultural similarities; they also share similar geological and climate conditions, diplomatic relationships, trade and business relationships, and a shared ocean in the South Atlantic.
To understand the importance of Brazil from a national and military perspective, one must look not only at the cultural ties and historical connections, but also to a few critical strategic documents: Brazil’s Amazonia Azul or Blue Amazon concept as well as the Zone of Peace and Cooperation in the South Atlantic. The Blue Amazon refers to the 4.4 million square kilometers of Brazil’s jurisdictional waters including the 3.6 million square kilometers of the economic exclusion zone (200 nautical miles from the coast) and an additional one million square kilometers extended by the continental shelf, which is outlined in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. This area is rich in marine biodiversity and energy resources.
The Blue Amazon concept, first developed by the Brazilian Navy in 2004, is a layered approach to Brazil’s maritime responsibilities in relation to the economic, environmental, and scientific aspects as well as the aspect of sovereignty. This concept has significant national importance to Brazil because it is critical to the integrity of Brazil’s waters, the overall sovereignty of the South Atlantic Ocean, and all nations who share a coastline with it.
The Blue Amazon concept has specific importance to the Brazilian Navy and Marine Corps, who serve as the country’s maritime forces charged with overseeing the tasks of the coastguard and the port authority as well as the protection of the economic exclusion zone. The Brazilian Navy closely integrates with the science and technology industry to preserve and protect its waters. The service is deeply involved in promoting maritime awareness and collaboration with its partners and allies to ensure the collective protection of the South Atlantic Ocean.
The Blue Amazon concept, as a national policy tool, is closely tied to the Zone of Peace and Cooperation in the South Atlantic (ZOPACAS), a forum for cooperation authorized by U.N. General Assembly Resolution 41/11 in 1986 between 24 South American and African nations that border the South Atlantic Ocean. This zone focuses on promoting cooperation and maintaining collective peace and security in the region. Brazil is a key leader within ZOPACAS who takes seriously its responsibility to support Africa’s knowledge and capabilities for maritime security. Leveraging the ZOPACAS resolution, Brazil looks for opportunities to strengthen relationships with African coastal countries through collaborative training and mentoring sessions aimed at advancing their respective security by establishing their own processes and procedures for maritime forces to operate more effectively.
The Brazilian Navy works with key African nations in areas of training programs, exercises, and conferences to support increased maritime awareness and security. The Brazilian Marine Corps currently maintains an advisory group in Namibia and São Tomé and Príncipe focused on the establishment of those nations’ Marine Corps and capacity building. Additionally, the Brazilian Navy and Marine Corps conduct several training events throughout Africa to share knowledge and skills with partners. This has strengthened relationships supporting collective security of the South Atlantic Ocean.
Photo by Sgt. William Chockey
(Left) U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Tracy W. King, commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Europe and Africa and (Right) Senegalese Naval Chief of Staff Rear Adm. Oumar Wade speak with African military partners during the Naval Infantry Leadership Symposium - Africa 2022 in Dakar, Senegal, July 6, 2022. NILS -A is a multinational, Africa-focused forum, designed to bring together partner nations with marine forces and naval infantries to develop interoperability, crisis response capabilities, and foster relationships which will improve Africa’s maritime domain security.
NILS-A serves as one of the key platforms and mechanisms to bring naval infantry leaders from across Africa together to share common interests and strengthen military relationships that facilitate a safe and prosperous South Atlantic. This forum is important not only for African countries, but for Brazil to be involved in the development and support to their partners across the South Atlantic.
Capt. Andre Luiz Guimaraes Silva, head of the Department of Doctrine, General Command of the Brazilian Marine Corps, represented Brazil this year to present and participate in the discussions. His presentation focused on riverine operations and drew many parallels to anti-piracy operations which are crucial for the protection to the Gulf of Guinea area. He discussed the importance of realistic training and empowering small unit leaders to act within commander’s intent. Additionally, he shared Brazil’s experience with incorporating technology into jungle and riverine operations and how it played a less decisive role than originally expected, which resonated with several of the African partners. His presentation, expertise, and discussion points helped to advance dialogue on training, readiness, and opportunities for collective maritime security between Brazil and participating African countries.
“This conference was a great opportunity for the Brazilian Navy and Marine Corps to showcase their involvement in Africa and their role as a regional leader in the South Atlantic,” said Maj. Felipe Bayona, U.S. Marine Corps exchange officer to the Brazilian Marine Corps. “It is truly a mutually beneficial relationship for the U.S., Brazil, and our partners in Africa to unite and collaborate. Together we can build a strong partnership and coalition that will maintain the security and stability of each of our sovereign waters while contributing to the collective security of the South Atlantic.”
This past May, Brazil hosted the Marine Leaders of Americas Conference, a similar event to NILS-A, at which Marine leaders from across the western hemisphere gathered to discuss key topics in security and defense. Several African partners were invited to participate in this event as a show of cooperation between Brazil and Africa and for the collective maritime security of South America via the South Atlantic Ocean.
This September, the Brazilian Navy will host exercise UNITAS, the world’s longest-running annual multinational maritime exercise. UNITAS 2022 will include participation from African countries as an opportunity to grow upon their partnership and expand the interoperability between Brazil, Africa, and a multinational force, bringing like-minded allies and partners from around the world together to strengthen relationships and facilitate collective defense and global security.