FRANKFORT, Ky. – Soldiers with the Kentucky National Guard’s legal team hosted Brig. Gen. Dan Kuwali of the Malawi Defense Force for a two-day visit that included a tour of the Kentucky State Capitol and presentations to Guard members Apr. 21-22.
Kuwali, the chief of legal services and judge advocate general, crossed paths in 2019 with Kentucky’s Army and Air Guard staff judge advocates, Col. Joyce Gordon, 123rd Air Wing, and Col. Jason Shepherd, Joint Force Headquarters, Army, while attending the African Military Law Forum (AMLF). Their friendship solidified when the topics of fishing and tobacco came up.
“We have been fascinated with the number of connections Kentucky and Malawi have and how small this planet is,” said Shepherd. “One of the employees from the governor’s office is from Malawi. When we arrived at the capitol, and Brig Gen. Kuwali heard the native greeting in Chichewa, there were immediate smiles before realizing he knew her father” — ‘and her brother,’ Kuwali interjected from his seat.
“Very much like Kentucky,” Shepherd said with a laugh.
Through a recent AMLF, Shepherd learned that Kuwali is attending the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
Shepherd and Gordon invited Kuwali to speak to the Kentucky Guard’s legal affiliates and key leaders.
After collaborating with Sandra Franzblau with the U.S. Africa Command legal engagement teams, the proposal was in motion to select the presentation and dates.
Shepherd and his colleagues chose a presentation that would be relevant to Kentucky’s State Partnership Program in Djibouti. The Department of Defense National Guard Bureau State Partnership Program has been successfully building relationships for over 25 years and now includes 85 partnerships with 93 nations.
Kuwali discussed opportunities for the United States to use soft power in Africa to balance China’s widespread soft power engagements on the continent.
“This is not meant just for lawyers,” said Franzblau. “This is meant for everybody to understand why it is important and how it affects them now.”
In his presentation, Kuwali said to counter the harmful effects of the Chinese presence in Africa, the United States should focus on sectors Beijing has ignored. He suggested these include strengthening security sector governance, building peace support capability, improving Africa’s human resource capabilities and investing in agriculture, which can empower women and young people.
After visiting Kentucky, Kuwali, a founding member of the African Military Law Forum and the chair of its governing council, returned to Pennsylvania to continue his work at the Army War College.
The sixth African Military Law Forum is scheduled for later this year in Botswana, Africa.