CJTF-HOA Coalition Pioneer Revisits Camp Lemonnier After Seven Years
In the earliest inception of Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa--at a time when countering terrorism had a more direct approach, East African coalitions were fewer and Djibouti was almost unheard of, the country of Kenya sent a colonel and two other officers to team-up with the task force's U.S. Marines. They were about to embark on a historical occasion, transferring the task force from a ship to land-based Camp Lemonnier.
It was 2003, and for the first time since then, Brig. Gen. F.G.K. Kimanzi returned to Camp Lemonnier as a guest of the CJTF-HOA's current commander, Rear Adm. Brian Losey. Now the brigade commander for Kenya's Ministry of Defense, Kimanzi was the colonel who came with two junior Kenyan officers and 17 other coalition officers to assist in establishing CJTF-HOA.
"I was the Senior Liaison Officer--at that time I was an O-6 [colonel] and two left colonels with me," Kimanzi said. "The mission at that time was kinetic. We use to have a lot of activity, especially missions into Somalia." A deployment that lasted from March to November 2003, Kimanzi's support to CJTF-HOA began on the USS Mount Whitney (LCC 20) before the command transferred to Camp Lemonnier located on the outskirts of Djibouti City, Djibouti on May 13, 2003. Even though the mission at the time involved detecting and disrupting terrorism through a direct approach, Kimanzi was one of the pioneers in establishing civil affairs activities in the area, which is now readily regarded as the indirect approach to countering extremism.
"We started establishing the [Civil Affairs] projects in Kenya, Ethiopia and Djibouti, putting up schools and some MEDCAPS [Medical Civil Affairs Projects]," he said. "The one I organized, we use to buy medicine for the MEDCAPS from Kenya and bring them over because we use to have a lot of MEDCAPS in Djibouti and also in Ethiopia."
In 2003, Camp Lemonnier was an 88-acre site built and once-occupied by the French military. CJTF-HOA was first commanded by U.S. Marine Maj. Gen. John F. Sattler, including the time Kimanzi was serving. Today the U.S. leases over 600 acres from Djibouti for Camp Lemonnier, which transformed to a Naval Expeditionary Installation to support its largest tenant, CJTF-HOA. Kimanzi has noticed the transformation.
"Most of the camp was actually a tent city. The French left a few permanent buildings. But the thing a found out is that the camp has grown. Back then there were no more than 1,000 [occupants]. Now I understand there is close to 3,500. I do remember that, where the aircraft are parked now down on the other side, we use to have trail where we use to run, there were wild animals and just bush…there was nothing," Kimanzi said.
Kimanzi was among key military leaders representing several East African countries participating in a two-day visit to CJTF-HOA and Djibouti June 29-30 by invitation of Losey. It was an opportunity to build partnerships, hear mission briefs, tour the camp and fly out to the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) for a visit while it was operating in the Gulf of Aden.