Peacekeeping: May 30, 2003

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: At the May 24-25 G8 summit in France, South African President and African Union (AU) chairman Thabo Mbeki and other African leaders asked for help in establishing five African peacekeeping forces for the continent. However, some observers consider the plan as "unrealistic" and predict that the G8 countries will fear that they would end up footing much of the Africans' bill.

The G8 had hoped the African Union would agree to establish one standby brigade of 10 000 soldiers, but AU military leaders were firmly in favor of financing five 2,000-man standby brigades in five separate regions of Africa to be created within two years (which is a far more expensive plan). A skeleton headquarters would have to be established in each of the five regions and these units would train with their parent armies. When required, these slated units would form up into brigades within 14 days, which sounds like wishful thinking.

The report acknowledges that the readiness levels required to deploy such a rapid-reaction force within 14 days may be too great for the AU, which would mean that they'd have to rely on the continent's more capable nations. They also expect that the UN will usually be able to deal with the peacekeeping missions where force is not expected to be used and that 'capable' national armies may have to deal with most crises requiring rapid military response.

The AU's current joint-military effort is moving along by fits and starts. With the arrival of the 11 Mozambican officers in Burundi's capital Bujumbura on the 26th, the army staff of the African Mission in Burundi (AMIB) is now complete. They joined 16 Ethiopian and South African officers already incountry (since May 11th and March, respectively). A South African is the commander and an Ethiopia is the deputy commander of AMIB.

The entire AMIB force (ultimately 2,870 troops: 1,600 South Africans, 290 Mozambicans and 980 Ethiopians) will help demobilize, disarm and reintegrate three Hutu rebel groups fighting against the Tutsi-led army. The leadership "hopes" to have all of the troops in place by early June.

While no agreement has been reached with the main Hutu Forces for the Defense of Democracy (FDD) group, two of the minor Hutu rebel groups (an FDD faction and the National Liberation Forces faction) are ready to move into three cantonment areas being established respectively in eastern, central and northwestern Burundi. The first cantonment area to open in June will be at Muyange in the northwestern province of Bubanza, and will be manned by South Africans (with Mozambicans joining them later in June). 

Successful operations in Burundi will dictate the future of an African Standby Force (ASF). At a special AU summit on the 21st, Mbeki urged member countries to give special priority to the establishment of the ASF. Encouraged by the progress made in conflict-stricken Burundi, Congo , Ivory Coast, Sudan, Madagascar and Angola, Mbeki believes that it would allow the continent to solve its own conflicts. 

The South African media have also been calling for the speedy establishment of an African peacekeeping force backed by the UN, although this isn't surprising since they frequently parrot Mbeki's African National Congress party line. Earlier in May, Mbeki asked the UN to authorize UN troops deployed in the Congo's Ituri region to take tougher action to protect civilians caught up in the fighting. 

A meeting is scheduled for mid-July to endorse the ASF's establishment, based on one of the resolutions from a high-profile May 17-18 "African Chiefs of Defense Staff" meeting in Ethiopia. The senior officers provisionally resolved that an ASF could be recruited by 2005. 

Meanwhile, the G8 nations also plan to expand some existing military training programs: France's RECAMP (Reinforcing African Peacekeeping Capacities), America's ACOTA (Africa Crisis Operations and Training Assistance) and Britain's BPST (British Peace Support Team). - Adam Geibel



 


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