Thursday, 23 August 2007

East Africa to form peacekeeping force

Paul Harera Sebikali & Jacquiline Shimanyula
Kampala, Nairobi

DEFENCE ministers from East African countries who are meeting in the Kenyan capital Nairobi have passed a resolution to form an African peacekeeping force. The ministers set a timeframe of the next three years to put the force in place.

At the official opening of the meeting on Friday, Kenyan’s President Mwai Kibaki (above) told the ministers that Africa must increasingly rely on its own resources and capacities to resolve its conflicts.

Under the arrangement, Regional Standby Brigades would be formed to feed the African Standby Force. Mr Kibaki said this is in line with the African Union’s efforts to create the required institutions and structures to deal with security problems.

Mr Kibaki said although several African countries that were approached by the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (Igad) agreed to contribute troops for deployment in Somalia, only about a quarter of the targeted troops, had been deployed by March this year.

He urged Igad member States to support troop deployment in Somalia. Ms Ruth Nankabirwa, the chairperson of the council of ministers of defence and security in East Africa, said her prediction is that by the year 2010, the region would have the capacity to undertake peace support operations. Nankabirwa is Uganda’s State Minister for Defence.

She said the region would develop the capability necessary to respond, at short notice, to grave circumstances, such as genocide, and be able to assist in other regions, under the stewardship of the African Union Commission.

In an interview on the sidelines of the meeting, Nankabirwa said the Eastern African Standby Brigade, would be called upon to deploy rapidly and save the situation in conflict areas.

Uganda, was the first African nation to deply troops in Somalia after the overthrow of the Islamic Courts Union government by the Ethiopian army. Last week, Uganda’s Chief of Defence Forces Gen Aronda Nyakairima said more troops would be sent to Somalia.

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