Peacekeeping: February 23, 2004

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Angola is expected to announce a decision to provide troops for United Nations peacekeeping missions in the next four months and was already training soldiers for the purpose. Their philosophy behind the decision was to integrate the ruling party's MPLA with former UNITA rebel soldiers, using the peacekeeping missions to create a sense of patriotism within the Angolan army.

The plan to muster a continental peacekeeping force follows persistent criticism that African nations have too often stood idle in the past, as millions perished in some of the continent's bloodiest civil wars. The first-ever summit of African defense ministers in Addis Ababa on January 22 cleared the way for an African peacekeeping force to prevent conflicts and help deliver aid to war-ravaged countries. In February's follow-up AU summit, African leaders were expected to give the force their final approval. The proposed AU force is expected to include up to 10,000 troops and police officers.

While touring Africa, the German Chancellor announced that Germany will give the African Union $800-million to fund its peacekeeping missions in Africa, improve its communications network and help set up the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Center in Ghana. Germany will also train soldiers and civilian personnel all over West Africa, for deployment in peace missions. 

The African Union (AU) made the first step in granting the power to intervene militarily in national conflicts on December 31, 2003, after a security pact won the backing of a majority of the body's members.

However, Africans are finding out that the coordination and logistics of running their own joint operations isn't easy or cheap. South Africa continues to pay for the deployment of the approximately 1,600 soldiers in Burundi, which alongside a 1,000-soldier Ethiopian battalion, has been operating under the AU's auspices since May 2003. 

South African soldiers soon found themselves in a difficult situation. Only prepared to provide security, they were assigned additional duties for which they were not trained. Assigned to a temporary demobilization camp where rebels were only supposed to spend five days before joining government units, the 218 rebels are now semi-permanent residents and the South Africans have to care for them. Non Governmental organizations (NGOs), including UN organizations, refuse to go into the camp for security reasons.

While there are thousands of rebels hiding in the Kabila forest approximately eight kilometers from the camp who have indicated that they also wish to be incorporated into the government's defense force, the South Africans put an end to politicians' plans to bring more rebels to the camp because they couldn't support the housekeeping duties. - Adam Geibel


 


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