Home | News    Wednesday 23 March 2005

African Union plans 15,000-strong peacekeeping force by next year

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ADDIS ABABA, March 22 (AFP) — The African Union (AU) said Tuesday it planned to have a 15,000-strong peacekeeping force ready by next year to deal with the continent’s conflicts.

Rwandan troops operating under the Africa Union mandate walk inside the AU base in Kab Kabiya, Sudan. (AFP).

The African Standby Force (ASF) will be made up of five brigades drawn from across Africa and will be in place by June 30 next year, according to an AU document.

The document was distributed at the opening of a two-day meeting here between representatives of the AU and the continent’s regional economic groups to discuss how to set up the ASF.

By June 30 next year, up to 15,000 troops earmarked for the force will be in training and at the same time ready to work with United Nations peacekeepers in field operations under UN command.

The ASF will be able to be deployed alone in peacekeeping operations by 2010, under its own command, according to the AU document.

The meeting in Addis Ababa drew delegates from the Economic Community for West African States, the Economic and Monetary Community of Central Africa, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development, the Southern Africa Development Community as well as the Union of the Arab Maghreb.

"We are here to exchange information so as to draw a roadmap (for the establishment of the ASF) and prepare for talks with the G8 to map out support plans for the implementation of the African Force," Said Djinnit, a commissioner in the AU’s Peace and Security Council, told the delegates.

The AU is due to present its plans to the Group of Eight most industrialised countries in April to try to secure funding for the force. British Prime Minister Tony Blair has made Africa a priority of his chairmanship of the G8 this year.

The ASF is part of the African Union’s bid to boost its ability to manage crises in the wake of the impotence shown by its predecessor, the Organisation of African Unity, which it replaced in 2002.

Since Sudan became the first African nation to shake off European colonists in 1956, conflicts have blighted the continent, with wars currently raging in Sudan’s western Darfur region and parts of central Africa.

Although the pan-African body has not given the exact cost of the ASF, the document conservatively estimates that each of the five brigades would cost up to 350,000 dollars (265,000 euros).

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