Defense ministries from across the East African region announced Friday that they are creating a new force to be used in peacekeeping missions as well as national emergencies. As Caroline Sawyer reports from Nairobi, the defense ministers said that the force will be ready by 2010.
Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki opened the defense ministers' council meeting in Nairobi with a call for financial support and troop contributions to a new stand-by force. Mr. Kibaki said that troops should be available within three years to handle any crisis, from terrorist attacks to natural disasters, on the African continent.
The new force, to be called the Eastern Africa Standby Brigade (EASBRIG) has its headquarters in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa, as well as a planning department in Kenya. Though exact numbers of soldiers have yet to be announced, military officials have said EASBRIG will be made up of five brigades.
Officials of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD), a seven-country regional development organization in East Africa, say the new force is needed, because they are overwhelmed with demands for troops to be sent to war-torn areas on the continent, including Sudan's Darfur region, Somalia and Democratic Republic of Congo.
The chairwoman of the Council of Ministers of Defense and Security for the Eastern African Region, Ruth Nankabirwa Santamu, said that the force will help fill the growing demand for African soldiers in the region.
"This will save us from the situation we are in currently in Somalia, where member states have pledged troops, [but] because of some problems they have not honored their commitment," she said. "So the establishment of the Eastern African stand-by brigade, will be on stand by to be called upon to deploy rapidly and save the situation."
The formation of the stand-by force in East Africa will mark the sixth such force on the African continent. They are part of an effort by African countries to resolve their own conflicts, rather than rely on international forces from organizations such as the United Nations and European Union.
A total of 13 countries have already signed up to participate in the new force. They are Kenya, Uganda, Sudan, Rwanda, Mauritius, Madagascar, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Seychelles, Somalia and Tanzania.