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African Union Inaugurates Own Security Council - 2004-05-25

The African Union Tuesday inaugurated its own security council whose mandate is to protect peace on the continent. Analysts are skeptical about the success of the council's mission.

Leaders of several African countries were among the dignitaries at the official launch of the African Union's Peace and Security Council in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa.

The 15 member Peace and Security Council is described in a 2002 protocol as being a collective security and early-warning arrangement. Its role is to monitor cease-fire agreements and deploy peacekeepers into volatile areas.

Analysts VOA spoke to welcome the idea as a step forward in Africa's effort to take control over developments on the continent.

Jan Van Eck, the Burundi specialist at the Institute for Security Studies in Pretoria, said "there was a commitment that there must be African solutions to African problems."

He said the African Union broke new ground by sending some 2,600 troops to Burundi last year to monitor the implementation a cease-fire between the government and the country's main rebel group. "Going there while there's not peace yet, I think, was a completely new principle in international peacekeeping. We would not have been able to reach this stage of the peace process had it not been for the African Mission," he said.

But, he cautions the council's big political challenge will be to decide if and when to intervene in the internal affairs of African countries.

A professor of history and international relations at the U.S. International University, Macharia Munene, agrees. "We do not have the same level of commitment in terms of political liberty, in terms of whether or not somebody should look into what you are doing. Although the AU has tried to move away from the principle of non-interference in internal affairs, there are still many countries who believe that should not be pushed too far," he said.

He said having set up the security council, AU member countries must now follow through by giving the council the funding, equipment, and other resources needed to do the job.

The AU peacekeeping contingent is expected to have 15,000 troops.