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East African Officials Discuss Defense Force


Officials from several eastern African countries met in Kenya's capital to continue work on putting together a regional peacekeeping force.

Defense ministers and representatives from Djibouti, Somalia, Rwanda, Uganda, Ethiopia, Sudan, and Kenya approved budgets for the Eastern Africa Standby Brigade.

Heads of state involved in the forces' formation are also to meet in Ethiopia in June to finalize coordination arrangements for the 13-nation regional force.

In their opening statements, officials from the seven-nation regional grouping Inter-Governmental Authority on Development, known as IGAD, along with the African Union and two governments stressed the importance of having the Eastern Africa Standby Brigade operational as soon as possible.

IGAD director for peace and security, Daniel Yifru, explains the brigade's importance.

"It enables the states of the eastern Africa region to work together to advance the objectives of peace, security, and stability," he said.

Until now, IGAD has been organizing the peacekeeping troops from the eastern Africa area as part of a larger initiative of the African Union to provide security all across the continent.

But now, an independent body, which will include non-IGAD member states, is to oversee the formation and operation of the Eastern Africa Standby Brigade.

In an earlier interview, IGAD Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution Chief Peter Marwa told VOA the Eastern Africa Standby Brigade aims to have at least 4,500 troops and 1,000 police and other civilians available to the African Union as an African Standby Force.

Marwa had said that the slow international response to the genocide in Rwanda a decade ago is one factor behind the creation of the AU force.

The troops and civilians organized by IGAD are to come from 13 countries, including: Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Rwanda, Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles, Sudan, Somalia, Tanzania, and Uganda.

IGAD is one of five regional groupings that will contribute troops to the African Union Standby force, which the 53-member pan-African body created in 2002.