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African Union to Create Standby Peacekeeping Force - 2004-09-13

The African Union plans to have several thousand eastern African troops on stand-by to carry out peacekeeping operations. The force is part of a larger effort for the pan-African organization to provide security on the continent.

The peacekeeping troops from the eastern Africa area are being organized by a seven-nation regional grouping called the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development, known as IGAD.

IGAD Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution Chief Peter Malwa says the Eastern Africa Standby Brigade aims to have at least 4500 troops and 1000 police and other civilians available to the African Union for its African Standby Force.

Mr. Malwa explains that the slow international response to the genocide in Rwanda a decade ago is one factor behind the creation of the AU force.

"The Africa Standby Force is seen in the context of a rapid response unit to a crisis situation," said Mr. Malwa. "It also can serve as a bridging mechanism. If, for example, the United Nations decided that this particular area requires a peacekeeping force, this particular force can then be deployed while waiting for the rest of the peacekeeping from other areas to come in."

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

Representatives from most of the countries met in Rwanda late last week to work out a budget and structure for the brigade.

Mr. Malwa says the Eastern Africa Standby Brigade will cost $2.5 million dollars to set up in the first year.

AU spokesman Desmond Orjiako says funding and other support for all standby troops will come from the AU Peace and Security Fund, AU donor countries, the UN Security Council, and the regions.

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