South African president Jacob Zuma has termed the Obama administration’s commitment of up to $550 million over three years to African peace and security “a buy-in”.
Welcoming the superpower’s commitment made during the recent US Africa Leaders Summit, Zuma, who is also Commander-in-Chief of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) and one of the leading proponents of ACIRC (African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises), said it was a welcome move.
“We secured a buy-in from the US for Africa’s peace and security initiatives, including support for the capacitation of the African Standby Force (ASF). They (the US) understand our position clearly that we want support but that this process must be African led and controlled.
“As President (Barack) Obama said, the boots must be African. We believe we are finding one another on these matters,” South Africa’s first citizen is reported as having said in a statement issued by the Presidency.
In addition to allocating at least $110 million a year over the next three years to assist African nations develop peacekeeping forces that can be rapidly deployed to head off militant threats and other crises on the continent, the US will also make available $65 million to bolster security institutions. This money will go to Ghana, Kenya, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Tunisia.
The US plans to partner with Senegal, Ghana, Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda to develop rapid response forces. These forces would deploy as part of United Nations or African Union missions.
Obama said after the conclusion of the first ever US Africa Leader Summit he did not want to see more Americans in uniform on the ground in Africa.
“We don’t have a desire to expand and create a big foot print inside Africa. What we want to make sure we can do is partner with the AU, with individual countries to build up their capacity,” he said.
While the US commitment to Africa is set to increase massively, South African defence and military relations with Chile are also set to enter a new era following last week’s state visit by Michelle Bachelet, president of the South American country.
In a joint declaration Zuma and Bachelet said: “In view of both countries’ experience in peacekeeping and conflict resolution operations in their respective regions, an exchange of expertise could prove to be beneficial for current and future peacekeeping efforts under the umbrella of the United Nations. The Presidents acknowledge Chile’s significant role as provider of UN peacekeeping troops. Chile is the fourth largest contributor of troops in the Latin American region.
“Additionally, there are opportunities for co-operation between navies, given both countries share similar interests in maritime affairs, with extensive coastlines and the attendant challenges such as piracy, drug and human trafficking. There is significant scope for co-operation in exchanges of training opportunities.”
While this will be explored in follow-up meetings between senior South African military personnel and their Chilean counterparts, Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula showed she has the best interests of South African soldiers at heart when she addressed last week’s Great Lakes Conference in New York.
“South Africa has continuously recognised the employment of military force is not an end in itself but a means toward an end,” she said, adding it had to be crucial for peaceful means of resolving conflict to be given a chance “whenever such opportunities present themselves”.
“We are encouraged by the display from some elements of the FDLR of intent to disarm and demobilise and follow the path of peace. We call upon all parties to assist in ensuring disarmament of the FDLR is given a chance to succeed and it is handled in a manner that serves to inspire other armed groups to follow suit. We further call upon all armed groups in eastern DRC to follow the example set by these elements of the FDLR.
“For the successful execution of the Force Intervention Brigade’s (FIB) primary responsibility (to disarm and demobilise the armed groups to neutralise them) we also urge the Special Representative and Head of MONUSCO, Martin Kobler to ensure all means possible are taken to enable the FIB to avoid mission creep and remain with undivided attention when executing its primary responsibility.
“In this regard we wish to urge the use of the FIB to, inter alia, secure the demobilisation centres, be avoided as this may weaken its operational capability especially in instances where offensive military action may be necessary to induce forced disarmament and demobilisation. Such tasking would be more acceptable at a later stage when most of the armed groups have been disarmed and demobilised,” Mapisa-Nqakula said.