Recently US Army Col. Steve Smith joined discussions with Burundian generals about how Burundi conducts peacekeeping efforts in Somalia. He was leading the way for US Army Africa partnerships on the continent.
In mid-January, Smith led a team to work with Burundian officers on ways to enhance Burundi’s leadership capacity as their military prepares to deploy its next rotation of peacekeepers to Mogadishu. Smith, of the US Army’s Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute and Lt. Col. Ronald Miller, an Africa expert from US Army Africa headquarters, held discussions with senior Burundian military officers at the Ministry of Defense in Bujumbura.
“We discussed the US military’s way of planning for operations at the brigade level, using what we call MDMP, the military decision making process,” Smith said. “We also talked about how US Army officers run a brigade-level command post.”
Burundi and Uganda share peacekeeping duties under the African Union Mission in Somalia, an operation designed to stabilize Somalia’s security situation following decades of war and chaos. African peacekeepers in Somalia face daily challenges as they mentor Somalis in security operations and work to counter extremist groups like al-Shabaab.
The US Army effort is part of a larger effort by the US government to support Burundi in its peacekeeping efforts, said Brig. Gen. Cyprien Ndikuryio, chief of Burundi’s land forces. The US has helped with training and equipment, followed by these senior leader discussions, he said.
“My colleagues and I are senior officers. One of them, or I, could be appointed to higher responsibilities in Somalia’s peacekeeping mission and use what we have learned,” Ndikuryio said.
Until now, Burundi’s military planned missions similar to the way Belgian and French militaries work. The Ugandan People’s Defense Force, Burundi’s partner in AMISOM, already employs a planning system that is similar to the US military, Smith said.
“It’s incredibly important for Burundi, as they are working alongside other armies using the US-based model, to promote interoperability and overall efficiency,” Smith said.
In 2006, Burundi ended its 12-year civil war. Since then, Burundi has made strides toward partnering with its East African neighbours and the United States.
In October 2009, Burundian troops took part in Natural Fire 10, a US Army Africa-led humanitarian and civil assistance exercise held in Uganda. During that time, Maj. Gen. William B. Garrett III, commander of US Army Africa, visited Bujumbura to watch Burundian troops undergoing training with the US State Department-led African Contingency Operations Training and Assistance (ACOTA) program.
Burundian senior leaders then asked US Army Africa to help with a familiarization event on brigade-level peacekeeping operations. Leaders from PKSOI at Carlisle Barracks in Pennsylvania offered their expertise for the event.
“This effort in Burundi has been a great opportunity for the US Army to engage with a partner nation’s land forces on the continent,” Smith said. “There’s a tremendous potential here, a great thirst for knowledge.”
Smith’s Burundi assignment also benefits PKSOI in their efforts, he said.
“I’m taking back with me a better understanding of US Army Africa operations and what’s happening on the ground in Africa,” Smith said. “That knowledge will help PKSOI plan to support future missions.”
The talks came at a key time for the Burundian military, as they prepare to deploy a new rotation of peacekeepers to Somali.
“This support was very important and effective,” Ndikuryio said. “We appreciate this cooperation with US Army Africa. We hope to interact with the command in the future.”