Experts discuss peace and security in Africa

Africa is one of the strategically and economically important regions of the world, yet it is one of the most unstable regions. 

Achieving peace and security in Africa was the topic of a workshop at the just concluded 2009 US-Africa Business Conference in Washington, DC hosted by the Corporate Council on Africa.

Among the questions the panelists addressed were how to achieve security in Africa and what should be the role of powerful countries such as the United States and international organizations.
Ambassador Vicki Huddleston, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Africa said in addition to African diplomacy recent trend of military interventions by the African Union and regional organizations could help bring peace and security to Africa.
“What I think is unique in Africa is the fact that under the African Union, and indeed under the regional organizations, ECOWAS in particular, you have seen African militaries intervene as peacekeepers more than any other place.
So I would define security when these organizations can do this regularly capably and address the problems in a way that would be a persuasive deterrence to some of the conflicts that we do see in Africa,” she said.
Huddleston, whose office also advises the US Africa Command (AFRICOM), said the role of the United States and its international partners would be to provide logistics support.
Since its creation in 2007, the US Africa Command has been met with great skepticism from Africans. Some see it as the United States seeking to acquire military bases or oil interests around Africa. 
But Ambassador Huddleston says AFRICOM aims to build the capacity of African militaries.
“First of all, it’s the building capacity of African militaries so that they’ll respond to civilian controls, so that they’re professional or help provide the training so that African militaries can help provide security in their nations and so doing provide the platform for development,” Huddleston said.
She also said AFRICOM was there to help African nations and regional organizations prevent trans-national terrorism and humanitarian crises such as in Sudan and.
Michael Bittrick,deputy director of regional and security affairs in the State Department’s Africa Bureau, said the State Department is taking a holistic approach to peace and security in Africa, including the training of local police.
“If you look at our FY10 administration request, you’re talking numbers more on the kin of $100 million (R745 million) and more for funding police activities in Africa.
We say $4 million (R29 million) in FY02; FY10 over a $100 million for police training. I think clearly the right trend and again holistic,” he said.
But Bittrick said all the training could be useless if corruption in the various country security sectors like the police and judiciary is not brought under control.

Pic: AU peacekeepers in Africa