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African defense ministers agree to form rapid response force

KAMPALA Uganda (Xinhua) -- African defense ministers meeting in the Ugandan capital Kampala on Tuesday agreed to set up a rapid response force that will be deployed anywhere on the continent where violence erupts.

The ministers agreed to meet in October to develop operations budget and cell activities, second officers to the African Union (AU) early warning systems and pledged capabilities.

The ministers were meeting under the African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crisis (ACIRC) Volunteer Nations, an interim multinational initiative set up in November 2013 for military interventions as and when the need arises on the continent.

The ministers and government representatives from Algeria, Angola, Burkina Faso, Chad, Egypt, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, South Africa, Niger, Sudan and Uganda decided that at the next meeting they will forward their recommendations to the heads of state for approval.

The force will act in the interim before the permanent African Standby Force (ASF) comes in place by 2018.

Smail Chergui, AU Commissioner for Peace and Security, urged the member countries to contribute to the peace fund to ensure the effectiveness of the ACIRC.

"Key issues include strengthening voluntarism spirit, preparing your forces and resources for the deployment," said Chergui.

"This will ensure that we demonstrate in concrete terms to our colleagues and to the international community of our commitment to sustainable peace through our own resources," he said.

AU has had challenges funding its peacekeeping missions, forcing it to depend on external funders like the European Union which supported the AU peacekeeping mission in Somalia.

Chergui said the coming into place of the rapid response force before the ASF would send a political message that the continent is committed to finding internal solutions to problems.

Chergui said it will also show that Africa is ready to defend its security interests without depending on external support.

"The withdrawal of Western countries from African conflict management after the disasters encountered in Somalia in 1993 and Rwanda in 1994, strengthens the ACIRC initiative."

The deployment of the force would be a responsibility of the AU Peace and Security Council in consultations with volunteering countries.

Africa faces a series of security challenges ranging from internal conflicts, violent extremism, and natural calamities like drought and floods.

The on-going conflicts in South Sudan, Somalia, Burundi and the Democratic Republic of the Congo pose a challenge as hundreds of civilians continue to be killed and thousands flee for safety.

"We are all aware of the continued insecurity and conflict that continues to plague our continent, but our resolve as a region to forge peace remains total," Ruhakana Rugunda, Uganda’s Prime Minister, told the one-day meeting.

"Cumulatively, these efforts will create a more conducive environment for the advancement of our people and the fulfillment of their long cherished dream of well-being," he added.

According to experts, at least 30 million U.S. dollars are required from member states to be able to deploy one battle group and force headquarters for the financial year 2017/18.

Each voluntary nation is required to contribute 12,000 dollars annually for ACIRC operations and administrative matters.

"ACIRC is premised on voluntarism that people can work together to stem out trouble when it happens. It depends on those willing to volunteer to help," Gen. David Muhoozi, Uganda’s Chief of Defense Forces, told Xinhua in an interview.

Burundi sends over 1,800 soldiers to Somalia’s peacekeeping mission

BUJUMBURA Burundi (Xinhua) -- A total of 1,819 Burundian troops of the 44th and 45th battalions have started to replace the 38th and 39th battalions serving in the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), the Burundian army spokesman said Tuesday.

"Some troops have already departed to Somalia, but a big number of them flew today morning to Somalia," said Burundian Army Spokesman Colonel Gaspard Baratuza.

Baratuza said the work of Burundian troops serving in the AMISOM is "commendable," while their "successful" mission faces several challenges.

Burundi is a main contributor of troops in the AMISOM.

The failure to pay Burundian peacekeepers’ salaries for 12 months had previously forced the Burundian government to threaten to withdraw its troops from Somalia.

The salary arrears issue was only solved following the visit, earlier this year, of Commissioner for Peace and Security for the African Union (AU) Smail Chergui.

Since December 2007, the east African nation has deployed six rotating battalions comprising about 5,500 troops in Somalia.

Ethiopia’s September UNSC presidency to focus on African conflicts resolution

ADDIS ABABA  Ethiopia (Xinhua) -- Ethiopia’s presidency of United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in September will focus on resolution of conflicts in Somalia, South Sudan and the Great Lakes region.

Speaking to Xinhua on Tuesday, Meles Alem, Spokesperson of Ethiopian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA), said as part of efforts to resolve these conflicts the country will host a meeting in September 7 and 8 in Addis Ababa of the UNSC member states.

Ethiopia is already mediating in particular the conflicts in South Sudan and Somalia through the regional body Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), of which all three countries are members.

Ethiopia will also host a meeting in September 20 on efforts to boost UN peacekeeping forces numbers and capability.

The East African nation is currently the largest peacekeeping contributing nation in Africa and is among top four peacekeeping forces contributing nations globally.

These include the UN Hybrid Mission in Darfur (UNAMID), UN Mission in Liberia (UNML), UN Mission in the Republic of South Sudan(UNMISS), and UN Operations in Cote d’Ivoire (UNOCI) as well as the UN Interim Security Force for Abyei (UNISFA) in which Ethiopia is providing all of the 4,400 troops deployed in Abyei, between Sudan and South Sudan.

Ethiopia will assume the presidency on the United Nations Security Council next month from fellow UN Security council member Egypt.

Ethiopia took its seat as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in January after securing 185 votes out of the 190 vote election in June last year.

The non-permanent seat at the UNSC is given for a two year period for 10 of the 15 member states represented in the UN body, with Ethiopia expected to serve the 2017-18 period.

This is the third stint for Ethiopia being a UN Security Council non-permanent member having served on two other periods from 1968-69 and 1989-90.

Rwanda pledges more support to UN peace keeping

KIGALI Rwanda (Xinhua) -- The Rwandan government on Tuesday pledged continued support to the United Nations peacekeeping operations around the World.

Rwanda’s minister of defence James Kabarebe made the commitment while speaking at the UN peace operations preparatory meeting in the capital city of Kigali.

More than 100 delegates from UN peacekeeping troops and finance contributing countries participate in the two-day meeting, which kicked off on Tuesday, to discuss modalities to improve peacekeeping.

Delegates are discussing issues like protecting those at risk and early warning and rapid deployment as selected themes and so on.

Rwanda has made significant efforts to strengthen peacekeeping operations within Africa and outside, said the defence minister, adding that Rwanda is committed to providing more support to the peacekeeping operations around the World as required by the UN.

Rwanda has provided support to UN peace operations including troops and police and equipment to bolster UN peacekeeping force, according to him.

The preparatory conference in Rwanda sets to prepare ground for the 2017 UN Peacekeeping Defense Ministerial Conference due to take place in Vancouver, Canada from Nov. 14 to 15 this year, according to organizers.

The forum has brought together more than 100 participants from UN Peacekeeping Operations troops/police contributing countries and financial contributing countries.

The 2017 UN Peacekeeping Defense Ministerial Conference in Canada is set to build on the successes of the ones previously held in New York City, the United States and London, the United Kingdom, to review current contributions by UN members, and more importantly, secure new pledges to meet the identified needs of UN peacekeeping operations, according to a statement issued by Rwanda’s defense ministry ahead of Tuesday’s meeting.

The top five troop and police contributing countries to UN peacekeeping missions are Bangladesh, Ethiopia, India, Pakistan and Rwanda.

Rwanda presently maintains over 1,800 troops as part of United Nations Mission in South Sudan. Over 600 Rwandan police officer.




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