East African military chiefs began a three-day meeting in Nairobi on Monday to review security progress in the region ravaged by conflicts, insecurity and poverty, Xinhua reported April 24, 2006:
The East African Chiefs of Defense Staff Meeting which drew military chiefs from 12 states called on regional governments to support the Eastern Africa Standby Brigade to deal with conflicts in Sudan, northern Uganda, Eritrea, Ethiopia and other trouble spots.
In his opening remarks, Kenya's Defense Minister Njenga Karume said the African Union (AU) is assembling a strong rapid response force to deal with conflicts and disasters on the continent.
"The African Union has formed a standby force aimed at ensuring quick intervention in conflicts arising within the continent," Karume told military chiefs from Kenya, Uganda, Sudan, Rwanda, Mauritius, Madagascar, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Seychelles, Somalia and Tanzania.
Karume said that under the Eastern Africa Standby Brigade, the force is meant to encourage Africans to deal with crises on their own continent, where the AU will have the authority to intervene in border wars and internal conflicts.
Kenya's Chief of General Staff, Gen. Jeremiah Kianga, decried insecurity and conflicts as major problems underpinning the continent's backwardness.
"Waging peace is the new battle cry for Africa and in that battle fields we are currently the front-line troops and we carry the hopes and aspirations of many in Africa and our region in particularly," said Gen. Kianga.
Kianga, having said Kenya had played a key role in conflict resolution in Somalia and Sudan, called for more help to make the idea a reality.
"With logistic support, troops from Africa can help immensely in resolving conflicts in the states affected by civil strife," said Kianga.
"Our sub-region has historically been one of the most conflict-prone in the continent and this has created a great yearning for peace amongst our peoples, which we must work very hard, to fulfill," he added.
About 2,000 Kenyan troops have been deployed in various parts of the world in peacekeeping missions.
Africa has standby brigades in each of the continent's five regions -- eastern, southern, western, northern and central Africa. Each brigade comprises four light infantry battalions, each with 750 personnel and 70 vehicles and a military observer unit with 120 officers.
"We have our troops in five African regions on standby to deal with civil strife and disaster occurrences in any country on the continent," said officials from the AU.
The officials said the AU would harmonize the five regional brigades to make it easy for troops get deployed to any country faced with conflict or disaster.
Kenya is part of the East Africa Stand-by Brigade, which has its headquarters in Nairobi and is operating through the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD).
But the officials said the Nairobi meeting plans to set up a new Secretariat to be based in Nairobi to de-link conflict resolution from IGAD.
IGAD's member states include Kenya, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, Rwanda and Djibouti.
The military chiefs are expected to come up with recommendations which will be approved by the defense ministers who are due to meet in Kenya's capital of Nairobi on Wednesday. Enditem Editor: Lin Li