China and Japan have joined several African states in pledging support towards peacekeeping operations on the African continent.
Japan, which still has a post World War II pacifist constitution, has pledged US$40 million and engineering equipment to support African Union and United Nations-led missions on the continent.
The Asian nation, cannot dispatch soldiers to peacekeeping missions as it is not allowed by its 1945 constitution to take part in military missions abroad.
During the African Regional Meeting on Peacekeeping operations held at the Ethiopian Peacekeeping Coordination Center in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia last week, the Japanese Embassy in Addis Ababa disclosed that it would provide the heavy equipment as soon as possible.
China, whose influence is growing increasingly on the continent, has pledged to continue providing troops for peacekeeping missions.
“China is committed to Africa’s stability. We will continue providing soldiers to maintain peace in Africa. At the moment we have 2, 600 soldiers serving in several peacekeeping operations in Africa,” said a Chinese official at the meeting.
|Ethiopian President Dr. Mulatu Teshome opening the meeting|
China sent a uniformed delegation of senior officers from the People’s Liberation Army to the two-day meeting.
The country’s role in peacekeeping operations in Africa is increasingly being tied to its huge appetite for Africa’s minerals which is badly needed for its growing economy.
The two day meeting was opened by Ethiopian President Dr. Mulatu Teshomo and brought together Defence Ministers and Chiefs of Staff from over 30 African countries and 10 foreign donor countries such as China, Japan, USA, UK, France and others.
The meeting, which was jointly organised with the United Nations,, was hosted to find ways of increasing the rapid deployment capabilities of African countries.
United Nations Military Advisor on Peacekeeping Operations General Maqsood Ahmed said the global body is facing challenges in deploying troops quickly when a crisis breaks out.
|General Maqsood Ahmed|
“It is not easy to quickly deploy forces on the ground. It takes 30, 60 or 90 days to mobilise, deploy and operationalised peacekeepers. We need to fasten the process to save lives and maintain peace,” said General Ahmed, a Pakistan military chief who has vast experience in peacekeeping operations worldwide.
During the meeting, US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Holt called for the protection of civilians in conflict areas.
“We have so many people who are affected in conflicts. However, what is of paramount importance is the protection of civilians. We should ensure that when we deploy forces, their mandate must be to keep the peace and protect civilians,” said Holt.
Cameroon, Burundi, Liberia, Madagascar and Sierra Leone are some of the African countries that pledged battalions, platoons and Police units to beef up the existing and future peace missions.
Zambia, which was represented by Defence Minister Richwell Siamunene and senior Army and Air Force officers, pledged to continue supporting peace missions.
“I want to reaffirm my country’s commitment to the maintenance of peace on the continent. Your Excellencies, Zambia has sent peacekeepers to Liberia, Sierra Leone and now Central Africa Republic,” said Mr Siamunene, as he addressed the gathering on its final day.
“You will recall that in 2007 my country hosted the SADC Standby Brigade. This is further commitment that we are ready to do even more.”
Meanwhile, the African Union has disclosed that the long awaited operationalisation of the Africa Standby Force is scheduled for October in South Africa.
African Union Commissioner for Peace and Security Smail Chergui says the standby force will be able to quickly deploy anywhere in Africa to respond to conflicts and emergencies.
“We are hopeful that once this force is operationalised, we will be able to respond to crises quicker and promptly anywhere on the continent,” said Mr Chergui.
The meeting heard from experts that of the various regional standby military brigades, East Africa and West Africa had advanced while other regions were still struggling to make their forces ready for action.