2 February 2013

Africa: On Policing Africa, Leaders Walk the Talk

What happened at the recent African Union (AU) summit in the Ethiopian capital, Addis-Ababa, may not necessarily mean a swift African intervention in Mali because it's already too late, but it could be a sign of awakening on the part of African leaders in ensuring their responsibility to guard the continent's security.

In what experts are describing as unprecedented, the AU has allocated US$50m from its own budget to support its intervention in Mali while it has also secured another US$455 million in pledges to support the mission through a fundraising conference held on Tuesday.

"For the first time in the history of the African Union the budget will be used to support a peace operation," Ramtane Lamamra, AU's Peace and Security Commissioner said.

The African-led force for Mali which has been dubbed African-led mission in Mali (AFISMA) will require a budget of US$460m to support Mali's army against Islamist militants in the northern part of the country.

While the responsibility to guard security in Africa should naturally belong to Africans-- they are the first to suffer when it is disturbed--their leaders had in the past pledged their will to guard peace without making a clear financial commitment towards that end.

Whenever Africans call for international peacekeeping missions to get out of Africa's conflict-torn regions so that African forces could replace them on the task, they also accompany it with their challenge of not having funds to support their own missions and hence give richer countries an excuse to stay.

Talk to any security analyst in Africa on the challenge to avoid foreign intervention to police the continent and the first challenge they present is of logistical inferiority.

"It would be great if they allow regional forces to take over, but from where are they going to get the means? Where are they going to get the money?" wondered Prof. Pierre Rwanyindo, the Director of the Kigali-based Institute of Research and Dialogue for Peace (IRDP) during an interview with The New Times on the topic of allowing regional forces to replace the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Congo (MONUSCO).

But the experience from the recent AU summit could show that logistics shouldn't be an issue when the continent's leaders have the will to guard their own security.

It is indeed interesting that speeches like that made by Rwanda's President Paul Kagame where he urged fellow leaders to do more with actions rather than just words, were accompanied by a fundraising initiative that did just that, by raising $455 million.

"As Africans, we need to do more. And doing more today is to significantly contribute to the funding and logistical requirements of AFISMA, as well as of the Malian Defense and Security Forces. True, our means are limited, but surely not our willingness and commitment to our continent and to the survival of every single Member State of our Union," President Kagame had said at the meeting.

And once Africans show, in both words and actions, that they are committed to the cause of guarding their own security, foreigners are likely to support them with the needed logistics instead of deploying their own sons and daughters on the ground.

The reason why foreigners would support African efforts to guard its own security are various, including the fact that Africa is blessed with natural resources. Security remains vital for the presence of rich countries' experts on the ground to exploit the resources.

For example, just days after 10 Japanese were killed when jihadists attacked a gas plant in Algeria, last Tuesday Japan pledged to give $120 million to help AFISMA and in stabilisation efforts for other Islamist-infested regions in the Sahel region of North Africa.

As the French wind up their mission in Mali and hopefully hand over to 8,000 troops of AFISMA who will carry on the task to hunt down the retreating al Qaeda-allied insurgents, the efforts that will have made AFISMA possible shouldn't be stopped.

They should be continued in order to build a stronger and permanent military force to guard Africa. Otherwise, it will continue to seem fair for foreign forces to intervene in Africa whenever Africans fail to guard their own security.

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