UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
AFRICA: Belgian minister proposes joint EU-AU peacekeeping training centres
BRUSSELS, 24 Nov 2005 (IRIN) - Belgian Development Cooperation Minister Armand de Decker is seeking support from his counterparts in the European Union for his proposal to create peacekeeping training centres in Africa, in partnership with the African Union (AU), a senior official in the Belgian government has said.
"This would reinforce cohesion among African states, which would work together on sensitive security issues and would, at the same time, enable Europeans to work together in matters of security," Michel Lastchenko, Decker's deputy director, told IRIN on Wednesday.
He said the centres would be built in Africa and would provide quality peacekeeping training to both African and European armed forces.
Decker made the proposal to the EU General Affairs and External Relations Council on Monday, one month ahead of an EU heads of state's summit due to adopt the 2005-2015 "European Strategy for Africa".
The European Commission, the EU's executive arm, approved in October the "European Strategy for Africa", which advocates the increase of aid to Africa and its efforts at maintaining peace and security; good and effective governance; social cohesion; and environmental sustainability.
"It would not be a bad idea to include Decker's proposal into the strategy," Lastchenko said.
He added that the AU would be associated with the discussion on the implementation of the idea. He said issues regarding budget and financing had not yet been addressed.
Since Africa's independence era in the 1960s, wars have ravaged many of its countries, claiming hundreds of thousands of lives and forcing millions to flee their homes. A number of peacekeeping missions supported by the UN, the AU (whose forerunner was the Organisation of African Unity) and other regional bodies have been established in Africa and are conducted by military forces with no prior training in that area. Some of the past missions have failed for lack of money as well as adequate peacekeepers.
"This would be a long term initiative and would involve African and European instructors," Lastchenko said.
Moreover, he said, Decker had on the same occasion suggested the opening of similar schools of administration, commerce and management in Africa. The aim, he said, would be to "have a form of good governance that spreads similarly and simultaneously in African countries".
The AU or the New Economic Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) would determine the details of the implementation of this initiative, he said.
Past initiatives on peacekeeping training in Africa include an international peacekeeping training centre in Accra, Ghana, which opened its doors to a first intake of military officers and civilian officials from 15 different African states in November 2003.
Ghana has a long history of support for UN peacekeeping missions and the Kofi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre on the outskirts of the capital, Accra, was built with the help of German aid money.
In January 2004, the commandant of the college, Brig-Gen Charles Mankatah, told IRIN that participants from the West African regional grouping, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) got the first choice as the centre was meant to build capacity for the sub-region.
The peacekeeping centre provides courses lasting two to four weeks on topics such as conflict management, peace support operations, governance and election monitoring. It is aimed at junior and middle ranking officers up to the level of colonel who have to take operational decisions in the field.
The peacekeeping centre has the capacity to run courses, sometimes concurrently, for 20 to 40 participants. Course fees range from US $2,400 to $4,200 per head.
The names of all those who pass through the new peacekeeping centre are placed on a database, so that organisations such as the UN can tap in to their expertise.
Major UN peacekeeping operations in Africa include those in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Sudan.
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