JOHANNESBURG, 15 Mar 2005 (IRIN) - Military experts from
member states of the Southern African Development Community
(SADC) are meeting regularly to prepare for the formation of
a standby peacekeeping brigade in the region by the end of
this year, a senior official told IRIN.
"Troops will be volunteered by the member states according to
their capacity, as and when the need arises," explained
Magang Phologane, political officer in the SADC Organ for
Politics, Defence and Security.
SADC is one of the five continental regions that are each
contributing a brigade to form an African Standby Force as
part of an African Union (AU) initiative to develop a common
security policy by 2010.
According to researchers Vanessa Kent and Mark Malan at the
Pretoria-based Institute for Security Studies, the force will
also include expert police and civilian capacity.
African defence chiefs have established long-term deployment
targets for the standby force that coincide with UN
timelines: to be able to have boots on the ground in a
traditional peacekeeping operation within 30 days of the
adoption of a resolution, and in complex peacekeeping
operations within 90 days, said Kent and Malan.
The SADC's Phologane said, "There are no pre-identified
troops/weapons/military equipment for the brigade, which will
be headquartered within the SADC secretariat, which is
currently based in Botswana's capital, Gaborone."
South African Defence Minister Mosiuoa Lekota, chairman of
the SADC's interstate defence and security council, called an
unscheduled meeting earlier this month to "exchange views on
the finalisation of the SADC brigade of the African Standby
Forces", among other issues, reported the South African Press
He told SAPA that SADC was becoming increasingly involved
in "theatres of conflict" and the brigade would ensure that
this responsibility was carried as a collective and not left
to individual countries.
Lekota has often commented that South Africa's peacekeeping
capacity was stretched to the limit. Besides deploying troops
to UN operations in the Democratic Republic of Congo and
Burundi, South Africa has sent military observers and staff
officers to missions in Ethiopia/Eritrea, Liberia, and Sudan.
With over 3,000 men and women from the South African Defence
Force deployed in these operations last year, South Africa
was "a significant, if not the largest, contributor of
peacekeeping troops in Africa", noted the ministry's 2003/04