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African armies: Time for integration?

Opinion & Analysis
A 20 000 strong UN force is in the DRC, one brigade of which has a mandate now to extend peace-keeping to peace-making.

A 20 000 strong UN force is in the DRC, one brigade of which has a mandate now to extend peace-keeping to peace-making.

Painona with Tapiwa Nyandoro

A Brazilian, General Santos Cruz, has been put in charge of the new peace-making, or force intervention brigade, made up of 2 500 to 3 000 soldiers drawn largely from African armies.

As the deployment of the new brigade gets underway, the UN Security Council is preparing to vote for a resolution creating a peace-keeping force for Mali, largely made up of West African Armies. There could be more of the same for Central African Republic  and Somalia.

The United Nations has also appointed a special envoy to the region in the person of Lady Mary Robinson, a former Irish President. The lady, while visiting the Congo recently upon her appointment, quickly observed that a military solution is not the only way to end decades of conflict in the DRC.

Lady Robinson noted that the FIB must not detract “from the search for a sustainable political solution”.

But is a political solution enough, even if backed by the FIB eliminating the insurgency that has killed million in the Eastern DRC? Clearly this is no longer enough as events elsewhere are showing.

Afghanistan, when the West/ISAF pullout will be a confirmatory lesson.

What is needed is not only political, but socio-economic stability. And Africa has to borrow from how it was colonised, particularly by the British, to map viable solutions, albeit with adaptation, to recover failing and failed States, such as the DRC.

The same solutions with modification could be used to sustain double digit economic growth within an expanded Sadc in which sovereignty is pooled to the greater good of all.

A recent Press headline that caught my attention screamed: “Control your resources, President urges Africans”. But “How?” is the question that deserves an answer. President Robert Mugabe sought to provide an answer to this vexing question: “If we arrest the scourge of conflicts, a bright future for Africa becomes a reality as the necessary tranquil environment will then obtain”.  True, but the question metamorphoses to how do we arrest the scourge of conflicts?

His Excellency was opening the conference of intelligence and security services of Africa. He called on African nations to take control of their natural resources for the benefit of their populations after centuries of exploitation by Western countries. He should have added, “And now by the East as well”. Africa’s growth shows a great correlation to the Chinese one: to the uptake of raw commodities from Africa in particular by China. And yet the need for these commodities is higher in Africa itself.

Ironically, it is Africa that should be striving to be the economic engine of the world. This is where there is a serious deficit of infrastructure and housing stock that require those commodities that Africa seeks to export.

It is Africa with the demographic dividend that supports high economic growth. Europe has the infrastructure already. Even China’s appetite for some commodities is levelling off as services overtake manufacturing and related capital stock / investment as a percentage of GDP.

It is Africa that should be attracting global finance, and it is the African economy that should now be investment-driven, as China’s economy has been over the past three decades. But a tranquil environment is a pre-requisite. The challenge is therefore clear to Africa’s intelligence and security services.

The President also called on Africa to take responsibility for its omissions. He called on his audience to copy the Western World —and he should have added the East and the BRICS as well — in thinking forward.

The President further noted that conflict situations in Africa are costing the continent US$18 billion per annum. This is no small change. It calls for military reviews regionally, then action: Military and Security sector reforms on a regional context. Retired Supreme Court Judge, her ladyship Rita Makarau recently called for a re-branding of the Zimbabwe Republic Police. If the force was a vehicle or a product, we do in fact need a new product, a new model. And drawing a leaf from the Brazilian experience could be helpful.

Brazil, General Santos Cruz’s homeland, has a global peacekeeping and peace-enforcement strategy.  “Brazil’s elite thinks peacekeeping is part of the price you have to pay to be among the nations who make the rules”,  Monica Herz of the Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, is quoted by The Economist issue of September 25th, 2010. “Brazil”, she adds, “wants to make, as well as follow international norms”.

It is a wish that should seize our intelligence and security services at their Harare Conference.

In the year 2005 Brazil opened its peacekeeping school, the Centro de Instrucao de Operacoes de Paz (CIOpPaz) which by 2010 had trained 15 000 troops, of which 2 300 were in active duty then. Brazilian peacekeeping duty has also had domestic payoffs besides helping in modernising the army, which “shifted from purely teaching military aspects to teaching how to align military and civilian goals”.

Most SADC armies are either too small or too poor for this. But a joint SADC force {army, air force and coastal guard} and Joint Bureau of Investigations, each under a single command, funded by 2 to 3 % of GDP contribution from each state is what SADC needs. We need to build strong regional institutions to guarantee the use of our natural resources in particular, for our people. The sooner we march purposefully in this direction the better for Africa.

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