Eleven nations to provide troops to AU Standby Force

A 3,000-strong East African brigade will soon be on standby to carry out peacekeeping operations under the flag of the African Union (AU). Defense chiefs from 11 nations agreed on Friday in the Rwandan capital, Kigali, to set up the unit.

"The force should be able to respond to threats to peace on the continent," Gen. James Kabarebe, chief of staff of the Rwanda Defence Forces, told IRIN on Friday.

He said it was part of the AU's initiative to share responsibility for ensuring stability and development in Africa. The Eastern African Standby Brigade is to be one of five such formations in a continent-wide African Standby Force, which 53 African nations agreed in 2002 to create. The AU has since been soliciting funding, training, and coordination from the donor community.

West African military leaders met in June and agreed to set up their brigade.

The head of research and development in the Rwandan land force, Lt. Col. Charles Karamba, told IRIN, "We hope that before the end of this year, the [east African] brigade will be up and running and ready to be deployed in peacekeeping operations in conflict areas."

Troops for the eastern brigade are to remain in their respective countries but the headquarters will be set up in the Ethiopian capital, Addis Ababa, while a secretariat would be located in Kenya's capital Nairobi.

The command of the brigade would rotate annually, and in alphabetical order, among member states, but starting with Ethiopia. The states contributing to this brigade are Burundi, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Madagascar, Rwanda, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.

The AU recently deployed its first 300-member monitoring force to Sudan's Darfur region, consisting of troops from Rwanda and Nigeria. This week the United States, which has introduced a draft UN resolution on Sudan, has called for the AU to provide additional forces.