African solutions don’t depend on US – Maite Nkoana-Mashabane

2014-08-04 08:41

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African states involved in setting up a continental rapid response force will be “brainstorming” with the United States about what they need from them, international relations minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane has said.

But the establishment of the force does not depend on whether the US gets involved.

Speaking at a briefing in Washington DC yesterday, ahead of this week’s US-Africa leaders summit, where peace and security is also set to be discussed, she said although the feedback from potential international partners was positive, finding “an African solution to African problems” was up to the continent’s forces.

She said US President Barack Obama called President Jacob Zuma shortly after his inauguration in May and raised this matter.

“He said America supports this initiative of ACIRC [African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises] but we also stand ready to provide material support.”

Nkoana-Mashabane said the Americans “have come out openly to say they agree with the position African leaders have taken that they support African solutions to African problems.”

However, she also hinted that African countries were “talking to friends internationally” who were ready to provide assistance, but she didn’t name them.

South Africa is the first country that will be providing forces on standby for the initiative, which will be launching in October and which will be under the auspices of the African Union (AU). The force is meant to intervene in conflicts, such as those in the Central African Republic and South Sudan.

City Press reported yesterday that the South African defence force was short on budgeted money for such a force and would be needing equipment to help deploy troops.

It is on this level that the US, through its controversial Africa command, Africom, would be helping.

Some leaders have resisted this, saying they would prefer to be under-resourced than to see the Americans getting involved at all.

The Washington Post reported yesterday that the Pentagon needed to expand into Africa “as the United States grapples with the spread of extremism and violence in countries such as South Sudan and Libya”.

American embassies had to be evacuated in both countries.

Africom spokesperson Benjamin Benson told the paper that the organisation was adapting its strategy to not only partner with African militaries, but to “grapple with instability and transnational security threats”.

Africom has about 2000 personnel assigned to it, 1500 of whom work at its headquarters in Stuttgart in Germany.

Benson said there were 5000 US personnel stationed across the continent.

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