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African Countries Working Together to Undo Past Troubles

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

BLOEMFONTEIN, South Africa, Feb. 10, 2006 – Leaders in many African countries are now conscious of the negative impact of corruption and human rights abuses, and are working together to right some past wrongs, a South African general said here yesterday.

"The task of undoing the past is ours," Brig. Gen. Leslie Rudman, director of military strategy for the South African National Defense Force, told an international gathering of senior noncommissioned officers at the Tempe Military Base here. "We will uplift ourselves only by our own efforts with the help of those who wish us well."

Many modern African leaders "understand the importance of peace and good governance," he said.

Toward this end, the African Union was formed in 2002. The ultimate aim of the federation of 53 member states is to form a single currency and single defense force.

U.S. European Command is facilitating partnerships in theater security cooperation programs among AU member nations, Army Command Sgt. Maj. Michael W. Bartelle, EUCOM's senior enlisted leader, said. EUCOM holds operational responsibility for much of Africa. The Horn of Africa, however, falls under U.S. Central Command, and U.S. Pacific Command is responsible for operations in Madagascar, an island nation off Africa's east coast.

The United States helps educate African military leaders through the International Military Education and Training program. The IMET program provides for U.S. military training teams to visit member countries and for foreign military leaders to attend U.S. military schools. The U.S. also helps fund defense-reform efforts in countries that are in line with U.S. human rights policies, Bartelle told American Forces Press Service today.

In his speech to the conference yesterday, Rudman described the tenets of the African Union's "Vision 2010" plan, designed to help quell violence and deal with natural disasters on the African continent. The AU Vision 2010 calls for an integrated, peaceful and prosperous African continent. "We recognize this is achievable, but it's going to take some effort," Rudman said.

The general said officials at the AU headquarters, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, will have completed a peace-support operations doctrine for all of Africa by the end of this month. Standard operating procedures for command and control, training, and logistics support will follow, he said.

Multinational military peace forces will be the primary mechanism to achieve peace and stability, he said, noting the AU now recognizes the value of working multilaterally. The AU's Peace and Security Council has been working to develop an "African standby force" to deal with contingencies anywhere on the continent, Rudman said. The force would not be a standing force; instead, pre-identified forces from several countries would respond if called upon.

Rudman said the establishment of the force is assured. "(The Peace and Security Council) doesn't say, 'Guys, you will stand around and discuss it and debate it,'" he said. "It says, 'You will establish it.'"

Noninterference in member states will be a tenet of the standby force except in cases of severe human rights violations or when a member state requests assistance, Rudman said.

The plan calls for Africa to be divided into five areas of responsibility: north, south, east, west and central. To deal with natural disasters or rapidly developing violent situations, the African Union is working to develop a rapid reaction/early-entry capability in each region. Under the plan, a brigade, brigade headquarters, early warning center, and logistics support structure would be located within each region.

This force will be able to deploy anywhere in Africa within 14 days to prevent killings and genocide, Rudman said. The standby force would follow such a deployment. To highlight the need for a rapid-reaction capability, Rudman noted that ethnically motivated killings in Rwanda continued for more than 100 days in 1994 while world leaders debated the best course of action.

The framework of the force has been established, but member states have not yet identified all the forces needed to fill the brigades, U.S. European Command's Bartelle said.

Bartelle and Army Command Sgt. Maj. William J. Gainey, senior enlisted advisor to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, represented the United States at the senior NCO conference here this week.

Rudman said regional military leaders understand that troops used in such a rapid-reaction force will have a high probability of being involved in combat, sustaining casualties and of losing their neutral status. "We must use them and, if at all possible, (then) remove them from the area of operations, because they will not be perceived as neutral," Rudman said. "Follow-on forces will be better able to carry out peacekeeping operations."

African countries need help from other nations to achieve their aims, Rudman said. "We need to take care of ourselves, but we need friends. We can't go it alone," he said. "If other organizations come in, we hope they are coming in with no agenda but to assist Africans."

Africa is an incredibly unpredictable operating theater. Diversity of terrain makes several contingency plans necessary. Status of governmental resources, infrastructure and the security situation vary widely. Specialized equipment is necessary in many areas.

Troops operating in Africa will have to understand how to deal with legal and illegal governments, media, nongovernmental organizations, international forces, warlords and international criminal organizations, refugees, and multinational corporations with armies' worth of private security, Rudman said. "The complexity of the area of operations is immense," he said.

Senior noncommissioned officers will be vital to the initial entry and follow-on forces, Rudman said. "The officers are going to be busy planning. The question is: Who prepares the soldiers? It's you," he told attendees at the conference.

NCOs will be responsible for mitigating language and cultural differences to ensure an "overarching military culture" dominates, Rudman said.

Senior enlisted leaders need to fully train junior leaders, who hold crucial roles in modern asymmetric military operations. According to a conference attendee from the Netherlands, 95 percent of peace-support operations are conducted on the squad level.

"It's the corporal's war," Rudman said. "Soldiers need to be empowered to make direct decisions and make them on time."

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