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Nigeria trains more peacekeeping troops
by Staff Writers
Abuja, Nigeria (UPI) Sep 6, 2012

File image: Nigerian peacekeeping soldier.

Nigeria is expanding its program of training troops for peacekeeping operations.

Nigeria's Minister of State for Defense Erelu Olusola Obada made the observation when the President of the Economic Community of West African States Parliament Kadiri Desire visited Obada's ministry in Abuja.

Nigeria will continue to play a peacekeeping "big brother" role in West Africa, with Nigerian peacekeeping troops being deployed to regional hotspots such as Guinea Bissau, where Obada said that Nigeria is playing a prominent role," Obada said.

Designated soldiers are being trained at the Nigerian army's Peacekeeping Center in Jaji, Kaduna for deployment.

During his visit, Desire expressed ECOWAS appreciation for the role of Nigeria was undertaking in the regional peace building process, noting that there was a need for ECOWAS West African member states to work together to ensure that peace is restored in Mali, where militants has declared independence in several regions, The Daily Trust newspaper reported.

Since the 1990s, and more recently via the Arab Spring, civil turmoil in North Africa, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea, Cote d'Ivoire and Nigeria has vividly demonstrated how conflict can quickly bleed across frontiers into neighboring countries.

In 1990, ECOWAS demonstrated its resolve to deploy peacekeepers when conflicts paralyzed the region by establishing a West African multilateral armed force, the Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group. Although ECOMOG received criticism for alleged human rights abuses in the field, the international community also praised the group for its proactive stance.

Peacekeeping operations in West Africa have altered in the two decades since ECOMOG was established, as over the past decade Africa has made significant progress in regionalizing its peace and security architecture.

Most notable is the transformation from the now obsolete Organization of African Unity to the African Union, with the AU shifting focus from "non-interference" principles to active engagement, reflecting African leaders' new willingness to prioritize human security and human rights

Four years ago ECOWAS created the ECOWAS Conflict Prevention Framework, shifting its political priorities from an "ECOWAS of States" to an "ECOWAS of the Peoples," which demonstrated African politicians' new willingness to prioritize human security issues above and beyond state political concerns.

Under the auspices of the African Union, ECOWAS forces are divided into five Regional Economic Communities, each with its own sub-regional standby brigade, which collectively make up the African Standby Force.

The ECOWAS Standby Force, also known as ECOBRIG, is ECOWAS's military and peacekeeping arm. ECOBRIG consists of a Main Brigade and rapid reaction Task Force, which can deploy in 14 days after ECOWAS determines the necessity of deployment to a regional zone of conflict.

Non-African forces are also involved in peacekeeping operations on the continent, most notably the African Union-U.N. Mission in Darfur.

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Mali rules out deployment of foreign troops into combat
Dakar (AFP) Sept 6, 2012 - Mali does not want African troops to be deployed into combat against Islamic extremists occupying its north, but seeks logistical support from its neighbours, according to a letter seen by AFP on Thursday.

The letter from interim president Dioncounda Traore to the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), dated September 1, requests "help from ECOWAS to recover occupied territories in the north and the fight against terrorism."

"However the deployment of a constituted police unit or combatant military troops is not applicable," read the three page letter.

On Tuesday night France's special representative for the Sahel region Jean Felix-Paganon announced that Traore had formally requested "a military contribution to stabilise the country and especially reconquer the north."

It was understood that Mali would be taking advantage of 3,300 standby troops made available by the regional bloc in April to help it win back its north which has been occupied by Islamic extremists for over five months.

A joint statement from Ivorian leader Alassane Ouattara, who is the current holder of the ECOWAS rotating presidency, and interim Ghanaian leader John Dramani Mahama hailed the request from Mali's authorities.

"They expressed their appreciation of the request by Malian authorities addressed to ECOWAS for the sending of a west African force to the north of Mali," read the statement issued after a meeting between the two leaders.

However the letter addressed to Ouattara foresees more of a support role for the West African troops.

Traore requested assistance in "the reorganisation of armed forces and security" in terms of training, equipment and logistical support.

For the restoration of Mali's territorial integrity he requests "aerial support (intelligence support, direct support of engaged troops, destruction of hidden logistical bases) and the deployment of five battalions to the frontline to be gradually used to control the reconquered towns."

The country was considered one of the region's stable democracies until a March 22 coup plunged it into turmoil.

Taking advantage of the chaos Islamic extremists allied to Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb seized key towns in the vast desert north, an area larger than France or Texas.

They have since taken firm control, imposing strict sharia law as interim authorities in Bamako and west African mediators grapple with ways to stem the crisis.

Bamako has been hesitant to accept the offer of military intervention -- an action which has not been clearly defined and still awaits a mandate from the United Nations -- and insistent that its own army will take the lead.

"It will first be Malian troops who are present. No one will fight this war in the place of Mali, but others will come as support, especially in aviation and logistics," army chief Colonel-Major Ibrahima Dembele said on August 14.


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Weapons destined for Mali held up in Guinea since July
Conakry (AFP) Sept 5, 2012
Weapons destined for Mali which were bought by the country's ousted regime have been held in Guinea since July due to a request from a regional bloc, the state minister for defence said Wednesday. "I don't yet know the nature of these weapons but hold that they are weapons of war originating from Bulgaria," bought by the regime of ousted leader Amadou Toumani Toure, said state minister Abdou ... read more

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