We are too broke to keep peace in Africa

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Posted  Monday, April 4   2011 at  00:00

Maxwell Mkwezalamba, Commissioner for Economic Affairs at the African Union in Addis Ababa spoke to the The EastAfrican, on the challenges the continental body faces.

Is the African Union currently overwhelmed by the political unrest in the continent and why is there grumbling over the body’s performance?

Unrest has been there in Somalia and Sudan now it’s in Ivory Coast and in North Africa; for the AU to clearly play its role in peacekeeping it must have adequate resources. That is the big challenge.

Does it mean the Union is currently in a financial crisis?

Maintaining peace requires adequate resources to deploy troops in the stricken countries. The AU does not have adequate funds to finance soldiers in those countries. Our expenditure budget is currently constrained to meet the ever rising demand for intervention.

How much does the AU spend in peace and security annually?

Different years have different budgets depending on the available funds. For 2011, the AU has set a $250 million budget and only eight per cent is for peace and security implying that we have to rely more on other partners.

How much does the AU require to finance the number of troops the countries currently faced by political conflicts?

It would be a costly venture. We’ve been spending $20 million every month to maintain the troops in Somalia; a similar amount would be required in all crisis-stricken countries, coming to $240 million per year in each country.

Besides, member countries that pledged to deploy troops have not done so, leaving the AU weaker to face the ongoing unrest.

Thus, the Union has to heavily depend on donors for extra support which is scheduled for a given period of time.

For example, the European Union gives the Union a fund of euros 300 million ($420 milllion) over a three-year period while the US and other partners have set patterns.

Unrest can’t be predicted it just comes. Worse, you can’t tell how long it will take. This further constrains the Union’s budget.

Why have the members not met their commitment and what impact does this have on the continent?

Apart from Uganda and Burundi that deployed soldiers in Somalia, other countries have lacked resources despite expressing interests.

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