Region clinches major security deals amid SDG talks

Saturday October 03 2015

Amisom troops in Somalia. PHOTO | FILE

East Africa clinched major regional security deals at the Sustainable Development Goals conference in New York last week as global efforts to contain terror and alleviate poverty gathered momentum.

The highlight of the deals was a commitment by China to set up an 8,000-strong peacekeeping force and to give the African Union $100 million to support peace efforts such as those by the African Union Mission in Somalia (Amisom), where Kenyan, Ugandan and Burundian soldiers are deployed.

The UK also said it would send 70 troops to Somalia to reinforce the AU forces fighting Al Shabaab, adding that a further 300 will go to South Sudan to help stabilise the country, where civil war broke out in December 2013, barely two years into Independence from Sudan.

Although the US said it would not join the UK in sending troops, President Barack Obama committed to increase logistical and material support to UN forces in Africa and elsewhere, estimated at 120,000 worldwide.

US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the US intends to provide more “enablers,” including air power, to Kenyan, Ugandan and Ethiopian troops fighting in Somalia. This would be a big fillip to Amisom, which has previously complained that it is hampered in its battle against Al Shabaab by a lack of airborne capability.

“It is not something that we normally do,” Ms Thomas-Greenfield said at a press briefing in New York when asked if the Obama administration will assign troops to help enforce the peace agreement in South Sudan.


Washington pays about a quarter of the UN’s annual peacekeeping costs of $8.2 billion and Ms Thomas-Greenfield said the US has independently trained and equipped 250,000 African peacekeepers.

The Obama administration acknowledged last year that at least 120 American soldiers were deployed at various locations throughout Somalia.

An unknown number of CIA personnel also operate inside Somalia. In addition, the US maintains drone bases in Somalia, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and the Seychelles, from which it conducts air strikes on suspected leaders of Al Shabaab.

After the summit, the US embassy in Nairobi announced a partnership between Kenya and the Massachusetts National Guard, under the US Department of Defence State Partnership Programme.

“Our service members will provide mutual benefits to this strategic partnership with the Republic of Kenya,” said Maj-Gen L. Scott Rice, Adjutant General, Massachusetts National Guard.

“Our force will use their dynamic civilian and military skill sets and experiences to identify potential problems and offer effective solutions to co-operate with shared initiatives in Kenya.”

With insecurity being a key factor in the escalation of poaching in East Africa, the US and China said they would work together to enact “nearly complete bans” on the import and export of ivory. This is a significant step in measures to shut down the trade in animal trophies that drives the illegal hunting of elephants.

Details of the investments expected from the leaders’ discussions at the summit were scanty with the exception of Kenya, where Kerry Adler, the CEO of Sky Power Global, pledged to double his firm’s investment in solar energy to $4.4 billion. At the recent Global Entrepreneurship Summit held in Nairobi, he pledged to invest $2.2 billion.

National security concerns were also foremost at the summit, with Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni meeting US Secretary of State John Kerry to discuss the Lord’s Resistance Army and how to respond to the crisis in Burundi and South Sudan.

President Museveni chaired the AU Peace and Security Council on South Sudan and held talks with King Abdullah II of Jordan on how to counter violent extremism in Africa. 

As the immediate former president of the UN General Assembly, he delivered the opening remarks and chaired the assembly for two days before meeting with Pope Francis, who is scheduled to visit Kenya and Uganda next month.

Tanzania’s President Jakaya Kikwete — who will retire after the general election on the 25th of this month — in his last address to the UNGA, called on the UN to make a decision on the status of Western Sahara.

President Paul Kagame of Rwanda co-chaired the Millennium Development Goals Advocacy Group and the Columbia University World Leaders Forum ahead of the launch of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

With the absence of Burundi’s President President Pierre Nkurunziza following the diplomatic fallout from his recent controversial third term election, Bujumbura was cited by several leaders, including President Obama and Mr Ban, in their remarks on increasing political instability in the world.