Global Policy Forum

African Leaders Sign Common Security Plan


By Todd Pitman

Associated Press
February 28, 2004

African leaders signed a sweeping defense and security agreement Saturday that allows the fledgling African Union to send forces to intervene in civil wars, international conflicts and coup attempts across the continent.

Also, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi said his country decided to dismantle its atomic program to avoid the dangers it might bring. "The nuclear arms race is a crazy and destructive policy for economy and life," Gadhafi said at the closing session of the African Union summit. "Any national state that will adopt these policies cannot protect herself, on the contrary it would expose itself to danger."

This was the first time Gadhafi publicly addressed Libya's nuclear program since agreeing to eliminate its facilities in December.

The defense and security agreement aims to prevent tragedies like the 1994 Rwandan genocide, in which more than 500,000 people were massacred while the African Union's predecessor, the Organization of African Unity, did nothing. The 39-year-old OAU was disbanded in 2002 because it was so ineffective.

But with funding short and the African Union already $40 million in debt, the joint force is not likely to form soon, delegates said. A Zimbabwe official said it would not be ready before 2010.

"The framework we have just signed includes the necessity to find collective answers to threats, whether internal or external," Mozambique President Joaquim Chissano said. "But our efforts are not over. ... We have to show a real commitment to the implementation of our decisions."

Chissano told The Associated Press the union would establish a "standby force" of African troops for deployment to conflict zones on short notice. He declined to elaborate, but draft copies of the agreement called for creating five regional brigades to be deployed by two bodies modeled on the United Nations. The first is the African Assembly, or parliament. The second is the Peace and Security Council, Africa's version of the U.N. Security Council. They will be created in a few months.

Libya proposed creating a single African army, but many countries viewed that idea as unrealistic. However, Ould Salek, a foreign minister for Western Sahara — a territory in southern Morocco recognized by the African Union — said the concept would be discussed at the next summit in July. "There is a great need for African troops to intervene in cases of necessity. We must take on fully our duty to stop war in Africa," he said. Funding will be a major obstacle for the force, and aid will be sought from donor countries including the United States, Japan and European states, he said.

African nations have had no formal policy on how to react to conflict on the continent. Charles Muligande, who headed the Rwandan delegation, said nations could have intervened to stop the 1994 genocide but chose not to. "It isn't about legal frameworks," Muligande said. "It's about will. There has to be will."

Saturday's agreement does not obligate African states to act but provides standards for them to uphold, including protecting democratically elected governments from coups. The standby force could be deployed to enforce disarmament programs and provide humanitarian aid. Shortly after its creation in 2002, the African Union deployed several thousand peacekeepers from South Africa, Ethiopia and Mozambique to Burundi, but that country remains mired in a civil war that has killed more than 200,000 people.

African leaders also signed an agreement on a common policy to boost agricultural production and manage water resources.

More information on the Security Council
More information on Peacekeeping
More information on Regional Organizations and UN Peacekeeping
More information on Political Integration and National Sovereignty


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