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Obama: Rapid response unit needed in Africa
August 7, 2014, 4:14 am

"We'll join with six countries that in recent years have demonstrated a track record as peacekeepers," Obama said [Xinhua]

“We’ll join with six countries that in recent years have demonstrated a track record as peacekeepers,” Obama said [Xinhua]

US President Barack Obama has told the leaders of some 50 nations attending the first-ever US-Africa Summit that he wants to broaden Washington’s engagement with the continent to go beyond infrastructure and trade investment, and include a focus on peacekeeping.

“We’ll join with six countries that in recent years have demonstrated a track record as peacekeepers – Ghana, Senegal, Rwanda, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Uganda,” Obama said during a press conference at the end of the Summit.

Washington believes that establishing an African “rapid response force” is essential to support UN or African Union missions on the continent.

“During our discussions, our West African partners made it clear that they want to increase their capacity to respond to crises. So the United States will launch a new effort to bolster the regions early warning and response network and increase their ability to share information about emerging crises,” Obama said.

One such crisis area is the Central African Republic (CAR) – a mineral rich nation of 4.6 million people – which has been plagued by civil war and ethnic massacres since December 2012 when the Seleka – a rebel amalgamation of several different factions – began to move toward the capital Bangui.

On March 23, 2013 the Coalition broke the national unity agreement and seized the capital Bangui. In the fighting, 13 South African peace-keeping soldiers were killed and 27 others wounded during a clash with the rebels. South Africa withdrew its forces.

In January 2014, CAR President Michel Djotodia – a Muslim brought to power by the Seleka Coalition – was forced to flee to Benin when Christian militias began to fight the Muslim Seleka.

Despite a new government in place, human rights groups have warned that sectarian conflict is on the increase in the eastern part of the country.

According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and other groups, Muslims have been purged from the capital.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon has repeatedly urged European powers provide peacekeepers to stabilize the situation.

Obama addressed the situation there.

He said that the US will “make significant new investments in African peacekeeping … [and] will provide additional equipment to African peacekeepers in Somalia and the Central African Republic”.

He added that the US will invest $110 million over the course of three to five years to assist African countries to enhance their response to developing crises.

Source: Agencies

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