Windhoek – The Southern African Development Community (SADC) region is among the most active contributors to international peacekeeping efforts. Over the years, many countries in the region have played an active role in the United Nations and African Union (AU) peace support operations with contributions ranging from military observers, civilian police and the “blue helmets”.
A significant number of civilians have also served in AU and UN operations on an individually recruited basis.
Statistics obtained from a UN report titled “Contributors to UN Peacekeeping Operations by Country and Post” indicate that SADC contributed 5,622 military personnel last year. This is an increase from a combined 2,724 troops that SADC member states contributed to UN peacekeeping missions in 2017.
Tanzania was the biggest contributor of military, police and other specialists to UN peacekeeping operations around the region.
According to the UN report, Tanzania delegated 2,316 personnel for peacekeeping operations, comprising 62 police, 13 United Nations Military Experts on Mission (UNMEM) and 2,198 troops.
South Africa provided the second largest number of personnel (1,230), 52 police, 6 UNMEM and 1,152 troops.
Zambia contributed 1,024 personnel – 42 police, 27 UNMEM and 929 troops, followed by Malawi, which contributed 916 personnel ‑ 49 police, 8 UNMEM and 850 troops.
The Democratic Republic of Congo contributed 776 personnel ‑ 142 police, 6 UNMEM and 628 troops, while Zimbabwe contributed 63 police, 6 UNMEM and 3 staff officers and Namibia contributed 42 personnel, 29 police, 8 UNMEM and 6 staff officers.
Madagascar contributed 22 personnel, all from the police, while Mozambique provided only one UNMEM.
Angola, Botswana, Mauritius, Seychelles, Lesotho and eSwatini made no contribution to UN peacekeeping last year.
Namibia’s Deputy Minister of Defence, Billy Mwaningange, on Tuesday, confirmed that Namibia has been contributing to the UN, AU and SADC peacekeeping operations whenever requested to contribute troops and other forms of assistance since independence.
Although he could not provide the total number of military personnel contributed, he said since independence Namibia has so far participated in 13 peacekeeping missions under the mandate of UN, AU or SADC.
Mwaningange cited an instance when Namibia deployed a fully-fledged female police contingent to Sudan’s crisis-ridden region of Darfur, as one the examples of how the country committed to contributing to UN peacekeeping as per Article 17 of the Charter of the United Nations.
“In all these engagements, Namibia demonstrated readiness, preparedness, confidence and ability in bringing sustainable peace to conflict-torn nations,” Mwaningange.
According to Article 17, every member state is legally obligated to pay their respective share towards peacekeeping. One hundred and twenty-three countries currently provide the military troops and police forces that make up the UN peacekeeping force.
The deputy minister was speaking at the opening of a two-week workshop on peace operations in Windhoek, the SADC Training of Trainers Course on Gender Mainstreaming. Namibia’s defence ministry, in collaboration with the Institute of Security Studies, is hosting the workshop.
The course deals with sexual and gender-based violence in peace operations and is being attended by 19 participants from SADC member countries.
During the training, participants from Namibia, Botswana, Zambia and Zimbabwe will be oriented on gender mainstreaming, concepts, gender analysis and how to respond to sexual and gender-based violence and how to prevent it in conflict situations.
The maintenance of peace and security in the region and beyond ranks high in the objectives of the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security.
The Regional Peacekeeping Training Centre, which falls directly under the Organ was established in Zimbabwe in 1996 to provide training for peace support missions in the region.
As part of the African Standby Force Policy Framework, the SADC Brigade was launched in August 2008 to participate in missions as envisaged in Article 13 of the “mandate” of the Peace and Security Protocol. This is in relation to the establishment of the AU’s Peace and Security Council.
The SADC Brigade comprised military, police and civilian members from member states.
On 1 January this year, the SADC Standby Force took over the command of the African Standby Force Roster on a six-month rotational basis.
According to SADC, the assumption of the ASF Standby Roster entails that the SADC SF will have the primary responsibility of being the first responder to conflict situations in the continent to provide a rapid deployment capability.
In this regard, the SADC Standby Force will for the period, be the AU torchbearer for implementing peacekeeping and peace-building efforts, including post-conflict disarmament and demobilisation.
The roster was initiated in January 2017, following a decision of the 9th Specialized Technical Committee on Defence, Safety and Security of the AU.