5 September 2005
Southern Africa’s standby peacekeeping force, the SADC Brigade, is ready to deploy troops anywhere in the region in a time of crisis, Defence Minister Mosioua Lekota told journalists in Pretoria on Monday.
Lekota said the Brigade had finalised its structure, and that Southern African Development Community (SADC) states had pledged over 6 000 troops to the Brigade for crisis deployment.
This means the burden of regional peacekeeping will be evenly spread across all southern African countries.
The Brigade will be made up of troops from the 14 members of the regional body. South Africa became an SADC member in 1994. The 13 other members are Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Seychelles and Zimbabwe.
The Brigade is the regional chapter of the African Union’s stand-by peacekeeping force. The Brigade’s operational centre is in Gaborone, Botswana, the headquarters of the SADC.
The troika of the SADC organ on politics, defence and security has the mandate to deploy the standby force where needed. However, the troika will first consult with the African Union (AU), the United Nations and the country in need of peacekeeping intervention.
In June, 12 SADC defence forces held a joint military exercise in Botswana to test the readiness of the force.
“The Brigade is important because now we have a force that is not South African but Southern African. When the African Union undertakes a mission, we are in a position to ask the SADC to deploy the force to the AU mission,” Lekota said.
He said the operationalisation of the Brigade consolidated regional unity and reinforced the SADC mutual defence pact that united the forces of the region.