08 October 1997
(Steven Metz testifies before House Afr. Subc.) (890) By Jim Fisher-Thompson USIA Staff Writer WASHINGTON -- The all-African peacekeeping initiative now being implemented by three African nations is a "solid first step" in the much-need transformation of sub-Saharan Africa's regional security system, says Steven Metz professor of military studies at the Strategic Institute. In testimony before the House of Representatives Africa Subcommittee about the initiative, October 8, Metz said "while African themselves will determine whether or how to transform their regional security systems, outsiders, including the United States, can help." Central to that effort, he told the lawmakers in his prepared remarks, is the African Crisis Response Initiative (ACRI), which was proposed by former Secretary of State Warren Christopher during a trip to Africa last October. That idea actually "had its genesis," Metz added, "with Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Herman Cohen in the early 1990's." The Clinton administration allotted $15 million toward the project's startup costs during 1997. Some select African units already are being instructed by U.S. trainers. Metz was joined at the hearing by David Davis a professor and senior fellow at the program on peacekeeping policy at George Mason University's Institute of Public Policy, as well as by representatives from the Departments of State and Defense. Acknowledging Congress's concern for spending during a period of budget stringency, Metz recommended ACRI as an appropriate and cost-effective way for the United States to become a peacekeeping partner with Africans. He said "to promote American interests in Africa, the United States should use ACRI as a first step in a long-term program to encourage and assist in the transformation of the African security system into one where violence is less common and where most violence that does occur can be dealt with without massive outside involvement." Ambassador Marshall McCallie, who heads up the ACRI Interagency Working Group for the State Department, told the subcommittee that the goal of the ACRI "is to enhance the capacity of African nations to respond to humanitarian crises and peacekeeping challenges in a timely and effective manner." The official added that select African units in Senegal, Uganda and Malawi have been the first to undergo training in peacekeeping techniques by U.S. military trainers, and that "in the months ahead, we plan to begin training in Ethiopia, Mali and Ghana." Metz pointed out that "overall, the existing version of ACRI, which is limited to a military-to-military training program, has utility" in a number of areas including by: -- imparting "tangible skills" to those African soldiers and officers who undergo the training; -- making it easier for African leaders to put together an African peacekeeping effort "at short notice;" -- having a positive impact on civil-military relations in the host countries "since much of the training concerns appropriate ways for those in uniform to deal with civilians;" and -- contributing to regional integration because the African nations working together on the ACRI "will begin to create habits of cooperation" in their relations with each other. Congress's role in the conflict resolution partnership, Metz suggested, should be "to sustain support for ACRI." He added that "regular funding at a relatively modest level would be far superior to providing a large amount one year and then cutting it back the next." Metz also recommended that Congress "consider ending prohibitions on the use of American security assistance money to train police and consider providing such funds. Few African police forces are adequately trained, equipped and supplied for peacekeeping." According to Metz, "if the objective is to free Africa from dependence on extensive outside involvement in peace operations, the United States, along with its friends and allies throughout the developed world, should help build police forces with specific training in peacekeeping." Professor David Davis, an expert on conflict resolution, told the subcommittee that "I support the ACRI as an attempt to provide Africa with the long-term capacity that is needed for the furtherance of peace" on the African continent. He said "I believe that the ACRI is teaching the correct tasks to the militaries involved" and is on the right peacekeeping track by emphasizing: "fire [arms] discipline, marksmanship and human rights training." Davis added that ACRI's "concentration on independent capacity building and not force building is appropriate [because] some of these nations would be very wary of a new force in the 'country next door'." A statement submitted to the Africa Subcommittee by Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for African Affairs Vince Kern addressed that concern, pointing out that the U.S. government does not "intend to create a standing African force and we are not providing training to create elite forces for instability." Instead, the official explained that "the ACRI concept envisions a U.S. partnership with African and non-African countries to build and improve African crisis response capabilities." He added that U.S. military trainers were concentrating on teaching such peacekeeping techniques as: "establishment of checkpoints, perimeter security, convoy security and the processing of displaced persons." The Defense Department, he said, also is providing "non-lethal" equipment to the African units, including: communications gear, water purification units, night vision binoculars, and mine detectors as well as uniforms, boots, belts, packs and entrenching tools.