09 October 1997
(FR) (Initiative will save lives and tight U.S. dollars) (500) By Jim Fisher-Thompson USIA Staff Writer WASHINGTON -- A senior Congressional leader has praised the all-African peacekeeping initiative being promoted by the Clinton administration because it helps spread out the economic burden of humanitarian missions in sub-Saharan Africa. Representative Robert Menendez, the ranking minority member of the House of Representatives African Subcommittee, told a subcommittee hearing on the African Crisis Response Initiative (ACRI) October 8 that "as one of the world's great powers, we do have a responsibility and desire to help to resolve conflicts and alleviate human suffering, where we can." One of the best ways to accomplish that in sub-Saharan Africa, he added, is for Congress to back the ACRI, which he termed a cost effective partnership with Africans -- in part because it will serve "as an alternative" to extremely expensive U.S. troop deployments. "In just the last few years," said the lawmaker, "we have had American troops in Somalia, Liberia, Rwanda, Angola, the Central African Republic and Zaire. The cost of the Somalia operation alone was well over $750 million for a humanitarian operation. By comparison, the cost of the ACRI, an estimated $25 million to $40 million, is quite low considering the cost of full-scale U.S. involvement during a crisis." Menendez emphasized that "while I expect that there will continue to be circumstances under which the U.S. will deploy troops or contribute troops to U.N. missions in Africa, it is preferable to empower Africans by teaching and assisting them to conduct their own humanitarian, peacekeeping and peace restoration missions." ACRI, which aims to develop a peacekeeping response capability of between 8,000 and 10,000 African troops, also has the backing of France, Britain, Canada, Brazil and Japan, which were consulted by U.S. officials before actual instruction began by Defense Department trainers in Senegal, Uganda and Malawi. Regarding who will control the ACRI, Menendez stated that "although it would take its mandate for deployment from the U.N. Security Council, it would allow Africans to actively solve African problems [because] the nature of the ACRI will allow the OAU [Organization of African Unity] and African countries to have a greater say in what actions the Security Council takes on their continent." Menendez also pointed out that "perhaps, the greatest benefits to be derived from the ACRI is the presence of [African] forces on the ground and ready to respond to a crisis -- not only will this cut response time during a humanitarian crisis and save more lives, but hopefully the existence of the ACRI will be a a deterrent to violence on the continent." Even where ACRI is not a deterrent to violence, Menendez asserted, "it will still provide an opportunity to restore peace before a situation escalates out of control -- which usually occurs long before we can mobilize troops coming from abroad."