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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 May, 2004, 19:09 GMT 20:09 UK
Move towards African peace force
By Mohammed Adow
BBC, Addis Ababa

Leaders are increasingly in favour of intervention
African leaders have launched the Peace and Security Council of the African Union, in Ethiopia.

Its mission is to deal with the main problem facing African nations since they achieved independence - war between nations and within nations.

The council's objective will be to work towards a common defence policy and develop a united defence force.

But experts point to the new challenges facing the council, such as the large number of conflicts - and their scale.

And it is difficult to find funds to run the peacekeeping missions and to pay for the conflict resolution responsibilities that the council has undertaken.

Many challenges

However, the message from the opening session was clear: Africa should deal with its own problems.

"No one will bring peace to Africa in the place of Africans", said the commission's chairman, Alpha Oumar Konare.

Amid emotional calls for unity, the heads of states discussed the peace processes in Somalia, Burundi, the conflict between Eritrea and Ethiopia and the fighting in Sudan's Darfur region.

The council has already managed to send a fact-finding mission to Darfur and is now preparing to send its own ceasefire monitoring team.

Talk into action

The pressure is now on the African heads of states to turn talk into action - and prove that they are serious about the AU's funding principle.

"Africans are seeking solutions to their own problems," the AU's Peace and Security Commissioner Said Djinnit said in earlier comments.

"If for example there is a genocide in one country, I am not saying that Africa will have the capacity to decisively stop it - and I don't know whether we shall succeed or not.

"But I tell you the African Union, African leaders and troops will move (to stop it)," he said.

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