Reports regarding the SA-UK Forum held in London last May indicate that the two countries' defence ministers, namely Mosiuoa Lekota and Des Browne respectively, had reached an agreement on assistance being provided by the British army in the training of South Africa's peacekeeping contingents. These peacekeepers, drawn from the South African Defence Forces, are scheduled to be deployed in various countries throughout Africa.
What made this agreement so interesting was that the training being proposed went far beyond what is normally thought of as a military role.
South African peacekeepers will acquire various agricultural skills so that they can plant food crops to contribute to their self-sufficiency; and learn various civil-engineering skills that might include bricklaying and basic construction techniques, the laying and repairing of water and sanitation infrastructure, as well as the building of new roads and bridges to improve transport links.
I do not think that anyone could argue against this programme, especially as the soldiers will be receiving skills that they will be able put to good use long after they have left the armed services. But hearing about this initiative, I was struck at what great sense it would more African armies were organised and...