EU to send 1,000 troops to boost Central Africa effort

Ireland not suspending Ugandan aid over homophobic measures, says Joe Costello

Minister of State for Trade and Development Joe Costello: said the Brussels summit aimed to establish a new relationship between Africa and the EU.

Minister of State for Trade and Development Joe Costello: said the Brussels summit aimed to establish a new relationship between Africa and the EU.

Thu, Apr 3, 2014, 01:00

The European Union’s announcement that it is deploying 1,000 troops to the Central African Republic after months of delays topped the agenda at yesterday’s EU-Africa summit in Brussels.

The EU agreed to launch the military mission as “a temporary support” in the Bangui area, with a view to handing over to a UN peacekeeping operation or African partners.

While the launch of the operation showed the EU’s determination to “take a full part in international efforts to restore stability and security” across the region, according to EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, in reality the EU had been coming under pressure from France to do more to address the security situation in the country.

The force will support about 6,000 African and 2,000 French troops already stationed there, and will represent the EU’s first military mission in over five years. The mission is expected to last between four and six months.

Representatives of close to 80 EU and African states gathered in Brussels yesterday for the fourth EU-Africa summit.

Minister of State for Trade and Development Joe Costello said the summit aimed to establish a new relationship between Africa and the EU looking at areas such as trade and development, security and people-to-people relationships.

“The winds of change are really blowing in Africa at the present time. Six out of 10 of the fastest growing countries in the world are in Africa,” he said, noting that Ireland had recently introduced a new African strategy. Asked if Ireland planned to follow the example of a number of other EU countries in suspending aid to Uganda following the introduction of an anti-homosexuality law in February, Mr Costello said Ireland was not considering suspending aid.

Ugandan government
However, he stressed the government was not engaging with the Ugandan government in relation to the disbursement of aid, instead focusing on “tried and trusted” non-governmental organisations. “We can’t have the people suffer for the sins of others,” Mr Costello said. “The Irish Government has made it very clear that it is entirely unacceptable that we would have such homophobic laws, that they are contrary to the United Nations Charter of Human Rights and the Conventions that Uganda have signed up to.”

A high-level meeting on the Central African Republic, convened by France, was held on the margins of the EU-Africa summit yesterday, and was attended by the transitional head of state in the Central African Republic, Catherine Samba-Panza, as well as UN general secretary Ban Ki-Moon.

Zimbabwe’s president Robert Mugabe and South African president Jacob Zuma are boycotting the summit, after Mr Mugabe withdrew because his wife was refused a visa.

Among other issues expected to be discussed is the economic partnership agreements between the EU and various African nations.