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U.S. Army Supports Burundi's Efforts in Somalia

By Rick Scavetta
U.S. Army Africa

BUJUMBURA, Burundi, Jan 28, 2010 — In mid-January 2010, U.S. Army Colonel Steve Smith led a team to work with Burundian officers on ways to enhance Burundi's leadership capacity as their military prepares to deploy its next rotation of peacekeepers to Mogadishu.

Smith, of the U.S. Army's Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute and Lieutenant Colonel Ronald Miller, an Africa expert from U.S. Army Africa headquarters, held discussions with senior Burundian military officers at the Ministry of Defense in Bujumbura about Burundi's peacekeeping efforts in Somalia.

BUJUMBURA, Burundi - Brigadier General Cyprien Ndikuryio, chief of Burundi's land forces, discusses the Burundi military's support to the African Union Mission in Somalia with Colonel Steve Smith from the U.S. Army's Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute, January 2010. Smith led a U.S. Army Africa team to Burundi to offer senior Burundian leaders options for planning peacekeeping operations. (U.S. Army Africa photo by Rick Scavetta)

"We discussed the U.S. military's way of planning for operations at the brigade level, using what we call MDMP, the military decision making process," Smith said. "We also talked about how U.S. Army officers run a brigade-level command post."

Burundi and Uganda share peacekeeping duties under the African Union Mission in Somalia, an operation designed to stabilize Somalia's security situation following decades of war and chaos. African peacekeepers in Somalia face daily challenges as they mentor Somalis in security operations and work to counter extremist groups like al-Shabaab.

The U.S. Army effort is part of a larger effort by the U.S. government to support Burundi in its peacekeeping efforts, said Brigadier General Cyprien Ndikuryio, chief of Burundi's land forces. The United States has helped with training and equipment, followed by these senior leader discussions, he said.

"My colleagues and I are senior officers. One of them, or I, could be appointed to higher responsibilities in Somalia's peacekeeping mission and use what we have learned," Ndikuryio said.

In 2006, Burundi ended its 12-year civil war. Since then, Burundi has made strides toward partnering with its East African neighbors and the United States.

In October 2009, Burundian troops took part in Natural Fire 10, a U.S. Army Africa-led humanitarian and civil assistance exercise held in Uganda. During that time, Major General William B. Garrett III, commander of U.S. Army Africa, visited Bujumbura to watch Burundian troops undergoing training with the U.S. State Department-led African Contingency Operations Training and Assistance (ACOTA) program.

Burundian senior leaders then asked U.S. Army Africa to help with a familiarization event on brigade-level peacekeeping operations. Leaders from the Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute (PKSOI) at Carlisle Barracks in Pennsylvania offered their expertise for the event.

"This effort in Burundi has been a great opportunity for the U.S. Army to engage with a partner nation's land forces on the continent," Smith said. "There's a tremendous potential here, a great thirst for knowledge."

Smith's Burundi assignment also benefits the PKSOI in their efforts, he said.

"I'm taking back with me a better understanding of U.S. Army Africa operations and what's happening on the ground in Africa," Smith said. "That knowledge will help PKSOI plan to support future missions."

The talks came at a key time for the Burundian military, as they prepare to deploy a new rotation of peacekeepers to Somali.

"This support was very important and effective," Ndikuryio said. "We appreciate this cooperation with U.S. Army Africa. We hope to interact with the command in the future."

U.S. Army Africa is a component of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM).