LODWAR, KENYA — In a trail-blazing joint exercise, more than 1,500 Kenyan, Tanzanian, Ugandan, and US soldiers are working with African politicians to demonstrate how Africa can solve its political and military crises.
The month-long exercise aims to show how a hypothetical country, Sumanga, can be returned to stability after a civil war.
Last week, US and African generals watched troops parachute from cargo planes into the northwest Kenyan desert and drive tank convoys in the simulation.
But the leader of the Kenyan government's political team, Njuguna Ngunjiri, told reporters: "The military participation is [just] one of the components.... A political process, an economic plan, and a humanitarian scenario ... are running parallel with the military aspect," Mr. Ngunjiri added.
The exercise covers the repatriation and rehabilitation of refugees, and negotiations between the groups.
After a simulated outbreak of gunfire at the weekend, Ngunjiri appealed to the warring factions to "give peace a chance."
He said the "rebel head of state," who had taken power in a military coup, had agreed to take part in talks, and an urgent meeting of all "Sumangan" political leaders would be called.
After US military intervention in Somalia went awry in 1993, political analysts said, the US wanted to disengage its military from Africa in favor of local peacekeeping efforts. A US-sponsored African Crisis Response Initiative last year went to Uganda and Senegal to train African armies to keep peace.
Some African states have expressed opposition to the US-backed plan and some Kenyan politicians say they are concerned the basic aim is to rid the outside world of any feeling of responsibility for African conflicts.
"It [peacekeeping training] will enhance the capabilities in the region because it enables African nations to handle any problems that arise in Africa without having to go to Europe or other places for assistance," US Army Gen. Frank Toney said last week.