U.S. Donates Military Aid to Senegal
DAKAR, Senegal (AP) _ The U.S. government donated military equipment worth nearly $5 million to Senegal Monday to help it prepare to send peacekeepers to the troubled West African nation of Sierra Leone.
Military vehicles, machine-guns, mortars, tents, helmets and other equipment were delivered to the Senegalese army during a ceremony at Thies air base, about 43 miles from the capital, Dakar.
The equipment, worth about $4.8 million, was donated under a U.S. program called Operation Focus Relief. Earlier this month, 650 Senegalese soldiers completed a 10-week training course given by 70 U.S. Army Special Forces troops as part of the program.
The Senegalese troops will soon depart for Sierra Leone, where they will bolster a 12,000-strong U.N. mission that has begun deploying cautiously across the country to secure a fragile peace deal.
Sierra Leone’s rebels have gained a reputation for brutality, killing and maiming tens of thousands of civilians since launching an insurgency a decade ago.
The United States spends about $20 million a year on a separate program that provides peacekeeping instruction and non-lethal equipment to a handful of African nations committed to democracy on the continent.
The goal is to train national battalions that could be quickly melded into a pan-African force to handle humanitarian disasters and prevent violence like the 1994 massacre of a half-million people in Rwanda.
So far, close to 8,000 troops have received at least initial training in eight countries _ Kenya, Senegal, Malawi, Ivory Coast, Uganda, Ghana, Benin and Mali.
Senegal participated in the first multinational exercises held in Dakar in July.