About 4,000 defence and police force members from 10 Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries are in South Africa for a peacekeeping exercise code named Operation Blue
"The initiative for the exercise is political in its nature, and its ultimate aim is to make a contribution towards ensuring stability, peace and democracy in Africa as an essential element of building general prosperity in the Southern African region," a South African National Defence Force (SANDF) official told IRIN on Thursday.
The brigade-sized exercise began on 7 April at the SANDF's Battle School at Lohatla in the Northern Cape and is scheduled to run until the end of the month. It follows on from a smaller SADC peacekeeping drill held in Zimbabwe in 1997.
More than US $3 million has been budgeted for Blue Crane. Foreign military observers, as well as international organisations, aid agencies and non-governmental organisations are represented at the exercise. The countries participating are: Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania and Zambia. Angola and Zimbabwe have only sent observer teams.
SADC regards a security and peacekeeping capacity as complimentary to its regional integration and development mandate.