Will African Standby Force be a reality?


The continued delay to establish an African Union Standby Force to act as the continent’s peacekeeping force is a cause for concern on the continent.

Granted, the establishment of such an institution needs careful planning and making sure every detail is critically analysed to avoid grave mistakes. But the recent spike in conflicts in Africa, often with the intervention of the West or former colonial powers worsening the strife, should be an indictment on the African Union’s Peace and Security Council.

The AU Standby Force was expected to be in place in 2008 but the deadline has since been moved to next year. In the meantime, numerous conflicts have exploded, which require the attention of such a force. The AU Peace and Security Council has convened several meetings since it came into force in 2004 but has not been able to respond to the crises on the continent.

Since then some African armies have taken part in peacekeeping missions on the continent in support of other military actors, mostly former colonial powers and other Western nations pursuing their own agendas.

Last year, the African Union first examined the idea of an African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises (ACIRC) as a counter to the delay in forming an African Union Standby Force, which includes a quick reaction force, the Rapid Deployment Capability (RDC).

While all this bureaucracy shuttling happens, conflicts have broken out in Libya, Mali, Central African Republic, Chad, South Sudan while security remains under threat in Somalia and the Democratic Republic of Congo which have had long running conflicts.

The African Union summit in January in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, was supposed to be seized with agriculture and food security issues but security concerns ended up dominating the meeting.

At the end of the summit, African leaders agreed to put together a panel of independent experts to assess the operationalisation of the African Standby Force and the RDC and look into proposals of forming the ACIRC.

The African Standby Force is expected to have 25 000 troops drawn from the continent’s five regional economic groupings and thousands more non-military staff who include policing and humanitarian affairs personnel. Reports say there is consensus among countries over the African Standby Force while ACIRC is creating divisions. 

This makes a mockery of the motto of “African solutions to African problems” with some analysts saying the ACIRC was now throwing plans off the rail.

“We (Africa) are too quick to reinvent the wheel. Let us rather develop the (African Standby Force) concept to its logical conclusion before we start with a new concept. The development of the ASF… (has come) a long way and many arguments for and against the current concept were exhaustively examined. Let us finish the job first, before we start a new one,” one conflict researcher told the United Nations news agency IRIN recently.

While Africa dithers over its own security and stability, the United States has been increasing its military presence on the continent over the past decade at an alarming pace. Washington created the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) to coordinate all its military activities in Africa.

And over the years, AFRICOM’s role has expanded tremendously into nearly every African country. According to stopimperialism.com’s Eric Draitser, the real objective of the US is far from defending African democracies or helping Africans “build greater capacity to assure their own security”.

The real objective of AFRICOM is to protect American interests and ensure a free flow of African resources, which are exploited with little benefit to the countries of their origin, to the global market.It means the US can even instigate or fuel conflicts to justify its intervention, sometimes with the aid of its western allies, in the pursuit of their own imperialist agendas.

We urge the African Union to at least make some start in the formation of an African Standby Force because the continent cannot delay it any longer. Agreed the process is complex but perfection will be achieved as the force grows. 

The continent has executed much more Herculean tasks such as the war of liberation.

March 2014
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