All Africa | Africa: A Quick Reaction Force Moulded By Africa’s Circumstances
Johannesburg — Africa’s crises are both honing and stalling the formation of the African Standby Force (ASF) of the African Union (AU) - a quick reaction force that could eventually number about 30,000 troops to be deployed in a range of scenarios, from peacekeeping to direct military intervention.
Originally intended to become operational in 2010, the deadline for the ASF has been reset for 2015; but despite the delay, the ASF is becoming increasingly woven into the operating procedures of current AU security operations.
The ASF “is very much a work in progress”, African Union Commissioner of Peace and Security Ramtane Lamamra told IRIN, but “at the political level there is a strong support for it under the guiding principle of bringing about African solutions to African problems.”
Once up and running, the ASF will be based on five regional blocs each supplying about 5,000 troops: the Southern African Development Community (SADC) force (SADCBRIG), the Eastern Africa Standby force (EASBRIG), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) force (ECOBRIG), the North African Regional Capability (NARC), and the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) force (ECCASBRIG), also known as the Multinational Force of Central Africa (FOMAC).
The regional forces are not a standing army like national forces. As the AU Peace and Security Council protocol of the ASF stipulates, they “shall be composed of standby multidisciplinary contingents with civilian and military components in their countries of origin and ready for rapid deployment at appropriate notice.”
The ASF is the legacy and logic of the Constitutive Act of the AU adopted in 2000, the successor to the Organisation of African Unity (OAU). In a complete break from the OAU, which had advocated non-interference in member states, the Act gave the AU both the right to intervene in a crisis, and an obligation to do so “in respect of grave circumstances, namely: war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity”.
Lamamra said the ASF “Implies the immediate availability of the instruments [of intervention and prevention] to be translated into concrete deeds… when they relate to some kind of enforcing decisions of the legitimate organs of the African Union, such as cases of unconstitutional changes of government… or armed rebellion, such as the terrorist situation in northern Mali.”
I believe the learning curve for the standby force is AMISOM. We have to deliver on the lessons learned in the AMISOM process
The African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) was held up as an example of what the ASF could be. “I believe the learning curve for the standby force is AMISOM. We have to deliver on the lessons learned in the AMISOM process - five years of effective presence on the ground under quite challenging circumstances,” Lamamra said.
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Photo: AMISOM RHIB off the coast of Somalia Heb/Wikimedia Commons