via African standby force the way to go | The Herald May 19, 2015
The ultimate goal of a stable and integrated continent can only be achieved if and when local conditions on the ground allow for the integration of markets, the smooth movement of people and goods, and an easy articulation of administrative processes needed for larger social and political stability. Political instability at the local level, or conflicts that engulf regions, are together with minimal resources, the main obstacles in the way of the AU reaching the holy grail of Africa’s integration.
In terms of the rationale of the state, local stability relies heavily on two factors: firstly, popular consent to being governed – if states and ruling regimes lack sufficient popular legitimacy, such conditions may, in extreme cases, result in armed rebellion and insurgency; secondly, the ability of states to project their institutional and security capacity within their territories to provide basic services and to establish a secure environment. At the continental level it is clear that these two issues remain central to the evolution of the AU and its organs. The envisaged role of the African Standby Force within the AU’s institutional framework will in this regard be a centre piece of the collective security blanket the AU intends to unfurl across the continent in the coming decade.
The AU is in this regard a geopolitical phenomenon, as an institution it has to formulate, establish, and implement institutional structures with which it can project its influence and nascent power in the continental political space. A recent Institute for Security Studies (ISS) report authored by Solomon A. Dersso (2010) indicates that the African Standby Force (ASF) is intended to be a central mechanism in the AU institutional architecture that will allow it to respond to conflict on the continent in a timely and efficient manner.
One of the most important differences between the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) and its successor, the AU, is the fact that the AU has the right to intervene in the internal politics of member states.
By accepting this as part of the normative framework of the AU, the road is paved for the ASF as instrument with which the AU can achieve the goal of maintaining political stability, protecting human rights, and promoting principles of democratic governance across the AU’s constitutive geographical spaces.
The inclusion of the principle of interference in the political affairs of African states sends an important signal according to Dersso (2010, 4):
“This provision, together with the emphasis on ending conflicts and promoting peace and security reverses the primacy that the OAU accorded to the state and its state-centric principles over and the rights and interests of citizens.”
As cornerstone of the principles of the AU, a series of concrete security-related questions are bound to present themselves to the AU in terms of establishing itself as the sole authority responsible for collective security in African geopolitical space. As such the ASF’s main task, as currently envisaged by the PSC Protocol of the AU, is according to Dersso (2010, 6):
“ . . . the ASF is to be prepared for rapid deployment for a range of peacekeeping operations, including:
Observation and monitoring missions
Other types of peace support missions
Intervention in accordance with Articles 4(h) and (j) of the Constitutive Act
Preventive deployment in order to prevent conflict from spreading to neighbouring areas or states, or the resurgence of violence after peace agreements are achieved
Peace-building, including post-conflict disarmament and demobilisation
Humanitarian assistance in situations of conflict and major natural disasters.”
This frames a significant list of responsibilities the ASF will have to take on. Crucial as they are, these operations all point to the manner in which the AU defines its geopolitical objectives within the African context. Underlying the need for the ASF is internal conditions of insecurity, and the un-governability of large stretches of African state territory.
By stepping into the space where political emergencies erupt into open conflict, the AU hopes to avert crises, and provide a basic security infrastructure upon which political and socio-economic life can continue without unnecessary interruption.
Since the phrase African solutions to African problems (ASAP) entered the African lexicon in 2007, it has proved not to be of much value to the continent or its people.
Contrary to what it was originally intended, the phrase has been taken hostage by domestic political sloganeers and foreign elements eager to advance zero-sum interests. Although it became the ideological impetus that helped to establish multi-national African forces such as AMISOM, much of it has been left to rhetoric.
However, the decision by the African Union to establish the African Standby Force (ASF) is one in the right direction. Through the protocol relating to the establishment of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union (PSC), the African Standby Force (ASF) was established as part of the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA). The Peace and Security Council Protocol (PSCP) covers a comprehensive agenda for peace and security. This includes conflict prevention, early warning and preventive diplomacy, peace-building, intervention and humanitarian action and disaster management.
The other components of APSA set up by the PSC Protocol include the continental early warning system; the panel of the wise and the Peace Fund. The ASF comprises multi-national and multi-disciplinary civilian, Police and military components held on standby in their countries of origin in the five regions of the African Union.
These regions are Eastern Africa Standby Force (EASF), Northern Standby Brigade (NARC), Western Africa Standby Brigade (ECOWAS), Central African Standby Brigade (ECCAS) and Southern Africa Standby Brigade (SADC).
The AU is aiming for all the forces to be in place by December 2015. While it is true that regions made the commitment to fast-rack the establishment of these forces, the Eastern African region has moved faster that other regions on this matter. — New Vision/ Geopolical Monitor.