via AU defence forces’ meeting starts | The Herald May 12, 2015 by Felex Share
The 8th ordinary meeting of the African Union Ministers of Defence began here yesterday with defence, peace and security experts from the 54-member States keen to assess progress made towards the operationalisation of the Africa Standby Force.
The member-states have up to December to set up a continental peacekeeping force after failing to do so on three occasions previously.
The ASF’s operationalisation was planned for 2008, pushed to 2010, then 2013 and now 2015, a new deadline set by the 24th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union that met in Ethiopia in January.
The military force is expected to maintain peace and stability on the continent and should be prepared to intervene in regional hotspots at short notice.
The defence experts meetings, which end today, are expected to come up with recommendations for consideration by the continent’s Chiefs of Defence Staff and Heads of Security Services whose meetings start tomorrow before Ministers meet on Thursday.
It is the first time in the history of the AU that the meetings are being held outside the AU Headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. In his opening remarks to the experts, AU Peace and Security Council secretary Dr Admore Kambudzi said the meetings provided the continent with a “golden opportunity” to realise its dream of having a standby military force.
“As we approach the deadline for the operationalisation of the ASF and its Rapid Deployment Capabilities, this meeting will assess the progress made, as well as analyse the challenges at hand and consider the recommendations made by the African Union for the way forward,” he said.
“Significant progress has been made in ASF capacity building, including the development of the ASF civilian roster, training and exercises which will culminate this year in the AMANI Africa II exercise.
“The issue of the African capacity for immediate response to crisis is a question that the AU and its member States are determined to effectively address.”
Delays in establishing a standby force forced African States to request French intervention to tackle crises in Mali and the Central African Republic (CAR) two years ago.
Dr Kambudzi said efforts were also being made to operationalise a continental logistics base and regional depots as well as the ASF command, control and communication information systems.
He said the AU would continue pursuing conflict management and resolution on the continent as evidenced by its efforts in Somalia and CAR.
“We are at the same time taking note of the AU’s support for the strengthening of the Multinational Taskforce against Boko Haram,” he said.
Major General Sibusisiwe Moyo, who chaired the experts meeting called for the strengthening of security cooperation among members States for the continent to respond quickly and effectively to crises.
Head of the AU Peace Support Operations division Mr Sivuyile Bam said the integration of all the security instruments of the AU was key in ensuring an agile and responsive ASF.