AU lifts lid on operationalisation of the African standby force

THE Peace and Security Council (PSC) is the standing decision-making organ of the African Union (AU) for the prevention, management and resolution of conflicts.

It is a collective security and early warning arrangement intended to facilitate timely and efficient responses to conflict and crisis situations in Africa. It is also the key pillar of the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA), which is the framework for promoting peace, security and stability in Africa.

AU has been holding several meetings to, among others, discuss and look at status of implementation of the common African Defense and Security Policy. On June 22 this year the Council, at ministerial level held a meeting, with special focus on the operationalisation of the African standby force.

Tanzanian Ambassador to Ethiopia, who is the Permanent Representative of Tanzania to the Au, Mr Innocent Shiyo says that as alluded to in the Report of the Commission, a common African Defense and Security Policy (CADSP) is a framework for AU member states to coordinate their defense and security efforts in an attempt to promote stability on the continent.

“Indeed, not only the policy aims to ensure a peaceful co-existence, non-aggression and non-interference in internal affairs of member states but also gives the AU the right to intervene in a member state in case of grave circumstances such as war crime, genocide, crime against humanity,” he noted.

At the heart of CADSP, however, is an African Standby Force (ASF), a mechanism designed to provide rapid and effective response to conflicts and crises in the continent. The ASF is provided under article 13 of the PSC Protocol.

In this context, Council members commended the work done by the Commission towards the full operationalisation of the ASF, including the Continental Logistic Base (CLB) in Cameroon. We also welcome the progress made towards the finalisation of the draft Memorandum of Understanding between the AU and the RECs/RMs on the ASF.

He noted that members were also pleased to note that since CLB became operational, it has donated equipment of USD 8.8 million and 7.1 million to SAMIM and MNJTF respectively, in support of ongoing efforts against terrorism. This is indeed a commendable achievement.

Mr Shiyo told the meeting that his delegation recognises the important role to be played by RECs/RMs in the deployment and management of PSOs.

“In this regard, we would like to stress the need for the effective establishment of the regional logistics depot. Indeed, their establishment would play a role in addressing one of the key challenges currently faced with equipment being situated at the Continental Logistics Base,” he noted.

A well-funded ASF will be a great tool in confronting the growing challenge of terrorism and violent extremism in Africa. Present experience across our continent is bearing this out.

“As such, we support the call for enhanced engagement towards addressing the issue of predictable, adequate and sustainable funding for peace and security activities on the continent, including those with a focus towards accessing UN assessed contributions,” said the ambassador.

After a detailed discussion in the meeting, says Ambassador Shiyo, members reaffirmed the imperative of the full operationalisation of the ASF to enable rapid deployment and timeous intervention and note the progress made thus far.

They called on member states to renew their political will and commitment to the Common African Defence and Security Policy and encourage them to consider utilising the ASF for the prevention, management and resolution of conflicts on the Continent;

There was a further call upon on all stakeholders including AU, RECs/RMs and member states to scale up efforts that would strengthen the Regional Brigades of the ASF and avail the required support necessary to the full operationalisation of the force.

Considering the rising threat of terrorism and violent extremism in the continent, the Council urged the AUPSC to take concrete steps to respond to the challenge, including expediting the establishment of a Counter-terrorism Special Unit under the ASF to address the shortcomings of traditional peacekeeping and enforcement missions.

Members noted the Ministerial Session of the 15th Specialised Technical Committee on Defense, Safety and Security (STCDSS), held on 12 May 2023 and the recommendations therein, and welcome the adoption by the 15th STCDSS of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the AU and the RECs/RMs on the ASF and the adoption of the African Union Compliance and Accountability Framework in Peace Support Operations.

Ambassador Shiyo says that members reiterated the call of the 15th STCDSS and requested the Commission to expedite the strategic review of the ASF, taking into consideration the Conclusions of the Inaugural Lessons Learned Forum on AU Peace Support Operations that was held in November 2022, in Abuja, Nigeria and subsequently adopted by the PSC at its 1129th meeting held on 20 December 2022, and to ensure the alignment of the ASF Concept to enable its effective utilisation.

They re-emphasised the importance of continuing to strengthen institutional capacity building efforts and enhance coordination and consultation between the AU Commission and other ASF stakeholders notably RECs/RMs and Member States with the view to harmonising political decision-making and mandate process for the deployment of the ASF.

Members, according to Mr Shiyo, requested RECs/RMs to facilitate verification and reporting on their pledged capabilities to the AU, and to confirm personnel and equipment that are available for rapid deployment of the ASF as and when required.

They also requested the Commission to continue to explore practical ways and means of resolving the funding challenges, including through pursuing consultations with the UNSC on accessing UN assessed contributions for funding peace support operations on the continent.

A further request was the full implementation of the decision of the 36th Ordinary Assembly of the Union that adopted the structure of the AU Continental Logistics Base in Douala, Cameroon, and request Member States to support the efforts for the mobilization of the required budget.

They reiterated the request for the Chairperson of the Commission to regularly brief Council on the status of the implementation of the Common African Defence and Security Policy and other relevant AU instruments on defense and security in the continent.

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