African Union military capability – a step forward?
Does the unwieldy label of the African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises conceal a real determination to act?
7 November 2013
All the attention this week on the unconditional surrender of the M23 rebels in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) – including the Southern African Development Community (SADC)/International Conference on the Great Lakes Region (ICGLR) summit on the topic in Pretoria which South African President Jacob Zuma hosted on Monday night – rather overshadowed another important summit which he hosted the next night.
After the big SADC/ICGLR summit which nine heads of state attended, Tuesday’s summit on the African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises (ACIRC) was something of an anti-climax. Only four leaders were present and it also failed to attract much media attention, mainly, it seems, because the ACIRC invites such scepticism; it seems so perfectly to encapsulate the African Union’s (AU) propensity to prevaricate and procrastinate.
The AU summit in Addis Ababa in May decided to create the ACIRC because of its embarrassment at being found so badly wanting when jihadist and separatist insurgents launched their offensive to try to take over Mali. While Africa dithered and mulled over its response, the former colonial power France intervened decisively with Operation Serval, stopping the insurgents in their tracks.
The AU’s African Standby Force (ASF) should really have done the job in Mali. But at the May summit, the AU leaders said it was not going to be ready for some time, because, as then AU peace and security commissioner Ramtane Lamamra in effect explained, it was intended to be such a perfect instrument that creating it would be a long process.
So the leaders agreed on a stopgap measure, the ACIRC, which would be a voluntary mechanism of countries ready to come together quickly to tackle specific crises. And so Tuesday’s meeting was the first gathering of the volunteers at summit level. The four leaders who attended were Zuma, Chad’s President Idriss Déby, Uganda’s President Yoweri Museveni and Tanzania’s President Jakaya Kikwete.
Niger, Ghana, Ethiopia, Angola, Algeria and Sudan were represented at a lower level. Zuma was explicit in his opening remarks about the genesis of the ACIRC as a mechanism Africa felt it needed to ensure ‘African solutions for African problems’ – swiftly and independently of external powers. He suggested that this mechanism should be up and running by the end of the year.
But in a statement afterwards the leaders said they had decided to establish a Working Group of all Chiefs of Defence Staff of volunteering countries. The leaders had agreed on guidelines to help the defence chiefs to draft practical proposals for setting up the ACIRC. The chiefs would report back to the leaders of volunteering countries who would in turn report to the next AU summit in January 2014.
None of which sounds very ‘immediate’.
Nonetheless official sources insist there is a real determination by the core group of volunteers to create a rapid response force relatively rapidly. The volunteers were asked to pledge forces at Tuesday’s meeting. Déby, Museveni and Kikwete each pledged a reinforced battalion, while South Africa pledged a motorized battalion, sources said. South Africa and Tanzania are already quite committed with a battalion each in the Force Intervention Brigade (FIB) which contributed decisively to the DRC army’s victory over the M23. And Uganda’s military is even more deeply committed through its major contribution to the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) force in Somalia.
Seems like there may soon be a african rapid respons force.
Basicaly SA, Chad, Uganda and tanziana are tired of haveing africa saved by some forghin ornisation. So far it only really got 4000 solders so not much of a force.
And if Chad and SA can get it right the testing grounds will be CAR. And 4000 solders with a proper ROE could easly clear bangue and the surronding area.
All so note that the 4 countries that pledged troops don't sit arround. SA along with tanzian pushed for the FIB, uganda has a lot of troops fighting alshabab in somlia and Chad rush along side france in to mali.