The African Union’s much-repeated mantra of “African solutions to African problems” does not have the same ring to it in light of the fact that the United Nations has more than two-thirds of its worldwide deployment of peacekeepers on the continent.
Against the background of the long-awaited, but still apparently nowhere near reality, African Standby Force (ASF), it appears South African President Jacob Zuma has emerged as a champion of the nascent African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises (ACIRC) force. He hosted a summit around the force that is seen as a precursor to the ASF in Pretoria last November and currently has the top command structure of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) brainstorming on what South Africa’s contribution to the ACIRC will be, both in terms of manpower and materiel.
The Commander-in-Chief of South Africa’s military also welcomed last week’s announcement of more than $550 million coming to the continent from the United States to assist individual African countries in capacity building as far as peace and security forces are concerned.
South Africa doesn’t feature on the list of countries on the receiving end of President Barack Obama’s largesse but that should not be allowed to affect particularly defence and military relations between Pretoria and Washington.
It would be charitable to call them “cool”, in the old fashioned sense of the word and it’s high time this changed.
As military analyst Helmoed Heitman puts it: “It is time South Africa becomes realistic and gives up the delusion that no-one in Africa is working with Africom – they all are. We (South Africa) are the only exception and that does not serve us or Africa well”.
American funding for peacekeeping is coming to Africa. American know-how in this field is already here and South Africa would do well to use it in making the Zuma championed ACIRC reality as soon as possible. If not, the ACIRC could well join the ASF as another AU concept that never really made it.