African Standby Force under the spotlight ahead of Ex Amani Africa


Threats to peace and security on the African continent, with a particular emphasis on the African Union (AU) and its security structure, the African Standby Force (ASF), will form the focus of a conference to be held in Stellenbosch next week.

Themed “The African Standby Force: Beyond 2015” the conference is the fourth event since 2009 co-hosted by the Institute of Strategy of the Royal Danish Defence College and the Faculty of Military Science at Stellenbosch University in the conference series “On Strategy”. The conference will be held from September 16 to 18 at the Wallenberg Research Centre at the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study (STIAS).

The aim of the conference is to provide both a theoretical and a contemporary operational background on threats and responses to those threats with a particular focus on the AU and the ASF and its five regional brigades.

The first set of papers on Wednesday views the progress, standing and voids of the ASF in general, with the keynote speaker, Dr David Anderson of Warwick University opening with a paper on the costs and responsibilities the AU faces in this regard. Day one also offers a perspective on the rising maritime landscape off Africa to register with the audience how maritime security now features alongside landward threats and vulnerabilities.

Day two commences with Dr Jakkie Cilliers of the Institute of Security Studies (South Africa) with a paper on “African Peace and Security: A view from the top” mapping out the terrorism threat in Africa in particular.

Subsequent papers will be presented by speakers from the five different regions and cover standby arrangements in West Africa (ECOWAS), Southern Africa (SADC), East Africa (EASBRIG), Central Africa (ECCAS & FOMAC) and the North Africa Regional Capability (NARC). The speakers’ themes address African threat landscapes, institution building and the constructive use of armed forces to prevent, stop and contribute to resolving armed threats. Resolution of armed threats is an important locus of international academic attention and is rising to unprecedented levels in the Africa of 2015 and beyond.

The morning workshop on September 18 will reflect on the conference deliberations as well as the standing of ACIRC (African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crisis) and have opinions expressed on taking the ASF beyond 2015.

Delegates and speakers from Norway, Japan, Egypt, Kenya, Ghana, Gabon, Sweden, Denmark and the African Union in Addis Ababa are participating in the event while several delegates and speakers from South Africa, Namibia, Tanzania and Zimbabwe have also registered for the conference.

South Africa is a driver behind the African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises (ACIRC), a precursor to the ASF, which will apparently be established by the beginning of 2016, resulting in no further need for the stopgap ACIRC. Between June and December South Africa will be leading whatever contingent is required to deploy as part of the ACIRC. The final strength of the ACIRC contribution from South Africa will be 1 800 personnel when they finally deploy.

Between October 19 and November 7 some 5 000 troops will descend on Lohathla for exercise Amani Africa II. The South African Army said that all AU members from East and West Africa will take part in the exercise while all countries with the exception of the Central African Republic will take part from Central Africa. Members from North Africa will only send staff officers.

The envisaged 25 000-strong ASF operating through five regional brigades is expected to be the backbone of the continent’s new peace and security architecture.