The African Union’s (AU) response to and capabilities for intervening in conflict and crisis situations on the continent received attention at its January summit in Addis Ababa but no firm date was set for the African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises (ACIRC) to become operational.
Newly elected AU chairman Mohamed Ould Adbel (President of Mauritanian) told the summit the continental body would “enable” countries who have committed to the initiative to put it together.
There are currently 10 countries, including South Africa, who have committed to ACIRC. They are Algeria, Angola, Chad, Liberia, Niger, Senegal, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda. The AU has 54 member states.
South African President Jacob Zuma, who hosted a November summit in Pretoria on the coming into being of the force as a precursor to the long awaited African Standby Force (ASF), attended the Addis Ababa gathering. He said “practical modalities” for it being operational were discussed “at length” during the two day gathering.
Speaking at the Pretoria ACIRC summit he said the decision to establish ACIRC was “due to the realisation that independent and swift African response to crises that arise on our continent cannot wait while the building blocks of the ASF are carefully being put into place”.
The AU sees ACIRC as an efficient, robust and credible force, which can be deployed rapidly and with the ability to conduct operations of limited duration while creating conditions for larger AU and/or UN peace operations. It is an interim tool as the African Standby Force is meant to be operational by 2015, SANews reported.
Ahead of the Addis Ababa summit, AU Peace and Security Commissioner Smail Chergui urged member states to ensure the ASF is fully operational by 2015. This entails ICIRC becoming a reality before then as a transitional arrangement ahead of the long awaited ASF.
The ASF was originally meant to be operational by 2010 but Chergui said delays had seen this deadline pushed out to 2015.
“It goes without saying we simply cannot afford another postponement, otherwise the credibility of our collective undertaking will be eroded,” he said ahead of the January summit.
To be able to implement operations, ACIRC should have at least 1 500 troops structured as an integrated combat unit. Musterings should include both standard and specialist military personnel from troop donating countries. It is envisaged that troops for operational deployments will be selected from a continental pool of about 5 000.