“Practical modalities for the operationalisation” of African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises, the precursor to the African Union’s African Standby Force (ASF), are scheduled to be tabled before year-end.
The Pan-African body’s Peace and Security Council re-affirmed its commitment to making ACIRC a reality, at a meeting on July 29. This follows an earlier meeting where the lack of a force such as the proposed ACIRC was highlighted when violence erupted in Mali early in the year.
A report issued in May following a meeting of AU Chiefs of Staff said the Malian crisis highlighted the need to “expedite operationalisation of the Rapid Deployment Capability (RDC) and accelerate establishment of the ASF”.
The AU peace and security council underscored the need for the body’s specialised technical committee on defence, safety and security to work speedily on operationalisation of ACIRC.
It acknowledged the main obstacles to firming up the ASF were inadequate logistic capacities and funding.
The Council plans to have AICRC fully functional and operational by 2015.
To date, South Africa, Uganda and Ethiopia have pledged to implement the decision on the establishment of the AICRC capacity.
On a voluntary basis, AU member states will contribute troops and finance the capacity so as to act independently. Command and control will be ensured by the AU Peace and Security Council on request from a member state for intervention.
In a statement issued after its meeting, the council again encouraged all AU member states to provide financial, logistical and technical capacities to create a functioning continental logistic base as a stepping stone to both ACIRC and the ASF.
Overall the AU envisages ACIRC as a “flexible and robust force to be deployed rapidly to effectively respond to emergency situations” in the framework of its African Peace and Security Architecture.
ACIRC is seen as a precursor to the ASF, for which plans have been in place for over a decade.
Countries belonging to the African Union were slow in committing troops to the Standby Force, which came into being in 2007 when regional countries resolved to contribute troops in the form of a standby force to defence member states from revolts and aggression. It was originally supposed to be operational in 2010 but this has been postponed to 2014.
The stopgap AICRC would comprise of a reservoir of 5 000 troops made up of operational modules in the form of 1 500 strong battle groups. These groups should be able to deploy rapidly and operate under a central command with an initial autonomy of 30 days. AICRC should enable the continent to provide an immediate response to crises in the short term, while allowing for a political solution to the crisis.