South Africa is today hosting a consultative summit aimed at making the newest addition to the African Union’s (AU) peace and security architecture a reality.
The African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises (ACIRC) was brought into being as a precursor to the African Standby Force (ASF). Its establishment appears to be rooted in events in Mali earlier this year where the lack of a fast response force was highlighted by the outbreak of violence there. Soon after Mali erupted, immediate past Africom (US Africa Command) Commander General Carter F Ham said speedy deployment of a quick response AU force could have prevented much of the violence in Mali.
Today’s meeting at the Department of International Relations and Co-operation (DIRCO) guesthouse in Pretoria will see countries which have expressed a willingness to contribute to ACIRC discuss ways and means of making the nascent force reality. This is in line with a decision taken in July by the AU Peace and Security Council to table “practical modalities for the operationalisation” of the ACIRC before year-end. It is seen as a precursor to the ASF, plans for which have existed for more than 10 years.
In a statement DIRCO said the summit was “deemed important” by President Jacob Zuma as a tool to making the ACIRC an operational entity.
In May Reuters reported that the delay in creating the ASF had led to criticism that African has for too long been slow to do its own peacekeeping, relying instead on help and funding from the UN and Western donors.
ACIRC is planned to be made up of voluntary contributions of troops, equipment and funds by AU member states. By August only Ethiopia, South Africa and Uganda pledged to implement the AU decision on the establishment of an ACIRC capacity.
Today’s meeting is, according to DIRCO, “the first round of informal consultations between like-minded and willing contributing countries on the issue of rapid response to crises, within the context of the proposed Africa Standby Force. It is an interim measure to deal with conflict on the continent in the context of African Solutions for African Problems”.
Apart from a roadmap for the way forward to actual creation of the ICIRC the meeting will also look to set up a framework in which the new force would be set up and deployed to where needed.
Minister Maite Nkoana-Mshabane’s department did not give any indication of which countries would be represented at the summit.