The 2015 conference on the African Standby Force (ASF): Beyond 2015 stems from a co-operation MoU between the Faculty of the Royal Danish Defence College and the Faculty of Military Science, Stellenbosch University.
The 2013 conference in Dar es Salaam, the third one in the series, featured maritime security off Africa with a post-piracy theme.
This year the conference theme coincided with expectations and decisions on the readiness of the ASF and thus the “Beyond 2015” theme, said Professor Francois Vrey of the Military Science Faculty. The expectations of readiness and the emergence of ACIRC (African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises) also underpins dynamics necessitating the beyond 2015 focus of the event.
Day One saw an overview of the Peace and Security Architecture of the African Union (AU) including the domains of civilian participation, the rise of maritime security, costs and burden-sharing as well as the viability of the state as a dominant organising concept for all.
Keynote speaker from Warwick University (UK) Dr David Anderson emphasised the Peace and Security Architecture of the AU, including the ASF, entailed costs and responsibilities with no avenue to avoid these two matters.
The Day Two keynote speaker, Dr Jakkie Cilliers of ISS South Africa, covered the rise of violence and terrorism in Africa from a statistical perspective after which follow-on speakers dealt with each of the five regional entities and their standby arrangements.
Of interest was the work done by ECCAS (Economic Community of Central African States) (FOMAC – La Force Multinationale de l’Afrique Centrale) and the NARC (North Africa Regional Capability) in North Africa, two regions not often the focus of discussion. In ECCAS the progress with maritime security in the Gulf of Guinea also caught the attention – a matter generally neglected when regional standby matters are addressed, Vrey pointed out.
The inclusion of the AIMS 2050 theme on Day One questioned the general understanding of ASF readiness beyond 2015. Although each region appears to be on its way, but with different modes and at different tempos, to bring the expected standby arrangements to fruition remains complex, particularly the process to move from military standby pledges and readiness towards political authorities and decisions to effect deployment.
The morning of Day Three covered ACIRC with a lively exchange of ideas including opinions on its intrusion into the ASF and the violation of the co-operative and consensus culture sought by the AU to that of a viable option to keep in step with rapidly unfolding of violent threats on the continent.
It was clear from discussions the matter of ACIRC did not reflect a mature consensus among the speakers and other delegates, Vrey said. While the operational readiness of ACIRC is being pushed forward rather quickly, it appears its deployment principles and political backing remain uncertain.
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.