African Union (AU) member states and their regional economic communities should conduct a comprehensive and physical assessment on the early operationalisation of the African Standby Force (ASF) that has been on the drawing board for the last 10 years, according to a recommendation adopted here Tuesday by the African Chiefs of Defence Staff.
Concluding their ninth meeting at the AU Commission headquarters, the defence chiefs noted that there was inadequate information on the current status on the operationalisation of the ASF- Rapid Deployment Capability (RDC) to deal with crises on the continent.
Underlining the need for renewed efforts to put the ASF into operation, the defence chiefs suggested that the AUC should undertake lessons from the challenges encountered in deploying AU-mandated peace support operations in response to crises.
Meanwhile, AU Peace and Security Commissioner Ramtane Lamamra, told the African Defence ministers that Africa cannot afford to simply remain at the mercy of foreign interventions when crises cropped up in a member state of the AU.
“What is at stake today is our collective determination and capacity to promote African leadership in tackling crises in Africa,” Lamamra said at the opening of the ministerial session that followed the defence chiefs’ meeting of the specialised technical committee on defence, safety and security.
“What happened in Mali could happen at any time anywhere on the continent,” he said, referring to the invasion of the West African country’s northern region in January 2012 up to January 2013 by terrorists and criminals.
“Why was Africa unable to rise to the challenge in Mali for the whole year?” Lamamra queried, adding that there was the need for the ASF-RDC to go operational as soon as possible.
“All of us welcomed as necessary the intervention of France in Mali, which made us avert a terrible catastrophe. But, we all felt that such a military action should have come from Africa itself,” Lamamra said, lamenting the fact that Africa “remains seriously challenged in terms of its capacity which undermines the political will to finding appropriate solutions to African crises.”
At the 20th Ordinary Summit of the AU Assembly, held here in January 2013, African leaders expressed the feeling that what was at stake was their nations’ capacity to respond to emergency situations.
“As Africa celebrates the golden jubilee of the AU (in May 2013), it is the best moment for our nations to implement the decisions we take collectively.
“Tremendous efforts have been made to implement some of the decisions, but we should acknowledge that the progress was not enough to meet the ambitions that the AU had set out itself,” Lamamra pointed out.
The defence ministers examined recommendations put forward by the AUC in order to facilitate the early operationalisation of the Rapid Deployment Capability as a key component of the ASF.
The outcome of this meeting will be submitted to the AU Peace and Security Council and subsequently to the Ordinary Session of the AU Assembly due to be held here in May 2013.