11 October 2013 by Kim Helfrich - defenceWeb
A planning meeting currently underway in Gaborone, Botswana, will finalise planning for a major field exercise in Lesotho next October in support of the African Standby Force’s (ASF) further development.
According to an AU statement, the three day planning conference of the Amani Africa ll field training exercise is in line with implementation of the ASF Roadmap lll.
“The overall objective of the exercise is to validate the capacity of the AU to mandate and employ a rapid deployment capability of the ASF as a start-up operation and to run a full multidimensional peace support operation,” General Sekouba Konate, AU representative for the operationalisation of the ASF said.
“By opting to equip the AU with the ASF, African leaders made a landmark decision in the light of the violent and resurgent conflicts that undermine our development efforts while taking a heavy toll in human lives.”
The Gaborone meeting is being attended by planners from the AU Commission, the regional economic communities and regional mechanisms for conflict prevention, the EU, UN and other partners.
It follows a July decision by the AU Peace and Security Council to operationalise an African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises (ACIRC) as a precursor to the ASF. The decision was taken after an earlier meeting pointed out that lack of a force such as ACIRC could have prevented at least some of the violence that erupted in Mali in the first three months of the year.
As with the ASF, the plan is to have the ACIRC fully functional and operational by 2015.
While no details of participating countries for next year’s Lesotho exercise have yet been released, Ethiopia, South Africa and Uganda have pledged to implement the ACIRC decision.
Plans to establish the ASF have been on the AU Peace and Security Council agenda for more than a decade. AU member countries were slow in committing troops to the ASF, which officially came into being in 2007 when regional countries resolved to contribute troops to the ASG to defend member states from revolts and aggression. It was originally planned to be operational by 2010.