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AU Mulls Size, Composition of Projected Standby Force

FILE - Members of the Eastern Africa Standby Brigade from Uganda march to board a French tactical aircraft C160 Transall at the French Air Base 188 in Djibouti, Dec. 5, 2009.

The African Union Commission’s Peace and Security Department is meeting in Zimbabwe as part of efforts to create an African Standby Force. The envisioned force would play a peacekeeping role of sorts, responding to political emergencies around the continent to maintain stability.

General Samaila Iliya is leading the process of ensuring that there is African Standby Force, or ASF, by the target date of April of next year.

The Nigerian general noted the idea of a standby force was raised at the inception of the African Union’s predecessor, the Organization of African Union, in 1963.

“We should own and be able to deploy and be able to promote peace and security. All put together it is a mechanism, an architecture owned by Africans themselves, in case there [are] issues that border on peace and security, you can make use of that capability,” he said.

'Amani plan'

Illiya said Monday that the two weeks of discussions taking place in Harare are part of the “Amani plan.” Amani means peace in Swahili.

The discussions are for leaders of armies and police forces across the continent who will play roles in the ASF. Among other things, participants will try to decide the total size of the force.

When operational, the African Standby Force will consist of standby arrangements based in five African sub-regions. Military forces, police and some civilians will be on call and ready for rapid deployment.

The African Union Commission would deploy components of the force when there is a coup or a legitimately-elected government is overwhelmed by events such as internal unrest or a foreign attack.

At the moment, AU forces like the AMISOM mission in Somalia rely on member states voluntarily contributing security forces.