A summit to determine the combat readiness of the African Union’s (AU) standby force will begin in Botswana’s capital, Gaborone Wednesday, says Major-General Samaila Iliya, the director of the AMANI Africa II exercise.
“[It] is going to focus on rapid deployment capabilities, which is part and parcel of the African standby force,” said IlIya. “We are looking at the preparations [for the] field training exercise which is going to take place in October hopefully next year, [which] has to do with the African standby force.”
Officials from the military, police and other civilian security experts and planners are scheduled to attend the Wednesday planning conference for the training exercise.
Senior AU representatives say the standby force is expected to be ready by 2015. They said it would be deployed to help resolve conflicts as well as combat various armed groups that threaten to undermine the peace and stability of member states.
“The African Union has put in place the peace and security architecture and of course, the architecture is doing very well,” said IlIya. “The various components all are being put in place, [so] at the end of the day [we will] have a very robust mechanism… to address conflict in Africa.”
Several current and former African leaders have called for the establishment of a rapid deployment force to help restore peace and stability.
“It’s clear,” said Illya, “that for Africans to have a mechanism owned by the African Union, [means] the AU [has a tool to] employ in the resolution of conflict.
But some critics say the continental body lacks the money to sustain such a force in the region’s multiple conflicts. They also express concern about the composition of the force, which would be made up of troops from member states.
“The African Union has already put in mechanisms to be able to have the finances that can actually sustain this initiative. At the level of the chairperson, it is been seen to it that resources are put in place to be able to sustain these various mechanisms,” said IlIya.