Africa: Why Is the African Union Still Failing Its People On Peace and Security?

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Rather, it was French troops who were airlifted into Bangui. It was left to the United Nations to move peacekeepers from Darfur, Liberia, Ivory Coast, and even Haiti, to try to staunch the bloodletting in South Sudan.

The African Standby Force was designed to provide the African Union with exactly the kind of military capability it needs to respond rapidly to critical situations of these kinds.

The concept was discussed in Harare in 1997 by African Chiefs of Defence Staff, but the initiative had to wait until July 2002 before it received a formal go-ahead.

The Standby Brigades would answer to the African Union's Peace and Security Council, the continental equivalent of the UN Security Council. The aim was to produce a rapidly deployable force and that by 2012 two units, each 2,500 strong, would be operational within just 14 days.

The United States lavished money on what was described as the "African Peace and Security Architecture," providing US$ 500 million to train up to 50,000 African troops.

British involvement was also substantial, with more than £110 million a year being invested via the African Conflict Prevention Pool for nearly a decade.[1] Today the figure stands at £51.5 million [2] The Pool is a joint initiative, run by the Foreign Office, the Ministry of Defence and DFID.

But the force, with its 5 regional Standby Brigades, has failed to materialise. The concept has been a signal failure. Differences between African states run far too deep for them to be used in the continent's many crises. When Ivory Coast and Mali fell apart it was the old colonial power - France - that came to the rescue.

In November 2013 an official statement from the South African government took the route of least resistance: they announced that the force would be renamed.

The "African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises" (ACIRC), would be what was termed a "transitional arrangement" until the African Standby Force could be up and running. The Nigerian Guardian was more forthright. It reported that the Standby Brigades had made little progress since they were first dreamed up over a decade ago.

So why the failure? Africa is capable of running military operations, given sufficient outside financial and logistical support. The Peace and Security Council currently boasts two "Field Missions". One, in the Western Sahara, is so dormant it need not detain us. The other - in Somalia - is clearly active.

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