Voice of America (Washington, DC)

31 January 2014

Africa: AU - Standby Force Needed to Respond to Conflicts

Photo: Thijs Bouwknegt/RNW
International Criminal Court in the Hague

Addis Ababa — The African Union summit wrapped up Friday with a call to fast-track an African standby force to better respond to conflicts across the continent. AU leaders say the recent violence in South Sudan and the Central African Republic underscores the need for rapid intervention.

In his closing statement, newly appointed AU chairman Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, the president of Mauritania, said African nations must commit resources to resolve the continent's problems.

"Africa must do what is necessary" he said, "to accelerate the operationalization of the African standby force and the African capacity for immediate response to crises in a spirit of continental solidarity," he said.

The African Standby Force was supposed to be launched in 2010, with contingents based across Africa, but the date has been postponed repeatedly. The AU now wants the force to be operational by next year.

In the meantime, some African nations inspired by the 2012 crisis in Mali have called for a temporary rapid intervention force that would respond to conflicts until the Standby Force is ready.

Security issues dominated the AU summit, with concerns about the conflicts in South Sudan and the Central African Republic.

Earlier Friday, envoys from the East African regional group IGAD called for teams to be sent to South Sudan to monitor a shaky ceasefire deal designed to end deadly clashes between the government and rebel soldiers.

Reports of continued fighting have already threatened the week-old deal.

Speaking at the meeting, the U.S. special envoy to South Sudan, Donald Booth, warned "there will be consequences" for anyone who tries to undermine the peace process.

On Saturday, the AU is hosting a donors' conference in Addis Ababa to raise money for the African-led peacekeeping force in the CAR, torn apart by months of political and inter-religious violence. The Red Cross reports another 30 people were killed this week in the capital.

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