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African Standby Force planned

African Standby Force

Johannesburg – The African Union (AU) believes Africa will have a united and functioning single military by the end of this year as leaders on Monday pledged to accelerate the operationalisation of the African Standby Force (ASF).

This is one of the resolutions adopted at the 25th AU Summit which ended in Johannesburg on Monday night.

The continent desperately needs a strong force for peace and security that would ensure the continent has the stability it needs for sustainable development to take root.

Such a force would also be crucial to counter terrorists groups like Boko Haram and Alshabab that have killed thousands of people and displaced many in west Africa. The envisaged 25000-strong ASF operating through five regional brigades is expected to be the backbone of the continent’s new peace and security architecture. AU Chairperson Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe confirmed that the first training exercises for the force would be held in South Africa towards the end of October. It is hoped that by the end of the year, all regions will be ready to form part of the single force.

Reading from the declaration of the summit, President Mugabe noted that the “troubling” state of peace and security in the continent needed to be given attention.

“We condemn the act of terrorisms committed by extremists across Africa and we resolved to confront terrorism collectively in order to defeat it,” he said.

The summit at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg was held under the theme “Year of Women Empowerment and Development towards Africa’s Agenda 2063”.

After two days of intense deliberations on the future of the continent, Mugabe said the AU leaders resolved to adopt the plan to implement the first 10 years of the Agenda 2063 blue print. Leaders also backed initiatives aimed at women empowerment and highlighted what they called “eradication of the hoe” and introduce modern equipment for women working in agriculture.

The political crisis in Burundi, and ways to fund the AU operations, were also discussed intensely.

Leaders resolved to intensify their effort to address the issue of migrants crossing the Mediterranean, and improving infrastructure and technology advancement on the continent. With thousands of African migrants losing their lives in the Mediterranean Sea while trying to reach greener pastures in Europe, the issues of migration is evidently a worrying issue for the AU.

The summit was, however, overshadowed by the participation of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir who is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for alleged war crimes. The ICC on Sunday urged the South African government to arrest the Sudanese leader.

But AU Commission Chairperson Dr Nkosaza-Dlamini Zuma defended the continental body’s decision to invite Albashir. Dlamini-Zuma said the AU was not party to the Roman statute but member states were.

“He has always attended out summits, this was not the first time. The AU is not a bilateral meeting, it is a multilateral meeting. When a country hosts an AU summit it sticks by the AU rules. President Albashir has always attended our summits and will continue to do so,” said Dlamini-Zuma. –

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