Evaluating the Readiness of the African Standby Force: Amani Africa - the Cycle Complete


Johan Potgieter, Senior Researcher, Peace Missions Programme, ISS, Pretoria 

Mr Jean Ping, Chairperson of the AU Commission, in his opening address at the Amani Africa Command Post Exercise (CPX) on 29 October 2010, emphasised the importance of Africa’s commitment to solving Africa’s problems and of partnerships with those who wish Africa well.  He reminded the audience that, with the transformation from the Organisation of African Unity (AOU) into the African Union (AU), African leaders expressed both their desire and commitment to play a greater role in, and to take greater ownership of, peace and security on the African continent.  He added,while partnership with the international community was important, the international community could not always be relied upon to address threats to peace and security on the African continent.  Indeed, Somalia and Rwanda were painful lessons for us all.

These were the underlying reasons why, in July 2002, the AU Assembly adopted the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA), which consists of a Continental Early Warning System, the Panel of the Wise, the African Standby Force (ASF), and the Africa Peace Fund. The Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Development framework was later included as one of the pillars of this structure.  These instruments provide the AU with the ability to analyse and manage conflicts, through dialogue or intervention in crisis situations or by assisting societies to recover from crises and achieve sustainable and lasting peace. 

Africa’s success in this venture will also influence neighbouring continents.  A stable and peaceful Africa is as important to Europe as a stable and prosperous Europe is to Africa.  In December 2007, the European Union (EU), recognising the steps taken by the AU to promote peace and security in Africa, entered into a Strategic Partnership with the AU.  This partnership centres on cooperation in the fields of peace and security, political relations, economic partnership and social development.  Within the partnership framework, the EU has provided important support both to APSA and the development and operationalisation of the ASF.  A properly functioning ASF is essential for the Peace and Security Council’s (PSC) successful promotion of peace, security and stability in Africa.  The AU/EU partnership therefore established the Amani Africa training cycle, to accelerate and validate the state of operational readiness of the ASF.

The final phase of the Amani Africa cycle, which concluded on 29 October 2010, was not a single event, but consisted of a series of exercises conducted over the last two years.  The primary objectives of the cycle were to test and evaluate the capacities and procedures for the engagement of the ASF in multidimensional peace support operations, practice the establishment of a mission headquarters for an ASF deployment, including the production of an integrated mission plan, and to increase awareness of the ASF capabilities, procedures and requirements among the senior leadership of the AU Commission and within member states.

The main activities within the cycle, which started in March 2009, were a strategic decision-makers’ seminar, followed by a Level 1 Decision Making Exercise, or Mapping Exercise (MAPEX) in June 2009, and a political-strategic seminar/strategic conference in November 2009.  These activities produced the guidance documents for the Level 2 Decision-making Exercise or Command Post Exercise (CPX) in October 2010.  The regional standby forces followed a similar path and this culminated in the integrated Continental CPX, which evaluated the capacity and procedures for the engagement of the entire ASF, in multidimensional peace support operations involving low-level spoilers - a state of readiness, as prescribed in the Policy Framework for the Establishment of the ASF and MSC, which had to be completed by 2010. 

The regional exercises evaluated the operational readiness of the forces (military, police and civilian components), had to identify and address gaps and shortcomings, and will conclude with a continental Field Training Exercises (FTX) somewhere in 2011. 

Although much remains to be done, the ten-day Amani Africa CPX was encouraging as it involved more than 200 people -- 120 military and police officers, and 75 civilian, from all the African regions as well as personnel from various EU partners.  The way in which participants from different organisational backgrounds (police, military and civilian), from different regions/member states, cultures and language preferences, worked together showed that multinational and multidimensionality can be achieved if similar doctrines and procedures are used as a basis for such efforts.

Sadly, only a few African ambassadors made use of the offered opportunities to familiarise themselves with the functioning of the ASF in peace support operations mode, which might indicate that some member states have yet to accept ownership of the ASF.  Encouraging was the direct involvement of the Chairperson of the AU Commission, Mr Ping, and his team, who are responsible for the execution of AU Assembly decisions.  This, together with the participation of Commissioner Lamamra of the Peace and Security department, other commissioners, and members of the PSC, further suggested the importance that AU management attached to these proceedings.

Certain lessons were learned, which would serve the AU well if they are taken to heart and institutionalised.  One such lesson was the need for ‘umpires/mentors’ who should be content/process experts and can guide officers/officials on the correct procedures and factors to consider in the formulation of strategies and plans.

The selection and further development of senior leaders in missions should be seriously considered, as making decisions (any decision) seems to be a general problem.  The ‘cream’ of carefully selected leaders from all the different ASF components should be identified at the end of these UN accredited Senior Mission Leadership courses, and then further developed/coached into effective missions teams.

In future the partnership with the EU and others will become even more important, as Africa now needs to broaden this pool of peacekeepers and improve their ability to do the job.  This will be possible with improved training, better equipment and streamlined procedures.  Africa has no shortage of talent, it is time to ‘round it up’ develop it further and use it to the benefit of all its citizens. Ready-for-tasks training, as in mission planning (operational and strategic levels) needs to be increased. 

The involvement of regional CoS and others as observers, the press and the VIP days helped to inform the general public and other stakeholders about the complexities and extent of conducting PSO missions and their associated procedures.  The AU/Peace Support Operations Division (PSOD), however, must invest in the development of a comprehensive ASF marketing plan.  This should contribute to an increased awareness of the responsibilities and objectives of the AU and ASF and the development of national, regional and the continental standby forces.

Most important is the staffing of PSOD - the whole ASF concept is doomed to failure unless the prepared regional forces are commanded competently.  This requires immediate action to staff the recommended organisational structures with suitably qualified personnel.

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