17 June 2015
The African Union (AU) believes Africa will have a united and functioning single military by the end of this year as leaders pledge to accelerate the African Standby Force (ASF).
This was of the resolutions adopted at the 25th AU summit, which ended in Johannesburg on 15 June. The continent desperately needs a strong force for peace and security that will ensure Africa has the stability it needs for sustainable development to take root.
Such a force is also crucial to counter terrorists groups such as Boko Haram and al- Shabaab that have killed thousands of people and displaced many in west Africa. The envisaged 25 000-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, Mugabe noted that the “troubling” state of peace and security on 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, held at the Sandton Convention Centre in Johannesburg from 7 to 15 June, had 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 Agenda 2063.
Agenda 2063 is a blueprint adopted at the AU summit in Ethiopia in 2013. It deals with how the continent should learn from the lessons of the past and take advantage of the opportunities available in the short, medium and long term to achieve a prosperous Africa by 2063, a year that will mark 100 years of the formation of the Organisation of African Unity, the precursor of the AU.
Leaders also backed initiatives aimed at the empowerment of women. They highlighted what they called “eradication of the hoe” and introducing modern equipment for women working in agriculture.
The political crisis in Burundi and ways to fund AU operations were also discussed. The summit explored ways to end the dependence of the AU on foreign donors for its operations – 70% of the union’s budget comes from donors, a state many leaders are keen to change.
Leaders resolved to intensify their efforts to address the migration issue. Thousands of African migrants lose their lives in the Mediterranean Sea while trying to reach greener pastures in Europe, and migration is evidently a worry for the AU. It also resolved to improve infrastructure and technology advancement on the continent.
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 and genocide. The ICC on Sunday urged the South African government to arrest the Sudanese leader.
But AU Commission Chairperson Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma defended the continental body’s decision to invite al-Bashir to the gathering, saying the AU was not party to the Roman Statute; rather, member states were.
“He has always attended our 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 al-Bashir has always attended our summits and will continue to do so,” she said.
Even though the South African government is a signatory to the ICC statute, to act on the court’s request to arrest al-Bashir would have gone against the AU’s decision to grant prosecution immunity for all sitting heads of state.