SA backs African rapid response force

30 May 2013

Africans must stop blaming outsiders for the continent’s ills and unite to solve their own problems, International Relations and Cooperation Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said in Cape Town on Thursday.

Speaking at a New Age business briefing, Nkoana-Mashabane said it was encouraging that more than 10 African countries had volunteered to serve in the rapid response force that the African Union (AU), at its summit over the weekend, had decided to create.

The African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises (ACIRC), as the AU press release calls it, was proposed by South African President Jacob Zuma during the summit and agreed on by the AU.

The military rapid reaction force will be set up as an interim measure pending the establishment of an African Standby Force, due to be operational in 2015, using voluntary contributions of troops, equipment and funds from AU member states.

Zuma has pledged South Africa’s full support for the rapid response force.

“This is the time for Africans to provide African solutions for African problems,” Nkoana-Mashabane said at Thursday’s briefing.

Such a rapid deployment unit would allow the AU to send troops quickly to tackle any crisis on the continent, she said.

“We shouldn’t be hamstrung and wait and just sit, like ducks, like what had happened in Mali. We knew what was happening in Mali was going to happen, with the fallout of Libya.

“We saw it when Timbuktu was taken over. Leaders in that region say that it took them 11 meetings in 11 months polishing the decision to intervene in Mali, until one day they woke up and the rebels were now marching towards Bamako. That shouldn’t have happened.”

The minister rejected the claim by some in Africa that South Africa was a bully on the continent, pointing out that the country worked closely with other African countries to advance the cause of the continent.

“We champion collaboration versus competition, so we work as one.”

She said US President Barrack Obama’s visit to South Africa next month was an indication of the country’s strategic importance for America, adding that the US’s strategy for the region shared similarities with that of South Africa in its focus on ensuring peace and stability.

She said South Africa stood ready to support the people of the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to ensure durable peace there.

Referring to the crisis in the Central African Republic (CAR), Nkoana-Mashabane said no rebel group should be allowed to overrun governments and undermine the sacrifices made towards democracy.

Africa could not afford to have a failed state in the middle of the continent, she added.

The minister called on those in the African diaspora to contribute to the continent’s resurgence, saying they didn’t necessarily have to return to the continent, but could still contribute by investing or by encouraging trade or by getting involved in the AU’s heritage and legacy projects. and SAinfo reporter