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This research was carried out to analyse the concept of the African Standby Force (ASF) and its prospects for regional security on the African continent. Series of conflicts in Africa and their attendant problems have killed millions, destroyed property and hindered Africa’s growth. If African countries are to achieve any meaningful development, they must be relatively crises free. However, responsibility for security in Africa is devolving to African states and sub-regional organizations.


  1. Several conflicts on the continent have shown that the UN and the developed countries are slow to react to conflicts in Africa, especially where their national interests are not affected. Thus Africa can no longer fold its arms and watch from the sidelines while conflicts continue to ravage the continent. Moreover, Africa is the major loser from such conflicts. The need to find an African solution to African problems thus gave birth to the ASF.


  1. The ASF is a system whereby troops are kept ready for rapid deployment to conflict areas. The establishment of the ASF reaffirmed the determination and commitment of African leaders to handle African problems themselves. The very existence of the ASF and the knowledge that it would be effectively used would serve as deterrence to would-be trouble makers across the continent. Furthermore, the ASF would greatly reduce the response time for international intervention in conflict situations. This is necessary to ‘nip conflicts in the bud’ and prevent further bloodshed and suffering.


  1. The descriptive research method was used for the study. The study examines the security challenges confronting the AU and how the ASF can help combat these challenges. The study also examines the progress so far made in establishing the ASF and strategies to fully operationalise the ASF.








Security can be construed in terms of the ability of individual citizens to live in peace with access to basic necessities of life, at the same time participating fully in societal affairs in freedom and enjoying all fundamental human rights (The Kampala Document: Towards a Conference on Security, Stability, Development and Cooperation in Africa). Security is indisputably a first order value for all mankind. McNamara offered a broad definition of security when he stated that ‘security means development’           (McNamara, 1968:149). Security can therefore be conceptualised as a precursor to development and although not entirely dependent on military activity, it is tightly intertwined with it and cannot exist without it. According to Imobighe, ‘the amount of security a nation enjoys is a reflection of its defence system’ (Imobigbe, 2003:170). Similarly, Lippmann posits that ‘a nation has security when it does not have to sacrifice its legitimate national interests to avoid war and is able, if challenged to, to maintain them by war’ (Baylis, 2001:255). This implies that military security is important and indeed forms the bedrock on which all other forms of security rest.


Africa’s security problems can be traced to the era of slave cartelization when European slave merchants freely terrorized the continent. This was closely followed by colonization wherein the indigenous defence systems were removed to emplace imperialism. Since then, Africa has become an exporter of raw materials and cheap labour and an importer of finished goods. This exploitation continued until the outbreak of World War II (WWII) in 1939. The end of WWII in 1945 saw the emergence of two superpowers, the United States of America (USA) and the United Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR). The subsequent Cold  War which ensued between these superpowers lasted                          from 1945-1990. Within this period, the superpowers fought by proxy, with many African countries as pawns in their power struggle. Dictatorships, overtly or covertly supported by one or the other superpower, usurped power through coups d’etat and maintained repressive regimes.  This inevitably led to counter coups, usually supported by the opposing superpower.


The resultant vicious circle of dictatorships, sit-tight rulers, coups and counter coups, coupled with illiteracy, absence of infrastructure and fueled by ethnic sentiments, rendered Africa underdeveloped and crises prone.  Intra-state conflicts erupted in Angola, Burundi, Congo, Liberia, Mozambique and Namibia.  They also erupted in Rwanda, Somalia, Sierra Leone, Uganda, Cote d’Ivoire and Sudan. These conflicts militated against development and harmonious relationship among African countries. The human and material casualties recorded in these conflicts are calamitous.  The resultant effects of these crises in Africa are disease, refugee problems, human rights abuses, stagnation in development and poverty.


The International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) London reported that in 1999 alone, over half of the world’s armed conflicts were in sub – Saharan Africa (Jonathan, 2005:15). In another report, Clare and Straw, argued that over the past 20 years, Africa has lost over 50 per cent of its infrastructure, many of the losses due to conflicts (Clare Short and Jack Straw).


While the potential for inter-state disputes has not diminished, the last 10 years have seen the appearance of complex new risks to peace and stability, including oppression, ethnic conflict, economic distress, the collapse of political order, the proliferation of small arms and organised international crime. When crises arise, they increasingly involve many factions and contain conflict elements which may be inter and intra and/or transnational in nature and involve the cross border movement of refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs), migrants and widespread human rights abuses.


Such intra state conflicts and transnational activities are generally perpetrated by sub state actors or ‘war lords’, non-state actors, militias, criminal elements and armed civilians and not exclusively by elements of the regular armies. As a result social cohesion and state institutions collapse, law and order breaks down, banditry and chaos prevail and the civilian population flees the conflict region or the country.


On the global scene, the quest for international peace and security prompted the formation of international organizations and alliances.  One of such organizations, the League of Nations, emerged at the end of WWI on account of the determination by European allies to prevent another world war (Peter Gay et              al, 1973:107). This objective was not realized due to some inherent weaknesses of the League, resulting in WWII.


At the end of WWII, the need for a more effective and inclusive world body led to the formation of the United Nations (UN) with the objectives of ensuring global peace and security. Since conflicts and crises have become an inevitable outcome of human existence, most countries in the world consider it a primary responsibility to develop some mechanism to handle them. This brought to the fore, the need for a rapid intervention force capable of being deployed within the shortest possible time, to manage conflicts.


The UN fashioned out the concept of a rapidly deployable multinational force far back in 1947, but it remained sidelined until 1992, when the then UN Secretary General Boutros-Boutros Ghali called for a system by which governments commit themselves to hold ready, at an agreed period of notice, specifically trained units for peacekeeping service. The purpose of standby arrangement is to have a precise understanding of the forces and other capabilities a member state will have available at a given state of readiness (UN Secretariat, Report of the Secretary-General on Standby Arrangements for            Peacekeeping, 1995).


The UN Standby Arrangement System (UNSAS) was launched in the early 1990s. The UNSAS is basically a database of military, civilian police, assets and expertise made available for rapid deployment to UN peacekeeping operations. Due to different training doctrines and equipment of member states, UNSAS could not achieve the effectiveness required of a standby force (Clare Short and Jack Straw). In 1996, the UN established the Standby High Readiness Brigade (SHIRBRIG), for rapid deployment to peacekeeping operations. The SHIRBRIG was aimed at providing the UN with a non – standing multinational brigade at high readiness and is based on UNSAS.


The quest for peace and security was not limited to Europe and the Americas alone. In the early 1960s, the late Dr Kwame Nkrumah, one time President of Ghana, proposed the formation of an African High Command (AHC). He envisaged a quick reaction force to be used in resolving conflicts on the continent. Unfortunately, some African leaders who were not willing to give up their newly found sovereignties rejected the initiative. However, the first African regional organization, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) was formed in 1963 in response to his vision.  The main objectives of OAU were the promotion of unity and solidarity of independent African states and the eradication of colonialism from Africa.


Although the OAU succeeded to a large extent in eradicating colonialism from the African Continent, it could not attain other objectives.  For instance, its goal of fostering peace and stability in the region remained elusive as fratricidal wars continued to ravage the continent.  Salim, a former Secretary General of the OAU, stated that ‘the OAU was able to facilitate the eradication of colonialism, but the internal crises, poverty and social degradation in Africa were issues the OAU was to accommodate because of mounting obstacles’ (Salim 2000:24). This led to the formation of the African Union (AU) in July 2002.


The new regional body was modeled after the European Union (EU) and designed to have a Parliament, Central Bank, Court of Justice, common currency and a Peace and Security Council (PSC) (AU Constitutive Act).  The ‘Protocol Relating to the Establishment of the PSC’ provides for an African Standby Force (ASF) to enable the PSC deploy peacekeeping missions. The PSC was also mandated to intervene in regional crises pursuant to the provisions of the AU Constitutive Act.


At its inception in 2003, it was envisaged that by 2010, the ASF would be able to respond to requests for monitoring, peacekeeping, and peace enforcement missions from sub regional bodies, AU or UN within the framework of Article 13 of the PSC Protocol (AU Constitutive Act). This was to be achieved in 2 phases as follows:


(1)   Phase One (July 2003 – 30 Jun 05): Establishment of a strategic level capacity for the management of Scenarios 1-2 missions, while Regional Economic Communities (RECs)/Regions would complement the African Union (AU) by establishing regional standby forces up to a brigade size (3500 – 5000) to achieve up to Scenario 4. The list of scenarios is contained at Appendix I.


(2)   Phase Two (1 Jul 05 to 30 Jun 10):  It was envisaged that by the year 2010, the AU would have developed the capacity to manage complex peacekeeping operations, while the RECs/Regions will continue to develop the capacity to deploy a mission Headquarters (HQs) for Scenario 4, involving AU/Regional peacekeeping forces (Article 13 of the Au PSC Protocol).


Regrettably, as at 31 Dec 10, these phases are yet to be fully achieved as earlier envisaged by the African Chiefs of Defence Staff (ACDS) in 2003. Thus there is a need to critically examine the specific problems, contributions and strategies for a fully functional ASF.




Conflicts have continued to ravage the African continent. For instance Somalia, which is categorized as a failed state, has continued to defy efforts to rectify the situation there. Presently, the waters of the Indian Ocean off the coast of Somalia are being patrolled by the military forces of several non-African countries. These patrols are meant to create a secure corridor for the passage of ships, mostly conveying petroleum products through the Gulf of Aden. Several Somali pirates have been killed by these patrols. In January 2011, 5 pirates were captured by a South Korean patrol team and are to stand trial in South Korea. Although piracy is deplorable, these patrols can be regarded as diplomatic affronts to Somalia in particular and Africa in general. Furthermore, no developed country will allow the killing, capture and trial of its nationals to go unchallenged as is being done in Somalia. This patrol task ought to have been a prerogative of the ASF, if it were operational.


Similarly, the crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan continues to linger. The United Nations African Union Mission in Darfur (UNAMID) lacks the manpower required to command all factions to order. As at December 2010, the UNAMID strength stood at an average of 20,000 personnel as against the 26,000 men required to effectively police Darfur. In light of the enormity of its tasks, the UNAMID is greatly handicapped by this manpower challenge. However, a fully operational ASF could easily handle the Darfur crisis with little or no assistance from the UN.


The earlier that a conflict is tackled and ‘nipped in the bud’, the easier it is to contain and resolve. Thus the current political impasse in Cote d’Ivoire desperately needs an intervention force to douse rising tensions and prevent the possible outbreak of another war. Again, the ASF would have been aptly used there. Conflicts in several African countries have shown that the international community is willing to turn a blind eye to genocide and mass killings in Africa. Such conflict regions include Rwanda, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Congo, Sudan and Cote d’Ivoire amongst others. It has become obvious that the developed countries intervene in African conflicts primarily to safeguard their national interests.

In 1997, Salim drew attention to the fact that ‘OAU member states can no longer afford to stand aloof and expect the international community to care more for our problems than we do, or indeed to find solutions to those problems which in many instances, have been of our own making. The simple truth that we must confront today is that the world does not owe us a living and we must remain in the forefront of efforts to act and act speedily, to prevent conflicts from getting out of control’ (Dr. Salim,). Similarly, Mbeki stressed that ‘recent international events have confirmed the need for us Africans to do everything we can to rely on our own capacities to secure our continent’s renaissance’ (Address of the President of South Africa). It is against this backdrop therefore, that this research seeks to answer the following research questions:

(1)   What are the security challenges confronting the AU?


(2)   How can the ASF help in combating the security challenges confronting the AU?


(3)   What progress has been made in establishing the ASF?


(4)   What is the way forward toward full operationalization of the ASF?




The objectives of the study are to:


(1)   Review the  security challenges confronting the AU.


(2)   Examine how the ASF can help in combating the security challenges confronting the AU.


(3)   Show up what progress has been made in establishing the ASF.


(4)   Proffer suggestions on the way forward toward full operationalization of the ASF?




A region is secure when its citizens can live peacefully with access to basic necessities of life, freedom and all fundamental human rights. However, superpower influences, illiteracy, lack of infrastructure, proliferation of small arms and ethnic sentiments amongst others have combined to render Africa conflict – prone.


The conflicts ravaging Africa have increasingly become   intra – state, with calamitous consequences. The hypothesis that guided this work assumes that there is a causal relationship between the absence of an ASF and repeated armed conflicts on the African continent. This study seeks to establish that if the ASF becomes fully operational, security on the African continent would be improved.







The series of conflicts which have ravaged the African continent, decimated its population and hindered its unity and development are a serious cause of concern. Furthermore, the lingering crises in Somalia and Sudan and the political impasse in Cote d’Ivoire push to the fore, the glaring need for the ASF. Unfortunately, seven years after its inauguration, the ASF is yet to become fully operational. Moreover, there has been uneven progress among the sub regions in implementing the ACDS roadmap to full operationalization of the ASF.


This study is therefore significant in the sense that it would review the security challenges confronting the AU and examine how the ASF can help in combating them. It would also take a look at the progress so far made in establishing the ASF and proffer suggestions towards full operationalization of the ASF.  This will no doubt benefit the AU and its member states in the search for an effective conflict management mechanism on the continent.  The findings of the study would also add to the existing literature and reference materials on ASF and regional security.



The ASF is based on the concept of regional security. This concept has permeated international discourse since the end of WWI, leading to the formation of the League of Nations and later, the UN. The concept of standby forces can also be traced back to the UN in 1947.


This study will cover the period 1963 till date. It was during this period that regional security started receiving due attention in Africa through the creation of the OAU. Reference would be made to other regional security arrangements as it is believed that such arrangements would be in tandem with this study.




This research seeks to identify the ASF prospects for regional security. To this effect, the methods of data collection and analysis will be focused on.



1.7.1                         METHODS OF DATA COLLECTION


The data used in this study were collected from both primary and secondary sources.  Primary data were gathered through interviews and consultations with service personnel who had worked or are working at the ASF HQ in Addis Ababa. Other sources were the NAPKC, DHQ, Service HQs or personnel who have participated in PSOs. A sample of the questionnaire is at Appendix II. Secondary data were gathered from books, journals, newspapers, reports of conferences, unpublished works, magazines, periodicals, lecture notes and the internet.


1.7.2                         METHOD OF DATA ANALYSIS


The research method used in this study is the descriptive research technique. To achieve this thesis, the research design applied was the causal comparative. It is a retrospective study of the relationship between the independent variable which is the ASF and its outcome, the dependent variable, regional security.


Adopting this research method was necessary as it provides the most comprehensive approach towards adequate coverage of the areas to be studied (AFCSC Guide to Research Methodology). Thus this study observed and evaluated the concept of regional security to establish the effects standby forces have on it.




This research work was impaired by some limitations. The key limitations were the use of secondary data to analyse the concepts of regional security, standby forces and the ASF. Although the data used were from reputable sources, the authenticity of their findings might not be insulated from bias.


The concepts of regional security and standby forces are complementary. Hence the empirical testing of both concepts was relatively impossible. However, this did not affect the quality of research carried out and the outcomes of the findings.



  1. In order to stem the wide spread of conflicts in Africa, a standby force is urgently needed.


  1. The standby force must be equipped as a rapid response force.


  1. Such a standby force must be completely African – manned.




For the purpose of this study, the following terms are defined as follows:


  1. Concept of Conflict: Human history shows that conflict is a natural consequence of human interaction. It is a product of clashes of different opinions, views and interests between individuals, groups or states. According to Dougherty and Pfaltzgraf, conflict is ‘a condition in which one identified group of human beings…is engaged in conscious opposition to one or more other identifiable groups because these groups are pursuing what are or appear to be incompatible goals’ (Osisioma, 2008:1). Lewis Coser goes further in the discourse on conflict by conceptualizing the term as ‘a struggle over and claims to scarce resources in which aims of opponents are to neutralize, injure or eliminate these rivals’ (Coser, 2008:1). Even though conflict is natural to human beings and associations, it does not necessarily have to be violent (Dougherty, 2008:1).


When conflict becomes violent, it has transformed into war which Clausewitz describes as ‘a duel on an extensive scale… an act of violence pushed to its utmost bounds…directed upon the destruction of the enemy’s powers’ (Coser, 2008:2). When this situation obtains between sovereign entities, such as nation states, war then becomes ‘a continuation of state policy by           other means’ or ‘a continuation of political commerce’              (Osisioma, 2008:3).


These conflicts according to Stedman arise ‘from problems basic to all populations, the tugs and pulls of different identities, the differential distribution of resources and access to power,  and competing definitions of what is right, fair and just’ (Stedman, 2008:3). The message is that conflicts arise essentially from injustices suffered by individuals, groups or states and when these conflicts are not resolved peacefully, they become violent.


When conflicts transform into civil or international wars, they bring about other disastrous consequences. People are killed, maimed, displaced or turned into refugees while properties and infrastructure are destroyed. Also, those with low morals become beasts in human skin, raping, carrying out extra-judicial killings, looting, extorting and robbing. With each war therefore, man who is supposed to be a rational and civilized being further descends into the abyss of inhumanity. War destroys social values, pollutes and degrades the environment and diverts resources from the pursuit of development and human happiness to war financing. At times, war taxes are imposed on citizens of a warring state and this worsens their conditions. War spreads pestilence, hunger, starvation, destitution and lawlessness. Between nations, war forcefully changes feelings and boundaries and can lead to the collapse of governments.


  1. Concept of Security: The concept of security, according to Ekoko, emphasizes military power as the main instrument for the preservation of national sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.  Wolfers and Lippman have different definitions.  Wolfers sees security as ‘the protection of values previously acquired or the absence of fear that these values would be attacked’ (Stedman, 1991:368). Lippman has been more explicit in his opinion about security.  In his view, ‘a nation has security when it does not have to sacrifice its legitimate interest to avoid war, and is able to, if challenged, to maintain them by war’                     (Yusuf, 2008:2).


It has been generally argued that what constitutes security to one state or group of states might constitute insecurity to others.  Arnold views security ‘as the relative freedom from harmful threats (James, 1990:245). The Concise Oxford Dictionary defines the word security ‘as the safety of state or organization against criminal activity.’ Arnold’s definition of security is worthy of particular note as it relates security to underpin the role of international regimes in ensuring stability within a given region.  This therefore means that security is seen from both the domestic and international perspectives.


  1. Concept of Regional Security: Regional security is the security cooperation among nations in the same geographical location (Emuekpere).  A region is a political identity consisting of a group of states, which are proximate and interdependent. Regions are generally characterized by geographical relatedness.  The essence of regional security as identified by Buzan is a ‘set of contiguous states with a level of integration between them, such that a lack of security within them or between individual states in the region affects the security of the set of states as a whole         (Barry, 1983:73).


The AU is an organization of African nations created to promote continental peace, unity, and cooperation. The organization works to resolve conflicts between nations and to coordinate political, economic, cultural, scientific, medical, and defense policies. The AU has 53 member nations, with its headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The organization was founded in Addis Ababa on 25 May 63, as the OAU. It retained that name until 2002 when it formally became the AU.


At the time of the OAU’s founding, African leaders disagreed about what kind of organization it should be. Some leaders pushed for the creation of a central government that would unite all of Africa under one authority. However, many of the nations had just recently gained independence from colonial rule and their leaders opposed the idea. The leaders eventually reached a compromise but in so doing created an organization that is controlled by its member nations, leaving it with little power to act on its own. Nonetheless, the AU has helped strengthen ties among African nations and settle disputes. But it has also faced many problems that have undermined its ability to achieve its goals (Emuekpere).


The experiences relating to widening and deepening of regional security regimes in Africa have not been particularly satisfactory.  This is evident from the fact that most African states witnessed several conflicts and wars since their independence.  This made the concept of regional security among African countries difficult despite their geographical proximity.  However, recent events have shown that African leaders are now willing to pursue a common regional security regime.  Regional security regimes are increasingly becoming an integral part of the globalization process.  This process is described as the ‘principle of complex interdependence (Barry, 1991:25). That is the assumption that multiple channels connect societies, making the quest for security indispensable.  It can therefore be deduced that regional security is the security cooperation among nations in the same geographical location.

  1. Concept of Standby Forces: There are various perceptions as to what constitutes a standby force.  The earliest usage was when it was referred to as a ‘command headquarters’ that is ‘German Standby force’ during WW II (Burgess, 2009). The term was used by some European defence scholars like Firlie to describe the numerous security regimes embarked upon by European nations (Kenneth, 1990:245).  For instance, the European Union Rapid Response Force (EURRF) which is described as a standby force is a non standing army made up of troops contributed by member states to undertake peacekeeping operations.


The EURRF was borne out of the desire of EU to develop a Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) outside NATO for crisis management and conflict prevention within Europe (European Foreign and Security Policy News Letter; Issue No 8, 2002). The force uses the military headquarters of NATO in Belgium as its operational headquarters.  Its first military mission was in Macedonia (Michael, 2000:34).  The force is obliged under the UN agreement ratified by member states to deploy troops to UN peacekeeping missions.

The Standby High Readiness Brigade (SHIRBRIG) established by Denmark, Austria, Canada, Netherlands, Norway, Poland and Sweden is another example of a standby force (Michael, 2000:34).  The force under UNSAS is aimed at rapid deployment for peacekeeping or humanitarian operations.  Troops deployed are only expected to spend a maximum of 6 months in mission areas.  The SHIRBRIG is established at low additional costs to participating countries.  Firstly, Denmark is the host country to the SHIRBRIG headquarters and provides many facilities free.  Secondly, participating countries pay for training and preparation for deployment.  Lastly, at the actual time of deployment, according to existing rules the UN pays for all expenses (Lesley).


The NATO, EURRF and SHIRBRIG present good examples of standby forces.  A standby force can therefore be conceptualized as the pooling together of military/civil resources by a number of states for their collective security.  Standby forces thus connote a security regime, with a well-defined force structure contributed by parties of the regime for their collective security.


  1. Concept of African Standby Force: In the early 1960s, the late Dr Kwame Nkrumah, one time President of Ghana suggested the formation of an African High Command (AHC). He envisaged a quick reaction force drawn from member states to be used in resolving conflicts on the continent. Unfortunately, some African leaders who were not willing to give up their newly found sovereignties rejected the initiative. However, the first African regional organization, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) was formed in 1963 in response to his vision.


The OAU succeeded to a large extent in eradicating colonialism from the African Continent, it could not attain other objectives.  For instance, its goal of fostering peace and stability in the region remained elusive as fratricidal wars continued to ravage the continent.  Salim, a former Secretary General of the OAU, while reviewing the achievements of the Organisation stated that ‘the OAU was able to facilitate the eradication of colonialism, but the internal crises, poverty and social degradation in Africa were issues the OAU was to accommodate because of mounting obstacles (Salim, 2000:24). This led to the formation of the African Union (AU) in July 2002. The new regional body was modeled after the European Union (EU) and designed to have a Parliament, Central Bank, Court of Justice, common currency and a Peace and Security Council (PSC) (AU Constitutive Act).


AU member states adopted the ‘Protocol Relating to the Establishment of the PSC in July 2003.’ The Protocol provides for an African Union Standby Force (ASF) to enable the PSC deploy peacekeeping missions. The PSC was also mandated to intervene in regional crises pursuant to the provisions of the AU Constitutive Act. The ASF is intended for rapid deployment in peace support operations for the AU that may include preventive deployment, peacekeeping, peace building, post-conflict demilitarisation, and humanitarian assistance. The aim is to have one standby brigade in each of Africa’s five regions, supported by civilian police and other capacities, by 2010. Good progress has been made in training, development of doctrine, Standard Operating Procedures, and command and control concepts (Ciliers, 2010).




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