Thursday, 7 November 2013

JK, Zuma, others want rapid response force

7th November 2013
President Jakaya Kikwete (left) and President Jacob Zuma
President Jakaya Kikwete and other African leaders have emphasized “the need to ensure that we are not helpless or slow to respond without the help of external partners.”

That statement was said by South Africa’s President Jacob Zuma who went on to affirm that, “Africa can, and has the capacity and the means to act swiftly and decisively,” noting that “…all that we needed is for us to better organise ourselves.”

He expressed hope that by the end of this year, there will be “a mechanism that can breathe life into our aspirations for African ownership and leadership in immediately and urgently responding to security challenges faced by this great continent”.

President Kikwete is among the African leaders who opened talks on the formation of a rapid-deployment emergency force to swiftly intervene in crisis zones in the continent.

The talks took place in Pretoria - South Africa on Tuesday where it was emphasized that the new force is to bridge the gap pending the coming into operation of the long planned fully-fledged peacekeeping African Union’s African Standby Force. The force will go by the name ‘African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises (ACIRC).’

Attended by a handful of leaders from Chad, Tanzania and Uganda, the forum is meant to create a platform on which Africa can dialogue on the formation of the integrated quick response force that is to act swiftly and independently in response to urgent security challenges.

It was explained that the decision came about due to the realisation that independent and swift African responses to crisis that arise on our continent could not wait while the building blocks of the African Standby Force are carefully being put in place.

It was conceded that the AU’s standby brigade has made little headway since preparations for a proposed force of 32,500 troops and civilians drawn from the continent’s five regions started a decade ago.

“We believe that time has come for African leaders to act in the interim — swiftly, decisively and when needed,” said Zuma.

The forum comes in the wake of AU being criticised for not responding fast enough to the crisis in Mali after the military in the country seized power in a coup back in March 2012.

The meeting is being attended by countries that are willing to contribute to the force. It was not immediately clear how many countries have so far pledged troops to the new force.