The African Union (AU) has moved for a well-funded Standby Force independent of outside powers to tackle the rising cases of terrorism and violenct extremism in the continent as a proper mechanism for the Force is being considered.
Indications to this development emerged during a three-day inaugural Lessons Learned Forum on African Union Peace Support Operation and African Standby Force, which commenced in Abuja on Tuesday
Nigeria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Geoffrey Onyeama, who declared the Forum open, said critical lessons learnt are important for peace and security in Africa.
The Minister noted that “a critical plank of Nigeria’s’ foreign policy has been peace keeping operations in Africa.”
He added that AU has mandated, authorised and endorsed about 27 Peace Support Operations(PSOs), many of which Nigeria has participated actively in.
He said that AU Standby Force has become necessary in view of the changing dynamics of conflicts in the region even as he advised the AU to resolve issues of complementarity, subsidiarity command and control and material coordination for the Africa standby force.
“This is an opportunity for AU intervention and collaboration,” he said, adding that the AU should consider the AMISOM Model in Somalia, which stabilized the country.
He also charged them to consider the Multi-National Joint Task Force(MNJTF) model with which Nigeria degraded the Boko Haram terrorists.
” We must chat how the AU standby Force will benefit from the AMISOM Model and the MNJTF model in terms of force generation, command and patrol, exit strategy,
post- conflict and development efforts”, the Minister said.
Chairperson of the AU Commission, Mousa Faki, who was represented by AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Bankole Adeoye, said the continent is facing a troubled time in terms of terrorism, violent extremism and radicalisation.
He told reporters in an interview that the AU is working with regional economic communities and regional mechanisms as the first responders and that is why this lesson learning forum is a first step to bring together how best respond effectively, efficiently to counter the scourge of terrorism and violent extremism.
He said “It is essential that Nigeria as a leading member of the African Union together with ECOWAS as well as the G5 Sahel should address the issues of the Sahel becoming the under belly and the hot spot for terrorism export. As you see today, terrorism is spreading to the coasts of West Africa- the Republic of Benin, Cote D’Ivoire, Togo have been hit. So, it is important that we develop the best mechanism, the best lesson in learning and knowledge exchange on what has worked in other countries
“We are using this forum to unpack the MNJTF as a model for the rest of the continent where the coalition of the willing come together for kinetic action but also looking at the whole of society approach.
“Terrorism cannot be defeated overnight but it is important that member-states based on the Malabo Declaration commit to robust response, commit to deepening democracy at the time and commit to collective security.”
He said further that AU is committed to financing method that is predictable, adequate and sustainable.
“And one of the mechanisms that the African Union has put forward is the AU Peace Fund. It is currently at the tune of over 321 million dollars and it is going to be used based on the budgetary processes of AU for member states to tap in and put resources together.
“We cannot remain dependent on the West or partners, we have to do it ourselves. And that is why for the counter terrorism efforts we must focus on African solutions to African problem but that does not exclude partner,” he said.
President of the ECOWAS Commission, Omar Touray, who was represented by Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Abdel Fatau Moussa, lamented that non-state actors now amass better arms than national forces, stressing that it has become incumbent on the region to mobilise resources and stop depending on outside powers to have a proper Standby Force.