East African Nations Develop a Standby Defense Force
East Africa has seen rising levels of insecurity in Sudan, Kenya and Somalia, but new regional organizations could be the answer to peacekeeping projects in Africa, according to the U.N.
Defense chiefs from ten East African nations have pledged to develop a new regional Eastern Africa Standby Force (EASF), amidst rising conflicts in neighboring countries.
Officials made the pledge at a meeting in Kigali, Rwanda on Friday, where Defense ministers from ten East African nations signed a Memorandum of Understanding.
The largest contributors to the standby force are Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Uganda, and Ethiopia, who have committed nearly the entire 5, 000 troops that will constitute the EASF. Between them, they have pledged three motorized battalions, a mechanized battalion and a light infantry battallion.
Comoros, Djibouti, Seychelles and Somalia also contributed personnel and equipment, while Sudan said it would make their commitments known later in the year.
The African Union has been working on a plan for the last 10 years for each of the African regions to develop their own defense and peacekeeping forces in case of emergencies.
“This amounts to a very important step, it is an unprecedented achievement in the African continent,” said Rwanda’s Defense and Military spokesperson Brig. Gen. Joseph Nzabamwita.
“We now have the most important components (of the force in place). We have the political will, the military personnel and logistics as well as the legal framework,” he added.
The next step for the EASF plan is to accumulate the funds to get their 5,000 strong force ready to mobilize. Each member is expected to contribute to a collective fund which will enable them to put troops on the ground, and deploy to crisis zones within 14 days.
Defense Ministers from the ten African Nations said they want the standby force to be ready by December of this year, due to the prevalent level of insecurity.
The region has seen several cases of conflict in the past year, including war in South Sudan, violence in Kenya’s coastal region, and increased security issues in Somalia.
Regional organizations in Africa are starting to play a more central role in peacekeeping on the continent, according to U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Samantha Power, which is viewed as a positive force.