Article written

  • on 29.09.2015
  • at 12:05 PM
  • by Naomi Cohen

Bureaucracy hampers operations of Eastern African Standby Force 1

The Eastern African Standby Force’s operations are hampered by red tape that has delayed its rapid response to crises in the region, despite having achieved full capability nine months ago.

Unlike the four other standby forces in Africa that are anchored in their respective regional economic communities and are able to react quickly to safeguard regional interests, the EASF is not linked to the East African Community, thus prolonging the time for consultations in times of crisis.

For the EASF to intervene, it needs a request from the African Union Peace and Security Council; the request is then discussed by the Council of Ministers on Defence and Security before approval by the Summit of Heads of State from troop-contributing countries.

Macharia Munene, a history lecturer at the United States International University in Nairobi, faults the deployment procedures, arguing that waiting for approval from the AU, which has been previously accused of being slow to respond, could see the force overtaken by events in a crisis.

“There is concern that the EASF will be dependent on external forces that it was specifically designed to avoid. Policymakers must address the issue of jurisdiction, because it is still answerable to AU and UN in terms of operations,” said Mr Munene.

Major concerns were expressed at the EASF Open Day in Nairobi on September 21 on why the force, which achieved full operational capability in December 2014, did not intervene in Burundi at the height of the crisis in May.

Questions were also raised as to whether the force should intervene as a peacekeeper or a peace enforcer.

EASF director Issimail Chanfi said that the force did not receive an official request from the AU to deploy in Burundi.

“We had started working on contingency plans, but it is the request, which contains specifics such as numbers of the force and equipment, that enables us to prepare accordingly. We can only deploy after we forward the request to the Council of Ministers of Defence and it is approved at the Heads of States Summit,” said Mr Chanfi.

He said there are too many issues to be considered before deployment. There are now plans in place to create a crisis response mechanism, comprising the chair of the summit, the deputy and the rapporteur, who can consult rapidly with the AU for quicker action.

Response time

EASF has specific response times for security situations. These range from 14 days in cases of ongoing genocide, to 30 days when there is escalation of violence, destruction of property and displacement of the population.

The regional force currently has 5,200 troops from Burundi, the Comoros, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda.

It is an integrated unit comprising military, police and civilian components.

Continue reading on The East African

by Fred Oluoch

Photo Credit: The East African (Ugandan soldiers at a training session.)

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  1. Araya Zeweli says:

    The demarcation line that separates the jurisdiction of the AU and EASF Assembly as to the authorization and deployment of the EASF is not clear rather controversial.
    In addition to that it raises the question whether the EASF is an independent international organization or not. If it is so, what necessitates to get a request from AU to deploy its force instead of taking independent institutional decision.

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