African military force begins drills in Rwanda, pledges reforms

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Close to 200 military officers from the African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises (ACIRC) are in their third Command Post Exercise (CPX) dubbed “Utulivu Africa III”, at Rwanda Military Academy-Gako, in Eastern district of Bugesera.

The combined regional military pledged that going forward, they are ready to swiftly intervene in the time of need, should they be called upon by the African Union commission or member states.

The ACIRC is a strategic security partnership between the African Union and Volunteering Nations to enable the AU to intervene on short notice in a crisis that may pop up on the African Continent.

The ACIRC was put in place in 2013 to serve as an interim mechanism until the African Standby Force (ASF) becomes fully operational.

While officiating at the opening of the military exercise, Maj Gen Jacques Musemakweli, the Army Chief of Staff of the Rwanda Defence Forces, said that the objective of the Utulivu Africa III was to prepare ACIRC force for future intervention operations within the contexts of Article 4 (h) and 4 (j) of the African Union Act.

“We believe that you will undertake these drills with dedication and commitment so that you not only achieve the objectives of the current exercise, but also those of future operation,” Musemakweli urged staff officers.

“Ultimately, the success of this exercise will go a long way to guarantee attainment of our leaders aspirations of finding African solutions to African problems,” he added.

The African Union commission has been accused of delaying to deploy its peacekeeping forces to the conflict-hit communities due to different conflicting interests and bureaucracy within the heiracy.

Bam Sivuyiye, Head of Peace Support operation division at the UA Commission admits that deployment still faces “difficult challenges”, but he is also confident that regional forces are ready to be deployed should other factors be ironed out by member states.

“ACIRC is ready to be deployed. These are voluntary forces willing to use their own resources to bring about peace over the period of 90 days after deployment order has been announced. On the broader aspect of AU, efforts are ongoing to get more funds for the necessary resources to move along when the issues arise.” Sivuyire told The New Times.

When asked about the cause for delayed deployment in some cases, he added that, “delays in deployment is not at the technical level, which is our level, delays are always caused by the member states. They (Member states) are the ones who created these tools and so they are the ones who deploy it. So if we don’t get deployed, nothing we can do about it it’s the member states that takes the decisions.”

While explaining on the case relating to Burundi’s post-election crisis, Sivuyire revealed that, issues relating to post-deployment negations caused delayed deployment of the AU peacekeeping forces.

“In areas like Burundi, deployments did not take place because there are ongoing negotiations. Peace support operations is a tool in a toolbox, so you have got other tools that you would want to use before you make the operation work. The other tools like mediation are always happening behind the scene but those are not publicized.

According to Sivuyire, Peace keeping interventions is no longer the issues of the international community but the rather member states. He said that of late, some conflicts lack what he described as “political clarity” while some security issues like terrorism have no “state boundaries”.

Sivuyire also pointed out that ‘state sovereignty’ is yet another “big” challenge that has hindered timely intervention of the international community.

“We are dealing with sovereign states, and states have got their own spaces to operate it in. so we can not expects that multilateral organizations will necessarily be a mirror image of what member states are. There are efforts being made to empower multilateral organizations but it’s always a coalition of member states to get it moving. So we will continue to have these challenges but deployments are taking place in some areas under difficult circumstances,” Sivuyire added.

Alice Urusaro Karekezi, Peace and security expert from the Center of Conflict Management at the University of Rwanda observed that the voluntary ACIRC force could fuel a new momentum of reliability in the peacekeeping operations by the regional forces.

“This shows the determination of African states to charge of providing security and stability on the continent. It is a move to recapture the peace and security architecture that got delayed with the fact certain standby forces have not been able to attain full operational capability by 2015 as pledged by the AU,” Karekezi said.

To date, the East African Standby force is the only regional combined army that has pledged readiness to intervene.

“In the recent past we have seen forces from outside the continent intervened in several African states with lots of imperfections following thereafter. I think its high time Africa solved own problems,” she added.

Karekezi urges member states to continue putting resources in such regional tool for it to serve the purpose.

“There are several issues facing the continent of course, poverty, infrastructural development and these issues strongly relate to peace and security so Africa needs to develop in all aspects for sustainable peace,” she said.

The Exercise ACIRC CPX Utulivu Africa III 2017, is aimed at testing for confirmation the ACIRC operational readiness, as well as enhancing interoperability and cohesion among the ACIRC Volunteering Nations Defence Forces.

ACIRC Volunteering Nations include Algeria, Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Chad, Egypt, Niger, Rwanda, Senegal, South-Africa, Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda.

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