AFRICANGLOBE – East African countries will meet on Monday, in Nairobi, to discuss the way forward for a joint regional military response to conflicts in the region.
Top on the agenda is how to fast-track the Eastern Africa Standby Force (EASF) to respond to conflict, as opposed to the current situation where a single country can choose to send troops to another.
Recently, Uganda unilaterally deployed forces in South Sudan raising questions of impartiality. Kenya and Ethiopia chose not to deploy their troops.
The contributing countries are Burundi, Comoros, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda. Each country is supposed to set aside about 450 specially trained troops for rapid deployment.
In his address at the 22nd African Union (AU) summit in Addis Ababa early this month, Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta said the region urgently needs a rapid response force.
The question most observers are asking is whether the meeting of policy organs, from February 10 to 15, will come up with a clear road map on how to uniformly respond to conflict in the region.
EASF director Maj Gen (Rtd) Cyrille Ndayirukiye said the force is likely to be fully operational by 2015. He said that EASF has conducted exercises to test its preparedness, and the meeting will identify gaps and the mechanisms to address them.
Kenya’s Defence Cabinet Secretary Raychelle Omamo said that despite the urgency expressed by the President, Kenya is working under the EASF framework.
Kenya is the current chair of the bureau at the levels of the assembly of Heads of state, the Chief of Defence Staff and the Cabinet Secretary of Defence and Security.
It is on this basis that Kenya has come under pressure from regional countries to deploy troops to South Sudan, but Nairobi has opted to remain neutral.
At the AU summit President Kenyatta conceded that development partners have come in handy over the years, but to continue relying on outside help for the region’s security undermines their acclaimed independence.
The EASF is a regional organisation whose mandate is to enhance peace and security in East Africa. It is one of five regional multidimensional forces of the African Standby Force with military, police and civilian components.
EASF was established as a regional mechanism to provide capability for rapid deployment of forces to carry out preventive deployment, rapid intervention, and peace support and enforcement.
By: Fred Oluochi