Addis Ababa - African leaders decided on Monday to
immediately establish a military rapid reaction force to deal with regional
security emergencies, moving to reduce the continent's reliance on outside
forces and funds for its defence.
The move made at an African Union (AU) summit in Addis Ababa
followed calls from several leaders for an African defence capacity to be
created right away, given the persistence of a number of conflicts and
rebellions on the continent.
Plans for an African Standby Force have existed for more
than a decade. But delays in the creation of this contingent has led to
criticism that Africa has for too long been slow to do its own peacekeeping,
relying instead on help and funding from the United Nations and Western donors.
The text of the AU Assembly decision, seen by Reuters, said
the immediate rapid response force would be formed from voluntary contributions
of troops, equipment and funds by member states currently in a position to
The initiative was being called the African Capacity for
Immediate Response to Crises (ACIRC), and it would be a transitional stop-gap
measure pending the full formation of the planned Standby Force.
It would consist of a "flexible and robust force ... to
be deployed very rapidly to effectively respond to emergency situations, within
the framework of the African Peace and Security Architecture".
The decision was "aimed at helping in bringing about
African solutions to Africa's problems", the text said.
Security challenges faced by the AU over the last two years
have included coups in Guinea-Bissau and Mali, offensives by Islamist militant
groups in Mali and Nigeria, and conflict involving rebels in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo and
Central African Republic.
In Mali, former colonial power France rushed in troops and
planes earlier this year to block an advance by Islamist jihadists, an
intervention that embarrassed the AU by showing up the continent's lack of its
own defensive capacity.