By Christine Lagat and Chris Mgidu
NAIROBI, Feb. 13 (Xinhua) — Defense chiefs from East African countries on Thursday unanimously endorsed the establishment of a well equipped standby force to deal with emerging security threats like terrorism, piracy and narcotics trafficking.
The defense chiefs meeting in Nairobi stressed that the creation of a deployable force is critical to tackle conflicts and insecurity across the region.
“The realization of an Eastern African Standby Force will enable countries address challenges to peace, security and stability. We therefore have an onerous duty to ensure this force evolve into a credible tool for regional peace and prosperity,” Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Defense Raychelle Omamo said.
Kenya is hosting the 15th ordinary meeting of the committee of the Eastern African Defense Chiefs to fast-track implementation of modalities on the establishment of a regional standby force.
Leaders and officials from Djibouti, Ethiopia, Somali, Sudan, the Comoros, Eritrea, Rwanda, Madagascar, Kenya and the Seychelles signed a deal on April 11 last year in Ethiopia, outlining the force’s legal and policy details together with sources for its 2.5 million U.S. dollars annual budget.
EASF is one of the five regional components of the African Standby Force established by the African Union for the purpose of containing conflicts and enhancing peace and security on the continent.
EASF was established as a regional mechanism to provide capability for rapid deployment of forces to carry out preventive deployment, rapid intervention, peace support/stability operations and peace enforcement.
When the idea of an African Standby Force (AFS) was mooted about 10 years ago, it raised optimism that the numerous wars in the continent would be contained as soon as they were started.
The East African Nation has rallied neighboring countries and the international community to support the creation of a standby force.
According Omamo, Kenya has contributed 1 million U.S. dollars to the African Union to facilitate the establishment of a standby force with rapid deployment capacity.
“Kenya is committed to the cause of prevention and eradication of conflicts in order to foster enduring peace in our region and the African continent at large,” Omamo told regional defense chiefs
Governments in the Eastern African region will contribute money, troops and civilian personnel to support the creation of a standby force by December 2015.
Omamo regretted that unfolding security challenges in Somalia, South Sudan, Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of Congo could overwhelm the regional armed forces.
“We must therefore marshal our collective efforts to actualize credible and deployable forces to arrest and resolve new crises,” Omamo said.
African leaders have endorsed a broad master-plan to reorganize the continent’s security and defense architecture in the light of emerging challenges such as armed conflicts, terrorism, poaching and cross border crimes.
“Our leaders are at the forefront of the establishment of an African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises. Several Member States have already established rapid deployment capabilities that are key components of a standby force,” said Omamo.
She urged regional Defense Chiefs to advice governments on best practices to support creation of a robust standby force.
Regional Defense Chiefs root for home grown solutions to emerging security threats.
The Chief of Kenyan Defense Forces, General Julius Karangi said that formation of a regional standby force is in line with the African Union resolutions that support continent led military interventions in various hotspots.
“Every member country has pledged troops, money, police and civilian staff to run the secretariat of an East African Standby Force,” said Karangi.
He told Xinhua that foreign allies have been providing technical capacity to support the establishment of a vibrant regional standby force.