Ten East African nations have launched a joint military force aimed at improving security in the region and supporting African Union’s (AU) missions.
The African Standby Force (ASF) was launched in the central Ethiopian city of Adama on Saturday after almost a decade of planning and preparation.
The force consists of up to 5,200 troops from the African countries of Burundi, Comoros, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda.
Ethiopian Prime Minister Hailemariam Desalegn welcomed the launch of the ASF, describing it “a significant development as it demonstrates the commitment by a group of countries to contribute their fair share to tackling security challenges in Africa.”
According to Rwandan Defense Minister James Kabarebe, the military force will respond to security challenges posed by armed and terrorist groups, illicit drug trade, local uprisings, and ethnic conflicts, etc.
In addition, the ASF is expected to conduct peacekeeping operations across the African continent.
“We now have what it takes to respond to these challenges,” said Kabarebe.
The formation of the ASF was proposed by the African Union in 2002 and was supposed to be launched eight years later; however, the date was postponed repeatedly. The delays were reportedly caused by conflicting interests among the force’s member states.
Some of the countries in the region contribute to the African Union force in Somalia.
Uganda provides the bulk of the 17,600 strong Amisom force deployed to stabilize Somalia, a country that has been without a functioning government since the fall of General Siad Barre in 1991.
The other countries with troops in the war-torn Somalia include Kenya, Djibouti, Burundi and Sierra Leone. The UN Security Council resolution mandates Amisom to conduct peace enforcement operations against hostile forces, using necessary appropriate force.