A team of Peace Support Operations experts from the African Union Commission (AUC) led by Professor Ibrahim Gambari visited the SADC Secretariat from 31 July to 02 August 2017. The purpose of the visit was to hold consultative meetings with the SADC Standby Force Planning Element (SSF PLANELM), thereby enabling verification of the state of operational readiness of the SADC Standby Force (SSF). The AUC experts visit was conducted pursuant to the Decisions of the 26th Summit of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government held in Addis Ababa from 30 to 31January 2016 and the 677th meeting of the Peace and Security Council (PSC) of the African Union (AU)
The Acting Executive Secretary (ES), Ms. Fafa Avafia, on behalf of the SADC Executive Secretary, Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax, welcomed Prof. Gambari and his team to the SADC Secretariat. In her remarks, the Acting ES reiterated, among others, SADC’s continued commitment to Continental initiatives such as ‘Silencing the Guns by 2020’, this being one of the key flagships of the African Union’s Agenda 2063. Ms. Avafia also noted that, in furtherance of this SADC commitment and as part of the overall security framework of the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA) and African Standby Force (ASF), the SADC Standby Force remains committed to ensuring the effective implementation of its primary mandate, namely, the promotion of peace, security and stability in the SADC Region, thus also contributing to the role of Continental role of the African Standby Force. This is done by putting in place the necessary policies, legal frameworks and structures for the SADC Standby Force.
In his remarks, the Leader of the AU Verification Team, Professor Ibrahim Gambari, highlighted that, the Team’s mandate was not to be erroneously likened to that of a board of examiners. Rather, the Verification Team’s visit to the SADC Region was predicated on as the need for having an interactive session with the SSF PLANELM, in order to be briefed on its state of readiness. This would then assist in finding solutions to the challenges that the SSF may be faced with, particularly in its current Post-Full Operational Capability state. Prof. Gambari also informed that the Team was conducting similar verification missions to all Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and Regional Mechanisms (RMs). In this regard, prior to visiting SADC, the Team had visited the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) and would be proceeding to the East African Standby Force and eventually the remaining two Standby Forces in West and North Africa.
The AUC Verification Team received a report from the SADC Standby Force (SSF) Planning Element (PLANELM), which highlighted the SADC Standby Force’s origins, roadmaps, and on-going activities of the SSF. The overall submission assured the Team that the SSF remains ready to execute its mandate at any point in time it is called upon to do so. The Team was also informed that the SSF is in its fourth roadmap, namely the post-Full Operational Capability phase, with a number of major milestones already achieved. Among others, the existence of approved Operational Guidelines and Procedures for the Civilian Component of the SSF; Commencement of the operationalization of Communications, Command, Control and Information Systems capability as well as the Joint Operations Centre and Regional Movement Coordination Centre currently underway; and construction of the SADC Regional Logistics Depot (RLD) currently underway. In addition, the critical role of the SADC Regional Peacekeeping Training Centre (SADC RPTC) and its synergy with the SSF was elucidated, particularly in terms of contributing to the latter’s capacity buidling through training, thereby enhancing SADC’s capacity to actively participate in SADC, African Union and United Nations peace support operations.
During the interaction, the AU and SSF noted the need to overcome challenges facing the SSF, one of which includes that of predictable funding for Peace Support Operations; to which the SSF PLANELM informed that , SADC is in the final stages of the SSF SADC Standby Force Planning Element reported that it is in the final stage of finalizing a Peace Fund Concept, in line with the recommendations of the Gambari Report, policy guidelines of the African Union Commission as well as in line with SADC financial policies, rules and regulations.
Apart from the interactive exchanges, the AUC Team also had opportunity to visit the proposed Joint Operations Centre (JOC)/ Regional Movement Coordination Centre (RMCC) facility at Sebele in Gaborone, Botswana. The Team also visited the SSF Regional Logistic Depot (RLD) site located at Rasesa, approximately 45 kilometres north of Gaborone; and concluded with expressing their satisfaction on SADC’s achievements and progress thus far concerning the Region’s Standby Force. To this end, the SADC Standby Force Planning Element remains committed to continue working hard to address gaps already identified in ensuring that the SADC Standby Force remains ready to fulfill its obligations as part of the African Standby Force, especially at the current time when SADC is expected to be on standby at the Continental level from 1 January 2019 to June 2019.
SADC Secretariat officials and AU Verification Team pose for Group Photo after the official opening of the verification consultative meetings
Photo1: Ms. Fafa Avafia, Acting ES (4th from right) and Professor Ibrahim Gambari (4th from left) soon after the latter paid a courtesy call on the Acting ES