AU standby funding on SADC agenda
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Pretoria - Southern African ministers were meeting in Pretoria to discuss how to finance the major African Union military exercise Amani Africa 2 which was due to be held in South Africa soon to prepare the continent to address security crises.
The money for the exercise - which will be the first real test of the AU’s long-awaited African Standby Force (ASF) - has still not been found, according to diplomatic sources.
The ASF has been on the AU’s drawing board for over a decade, but is not yet ready to deploy. The need for it has become increasingly urgent as crises hit the continent in places like Mali, the Central African Republic, and South Sudan. AU member states are growing ever more embarrassed by having to rely on foreign powers, especially France, to address some of these security crises militarily.
The Amani Africa 2 exercise is one of the key items on the agenda of the ministerial meeting of the politics, defence and security organ of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) which started in Pretoria on Monday.
The ministers were also assessing the progress made by their respective states in implementing measures agreed to at the SADC summit in Pretoria on July 2 to address the continuing political and security crisis in Lesotho, a member state.
The summit was called in response to the killing of ex-Lesotho Defence Force chief Brigadier Maaparankoe Mahao by defence force soldiers who were sent to arrest him on June 25 on suspicion of complicity in a plot to overthrow the government.
All three Lesotho opposition party leaders have fled the country, fearing for their safety because of what they say has been a reign of terror launched by the government of Prime Minister Pakalitha Mosisili who was elected in February.
The opposition leaders, including Tom Thabane, who was defeated in the elections, and civil society are blaming the new defence force chief Tlali Kamoli, for creating the climate of fear.
The SADC summit decided to appoint an independent commission of inquiry - to be headed by a Botswana judge - to investigate the circumstances of Mahao’s death and the wider issues of insecurity.
Botswana media say that High Court Judge Mpathi Phumaphi will head the inquiry.
The summit on July 2 ordered the deployment of the commission of inquiry “with immediate effect” and said it should finalise its inquiry within 60 days, but it has not begun its work.
The summit leaders also decided to send an independent pathologist from South Africa within 72 hours to investigate the death of Mahao. They also decided to establish an oversight committee of eight political, military and police officials to act as an early warning mechanism to detect looming future threats to security in Lesotho.
And the leaders decided that Lesotho should undertake constitutional and security reforms to prevent future instability. Officials said the most urgent reform was to change the constitution to forbid the Lesotho Defence Force from doing police duties such as arresting people.
The politicisation of the military has been identified as the chief underlying cause of the chronic instability in the country.
South Africa’s Minister of International Relations and Cooperation Maite Nkoana-Mashabane, who is chairing the SADC meeting in Pretoria, said at the opening of the meeting on Monday that the SADC region was enjoying “relative stability with the exception of a few challenges that face three of our sister countries”.
“Even in these countries, our glorious organisation, SADC, remain fully engaged in efforts to assist its fellow members,” she said.
The other two countries facing political and security problems are the Democratic Republic of Congo - where a SADC force is still helping government troops fight rebels in the east - and Madagascar where Parliament recently impeached President Hery Rajaonarimampianina.
Though the High Court overturned the decision, it has re-introduced an element of insecurity into a country that was just emerging from several years of severe instability precipitated by a military coup in 2009.
The ministers would receive updates on these countries.
Nkoana-Mashabane said six of the SADC’s 15 member states had had peaceful, credible, free and fair elections during the last eight months.