BACKGROUND TO THE FOURTH CONFERENCE ON STRATEGIC THEORY, 2015
This conference is the fourth in a series jointly planned and presented by the faculty of the Royal Danish Defence College and the Faculty of Military Science, Stellenbosch University. The conference series selects a contemporary African security topic around which it builds a biennial conference event with selected speakers, followed by a workshop and a book publication. The 2009 event covered contemporary armed conflict in Africa; in 2011, it dealt with the military culture of African armed forces, and in 2013, with a post-piracy view on maritime security off East Africa. This fourth event on the African Standby Force (ASF) is planned to coincide with the 2015 focus on the ASF as a central aspect of Africa's security architecture by way of particular views on the progress and readiness of the different regional brigades where the core of the operational readiness of the ASF resides.
WHY THE FOCUS ON THE AFRICA PEACE AND SECURITY ARCHITECTURE (APSA) THEME?
In 1994, genocide in Rwanda cemented the idea of 'never again' that became instrumental in shaping the human security narrative that has strongly influenced the post-2000 rise of the African Union (AU) and its peace and security sphere in particular. The APSA must enable AU member states to deal more effectively with future Rwanda-type scenarios. The AU has therefore deployed, in its own capacity or via its regional organisations, to divergent conflict zones like Burundi, Darfur, Somalia, Comoros, the Central African Republic and Mali with each testing the APSA resolve to deal with complexity. In 2015, destructive armed conflict continues in South Sudan, the Central African Republic (CAR) is a de facto collapsed state, while the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) remains plagued by conflict, instability and suffering. Mali is confronted by a dangerous insurgency and Somalia remains mired in civil strife while Al-Shabaab is still very active and a real test for the APSA. Looming large as well is perhaps the acid test for APSA – how to respond to the Boko Haram threat in Nigeria.
The AU plays an increasingly instrumental role in addressing these very complex and intractable conflicts, in terms both of deploying soldiers, but also of mediating between the warring parties, cooperating with numerous partners and contributing to the post-conflict reconstructing phase. By 2015, the ASF within the APSA should be fully operational and providing the continental organisation with an operational conflict management tool. However, the experiences from the AU's previous missions and several evaluation reports have shown that the ASF structure, unsurprisingly, is faced with several challenges. When some of the institutionally weakest and poorest states in the world have to set up a continental security architecture with a stated ambition of creating a security community, it is in all probability a very difficult task and one calling for constructive contributions.
The Fourth Conference on Strategic Theory in Stellenbosch, South Africa envisages progress in moving the ASF towards a more operational status as the ASF remains at the forefront of AU endeavours to prevent, check or tone down outbursts of political and armed violence in African countries. The thematic approach is to review the latest assessments on the APSA and the ASF, take a brief tour through the status of standby forces for the ASF in the respective regional economic communities, touch upon the influence of parallel suggestions entailing the
African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises (ACIRC) debate and conclude with a brief workshop to compile an overview of progress and suggested areas of concern.