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African Union member states should commit themselves to funding the African Standby Force to do away with donor funds that always come with conditionalities, Head of the African Union Peace Support Operations division Mr Sivuyile Bam has said.

Briefing journalists at the ongoing 8th ordinary meeting of the African Union Ministers of Defence, Peace and Security here yesterday, Mr Bam said while it was costly to deploy forces into an operation, there was need for African member states to play their part.

This dovetails with calls by African Union chairperson President Mugabe that a “free and independent” Africa could only be realised once the continent’s countries begin to fund their own operations.

More than 70 percent of the AU’s budget is donor funded.

Mr Bam said reliance on donor funds would always put limitations to operations.

“They say he who pays the piper calls the tune,” he said. “It is the same with partners. They have got funding conditionalities and they need us to meet certain requirements because they are coming in with the funds. Sometimes those conditions do not sit well with the need and requirements of our forces on the ground.”

Mr Bam said the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), which needed about $1 billion annually, was getting its allowances from the European Union and other co-operating partners, while logistical support was coming from the United Nations.

He said while member states were facing challenges, the ASF should be ready by the end of this year in line with the deadline set by 24th Ordinary Session of the Assembly of the African Union in January.

The continent has missed three initial deadlines for the operational of the ASF in 2008, 2010 and 2013.

He said three of the five regions of the ASF on the continent had pronounced their readiness, but the level of their capabilities should be verified to see if they had met the requirements set up by the principals.

“The other two are getting there, but they are seeing some challenges,” he said, declining to name the regions.

“We got the troops, but not necessarily with the right equipment and we can have the troops with the equipment, but not necessarily with the capacity to be sustained when they are deployed in the operations.

“It is actually expensive to maintain people in the middle of nowhere. We must put in fuel, food and provide medical facilities and related mat- ters.”

The meeting continues today with the Chiefs of Defence and Heads of Security Services finalising recommendations which will be presented to government ministers from all the AU member states who meet tomorrow.

Source : The Herald

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