Standby force is watching Sudan closely

Saturday June 22 2019

Members of Sudan’s Rapid Support Forces paramilitaries.

Members of Sudan’s Rapid Support Forces paramilitaries. The Eastern Africa Standby Force is monitoring activities in the country. PHOTO | AFP 

FRED OLUOCH
By FRED OLUOCH
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The Eastern Africa Standby Force is watching developments in Sudan and is ready to deploy if the situation turns genocidal.

EASF Director Abdillahi Omar Bouh told The EastAfrican that while there are still no signs of genocide and Sudan has not invited the regional force to intervene, they are playing an advisory role.

“Our mandate is that we first support peace for three months to avoid genocide, then the international community takes over. We have achieved full operational capability and can deploy in 14 days. However, the decision to deploy is a political one and it has to come from the summit of the EASF member states or the African Union,” said Dr Bouh.

He said that the EASF had been scheduled to be deployed in Gambia in 2017, but since the AU was keen to save money, they decided that it was cheaper to use the Economic Community of West African States because of proximity.

With 5,200 troops on the ready from July, the EASF can be deployed anywhere on the continent and not only in East Africa.

EASF has put aside $2.6 million as part of the peace funds. The Force is funded by Nordic countries as well as annual contributions by the 10 member states, paid on a pro-rata basis depending on the size of the country’s economy. For instance, Kenya pays $800,000, Uganda $400,000 and Djibouti $200,000.

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Currently, only Seychelles, Ethiopia and Uganda have paid their dues, while other members are waiting for the beginning of their financial year in July. EASF member states are Burundi, Comoros, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda.

One of the key challenges EASF has been facing is that three countries — Burundi, Comoros and Somalia — are yet to ratify the agreement that established the force in 2014. In addition, the mandating process for the legal framework for deployment is yet to be tested.

Other challenges are sustaining the funding in case of deployment, and the dual membership of the members in the competing interests of the East African Community and the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (Igad).

Head of peace operations Major General Albert Kendagor said that EASF remains aware of the developments in Sudan and that there are high level consultations going on involving the AU and Igad.

On June 20, the Igad Council of Ministers held its first meeting on Sudan in Khartoum. The council announced that it will play a leading role in the negotiations between the Transitional Military Council (TMC) and the opposition Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) to transfer power to civilians.

In May, the military junta and the opposition agreed that a technocrat government appointed by the FFC would administrate the country during the three-year transitional period.

They also agreed that the opposition coalition will appoint 67 per cent of the 300-member parliament.

But early this month, TMC leader Abdel Fattah al-Burhan abandoned negotiations with the protesters and instead declared that the elections will be held in the next nine months.

The TMC now wants half of the government and controlling rights, plus half of the parliamentary membership.

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