The Eastern African Standby Force is ready to deploy troops to South Sudan if requested by the African Union, despite failing to intervene in the Burundi crisis in 2015.
The 5,800-strong force attained full operational capability in December 2014, but has remained in obscurity despite the conflicts in Somalia, South Sudan and Burundi.
This is unlike its equivalent in the Economic Community of West African States (Ecowas), which has been active and intervened in conflict-prone areas, with the latest intervention coming in January 2017 when the force removed Gambian president Yahya Jammeh.
EASF director Abdillahi Omar Bouh told The EastAfrican that deployment requires heavy resources.
“In South Sudan, the Igad must first deal with the mediation, which is already complete. The question now is, should Igad deploy troops or EASF? Igad has already given the task to Djibouti, Uganda, Somalia and Sudan. We have written to the chairman of Igad requesting that EASF be asked to go to South Sudan,” he said.
On the Burundi crisis, he said Bujumbura did not ask for help.
“In case a member state is in crisis, they are called to a Policy Organ Committee meeting to explain the situation because we cannot deploy without the permission of the affected member. Burundi said they had no problem.”
EASF is made up of troops from 10 partner states — Burundi, Comoros, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Seychelles, Somalia, Sudan and Uganda.
Among the key challenges the force faces is that three countries—Burundi, Comoros and Somalia—are yet to ratify the agreement that established the force in 2014.