n African Security Review - A Pan-African army : the evolution of an idea and its eventual realisation in the African Standby Force : feature

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The idea of establishing a permanent Pan-African army has for long caught the imagination of Africans as a potential solution to many of their continent's manifold security problems. This feature tracks the quest for a Pan-African military force through the past five decades covering the feeble attempts of Africa's freedom fighters to join forces, the repeated failure to establish an African High Command (AHC) in the early years of decolonisation, the subsequent inability of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) Defence Commission to agree on a common defence structure, and the various fruitless initiatives of the international community to set up a Pan-African peacekeeping force in the 1990s. On the basis of this retrospective journey, the article argues that the African Union's current initiative to establish an African Standby Force (ASF) based on five regionally administered standby brigades should be seen in the tradition of this long quest and not as a groundbreaking new conceptual development, as argued by some. It further contends that even though the ASF is conceptually closer to the Standby Arrangement of the United Nations (UNSAS) than to a Pan- African army as envisioned by leading Pan-Africanists such as Kwame Nkrumah, it nonetheless marks a substantial development in Africa's continental self-emancipation which should be greeted and supported by Africans and the international community alike.


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