How the African Union-U.S. partnership is making a difference

African Union soldier wearing green beret, carrying grenade launcher (© AP Images)
The U.S. and African Union work together to rapidly deploy peacekeepers to respond to emerging conflicts. (© AP Images)

The African Union called for “solidarity, Pan-Africanism, self-reliance and independence for a United Africa” in opening its 27th summit, which runs July 10–18 in Kigali, Rwanda.

The African Union, currently consisting of 54 countries in Africa, has from its start in 1999 had the support of the United States.

“In the face of threats, Africa — and the African Union — has shown leadership,” President Obama said in July 2015, when he became the first U.S. president to address the organization.

Since 2005, the Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance program of the State Department has trained more than 296,811 peacekeepers. These peacekeeping troops are only deployed by a sovereign national decision from a partner country to contribute forces under a U.N., AU or regional organization mandate.

The U.S. has:

• Obligated more than $842 million in funds to support the African Union Mission in Somalia and its troop contributors with equipment, logistics, advisory support and training to counter al-Shabaab terrorism and create further opportunity for political progress.

• Committed $100 million in support for the African Union’s mission to prevent further ethnic violence in the Central African Republic and to restore stability.

• Supported the African Union’s work to develop peacekeeping solutions run by Africans for Africans that can sustain themselves into the future as effective alternatives to U.N. operations.

During the 2014 U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit, President Obama announced the African Peacekeeping Rapid Response Partnership to bolster the rapid-response capabilities of six initial African partners: Ethiopia, Ghana, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania and Uganda. The partnership will provide a three- to five-year injection of resources to build capabilities in these countries for rapid-response peacekeeping.

U.S. support focuses primarily on enabling African peacekeepers to contribute to peace operations mandated by the United Nations, the African Union or a regional organization such as the Economic Community of West African States.

Key to this effort is the African Standby Force, an international, continental African and multidisciplinary peacekeeping force consisting of a military, police and civilian corps. It is authorized to intervene in one of the Union’s member states in “grave circumstances,” such as war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity.

Much of this support is implemented by the Africa Contingency Operations Training and Assistance program, as well as by the United States Africa Command.

Assistance provided by both organizations is funded primarily through the Global Peace Operations Initiative. The aim is to help partner countries in Africa increase their readiness to carry out peace operations needed today, with minimal international assistance.

“As Africa stands against terror and conflict … the United States stands with you,” Obama told the African Union last year. “With training and support, we’re helping African forces grow stronger.”