What Is Behind Egypt’s Proposed Pan-African Military Force?
Egypt has proposed the formation of a joint military force to counter the growing threat of terrorism in Africa and protect the states of the continent. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said the force would be essential for the preservation of peace and security across the continent.
Sisi: Egypt Is Ready To Host A Summit On Creating A Pan-African Force
Speaking February 9 during the 33rd African summit in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, Sisi added that his country would be ready to host an African summit on the proposed military force.
“This proposal derives from Egypt’s responsibility towards the continent,” said Sisi—whose country held the rotating presidency of the African Union in 2019. “It derives from Egypt’s belief in the importance of forming this force for peace and security in Africa,” he added.
During his tenure as president of the African Union, Sisi worked hard to settle conflicts on the continent. Egypt hosted several meetings on Libya, mediated talks between military rivals in South Sudan and offered backing to African Union efforts to settle the political crisis in Sudan, following the ousting of longtime ruler Omar al-Bashir in April of last year.
Egypt Clearly Alarmed Over Terrorist Surge In Africa’s Sahel Region
The proposed military force is by far the clearest expression of the worries Egypt harbors as the terrorist threat grows more dangerous in Africa day after day. Some of the countries of the continent are turning into hotspots for terrorist activity. From Nigeria, to Somalia and from Libya to Mali, terrorist groups are gaining more ground every day, opening the door for the potential collapse of nation states and creating unprecedented population displacements.
Egypt’s fear is that some of the terrorist groups active in West Africa as well as the Sahel and Sahara region could merge into others active in North Africa, which could prove enormously destructive to the region and to Europe.
This is probably why Egypt hosted a meeting of the chiefs of staff of the armies of the Sahel and Sahara states between February 9 and 11. During the meeting, Cairo proposed to train militaries of the countries of the region with the aim of making them capable of standing against the security threats facing them.
Force Would Be Overseen By The African Union
Addressing the 33rd African summit, Sisi noted that the Peace and Security Council of the African Union, the decision-making body of the pan-African organization, would oversee the proposed military force. He invited African leaders to speed up consultations on the force and attend the proposed summit in Cairo with the aim of turning it into a reality. The view in Cairo is that the proposed force will be instrumental in eradicating terrorism in Africa and helping the states of the continent be up to the security challenges they are facing.
“Such a force will be able to put an end to terrorism in the continent,” Egyptian lawmaker Saeed Hasasien said. “It can be the nucleus of an international military force against terrorism.”
As president of the African Union, Sisi proposed a continental initiative for ending military disputes and conflicts in Africa. Called “Silencing the Guns”, the initiative aspires to end all these conflicts by the end of 2020.
Questions About The Force Still Remain
However, it is not clear how the proposed military force for Africa will operate, where it will be based, where its funding will come from and which country will be responsible for its command. In June 2018, Egypt opened a command center for counterterrorism operations in the Sahel and Sahara region. Constructed in Egypt’s sprawling new capital outside Cairo, the command center is anticipated to become a focal point for drafting counterterrorism strategies in Africa as a whole.
When he came to Egypt’s helm in mid-2014, Sisi proposed a similar military force for Arab countries. This was a time when the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria had just declared its self-styled caliphate in Iraq and Syria and drew up plans for occupying most of the Arab world. However, the force had not materialized as an idea, apparently because of rifts among Arab states.
Nevertheless, the proposed force for Africa will be more practical, given the urgency of the presence of such a force for protecting the states of the continent from the threats facing them, analysts said.
“This is about time African leaders realized the importance of military unity among their countries,” said Abdel Hamid al-Hawari, a senior official of Nation’s Future Party, the majority party in the Egyptian parliament.