Troops from the Southern African Development Community pictured here will be the main contributors to the African Standby Force's upcoming exercises. Lusaka, South Africa, August 17, 2007. (Alexander Joe/AFP/Getty Images)

Troops from the Southern African Development Community pictured here will be the main contributors to the African Standby Force's upcoming exercises. Lusaka, South Africa, August 17, 2007. (Alexander Joe/AFP/Getty Images)

The African Union—and especially South Africa–regards the nascent African Standby Force (ASF) as a means to preempt alleged Western meddling in Africa. It is rather ironic, then, that the European Union will participate quite significantly in the ASF’s first full field military exercise in South Africa, starting in October.

The Amani Africa II exercises are mainly funded through the EU’s African Peace Facility, and the EU permanent planning team has a mandate from the AU to help plan and conduct them—though the AU remains in charge, of course. More than 5,000 soldiers, police officers, and civilians from around the continent are expected to travel to South Africa for Amani Africa II, which will take place at the South African Army Combat Training Centre in Lohatlha, Northern Cape from October 19 to November 7. It is expected to be the single largest “multidimensional” military exercise ever held in democratic South Africa. As it so often does, South Africa stepped into the breach to host this exercise, which was supposed to be held in Lesotho late last year, before political and security unrest ruled that out.

Dr. Sayibu Pabi Gariba, of the AU’s Amani Africa II exercise core planning team, said the total deployment at Lohatlha would be above the 5,000 mark, comprising troops from regional standby forces. He mentioned the Southern African Development Community as the main force, plus the Economic Community of West African States, East Africa Standby Force, and Economic Community of Central African States. This suggested that one of the AU’s five official regions, North Africa, would be absent from the exercise. Read more