Academic journal article Military Review

An African Rapid-Deployment Force

Academic journal article Military Review

An African Rapid-Deployment Force

Article excerpt

Speed is the essence of war Take advantage of the enemy's unpreparedness; travel by unexpected routes and strike him where he has taken no precautions.

-un Tzu, The Art of War

IN RECENT YEARS, the concept of speedy deployment of military forces to world trouble spots has taken on new meaning, largely due to advances in military technology and the reality of the "global village." Modem communications have turned all the nations of the world into neighbors, with shared responsibilities for peace and security.

Conflicts such as the Gulf War, the Bosnian tragedy and the internecine slaughter in Rwanda and Burundi have pricked the international conscience and heightened a growing international and regional sense of communal liability. This in turn has emphasized a more respectable role for armed forcespreventing, or at least minimizing, armed conflict.

With this interest in military "fire fighting" or "fire prevention," an old concept has gained new popularity: the rapid deployment force (RDF). Over the past three decades or more, Africa, particularly, has shown itself to be singularly susceptible to military intervention, which has been carried out primarily by non-African powers. However, with South Africa's democratization and its return to the respectable international community, Organization for African Unity (OAU) members have a growing awareness that Africa itself could provide an RDF for action on that continent.l

It would be reasonable to consider the viability of an indigenous RDF for Africa, with a view to employing it in operations where quick intervention is necessary to prevent conflict or establish peace.

A brief historical perspective would be useful before defining rapid deployment. The possible roles of an African RDF must be identified, and the most suitable type of force for rapid deployment must be examined, in conjunction with its collateral utility. Finally, some attention must be given to international force composition and its proposed command and control (C2) structure.

Historical Perspective

Since the former European colonies of Africa began obtaining their modem independence in the late 1950s and early 1960s, the continent has been in a state of almost constant upheaval. The combined Anglo-French airborne and amphibious assault on the Suez in 1956 signalled the start of what became regular interventions by former colonial powers in African affairs. More than 30 interventionist operations have taken place in Africa since 1956.2

As in the Suez, some of these operations were uninvited. Others were conducted at the express request or with the consent of the African country concerned. In 1964, for example, the then Republic of Congo (now Zaire) allowed Belgium to intervene to save more than 1,900 Belgian and US hostages being held by secessionist Simba rebels in the cities of Stanleyville (Kisangani) and Paulis (Isiro). A Belgian parachute battalion was flown 11,500 km by 14 US Air Force C-130 Hercules aircraft. The battalion parachuted in to carry out a remarkably successful operation, as shown in Figure 1.3

When the Kenyan army mutinied in 1964, the Kenyan government asked the British to intervene. Royal Marines and other light troops stopped the mutiny in a very short time. Similarly, when Swaziland experienced unrest in the 1960s, it was the British, with an airlifted light infantry battalion, who restored and maintained order for the Swazi government.

During the 1978 attempt at secession by the Zairese province of Shaba, French paratroopers jumped in at Kolwezi to rescue hostages and repel the rebels.4 In many former French colonies in Central Africa, French paratroopers and the Foreign Legion have carried out successful interventionist actions.

In 1990, when US citizens in Liberia were threatened by upheaval there, US Marines, transported by helicopters from ship to shore, carried out the rescue. …

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