DATS-Africa – Capacity Building in Africa

Why are the Danish Armed Forces engaged in Africa? The short reply is: “Because our politicians have decided so!” A more elaborate answer would be: “In the world of to-day, distances have never been shorter, and information has never been more widespread. These two factors, together with the increasing gap between rich and poor (in Africa) are all ingredients for potential problems. The Danish population, being amongst the richest of the world, therefore has an obligation to take active part in trying to eliminate the gap between rich and poor.”

How can we do that? There are in fact two very different approaches to that answer and the different approaches do not exclude each other. Neither do they replace each other!

We can do it in a reactive way. This means that we can ignore facts and just sit and wait until the situation becomes so bad, that hostilities and wars leading to genocides and hunger brake out. Then we deploy Danish troops and take active part in combat. The risk of doing so is of course, that you may become part of the problem, and not part of the solution. Deploying troops has its price. Unfortunately we have seen that during deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. We cannot avoid that – combat means losses!

We can however also try to take part in an initially more active manner when and if the political situation allows so! That means to get involved before a situation escalates. One can compare that concept with the ideas which we internally in Denmark are trying to implement in the field of health care. Prevention is better than cure! The same thing goes with deployment of Danish troops! If one deploys soldiers in the role of capacity building in order to take active part in eliminating upcoming gaps, hostilities should in principle not brake out. Let me try to state a number of good reasons, why to engage in capacity building before deploying troops for combat purposes:

·         Capacity building is cheaper – both in regard to economy as well as in regard to the number of engaged personnel,

·         The risks for losses (combat and deceases) are minimized compared to troop deployments which may include combat,

·         A mixture between individual advisors and advisory teams will create much goodwill and be without the negative sides, which sometimes are connected with troop deployments, and

·         A timely capacity building effort may lead to a situation where troop deployments are unnecessary.

Ongoing United Nations (UN) Peace Keeping Missions add up to seventeen in total.  Eight of these missions take place in Africa. They involve 96694 troops, military observers, policemen and civilians[1].  Their total budgets are close to 5 billons US $.

Imagine if just half of these missions could have been avoided due to pre-emptive engagement in capacity building measures! 


Danish military involvement in capacity building began in 2003 with the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs program called “Africa Programme for Peace” (APP). It is a 5-years-program, running from 2004 – 2009, dealing with technical and financial support to peace and security activities of four African organisations: The African Union (AU), the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC)[2], the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and the Inter-Governmental Authority for Development (IGAD). It is not a programme, dealing with African states, but with African regions only.

Furthermore the APP is based on Danish development money. The use of development money must be in conformity with the guidelines stated by the Development Assistance Committee (DAC) – a committee under the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).  The DAC list of Official Development Assistance recipients contains fifty countries with the predicate “Least Developed Countries”. Forty of those are part of Africa!
The APP supports the earlier mentioned organisations in:

·         developing capacity to implement interventions with regard to conflict prevention,

·         strengthening the African Security Architecture, and

·         the involvement of the civil society in conflict prevention and resolution.

Strengthening of the African Security Architecture includes establishing of regional stand by forces in line with the concept known from the Multinational Stand by High Readiness Brigade (SHIRBRIG).

In the very beginning of 2005 the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Defence - with participation from the Danish Defence Staff - carried out a fact finding trip to Africa with the purpose to investigate areas of cooperation within the APP. The focus was initially on technical support to the Planning Elements (PLANELMs), being one of the components of the African Stand by Forces (AFS).

The fact finding trip was successful. As a result the initial steps to establish the Danish Advisory and Training Staff, Africa (DATS-Africa) was taken.  The task was at first intended to be carried out as a secondary function alongside one’s primary function. DATS-Africa and a representative from SHIRBRIG carried out the primary visit to ECOWAS in August 2005 which was the starting point of growing involvement and relationship between the African organisations on one side, and Denmark & SHIRBRIG on the other side.

The successful cooperation with the African institutions made it impossible to perform the task as a secondary function, and the position as DATS-Africa was formally established in May 2006 as a function attached to the International Operations Department at the Danish Defence Staff.

The present status regarding implementation of the African Stand by Forces

If one engage in a task where one literally start from scratch by building up peace keeping forces (structures, organisations, equipment, procedures, training etc), one should understand, that completing over night is not possible. It is not done in five or even ten years….having our own history in mind. We had assistance from UK and US all the way until late in the 1960 – not only with procedures and training; but also with massive donations regarding all types of equipment. Look back and remember how long time it has taken us, to build up and develop international organisations like NATO, EU etc.

It is also important to have in mind that the African countries forming the regions have very limited means; however they possess the will to show commitment, and to take ownership in spite of few means.

Regardless of any general anticipation tremendous successful results which have been achieved so far.

What are the end goals? First I need to emphasise that establishing of the African Stand-by Force has been approved by all African Heads of States. It has been formalized in a Policy Framework document[3] and a Roadmap[4] explaining quite detailed the objectives and the associated time frame.

In short the ASF consists of the following components:

·         a military component – brigade size unit (maritime and air components to be integrated at a later stage)

·         a police component (including individual police officers and formed police units)

·         a civilian component (including mission administration & civilian experts (human rights, humanitarian, governance, DDR and reconstruction components))

The above mentioned components were defined based on a number of typical conflict scenarios escalating from advice over deployment of observers to peacekeeping/peace enforcement and intervention:

·         Scenario 1. AU/Regional Military advice to a Political mission.

·         Scenario 2. AU/Regional observer mission co-deployed with UN mission.

·         Scenario 3. Stand alone AU/Regional observer mission.

·         Scenario 4. AU/Regional peacekeeping force (PKF) for Chapter VI and preventive deployment missions.

·         Scenario 5. AU PKF for complex multidimensional PK mission-low level spoilers (a feature of many current conflicts).

·         Scenario 6. AU intervention – e.g. genocide situations where international community does not act promptly.

Where are we right now with the implementation of the Roadmap?

At the AU level a lot has been achieved so far. During the period from January 2006 – October 2006 a number of major workshops with representatives from African nations, regional African organisations, international organisations, donor countries etc. have taken place. As a result of that, the AU has a doctrine on Peace Support Operations (PSO), a set of generic Standard Operational Procedures (SOPs) for PSO, a concept for Training and Evaluation, a draft Logistics Concept & draft Logistics Manual and a draft Concept for Command and Control. The documentation has of course room for improvements.  They are however all living documents just waiting to be tested during the evaluation exercises on the regional levels in year 2009 and at the AU level in year 2010.

One of the major problems at the AU level right now is the lack of manpower. The Peace Support Operations Division (PSOD) is an organisation similar to Department of Peacekeeping Operations at UN Headquarters (HQ). The latter organisation has a manning of several hundred people. The PSOD at AU HQ consists of a handful people, who are trying to manage ongoing missions in Africa where the AU is involved and at the same time trying to develop the ASF including guidance to the regions. Obviously it does not work.

One of the major tasks that lie right in front of us is to assist the AU in getting their unfilled positions manned as quickly as possible.

The West African region (ECOWAS region) is most probably the region which is farthest ahead. The PLANELM inside the ECOWAS HQ, called the Mission Planning and Management Cell (MPMC), is however still only manned with military - and police officers. The civilian component at the strategic level is yet to be developed. ECOWAS has initially focus on creating a Task Force (TF) and a TF HQ consisting of 12 officers (seven posts still unmanned). ECOWAS is preparing to launch a command post exercise in June 2008 (with French assistance) and logistic exercise in October 2008 (lead nation yet to be identified).

From 2009/2010 the training activities are supposed to be led by the AU. The Exercise to be undertaken is mainly a CPX involving regional standby forces.

ECOWAS as a region consists of a number of countries with large UN experience[5] Ghana (2907), Nigeria (2465), Senegal (1916) and Benin (1342). The figures in brackets show the number of soldiers engaged in UN operations as of 31st March 2007.

Eastern Africa (IGAD/EASBRICOM) is the region where the troubled Horn of Africa is included. The Inter-Governmental Authority for Development has had difficulty by acting as an effective organisation. Because of that, the decision was taken to detach EASBRIG from IGAD, and EASBRIG Coordinating Mechanism (EASBRICOM) was established at the end of 2007. This organisation has shown to be very effective and a belief for a positive future development of EASBRIG PLANELM in Nairobi, EASBRIG standing brigade HQ in Addis Ababa has increased significantly. There are still a few outstanding unsolved issues between IGAD and EASBRICOM for example regarding the responsibility for early warning capability. The PLANELM is fully manned and the build up of the civilian component has started. Denmark has liaised with SHIRBRIG using their expertise in training the PLANELM and assisting in preparing the forthcoming command post exercise in June 2008.  

The Danish Armed Forces has recently decided to prioritize Eastern Africa - in particular Kenya. This means that a combined effort using development money through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Security Cooperation money through the Danish Armed Forces is about to emerge.

Also Eastern African countries are large contributors4 to UN operations – Ethiopia (1830) & Kenya (1077).

Development of the Danish Armed Forces Africa Strategy

From 2003 when the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs started the APP, the interest for Africa within the Danish Armed Forces rose gradually. When the Danish Prime Minister on a number of official occasions mentioned Africa as a continent where Danish troops might be deployed, things started to move. A new analysis of a former developed Africa study was redone and the result was a recommended new Africa strategy, which became official in September 2007. The strategy was sent to the Ministry of defence for approval.  In short the recommendations of the defence staff are as follows:

·         From 2008-2009 a position as defence attaché will be established at Royal Danish Embassy in Addis Ababa

·         In 2008 a military advisor position will be established on a bilateral basis with Kenya

·         From 2010 a Danish Advisory and Training Staff will be established to support the regional structures in East Africa (EASBRIG PLANELM, EASBRIG BDE HQ and EASBRICOM). The size of the staff will, when it is fully manned, count 17 personnel in total.

·         From 2008 a bilateral cooperation should start between centres of excellence in Kenya and centres of excellence in Denmark.

Closing remarks

While writing this article the development and adjacent decisions seems to move fast. The Danish Ministry of Defence is currently contemplating the recommendations made by the defence staff and is expected soon to convey its decision on this matter.

These steps are the historic beginning of the Danish armed forces involvement in capacity building in Africa.

In the light of capacity building it should however be mentioned that since August 2006 the APP has been paying for a Danish instructor at the Peace keeping School in Mali, Ecôle de Maintain de la Paix. 

Within the present Defence agreement there are however limited resources. This is the reason why DATS-Africa will not be engaged in capacity building in Africa in full scale before year 2010. It is therefore important during the forthcoming preparations for the next defence agreement to reflect an increased capacity building by allocating resources – personnel and money.

Based on the very positive results from Danish capacity building in the Baltic States, it is highly recommended to copy the same type of capacity building activities to the African States on a bilateral basis. A fully developed DATS-Africa could from a geographical location in Nairobi, Kenya support all the East African states by training the brigade- and battalion staffs of the respective countries, pledging units to the regional African Standby Forces. A DATS-Africa does in fact not need to be bound by regional borders. Staffs from ECOWAS units and SADC units could easily be invited to participate in future courses/training modules executed by DATS-Africa.

Along side with the bilateral capacity building we should clearly continue to solve the tasks related to the APP for the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This programme continues on the continental and regional levels and is therefore a superb supplement to the above mentioned programme at the bilateral levels.  It is in other words only ones imagination that limits our capacity building activities.

Let us use this window of opportunity to really engage ourselves in capacity building in Africa, before it is too late. Too late in this context would mean that we instead would have to deploy troops and engage in combat.  

As Einstein expressed: “Peace cannot be kept by force, but by understanding”.


[2] Because of political constraints the programme with SADC has never been activated.

[3] “The Establishment of the African Stand By Force and the Military Staff Committee” adopted by the African Chiefs of Defence Staff, 15-16 May 2003 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

[4] ”Roadmap for the operationalization of the African Stand by Force” formulated on an Experts’ meeting on the relationship between the AU and the Regional Mechanisms for conflict prevention, management and resolution, 22 – 23 March 2005 in Addis Ababa.


[5] UN fact sheet: “Top twenty contributors of uniformed personnel” as of 31 March 2007.