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African Peacekeeping and US-Africa Relations

By Severine Rugumamu; Institute of Development Studies; University of Dar es Salaam, TANZANIA


The end of the Cold War in the early 1990s marked the beginning of a new phase in the African security landscape. The global geo-political and strategic relevance of the continent was becoming gradually yet markedly diminished. [1] The superpower race to win political, ideological and strategic friends and allies was virtually over; similarly, there was a termination of the various forms of cold war defence alliances, military and technical assistance programmes. In the emerging configuration of interests, actors, and agendas, therefore, the continent’s intrinsic value as ideological spoils, or an economic or diplomatic asset to major powers seems to be increasingly inconsequential. Not least, the Security Council has gradually developed not only lacklustre responses to Africa’s complex emergencies but, most importantly, individual major powers – particularly the United States – have become reluctant to get embroiled in large-scale overseas interventions perceived to be of low strategic import. This declining interest was graphically demonstrated by the Security Council’s increasing use of political criteria to determine which conflicts to respond to and with what resources. In fact, major powers have shown willingness to commit their own troops as well as massive funds to enforcement operations even without the Security Council’s authorization in Europe and the Middle East, while refusing to send troops with adequate mandate to end brutal conflicts in Africa. Such double standards by the Security Council have given rise to exaggerated perceptions of marginalization and exclusion of Africa with respect to the management of international peace and security. [2]

Post-Cold War interests, new priorities and agendas have shattered prospects for a strong consensus concerning the criteria that should govern international peace enforcement operations. The UN’s foot-dragging and indifference to African crises contrast sharply with its recent involvement in Kosovo and post-conflict reconstruction in Afghanistan. In the former case, the Security Council authorized a virtual trusteeship in Kosovo. After a combined NATO military campaign, the Council mandated the World Bank and the European Commission to coordinate the international effort to support the Kosovo reconstruction and recovery. Various responses to African security crises have been not only slow, but also hesitant, reflecting the strategic marginality of the continent. Much needed assistance has not been forthcoming and, when pledges are made, the disbursement process has often been too slow to mitigate the effect of conflicts on victims and to facilitate a smooth shift from emergency to reconstruction and development. [3] There is a strong feeling that Africa is getting a raw deal. The UN has often considered reducing its risks and has often cut costs when it comes to resolving conflicts in Africa.

What can Africa do for itself? Can the Africa Union and the United Nations achieve a shared vision of mutual partnership, cooperation and coordination in responding to the continent’s need for peace, security, emergency relief, reconstruction and development? What complementary role can sub-regional organizations play in the maintenance of peace and security in their respective regions, and how can they enhance their internal capacities to respond vigorously and pre-emptively to armed conflicts? How can the US work cooperatively with African partners to respond to the continent’s basic challenges of security, sustainable development and global justice? The purpose of this paper is to place peacekeeping efforts in a broader conflict management process. It therefore analyzes efforts taken by African regional and sub-regional organizations to prevent, manage, resolve and contain violent conflicts on the continent. The peacekeeping initiatives discussed in this paper are inevitably selective, with an emphasis on the role of regional and sub-regional organizations. It is argued that the initial euphoria generated by the “new world order” at the dawn of the post-Cold War era was not only short-lived but was also deceptively unrealistic. The idea of reviving the collective security apparatus of the United Nations as envisaged by the Charter was abandoned immediately after the Somali peacekeeping debacle. Africa has been repeatedly counselled to fend for itself. Although not publicly stated, there is a growing desire in the Security Council to reduce costly interventions in distant, non-strategic locations of the world like most of those in Africa; hence the recent UN policy emphasis on the concept of “farming out” peacekeeping both to regional organizations and to coalitions of willing member states. It is argued that the UN remains the pre-eminent international guarantor of international peace and security. Whatever regional or sub-regional organizations do should only be in support of the UN. It is finally argued that durable peace and security in Africa can only be built by addressing not only the complex roots of conflict but, equally importantly, by Africa and its partners focusing on building and nurturing democratic governance and sustainable economic development as well as institutionalising global justice.


False Hopes in the Post-Cold War Era

As the UN Secretary General emphatically notes in his comments on the implementation of the Brahimi Report on the UN Peace Operations, “peacekeeping is the responsibility of all member states, first and foremost, the members of the Security Council…Those possessing the greatest capacity and means to do so”. [4] They are expected to maintain a common political approach to promote international peace and security. Surprisingly, in order to avoid risks and cut costs, powerful Western states are increasingly supporting, at minimum cost, non-coercive measures such as exhortations, diplomatic and political pressure and sanctions. At the maximum, they are participating in very limited peacekeeping interventions and in low-cost yet disjointed bilateral capacity building initiatives to train national armies in order, ultimately, to subcontract UN peace and security responsibilities to African regional and sub-regional organizations or even to friendly sub-regional powers. The emerging international burden sharing in peacekeeping interventions euphemistically referred to as “African solutions to African problems,” seems to legitimize global disengagement from Africa. This brazen unwillingness in the face of horrendous atrocities was tragically evidenced by the Rwandan genocide in April 1994, which occurred under the noses of an ill-equipped UN force.

The conclusion of the Cold War created temporary false hopes: many entertained the thought that ending ideological competitions would usher in new and progressive dynamics in the conduct of international politics and the management of the world economy. It was widely hoped that, under the new political dispensation, particularly in Africa, the post-Cold War geopolitics would give rise to a surge of worldwide enthusiasm for a safer, cleaner, friendlier and more empathetic world order. In the security arena, it was envisaged that, with the apparently increased possibilities for consensus in the Security Council, the United Nations system would play an enhanced role in international life, be it in relation to keeping the peace, promoting democratic governance, regulating the world economy, furthering development or protecting the environment. Encouragingly also, the United Nations began a series of world conferences dealing with some of the greatest development issues of our age: poverty, population, children, gender, cities and the environment.

Major powers began a collective policy evolution toward multilateralism, which flourished approximately between the time of the Gulf War in January 1991 and October 1993 disaster in Mogadishu, Somalia. During this short period, the five permanent members of the Security Council, led by the United States, provided a degree of commitment and resourceful leadership at the UN for what has been termed “assertive multilateralism”. [5] Without threats of a veto, the major powers were eager to exercise their newly acquired capacity for collective decision-making. Coincidentally, for that brief period, the UN’s agenda for peace and security in the immediate post-Cold War period expanded rapidly. At the request of the Security Council in January 1992, the then Secretary General Boutros-Ghali prepared the report An Agenda for Peace. The Report outlined 5 interconnected roles that the UN would play in the fast changing context of the post-Cold War international politics. Briefly, the Report highlighted the following roles for the UN:

§ Preventive Diplomacy: Take action to prevent disputes from arising between parties, prevent existing disputes from escalating into conflicts and to limit the spread of the latter when they occur. Involve confidence-building measures, fact-finding, early warning, and possibly preventive deployment of UN peacekeeping forces and preventive diplomacy.

§ Peace enforcement: Action with or without consent of the parties to ensure compliance with the ceasefire mandated by the Security Council under the authority of Chapter VII of the UN Charter. The military forces are composed of heavily armed units operating under the direction of the Security Council.

§ Peacemaking: Mediation and negotiations designed “to bring hostile parties to agreement” through peaceful means such as those found in Chapter VI of the UN Charter – to persuade parties to arrive at peaceful settlement of their differences.

§ Peacekeeping: Military and civilian deployments for the sake of establishing a UN presence in the field, hitherto with the consent of all parties to the conflict as a confidence-building measure to monitor a truce between parties while diplomats strive to negotiate a comprehensive peace or officials attempt to implement an agreed peace.

§ Post-conflict peace-building: Measures organized to foster economic and social cooperation to build confidence among previously warring parties, develop the social, political and economic infrastructure to prevent future violence; and to lay the foundations for durable peace. [6]


The period under consideration witnessed also a significant shift in the international legal and political environment in which the UN operated. The end of the Cold War reopened the debate on the basis on which any form of intervention in the affairs of another state is permissible. The traditional position was that military intervention in the territory of another sovereign state was illegal. This was essentially a violation of both sovereignty and the prohibition of the use of force as laid down in the UN Charter. Member states subtly extended the acceptable scope of UN activity by altering the definition of what was considered to be sovereign, essential national activity. Matters legally excluded from UN intervention, such as civil conflicts and humanitarian emergencies within sovereign states, now became legitimate issues for UN concern. Gross violation of global standards of human rights was seen to override domestic sovereignty, becoming a defining issue for what was a legitimate matter for international attention. Human rights were increasingly claimed to be inherently global, a proposition endorsed by the Vienna Conference on Human Rights. [7]

Furthermore, the Security Council also expanded the operational meaning of Article 2 (7) of the UN Charter to override domestic sovereignty. The Security Council has the power to determine what constitutes “a threat to the peace, a breach of the peace, and acts of aggression …” The new interpretation of the UN jurisdiction soon appeared to include a wide range of matters that were once viewed as infringements of traditional sovereignty. Indeed, “threat to peace,“ etc., came to mean protracted civil wars that resisted international efforts at settlement, armed interference with the humanitarian assistance in emergencies, where the government is universally recognized to have collapsed and, in effect, whatever the members of the Security Council said it was! These two changes coincided with the temporary conjunction of power and will. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the US experienced a “unipolar moment” when its overall power and influence eclipsed that of all other states.

Between 1987 and 1994, the international community supported ambitious peacekeeping and peacemaking initiatives in Africa and elsewhere. Of the 32 UN peacekeeping operations launched between 1989 and 1998, 13 were undertaken in Africa. The Security Council quadrupled the number of resolutions issued, tripled the peacekeeping operations it authorized and increased from one to seven per year the number of economic sanctions it imposed. Military forces increased from fewer than ten thousand to more than seventy thousand. The peacekeeping budget skyrocketed from $230 million to $3.6 billion during the same period. [8] Arguably, when deployed with a credible deterrent capacity, equipped with appropriate resources, and backed by sufficient political will, these efforts resulted in some significant successes. In particular, there were the comprehensive settlements that ended prolonged and deadly conflicts in Namibia and Mozambique.

Slowly but inexorably, the high hopes of the post-Cold War “peace dividend” were dashed. The mid-1990s saw troops, resources and the political capital available for UN peace operations in the South, in general, and in Africa in particular, decline markedly. [9] This period further witnessed a gradual erosion of the authority of the Security Council. Its greatest challenge to the authority of the Security Council was posed by the decisions by NATO states and the Anglo-American coalition not to seek UN endorsement for their interventions in the former Yugoslavia and Iraq, respectively. In both cases, the circumvention was directly related to divisions among the five permanent members on the use of force to resolve the conflict and the commitment of China and Russia to veto military interventions. More ominously, the UN’s inability to restore peace in Somalia, culminating in the Security Council’s unprecedented decision to withdraw before it had completed its mission, soured international support for conflict intervention, particularly in low priority areas like Africa. The anticipated possibilities for enhanced international peace, security and cooperation gave way to despair and disillusionment. In addition, the wide disparities in the international community’s commitment to containing conflicts in different regions of the world have brought into question the UN’s impartiality and credibility in promoting a stable and just international order.

From that point onwards, there has developed a rapid distasteful mood of “afro-pessimism” and “conflict fatigue”. The United States and other large peacekeeping contributors have required the UN Security Council to be more selective in its approach to conflicts. One tragic consequence of such an approach was the failure of the international community to intervene in order to prevent genocide in Rwanda. In the Supplement to the Agenda for Peace, the contemporaneous UN Secretary General, Boutros Boutros-Ghali admitted that the UN does not have the capacity to embark on peace enforcement everywhere conflict breaks out. He further noted that UN peace efforts had become more expensive, more complex and more dangerous. They require the UN to cooperate with various actors, including groups of states and regional organizations. Regional arrangements, as outlined in Chapter VIII of the UN Charter and in other UN policy statements, should play a significant role in the maintenance of international peace and security. The US Institute for Peace had earlier proposed a strategy of so-called “layered responses” to resolve conflicts: beginning with ‘local or national organizations are expected to respond initially’, followed by ‘the responses at the sub-regional and regional levels’ and, ultimately, ‘the level of the broader international community as the crisis escalates’. [10] The underlying logic of this burden-sharing strategy was not to relieve the broader international community of its collective obligations but rather to reinforce Africa’s own capacity. In short, the strategy sought to make the obvious point that the responsibility for mitigating conflicts in Africa should lie, first and foremost, with Africans themselves and their collective organizations.

Under the burden-sharing arrangement, peacekeeping would include mounting operations in two phases. First, an ad hoc mandate would be given by the UN to a regional organization or a group of states to conduct an operation that usually entails securing a safe environment for further activities. The second phase would involve handing over the operation to the UN force, as was the case in Somalia and Haiti. These arrangements would also imply a clear division of labour between the UN and multinational forces. The first variation entails giving multinational operations command over military aspects of a mission, with the UN overseeing its civil aspects, while the second involves command of different types of forces by the multinational, UN command. Examples of the first variation are Georgia and Liberia, where troops from the respective regional organizations are coupled with UN observers. The former Yugoslavia provides an example of the second variation, with NATO having responsibility for providing close air support for the UN and the UN being responsible for ground forces.

The growing pattern of reluctance and partiality of powerful Western states to intervene militarily in African conflict situations after the US debacle in Somalia in 1993 has led some observers to suggest that the development imperative of collective self-reliance in Africa is, perhaps more than ever before, a matter of necessity rather than choice. The resulting exponential marginality is obliterating an individual country’s abilities to exert any leverage on any major peace and security architecture. The looming security alignments and re-alignments are discernibly bypassing most of Africa. By default, the real burden of peacekeeping is falling on the shoulders of Africa’s regional and sub-regional economic organizations. Slowly but inexorably, these organizations are filling the huge yet inevitable void left by the UN, the Security Council and other major powers. Borrowing a leaf from Paul Baran “it is better to deal imperfectly with what is important than to attain virtuoso skill in the treatment of what does not matter”. [11] There is an urgent need, therefore, to strengthen Africa’s own capacity for conflict management and peace operations. Indeed, despite a host of initial logistical and resource dependency and political bickering, African regional and sub-regional organizations are gradually clarifying their own peace and security agenda, building institutional capacity, evolving common norms and standards as they seek to explore innovative collaborative arrangements with external actors under Chapter VIII of the UN Charter. [12] There remains a huge gap between expectations and the blunt realities on the ground.




Conflicts and Peacekeeping in post-Cold War period

As pointed out earlier, Chapter VIII of the UN Charter provides that regional organizations can carry out peace operations, provided they are consistent with the Charter and received authorization, as necessary, from the UN Security Council. Africa possesses a complex system of these organizations. However, as it will become increasingly clear, the building of their capacity is frustrated by lack of resources, institutional coherence and political commitment, which in turn, raises questions about the ability of regional and sub-regional organizations for more than just limited, reactive response to conflict. [13] The African Union (AU), the only pan-African institution, is the main partner to the UN on the continent. The AU is the primary regional institution, which like the UN has the legitimacy and scope that derive from universal membership, and a mandate that encompasses development, security and human rights. The AU comprises most of African states, and it is the centre of the African regional system, including member states, the general secretariat and five sub-regional organizations. The latter’s role is recognized by the Abuja Treaty of 1991. [14] During the first thirty years of the existence of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) - now the AU - Africa experienced numerous challenges to its peace and security, including struggles for independence, civil wars, and inter-state conflicts. Some of the notable conflicts include those in Nigeria, Chad, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and the Horn; and the liberation struggles in Zimbabwe, Namibia and the former Portuguese colonies of Angola, Mozambique and Guinea Bissau, and later the fight to end apartheid in South Africa. Most of these conflicts were fuelled by the Cold War, as the United States and the former Soviet Union fought for ideological dominance and strategic positions in Africa. [15]

Over the first thirty years of its existence, the OAU possessed limited ability to deal with continental conflicts. The key provisions of its Charter set the limits. Chapter 111 of the Charter stipulated non-interference in the affairs of member states, and sanctified the integrity of their territories. These key stipulations hampered its role in resolving inter- and intra-state conflicts as was devastatingly illustrated by the Nigerian civil war in 1967 and the Ethiopia and Somali conflict in the 1970s. [16] As a result of these institutional constraints, the OAU missed the opportunity to establish common norms and standards for peace, security, accumulating knowledge and adapting and adopting international best practices, and institutionalizing capabilities for conflict management. Be that as it may, the OAU undertook a wide range of initiatives aimed at managing conflicts on the continent. These included direct mediation, as was the case with the secessionist crisis in the Comoros, the application of political pressure, including regular issuance of statements and endorsement of sanctions against military putsches. The OAU also employed special envoys and peace negotiators, as was the case with Julius Nyerere and Nelson Mandela in Burundi. Moreover, the Secretaries General of the OAU and the UN worked together to resolve the Ethiopia-Eritrea and the DRC conflicts. Above all, on a few occasions, the OAU deployed fact-finding missions as well as military observer missions in Rwanda, Burundi and the Comoros. Given the limited resources, the size and mandates, these missions were always inadequate for the complex emergencies that were engendered by civil wars and state collapse.

The end of the Cold War and the removal of superpower regional interests in Africa allowed new local and regional conflicts to emerge, often characterized by the fragmentation of sovereign states. Since the beginning of the 1990s, Africa has acquired the dubious honour of being number one in hosting the largest number of armed conflicts and complex political emergencies. The number of ethnic, religious and intra-state rather than inter-state conflicts increased dramatically. Increasingly, Africa has become a continent of refugees and displaced persons. While more armed conflicts have occurred in Africa than in any other major region of the world, the continent’s institutional and organizational capacity to manage and resolve them has not developed at a commensurate pace. The various mechanisms and institutions that strengthen voice and transparency, such as the free press, elections and participation in politics and in civil society organizations, have been extremely slow in including the disenfranchised, building mandates and generating consensus. Without instituting effective mechanisms for preventing and resolving social conflicts and nurturing democratic practices and supporting sustainable development, Africa cannot expect to realize any of the promises of globalization however broadly defined.

Today’s violent conflicts challenge the conventional wisdom of the nature of war, its aftermath and peacekeeping. Traditionally, states waged war against one another with professional armies. The majority of the casualties were combatants. And a military victory signalled the end of the casualties. The subsequent peace, often accompanied by a formal agreement and a peacekeeping force, allowed each side to rebuild and come to terms with the wounds of war, and over time, learn how to coexist with their former enemy. By contrast, violent conflicts plaguing Africa today are mostly civil wars with spillover impacts on neighbouring countries. They are waged by youthful combatants with no military training, little discipline and in most cases, have ill-defined chains of command. Civilians, rather than soldiers, are increasingly targeted, killed or displaced. And a ceasefire usually results from war fatigue or military stalemate rather than outright victory. Formal agreements are rarely fully implemented and the “post-conflict” periods are, invariably, characterized by small-scale, sustained violence resulting in a prolonged state of half war and half peace. [17] Peacekeeping and enforcement operations in Africa have increasingly become a terribly messy business. They are most likely to expose troops to situations where there is no peace to keep, no clear and enforceable rules of engagement and, above all, there are no predictable exit strategies on the horizon.

The outcomes of these wars have been devastating on a poor continent, to say the least. They have seriously undermined Africa’s efforts to ensure long-term stability, prosperity and peace for its peoples. Violent conflicts have caused millions of deaths and grave destruction of property, undermined political stability and hindered economic development. Even more ominously, conflicts in Africa have short-circuited the rules that keep human interactions constructive and predictable, by targeting primarily the organizations and individuals who administer them. The more direct effects of civil wars have been fatalities and population displacements. They have decimated the human resources of a country as people were killed, maimed or displaced in large numbers. [18]

Civil war settings both affect and are affected by outside actors: political patrons, arms vendors, buyers of illicit export commodities, regional powers that send their own forces into the fray, and neighbouring states that host refugees. The risks and costs for operations that must function effectively in such circumstances are much greater than traditional peacekeeping. As the Brahimi Report on the reform of the United Nations Peace Operations concludes, an ad hoc system of peacekeeping does not meet the demands posed by the post-Cold War world. It recommends integrated, multifunctional undertakings that include peacekeeping, civilian administration, peacemaking, election monitoring, disarmament, demobilization, restructuring of security forces, and human rights monitoring. It also calls for a comprehensive review of peacekeeping mandates, training, financing, equipment, and logistical support, as well as cooperation between the UN and regional organizations. [19]

As pointed out earlier, stung by the Somali escapade and prompted by the desire to reduce costly interventions in distant, non-strategic locations of the world, individual Western states and organizations have sought to build peacekeeping and peace-building capacities of African states to manage their regional conflicts. The most prominent ones include those sponsored by the British, the French, the Americans and the European Union (EU). The British initiative has focused on ways of strengthening Africa’s ability to prepare and deploy troops for peacekeeping, establishment of an early warning system, a skills development centre and an institutional framework for preventive diplomacy between the UN and the AU. The French initiative, centred on the creation of a rapid intervention force, known as Renforcement des Capacites Africaines de Maintien de la Paix (RECAMP), which could be deployed into emergency crisis situations. The US initiative began with the adoption of the African Conflict Resolution Act in 1994 aimed at institutionalizing Africa’s conflict resolution capabilities. This led to the creation of the African Crisis Response Initiative (ACRI) as a response to what the US perceived to be ‘persistent political turmoil in Africa’. The substance of the initiative is to train and equip between 5,000 and 10,000 African troops for rapid deployment in an African crisis. ACRI is not intended to be a standing force, but rather a rapid-response, contingency force that can be quickly assembled and deployed under the U.N. and/or A.U auspices. Its broad mission is to carry out humanitarian, relief and peacekeeping operations. Its more specific aims are to establish and provide personnel to manage ‘safe areas’ in conflict zones and to ensure the delivery of humanitarian assistance, operating under the U.N.’s Chapter VI mandate. In addition to providing equipment and training, the United States committed itself to contributing airlift assistance to increase mobility and communications as well as to enhance intelligence and command and control capabilities. [20]

The U.S. proposal was immediately and enthusiastically embraced by European powers, particularly Britain and France, as well as by some African countries. The U.S. European Command (EUSCOM) was designated to serve as the agency that would manage military training programmes in sub-Saharan Africa. It seeks to enhance the capability of selected African military forces by enabling them to respond to crises by participating in peacekeeping operations in Africa. The resources were to be provided to the OAU, sub-regional organizations and national governments. Countries that were initially earmarked to participate in the ACRI programme included Senegal, Malawi, Uganda, Ethiopia, Mali and Ghana. It was hoped that ACRI would eventually create the feeling among Africans that regional states and organizations were playing a more active and responsible role in conflict management and resolution and the West would no longer be embroiled in complex and never-ending African conflicts. Some African countries, including South Africa, Nigeria and Tanzania, were initially wary of these initiatives, suspecting that it was simply a means to persuade Africans to implement policies and decisions not of their own making. [21] Worse still, they tended to be concentrated more on military capacity building and much less on other equally important aspects of conflict management. Monde Muyangwa and Margaret A. Vogt aptly summarize these sceptical feelings:

…Many African analysts and policy makers have argued that these initiatives are not always consistent with the UN Charter, the OAU mandate, and the unity of the continent. Such critics are concerned that the OAU has not been consulted or invited to participate in the design or implementation of these externally led initiatives. This has led some to suggest that the initiatives are being developed mostly because Western countries want Africans to shoulder the full burden of conflict management activities in Africa, including peacekeeping and peace enforcement. [22]


Africa’s Response to Marginalization

Responding to global concerns and anxieties, the African heads of state meeting on 9 to 11 July 1990, adopted a Declaration on the “Political and Socio-Economic Situation in Africa and the Fundamental Changes taking place in the World”. In the Declaration, they expressed their determination to transform Africa politically, socially and economically in order to lay a solid foundation for self-reliant, human-centred and sustainable development on the basis of social justice and collective self-reliance. In their commitment on the issue of peace and security, they resolved to establish an African mechanism for conflict prevention, management and resolution as well create and strengthen security regimes at sub-regional levels. Remarkably for an organization that had avoided involvement in internal conflicts, the new conflict instrument instituted a clear mandate to concern itself with such conflicts as well. As the former OAU Secretary General, Salim Ahmed Salim concluded, “given that every African is his brother’s keeper, and that our borders are at best artificial, we in Africa need to use our own cultural and social relationships to interpret the principle of non-intervention in such a way that we are able to apply it to our advantage in conflict prevention and resolution”. [23] It was after the transformation of the OAU into the African Union (AU) that Salim Ahmed Salim’s concerns were translated into policy changes. At the 1993 Summit, African heads of state formally approved the establishment of the OAU Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution. The Mechanism is charged with anticipating and preventing conflicts, and in engaging in peacemaking and peace building activities. In order to monitor incipient conflicts and to act proactively, an Early Warning system on conflict situations in Africa was established in 1995. Viewed retrospectively, the dilemma of the defunct OAU was usually to translate the security information gathered into concrete initiatives.

The Constitutive Act of the African Union has gone a long way toward defining why and when to intervene in the internal affairs of member states. Like the Security Council, the Constitutive Act calls into question the absolute nature of sovereignty. It allows for intervention without the consent of the target state. Article 4 (h) provides for “the right to intervene in a member state pursuant to a decision of the Assembly in respect of grave circumstances, namely: war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity”. Moreover, Article 23 (2) provides that “any member-state that fails to comply with the decisions and policies of the Union may be subjected to other sanctions, such as the denial of transport and communication links with other member states, and other measures of a political and economic nature to be determined by the Assembly”. Indeed, unlike the OAU Charter, the AU Constitutive Act provides for unprecedented powers of intervention.

Moreover, under the recent declaration adopted at the summit of the 53-member African Union at Sirte in Libya in 2004, African leaders have also agreed to set up a multinational force empowered to intervene across the continent to end civil wars and genocide. The African Standby Force would be deployed at five regional bases by 2005, expanding to a continental force by 2010. Initially, it would involve some 15,000 troops, drawn primarily from South Africa, Nigeria, Kenya, and Egypt. The new force will operate at the bidding of an AU Peace and Security Council. The Council is comprised of 15 members. Five countries will represent five regions for a term of three years. Ten other members will sit on the Council for two years. All members have the same right of decision-making. In other words, no member has veto power. As will be argued later, equity among sovereign entities has always been a convenient fiction. Without doubt, states that contribute more in terms of troops, materials and finance for peacekeeping and peace building deserve a proportionately bigger say in every major decision-making.

It is equally important to note that the Act does not go far enough to re-conceptualize security away from its traditional narrow pre-occupation with state security to the broader human security in all its multifaceted dimensions. The former privileges the state and its security agents. The primary referents and agents for the human security paradigm are the people themselves – whether as individuals or groups represented by political parties and the organs of civil society. In fact, it has been argued that most post-Cold War conflicts in Africa are characterized by contested identities, exclusion and lack of justice. The discourse on peace and security needs to shift disciplinary attention from international politics to sociology and welfare economics. The Constitutive Act fails to address this important facet of security chiefly because the AU, like its various sub-regional organizations, lacks important commonly agreed values that can act as glue that binds a society or community together and, by extension, define collective security. Values such as freedom, democracy, human rights, justice and non-violent means of resolving disputes remain contentious. As Belefi Tsie has noted, although the human security paradigm is dominant in academic circles, it appears that it has had a marginal impact on the approach of the AU and sub-regional organizations to security management. [24]


Peacekeeping in Perspective

Peacekeeping began as an unplanned UN response to a particular set of problems at a particular time. The Security Council mandates peacekeeping operations. New peacekeeping missions or extensions of existing mandates require the majority approval of the Security Council without a veto by any one of the permanent members. It is widely believed that peacekeeping success rests mostly on the attitude of neutrality and impartiality, trained and experienced multinational forces, and on the use of force in self-defence. Essential too, is adequate and reliable sources of finance, a clear and practicable mandate and the continued support of the Security Council. The consent of all and invitation from one or all of the disputing parties is necessary for the deployment of peacekeeping troops. [25] Most regional organizations, particularly those in Africa, lack an organ such as the UN Security Council, and operate from a majority consensus of member states. This lacuna has been one of the major structural weaknesses of sub-regional organizations.

In the past few decades, peacekeeping has come to encompass three distinct activities that have evolved as “generations” of the UN peacekeeping operations. They include not only the early activities of the first generation peacekeeping, which required the interposition of a force after the truce had been reached, but also a far more ambitious group of second generation operations that rely on the consent of parties, and an even more ambitions group of the third-generation operations that operate with the Chapter VII mandates and without a comprehensive agreement reflecting acquiescence of the parties. These involve mainly factions in domestic civil wars, once thought to be beyond the purview of the UN.

The first-generation peacekeeping was largely common during the Cold War period. While not specifically mentioned in the UN Charter, unarmed, or lightly armed UN forces were stationed between hostile parties to conduct non-military operations (exclusive of self-defence) of monitoring a truce, troop withdrawal, or buffer zoning while political negotiations went forward to reach a political settlement of the dispute. Peacekeeping was conducted with the consent of all major belligerent parties. Its geopolitical task was to ensure that local conflicts did not escalate to drag in larger regional neighbours or the two superpowers. It was, in short, a tool for crisis management. Above all, peacekeeping raised the costs of defecting from and the benefits of abiding by the agreement through the threat of exposure, the potential resistance of the peacekeeping force, and the legitimacy of UN mandates. The benefits were disarmingly straightforward: armed conflicts were held at bay. The requirement to use force was limited to self-defence. Such operations were relatively straightforward and could be delegated from the UN headquarters to the military force commander in the theatre. For more complex operations, the headquarters deployed a Special Representative of the Secretary General as the head of mission. Members of the Security Council, other than during the 1950-52 Korean War, were not directly involved. Between 1945 and 1988, the UN established 15 peacekeeping missions, all of them reflecting a consensus that these operations should play an impartial and neutral role vis-à-vis the conflict and should avoid exposing the peacekeepers to risk. Today, these monitoring activities continue to play an important role in Tajikistan and Georgia. [26]

The second category, called second-generation operations or “aggressive peacekeeping” involves the implementation of complex, multi-dimensional peace agreements. In addition to the traditional military functions, peacekeepers are often engaged in various police and civilian tasks the goal of which is a long-term settlement of the underlying conflict. They are also based on the consent of the parties to the conflict, but which is complicated by subsequent intransigence of one or more of the belligerents, poor command and control of belligerent forces, or conduct of outlawry, banditry or anarchy. In such conditions, peacekeeping forces are normally authorized to use force in their mission’s self-defence. The UN has applied the label ‘Chapter VI and a Half’ to this type of operation. [27] As will be argued in subsequent pages, the rebel movement led by Charles Taylor in Liberia refused to acknowledge the mandate of the ECOMOG, forcing the African contingent to change its mandate in order to battle with his forces as soon as they arrived in Monrovia. Similarly, Serbia refused to acknowledge NATO demands in Kosovo preventing the Alliance from fielding a traditional peacekeeping operation. As a result, NATO conducted an air campaign and followed with the introduction of ground troops as a peace enforcement mission. In both cases, the refusal of the key belligerent to cooperate with peacekeepers intensified the crisis and dragged multinational forces deeper into the conflict.

In these operations, the UN is involved in implementing peace agreements that go to the roots of the conflict and help build a long-term foundation for a stable, legitimate government. As Boutros-Ghali observed in Agenda for Peace:

…Peacemaking and peacemaking operations, to be truly successful, must come to include comprehensive efforts to identify and support structures which will tend to consolidate peace… they may include disarming the previously warring parties and the restoration of order, the custody and possible destruction of weapons, repatriating refugees, advisory and training support of security personnel, monitoring elections, advancing efforts to protect human rights, reforming or strengthening governmental institutions and promoting formal and informal processes of political participation. [28]

The UN has a commendable record of success in second-generation multinational peacekeeping operations as diverse as those in Namibia, El Salvador and Cambodia. The UN role in helping settle those conflicts has been three-fold. It served as an impartial peacemaker facilitating a peace treaty among belligerents; a peacekeeper monitoring the cantonment and demobilization of military forces, resettling refugees and supervising transitional civilian authorities, and a peace builder monitoring the implementation of human rights, national democratic elections, and economic rehabilitation.

The third and last category is the peace-enforcing measures, which extend from low-level military operations to protect the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the enforcement of ceasefires and, when necessary, assistance in rebuilding so-called failed states. It includes Chapter VII UN enforcement action to roll back aggression, as in Korea in 1950, Congo 1960-64, and against Iraq in the Gulf in 1992. The defining characteristic of these operations is the lack of consent by one or more of the parties to some or the whole of the UN mandate. Unlike the traditional Chapter VII collective security, these operations focus on internal strife.

African peacekeeping: An Overview

As earlier pointed out, the OAU (and later the AU) has undertaken various joint peacekeeping and peace-building missions singly and in cooperation with the UN and its sub-regional organizations. Some of these sub-regional organizations such as ECOWAS and SADC have, over time, accumulated experience and strengthened their organizational structures and institutional modalities of peacekeeping and peacemaking operations. These initiatives range from political and election-monitoring missions, military and civil police observer groups, to peace enforcement operations and humanitarian support. It is to the record of these sub-regional organizations that we now turn.


ECOWAS Peacekeeping Record

ECOWAS is comprised of 16 West African states. The Treaty of Lagos established it in 1975 to promote trade, cooperation, and self-reliance. Regrettably, particularly over the past decade and a half, the prevalence of conflicts in the sub-region distracted the effort away from development to conflict management. ECOWAS has since created a collective security system and a Cease-Fire Monitoring Group (ECOMOG). Like the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation, the ECOWAS Organ is defined as part of the international structure for peace and security coordinated at the international level by the United Nations Security Council and at the continental level by the AU Mechanism on Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution. ECOWAS has participated in peacemaking and peacekeeping activities in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Cote d’Ivoire and Guinea-Bissau.

In December 1989, a civil war broke out in Liberia when Charles Taylor, a former aide to President Samuel Doe, and leader of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia (NPFL) invaded the country from Cote d’Ivoire. Both Cote d’Ivoire and Burkina Faso supported Taylor’s invasion. The conflict devastated Liberia’s natural, human and material resources; caused widespread human rights abuses, and induced a large number of refugees and internally displaced persons. Despite this complex humanitarian crisis, the wider international community, particularly the United Nations and the United States, failed to intervene to end the conflict. It is also important to recall that Liberia was, for a long time, America’s most strategic point on the west coast of Africa. The latter’s interests were also tied to the large military and intelligence apparatus that were based there: satellite communications installations and a radio relay station. Freeport also served strategic purposes for the US marines and naval vessels. Moreover, many US commercial shipping vessels are registered in the name of Liberia and fly the Liberian flag of convenience. Above all, Liberia was the largest recipient (per capita) of aid in sub-Saharan Africa, estimated at $500 million between 1980 and 1988. [29] However, as pointed out earlier, America’s interests and strategic priorities in the post-Cold War period had markedly changed. As Donald Rothschild concluded, “true to its cautious engagement orientation, [the US] did provide financial support to ECOWAS initiative in Liberia”. [30]

ECOWAS had an immediate interest in regional stability, especially in preventing any spills-over of civil strife from one country to another, and they had a considerable knowledge of the proximate environment. During this particular period, the UN was unwilling to play a constructive role since it was already actively engaged in several other peacekeeping missions, while the OAU was hamstrung by its Charter and by a lack of resources and political will. It became imperative for Liberia’s neighbours, through ECOWAS, to seek to halt the conflict. The Economic Community of West African States Cease-Fire Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) was hurriedly created in August 1990 as a mechanism to halt the bloodshed in Liberia’s civil war. It took practical measures to alleviate human suffering, created camps for internally displaced persons, hosted refugees and negotiated various ceasefire agreements. This was essentially a humanitarian intervention.

ECOMOG has, since then, grown from strength to strength, under Nigerian leadership. It has evolved rules and procedures of engagement, command and control procedures and clear exit strategies. The Liberian peacekeeping operation was the first time that an African sub-regional organization mounted and financed a peacekeeping force an internal war situation, in support of humanitarian action in order to protect refugees and property. In July 1990, ECOWAS mediated a peace proposal that included a ceasefire agreement. Charles Taylor of NPFL, who already controlled about 95 percent of the countryside, refused to comply. After the initial failure to accomplish a ceasefire through diplomatic and political means, ECOWAS decided in August 1990 to intervene militarily, after more than 100,000 people had been killed, about 600,000 had become refugees, and about one-half of the country’s population were internally displaced. Warring factions, including the government forces, openly violated international norms by attacking and killing unarmed civilians who had run to churches, UN offices and foreign embassies for protection. At the invitation by the government, the ECOWAS states mobilized a peacekeeping force of 3,500 troops from several nations. The ECOWAS initial peacekeeping initiative was quickly changed to peace enforcement when Charles Taylor’s forces attacked them in September 1992. [31] The peacekeeping mission remained in Liberia for upward of five years. In the interim, the ECOWAS peace enforcing initiative was complemented by the political representation of the Secretary General of the OAU, former Zimbabwean President Canaan Banana. It was complemented further by the political representation of the UN Secretary General with a UN Observer Mission to Liberia from 1994. [32] However, the situation in Liberia proved to be a frustrating experience for ECOMOG. There were cycles of ceasefires, renewed violence, and negotiations.

A meeting held in July 1993 in Cotonou, Benin, under the chairmanship of the OAU and ECOWAS resulted in a ceasefire agreement and a plan for subsequent demobilization, disarmament, as well as national elections. This agreement led to the establishment of the UN Observer Mission in Liberia (UNOMIL) and the expanded ECOMOG, consisting of troops from two East African countries, Tanzania and Uganda. The post-conflict process was frequently marred by repeated acts of violence and breakdowns in negotiations, as evidenced by the outbreak of violence in April 1996. Worse still, widespread and indiscriminate use of excessive force against innocent people by warring parties was repeatedly reported. Moreover, such attacks, particularly by peacekeepers, are obviously unconscionable and undermine the basic conditions of humanitarian assistance. These setbacks highlight not only the protracted nature of peacekeeping in intra-state conflicts in Africa but, most importantly, they demonstrate week professionalism among the troops, paucity of experience in peacekeeping missions and a lack of shared norms and standards among the member states. Be that as it may, after a sustained presence in Monrovia, which effectively foreclosed the seizure of state power by any rebel groups, ECOMOG forced warring factions to agree to a comprehensive ceasefire and disarmament process in 1996, which was followed by a general and presidential elections in July 1997, which Taylor and NPFL won with 70 percent of the vote.

Although the civil war was contained for a while, positive peace continued to elude Liberia. Little effort was made toward a comprehensive process of disarming, demobilization and reintegration of former combatants, national reconciliation, revamping of the national economy or building a viable democratic national polity. At the same time, Taylor’s regime squandered the opportunities offered by elections by pursuing an undemocratic course. His government was characterized by political repression, severe economic mismanagement and corruption, social alienation of the masses of the people, and a high degree of personal rule. It is little wonder that after two years of Taylor in power, the Liberia United for Reconciliation and Democracy (LURD) emerged to challenge his legitimacy. It received support from Guinea. It is important to point out that Taylor’s government was also giving support to Guinean dissidents who were bent on overthrowing the government of President Lanssana Conte. As in the past, ECOWAS led another round of peace mediation with the support of the International Contact Group on Liberia comprising the UK, the US, Morocco, Nigeria, Senegal and Ghana. These negotiations brokered a peace deal, which called for President Taylor to step down, and an interim leadership for transitional government. On August 11, 2003 Taylor stepped down and left the country. The transitional government vowed to address the root causes of the Liberian conflict.

Shortly after ECOMOG’s unqualified success in Liberia in 1997, the Liberia-backed rebels of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) erupted into renewed violence in neighbouring Sierra Leone. They overthrew the elected government of President Tejan Kabbah in May 1997. The coup ushered in a reign of terror in which hundreds were killed and property destroyed, and over 400,000 refugees fled the country. Sierra Leone had signed a bilateral defence agreement with Nigeria. Under the cover of this agreement, the military-led Nigeria tried, with little success, to go it alone in order to restore a democratically elected government in Liberia. Later, it marshalled a 3,500-person ECOWAS peacekeeping force. ECOWAS went forward and imposed a general and total embargo on all supplies of petroleum products, arms and military equipment to Sierra Leone. It further imposed a travel ban on members of the armed forces of the Ruling Military Council. Both the OAU and the UN quickly endorsed these sanctions. Although ECOMOG received significant external funding from the United Kingdom, the military and human cost of the peace enforcement operation continued to weigh heavily on participating states. Together with Guinean troops, Nigerian troops succeeded in overrunning the military junta and ousted them from the city. A ceasefire negotiated in May 1999 provided the breakthrough for comprehensive peace talks that culminated in the July 1999 Lomé Accord and reinstated President Kabbah. The 2002 national elections returned President Kabbah and his party to power with a majority.

As Nigeria embarked on a staged withdrawal from Sierra Leone, the UN Secretary General called for international support for the ECOMOG operation. The USA, in response, pledged an additional $11 million to the force. The remaining 9,000 Nigerian troops deployed in Sierra Leone were incorporated into the UN peacekeeping force. ECOMOG remained responsible for ensuring the security of Freetown and protecting the government. [33]

These two peacekeeping campaigns made ECOMOG an interesting example of a successful regional intervention force. They prompted Adekeye Adebayo in Building Peace in West Africa to claim: “West Africa has gone further than any African sub-region in efforts to establish a security mechanism to manage its own conflicts”. [34] To be sure, ECOMOG’s peacekeeping efforts have experienced successes and also faced problems in several areas. In theory, traditional peacekeeping seeks to support existing negotiations and usually oversees a ceasefire that has been agreed upon. ECOMOG intervened in Liberia before any ceasefire agreement had been concluded with all five warring factions. As earlier noted, the rebel movement led by Charles Taylor refused to acknowledge the mandate of ECOMOG. According to Charles Taylor, ECOWAS violated the UN and OAU cardinal principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of a sovereign state. In fact, he had vowed to attack ECOMOG troops if they ever intervened, a threat that he carried out on the very first day troops landed in Monrovia. The peacekeeping mandate was, as a result, changed into peace enforcement.

Secondly, it is widely believed that peacekeeping success rests mostly on the attitude of neutrality and impartiality of the troops and contributing countries. It must, above all, be conducted in a manner that clearly demonstrates both the legitimacy and credibility of the intervening party. To be sure, peacekeeping is not part of the normal training and orientation of a soldier. There is, therefore, need for a thorough training in appropriate doctrine for peace support operations and procedures. This will include training in military-civil cooperation, use of minimal force, impartiality, credibility, and mutual respect. [35] The UN Secretary General had earlier expressed concern over reports of summary executions and mistreatment of civilians by ECOMOG soldiers. [36] Moreover, although Nigeria shouldered the burden by well over seventy percent in troops, materials, and money; it made no secret about who should wield power in Liberia. Understandably, such an openly biased posture did not help to promote an impartial peacekeeping environment among the warring parties nor among ECOWAS member-states. There is also evidence that Cote d’Ivoire, Libya and Burkina Faso provided the training, money and weapons to rebels led by Taylor, which, captured and subsequently killed, President Doe at the ECOMOG headquarters under dubious circumstances. [37] Related to that, there were always doubts concerning Nigeria’s political intentions and hegemonic ambitions in the ECOMOG peacekeeping missions. On the one hand, Nigeria and the ECOWAS community were legitimately concerned over the effects of the civil war on their own borders, the slaughter of innocent citizens and the loss of property. On the other hand, it was widely perceived that Nigeria was equally interested in enhancing its own role as the leading regional power. [38] By contributing a disproportionately huge share of the troops and finance, the Nigerian leadership tended to centralize decision-making in Abuja and vested the command and control in Nigeria rather than in the ECOWAS headquarters. [39] Understandably, other troop contributing states - particularly Ghana, Burkina Faso and Cote d’Ivoire - have objected to this domination. In short, regional rivalries, monopolistic command structure, hegemonic ambitions and widespread use of hurriedly assembled troops, have tended to compromise the credibility and effectiveness of ECOMOG peacekeeping missions.

Thirdly, outside perceptions of the ECOMOG force were blinkered by the fact that almost all the leaders contributing troops, with the exception of Gambia’s Dauda Jawara, were military men who had seized power in a coup or in controversial circumstances. Indeed, Africa’s national and sub-regional politics should begin to be rooted in a process of pluralism and popular participation. This calls for a redefinition of a framework for regional standards, norms and practices of peace and security, democratic governance, human rights, including women’s rights. Without acceptable standards of governance on the continent, a regional or sub-regional security mechanism is liable to degenerate into a protection racket for autocrats and dictators. [40] The United States and other major powers may consider doubling their support for the democratisation project in Africa.

Fourthly, sub-regional peacekeeping troops often suffer from inadequate resources including equipment and training. ECOWAS was unable to fully pacify Liberia and Sierra Leone militarily due to the ability of local warlords to control mineral-rich parts of the countryside outside the capital, often sheltered by dense and impenetrable forests. The control of and exploitation for diamonds, timber and other raw materials financed the various factions and gave them the means to sustain the conflict. These bottlenecks were later resolved through mutual cooperation between ECOWAS and external actors. Logistical support extended by the United States and the EU helped in disarming warring factions. The United Nations and non-governmental organizations provided humanitarian relief that neither ECOWAS nor Nigeria were able to provide. The partiality of the troops in Sierra Leone was neutralized when the UN agreed to take over the ECOMOG mission in 2000 and diversified it by including extra-regional peacekeepers and subsuming 3,500 Nigerian soldiers under its command. [41]


SADC Peacekeeping Record

At its launch in Lusaka, Zambia, in April 1980, the Southern African Development Cooperation Conference (SADCC) was directed to coordinate and harmonize economic cooperation within its geographic area. Its main objectives were to reduce economic dependence on South Africa and South West Africa/Namibia, while intensifying regional efforts and, in close partnership with the OAU, to dismantle apartheid. On August 17, 1992 the SADCC was renamed the Southern African Development Community, SADC, its current designation. Integration, rather than cooperation, was emphasized. The new mandate was expanded to include political, military, and security matters. This shift was a response to new international and regional dynamics generated by the conclusion of the Cold War, a discernible pattern of the UN shirking its primary responsibilities on the continent, Namibia’s independence in 1990 and the demise of the apartheid regime in 1994. At its foundation, SADC comprised Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe. In 1994, the SADC admitted South Africa, following democratic multiracial elections. In 1995, Mauritius was admitted, and in 1997 Seychelles and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) were also admitted. SADC adapted to new challenges by evolving common political values and integrated defence institutions in order to promote peace and security in the sub-region. In June 1996, the SADC Organ on Politics, Defence and Security (OPDS) was adopted and approved by SADC heads of state and government. However, due to political bickering, the Organ remained dormant for about five years. This stagnation was caused by the lack of clarity regarding the institutional structure of the Organ, and was compounded by personality clashes between the presidents of Zimbabwe and South Africa. In March 2001, the SADC summit in Blantyre, Malawi, adopted the Protocol on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation (PPDSC). Specifically, its functions and objectives included the following:

§ protecting the people and safeguarding the development of the region against instability arising from a breakdown of law and order and interstate conflict

§ promoting political cooperation among member states and evolving common political values and institutions

§ developing a common foreign policy in areas of mutual concern and interest and lobbying as a region on issues of common interest in international fora

§ cooperating fully on regional security and defence through conflict prevention, management, and resolution

§ using preventive diplomacy to pre-empt conflict in the region, both within and between states, through an early warning system

§ promoting and enhancing the development of democratic institutions and practices within member states and encouraging them to observe universal human rights codes

§ developing a collective security capacity, concluding a mutual defence pact for responding to external threats, and building up a regional peacekeeping capacity within national armies that could be called upon to act within the region and elsewhere

§ encouraging the United Nations, the AU, and other international conventions and treaties on arms control and disarmament, human rights, and peaceful relations between states

§ addressing conflicts outside the region that affect peace and security in Southern Africa


Before OPDS became fully operational, SADC was confronted with conflicts in the DRC when the rule of President Kabila was challenged by insurgents, the military unrest in Lesotho, and the renewed outbreak of civil war in Angola after the collapse of the Lusaka Peace process. Specifically the first two conflicts tested not only the resolve and the institutional capacity of SADC in peacekeeping efforts but also jeopardized economic environment for regional cooperation and integration. In both cases, SADC response took the form of internally contested military intervention. The DRC crisis broke out in August 1998 when the Tutsi Banyamulenge, together with several other forces disenchanted with the new government in Kinshasa, decided to launch a rebellion against the government of President Laurent Kabila. He had come to power in May 1997 after ousting dictator Mobutu Sese Seko by military force, with a strong military backing from the Rwandan and Ugandan governments. Both governments felt threatened by guerrilla forces against them operating from DRC territories. The Mobutu regime had turned a blind eye to these guerrilla activities, if not tacitly encouraging them. The Rwandan and Ugandan governments had high expectations that Kabila would assist them to eradicate the ex-Rwandan armed forces – the Hutu Interahamwe militias, and the Lord’s Resistance Army, operating escapades into their respective territories. The Kabila government is said to have disappointed his erstwhile helpers by refusing to cooperate in security matters; hence the two governments’ military support for the Tutsi-led rebellion against the DRC government.

The war in the DRC put SADC under a serious strain. The relationship between member-states soured and, for some time, regional cohesion was strenuously compromised. There were accusations and counter-accusations among member states particularly between South Africa and Zimbabwe. In the absence of a robust and functioning OPDS, a proactive OAU, or an empathetic UN, three countries - Angola, Namibia and Zimbabwe - decided to send troops into the DRC in order to secure its sovereignty, restore law and order and protect a “legitimate” government of President Laurent-Desire Kabila. The decision to intervene was not taken by the SADC summit but by SADC defence ministers under the auspices of the Interstate Defence and Security Committee. This initiative was, after a failed attempt by South Africa, backed by the United States to mediate a negotiated exit from power by Mobutu. Moreover, the failure led to the reversal of a number of economically strategic pacts in Zaire by South African businesses.

The SADC Allied Forces intervention did not spell out comprehensive conditionalities for their military support. At the minimum, they should have required the embattled government of President Kabila to commit his government to a democratization programme and to spell out how it intended to promote national unity and reconciliation as the basis for their support. Such initiatives would have created a requisite climate to the peaceful settlement of the conflict. At the maximum, they should have demanded a comprehensive programme of action aimed at responding to the security concerns of the invading Ugandan and Rwandan forces. By failing to make such critical conflict transformation demands, SADC Allied Forces inadvertently ignored to address the underlying causes of the DRC conflict. In this context, the often-made accusations that Angola and Zimbabwe had other ulterior motives for intervention than securing peace and stability in the DRC are not totally unfounded. [42] It is important to emphasize that, although the SADC military intervention effectively reversed the rebel advance on Kinshasa, it prompted the South African government to take a strong public position against the military intervention. The latter’s uncompromising and acrimonious stance was a clear testimony of inherent political bickering, competing agendas and, indeed, rivalry between South African and Zimbabwean leaderships in a young and evolving regional security cooperation arrangement. [43] In order to save face, SADC collectively welcomed the OAU’s involvement in the region that ultimately led to the negotiation and signing of the Lusaka Ceasefire Agreement in July 1999. The OAU, SADC and the UN signed as observers. [44]

Shortly after signing the Ceasefire Agreement, the OAU started to canvass the UN for international peacekeeping and peace-building operations in the DRC. The Agreement envisaged close collaboration between the OAU and the UN in the establishment of a peacekeeping force to ensure implementation of the ceasefire. On the 24 February 2000, the UN Security Council agreed to send 5,537 UN observers and troops to the DRC to observe the Lusaka Accord. [45] At the same time, the Inter-Congolese Dialogue, involving 358 delegates of the DRC’s warring parties, political parties, and civil society organizations, took place in Sun City, South Africa, between 25 February and 18 April 2002, under the Chairmanship of Sir Ketumile Masire. It resulted in the adoption of thirty resolutions on political, legal, economic, security and cultural issues, and it proposed a power-sharing agreement under which Joseph Kabila would continue as president until elections were held after twenty-four months. This agreement did not bring an end to the DRC’s conflict or harmony to acrimonious relations in SADC. This was largely because the external and internal actors to the conflict and the local peace spoilers had economic and political incentives to break the peace agreement. The ongoing violence in the Ituri District in the North-Eastern Congo is a clear testimony of how fragile the security situation continues to be in the DRC.

        The Lesotho crisis broke out after weeks of political unrest sparked by the disputed outcome of the May 1998 elections. The conflict arose from the disproportionate distribution of seats in the parliament due to the “First- Past-The-Post electoral system” and the dissatisfaction among losing parties. [46] The elected government of Prime Minister Mosisili was almost paralyzed by demonstrations orchestrated by opposition parties. Worse still, the Lesotho Defence Forces were about to stage a coup against the government after 28 senior officers were forced to resign by their juniors. By all accounts, a bloody civil war was in the making. It was under these circumstances that the Lesotho Prime Minister asked for military assistance from SADC to restore law and order. It is important to recall also that in a similar crisis in September 1994, the SADC Memorandum of Understanding had appointed Botswana, South Africa and Zimbabwe as guarantors of democracy in Lesotho. [47] With Zimbabwe already embroiled in the DRC conflict, it was only logical that Botswana and South Africa should take responsibility to pre-empt a civil war, protect a constitutionally elected government, restore law and order and pave the way for negotiations between the government and opposition parties. [48] Unlike the peacekeeping intervention in the DRC, the SADC troops did not take sides. Moreover, despite limited physical destruction and loss of life, excessive force was used. All this could have been avoided had adequate intelligence been gathered and the troops been properly trained in peacekeeping operations. However, the resulting restoration of peace and tranquillity created a climate conducive for a peaceful resolution of the conflict. It involved the adoption, since 2002, of a mixed-member proportional representation electoral system. This enlightened electoral process, strategically borrowed from the South African democratic experience, has built-in advantages of levelling the political playing field by broadening representation, enhancing participation and entrenching democratic governance. [49] It addressed one of the root causes of Lesotho’s political conflicts.

            After these two acrimonious peacekeeping initiatives, SADC’s OPDS moved to address the institutional separation between it and the organization proper that had permitted groups of states to deploy troops without the prior consensus of all members. An extraordinary meeting of SADC foreign, defence and security ministers in October 1999 agreed on a new structure incorporating the organ into the main organization and to develop a protocol governing the SADC reaction to conflict situations.


 The Way Forward

            It was noted that among Africans in recent years, the Security Council and, indeed, some major powers, have demonstrated notorious double standards when it comes to African peace and security concerns and it has not been uncommon for the continent to get raw deals. Although peace operations in contemporary intra-state conflicts have become enormous and complex, peacekeeping missions to Africa are regularly given vague mandates, and inadequate troops, materials and transport. Not infrequently, the Security Council was accused of demonstrating slow and, sometimes, feeble initial approaches to protracted conflicts in Burundi, Rwanda, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of Congo.  Indeed, where a distinction between keeping, enforcing and building peace is blurred, as is the case in Africa, the UN system of specialized agencies and networks is the only framework realistically able to provide the diverse expertise and experience necessary for comprehensive peacekeeping and peace-building operations. As much as possible, the temptation to subcontract peace enforcement to regional and sub-regional organizations in order to cut costs and save lives should be discouraged. Africa should demand equal treatment. [50]

            Chapter VIII of the UN Charter spells out the role of regional organizations in the maintenance of international peace and security, while the AU Mechanism enjoins the AU to “cooperate and work closely with the United Nations not only with regard to issues relating to peacemaking but also those relating to peacekeeping”. With superior access to resources, the UN is expected to shoulder heavier responsibilities in terms of providing the necessary leadership, political will, finance, and global best practices. In this rather ambiguous and unwritten division of labour between the AU and the UN, the former was traditionally expected to focus on the early detection and prevention of conflict, while letting the latter to assume a lead role in mounting peacekeeping and enforcement operations in Africa, including handling command and control of military forces dispatched for the purpose. The slogan of “African solutions to African problems” obviously flies in the face of this division of labour. More importantly, the newly established UN liaison office at the AU in Addis Ababa should be encouraged to explore possibilities for establishing and consolidating mutual policy cooperation and collaboration arrangements between the two organizations. By the same token, the United States should seek to channel its support through both organizations.

Joint-ness can be achieved through carefully planned decentralization – a shift of the responsibility to the field for developing detailed and coherent responses to crises. The UN, free of detailed daily management, remains responsible for developing broad policy and for operational planning. The division of responsibilities preserves management energies and resources for its crucial roles of policy formulation, planning, and audit and review, rather than frittering them away on the micro-management of field operations. Surely, properly strengthened and empowered AU and sub-regional organizations would go a long way towards widening the scope and adding flexibility to the international community’s collective and proportionately shared burden of establishing and maintaining peace and security in Africa. The AU and its sub-regional organizations should focus their efforts on conflict prevention and peacemaking while leaving the peacekeeping and peace enforcement to the UN. The former should gradually define a framework for regional standards, norms and practices of peace and security, coherent division of labour in relation to sub-regional security structures, democratic governance, and human rights, including women rights. We strongly subscribe to Stanley Hoffman’s observation that the great powers should have interests in the world order that go beyond strict national security concerns. They should feel, without exception, a moral obligation to respond swiftly and decisively to complex emergency situations anywhere and anytime they erupt. [51]

We have argued that peacekeeping initiatives, when deployed with a clear and deterrent capacity, equipped with appropriate resources, and backed by sufficient political will, can make a huge difference between peace and war. The paper has emphasized that the ultimate responsibility for maintaining global peace and security is the prerogative of the United Nations, and particularly, the Security Council. The growing reluctance among major powers to commit their troops and other critical resources for peacekeeping in areas perceived to be of low strategic value has been disturbedly noted. It was argued that, although distinct threats from failed states in strategically marginal regions are often understated, their implications are likely to be colossal for global peace and security if the pandemonium becomes further entrenched and widespread. In this sense, therefore, conflicts and peace should no longer be addressed in isolation, but must be approached from a more holistic and dynamic perspective. Such a perspective has to take into account not only the complex roots of conflict, but also, most importantly, the need for democratic governance and sustainable development, which help provide the conditions for lasting peace after violent conflicts.

The devastation of human, social and physical capital often found at the beginning of a post-conflict period and the particular provisions of a peace agreement call for unconventional models of development intervention. In the wake of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attack on the United States, everyone seems to have been reminded that development, security and peace are intertwined. Underdevelopment and extreme poverty tend to be breeding grounds for despair, extremism and violence, which in turn, undermine peace and security for the North and South alike. Therefore, following this logic, the very conditions that give rise to stagnation, poverty and marginalization should be tackled head on if, indeed, economic growth and poverty reduction are at the heart of the emerging US international development cooperation crusade. Huge and unpayable debts should be paid only as a result of economic growth, not through reduced consumption and austerity as is current practice. The international community should consider providing adequate support to Africa, in terms of: the transfer of financial resources, the rectification of adverse terms of trade, untied technical assistance, market access, technology transfer and other forms of assistance if only for the security and long-term self-interest of the great powers. The developed countries have, surprisingly, not taken their commitment seriously nor have they honoured such commitments. [52]

[1] . A Paper to be presented at the Conference on New Patterns of Strategic Encounter: US-Africa Relations in the Era of Globalization.  April 30-May 1, 2004, UCLA, USA.


[1] . Harbeson, J. and D. Rothchild outline the causes and manifestation of Africa’s decline in their introductory essay “The African State and State System in a Flux” in John W. Harbeson and D. Rothchild (Ed). Africa in World Politics: The African State System in Flux. Third Edition. Boulder, CO: Westview Press. 2000:3-22.

[2] . Africa’s marginalization was a dominant theme at the 35th OAU summit meeting in July 1999 and encouraged participants to demonstrate a renewed sense of collective self-reliance. See “Une Afrique lucide” Le Monde 15 July 1999:12

[3] . See International Peace Academy. Refashioning the Dialogue: Regional Perspectives on the Brahimi Report on UN peace Operations. New York, 2001:6-11; and Rugumamu, S. “State Sovereignty and Intervention in Africa”, Conflict Trends 4 2001: 22

[4] . UN. Report of the Secretary General on the Implementation of the Report of the Panel on United Nations Peace Operations. UN Doc. A/55/502. 20 October 2000.

[5] . Doyle, M. “Discovering the Limits and Potential for Peacekeeping” in Otunu, O. and M. Doyle (eds.). Peacemaking and Peacekeeping for the New Century. Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield Publishers, 1998:4.

[6] . Boutros-Ghali, B. An Agenda for Peace: Preventive Diplomacy, Peacemaking and Peacekeeping. New York: UN 2000.

[7] . See International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty. The Responsibility to Protect. IDRC: Ottawa, 2001.

[8] . Omach, P. “The African Response Initiative: Domestic Politics and Convergence of National Interests”, African Affairs 99 (394) 2000:79.

[9] . The so-called “Mogadishu factor” – a syndrome deriving from the situation when 18 US troops assisting the UN Operations in Somalia were killed on an enforcement operation in October 1993 and the lack of commitment on the part of key Somali factions to a settlement.

[10] . US Institute for Peace. The US Contribution to Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution in Africa.A Report of a USIP Symposium of 28 September 1994.

[11] . Baran, P. The Political Economy of Growth. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1957:2

[12] .  Abbas argues that the ECOWAS Protocol for Conflict Prevention, Management, Resolution, Peacekeeping and Security presses for increasingly autonomous role in peacekeeping and collective security. For details see Abbas, A. “The New Collective Security Mechanism for ECOWAS: Innovation and Problems”, Journal of Conflict and Security Law 5 (2) 2000:211.

[13] . This point is succinctly made by Dwan, R. “Armed Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution” in SIPRI Yearbook 2000. Armaments, Disarmament and International Security, 2001:107.

[14] . For purposes of encouraging viable economic development and for the desire to create an equitable, geographical representation of member states on a regional basis, the AU is composed of five sub-regional organizations, namely: Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Economic Community for Central African States (ECCAS), southern African Development Community (SADC), The Arab Maghreb Union (UMA) and the East African Community (EAC).

[15] . On the role of Cold War and inter-state conflicts in Africa see James Jonah. “The OAU: Peacekeeping and Conflict Resolution”, in El-Ayouty (Ed). The Organization of African Unity After Thirty Years. New York: Praeger Publishers, 1994:3-13; Rugumamu, S. “Post-Cold War Peace and Security in Southern Africa”, SAPES Occasional Paper Series # 5 1993. 

[16] . For accounts of the Nigerian civil war, see Kirk-Greene.  Crisis and Conflict in Nigeria (two volumes). London: Oxford University Press, 1971. 

[17] . Achille Mbembe has used the term “nihilism” to characterize certain defining features of these conflicts: absence of any significant idea or program much less ideology associated with these conflicts, extreme social destructiveness, predatory economic activities and unrestrained pursuit of power by using child soldiers, terrorizing civilian refugees and razing churches and health clinics. Mbembe, A. “Complex Transformations in the late 20th Century”, Africa Demos 3 March 1995.

[18] . Collier, P. et al. Breaking the Conflict Trap: Civil War and Development Policy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003.

[19] . UN. Report of the Panel on United Nations Peace Operations. UN Doc. A/55/305.S/2000/809.

[20] . Frazier, J. “The African Crisis Response Initiative: Self-Interested Humanitarianism”, The Brown Journal of World Affairs 4 (2) 1997:109-110.

[21] . See Muyangwa, M. and M. Vogt. An Assessment of the OAU Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution 1993-2000. New York: International Peace Academy, 2000 p.23

[22] . Muyangwa, M. and M. Vogt. op. cit.

[23] . Salim, A.S. OAU Report of the Secretary General on Conflicts in Africa. Addis Ababa: OAU, 1992:11-12.

[24] . Tsie, B. “Regional Security in Southern Africa: Wither the SADC Organ on Politics, Defense and Security” in Global Dialogue 3 (3) 1998:8.

[25] . James, A. Peacekeeping in International Relations. London: Macmillan, 1990.

[26] . Roos, J. “The Perils of Peacekeeping: Tallying the Costs in Blood, Coin, Prestige and Readiness” Armed Forces Journal Dec. 1993:14.

[27] . Chapter VI of the UN Charter discusses pacific settlement of disputes and Chapter VII permits the intervention of forces. Aggravated peacekeeping tends to fall somehow between these poles. For a cogent analysis of different types of peacekeeping see Dobbie, C. “A Concept of the Post-Cold War Peacekeeping”, Survival 36 (3) 1994:121-148.

[28] . Boutros, G. op. cit.: 32.

[29] . Zimmerman, F. Dollar, Diplomacy and Dependency: Dilemma of US Economic Aid. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 1993.

[30] . Rothschild, R. “The Impact of US Disengagement on African Interstate Conflict Resolution” in John W. Harbeson and D. Rothschild (eds.). Africa in World Politics: The African State System in Flux. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 2000:164.

[31] . Vogt, M “Conflict Resolution and Peacekeeping: The Organization of African Unity and the United Nations” in Sorbo, G. and P. Vale (Ed). Out of Conflict: From War to Peace in Africa. Chr. Michelson Institute and Nordiska Afrikainstitutet, 1997: 57-78.

[32] . The UN Observer Mission in Liberia was given the following mandates: to work in close collaboration with ECOMOG; to observe the process of demobilization and encampment of an estimated 60,000 combatants in Liberia and supervise the general elections at the cost of $40.3 million. For details see Sesay, M. “Civil War and Collective Intervention in Liberia”, Review of African Political Economy 23 (67) 1996:35-52.

[33] . UN Eighth Report of the Secretary General on the United Nations Observer Mission in Sierra Leone. UN Document S/1999/1003, 28 September. 1999.

[34] . Adebayo, A. Building Peace in West Africa: Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea Bissau. Boulder, Co: Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2002.

[35] . For details on what appropriate standing operating procedures see Anyidola, H. “lessons from Peacekeeping” in Sorbo, G. and P. Vale op. cit.: 114-131.

[36] . The ECOMOG High Command promised to investigate allegations of human rights abuses. See UN Sixth Report of the Secretary General on the United Nations Observer Mission in Sierra Leone. UN Document S/1999/645, 4 June 1999.

[37] . See Sesay, M. op. cit.

[38] . To underscore Nigeria preponderance in this mission Vogt notes that …”Nigeria deployed a major part of its military arsenal to the Liberia operation, carrying out punitive air strikes on factions that were considered recalcitrant, enforcing, in collaboration with the other contingents, a land and sea-based embargo, and asserting a military surveillance of the areas under ECOMOG control to prevent infiltration” See Vogt, M. 1997: op. cit. p. 71.

[39] . Despite Nigeria’s claims of having spent about $8 billion on the intervention in Liberia and Sierra Leone, some observers have observed that billions may have been diverted into private pockets of military officials, disguised as part of the costs of ECOMOG. See Adebayo and Landsberg, 2003: 190.

[40] . Hutchful, E. “The ECOMOG Experience with Peacekeeping in West Africa” in Malan, M (Ed). Wither Peacekeeping in Africa? ISS Monograph Series 36. Pretoria: ISS, April, 1999:61-85.

[41] . Adebayo and Landsberg. op. cit.: 190.

[42] . UN Report of the Panel of Experts on the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources and Other Forms of Wealth of the Democratic Republic of Congo. S/2001/357, 12 April 2001.

[43] . Announcing the decision to intervene militarily, Presidency Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe stated, “we have considered it our duty to respond to the call of appeal by one of us for assistance to be given so that peace and stability can be restored in Congo and in the region…The people of DRC are so much our people who constitute our individual population” Harare Herald18 August 1998: 1. 

[44] . See Baregu, B. “Economic and Military Security” in Baregu, M. and C. Landsberg (eds.). From Cape to Congo: Southern Africa’s Evolving Security Challenges. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 2003: 19-30. Nkinawe, T. The Quest for Good Governance” in Baregu, M. And C. Landsberg op. cit.: 53-72.

[45] . Financing for the operation was extremely difficult and slow. The funds were pledged by the EU, the USA and other Western states as well as states of the sub-region. See UN Document S/1999/1116 (Note 66).

[46] . The liberal model of democracy is considered as one of the principle sources of conflict on the continent. The winner-takes-all formula carries with it the control of national wealth and resources, patronage as well as prestige and prerogatives of the top office. For details see Elklit, J. “Lesotho 2002: Africa’s First MMP Elections” Journal of African Elections 1 (2) 2002:14-31.

[47] . This group was created when Lesotho experienced a constitutional crisis in August 1994. A threat of military intervention by SADC prevented a coup from taking place.

[48] . Tsie, B. op. cit.: 10.

[49] . On the root causes of the Lesotho conflict see Matlosa, K. “The Lesotho Conflict: Major Causes and Management” in Lambrechts, K. (Ed). Crisis in Lesotho. FGD African Dialogue Series No. 2. Braamfontein, 1999: 26-41.

[50] . Dwan, R. P. op. cit.: 194.

[51] . Hoffman, S. “In Defense of Mother Theresa: Morality in Foreign Policy”, Foreign Affairs 75: 1994:172.

[52] . See Rugumamu, S. “Africa’s Debt Bondage: A Case for Total Cancellation” Eastern African Social Science Research Review 17 (1) 2001:31-52.

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