Peace and Development: Which Way for Africa?

Published on 27th February 2007

“If Africa’s goals for peace and economic development are to be achieved, it is imperative that Africans begin to galvanize the momentum needed to assume this enormous task,” argues Muthoni Kamuyu in this four part series that puts Africa and the international community on the spotlight in matters touching development and peace.

Despite the economic, strategic and logistical constraints African led peace operations face, the African Union (AU), Africa’s regional organizations; and African states have increasingly demonstrated the will to deploy peacekeeping missions to Africa’s conflict zones. The AU’s peacekeeping force the African Mission in Sudan (AMIS), the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) interventions in the Liberia, Sierra Leone, Guinea-Bissau, and Cote d’ Ivoire wars; and the consistency in which states like Senegal, Nigeria, Kenya, and South Africa contribute military personnel to African and other peacekeeping missions demonstrate this.

AMIS is experiencing under financing and logistical problems that are impeding its ability to secure the Darfur region. For this reason, AMIS is set to be replaced with a UN-AU hybrid force. AMIS’s incapacity cannot be blamed solely on a lack of economic, strategic, and logistical resources—poor planning for the mission is also to blame. In May 2004, the AU deployed 60 military observers to monitor the Humanitarian Ceasefire Agreement (HCFA) signed in Ndejma, Chad in April 2004, and a 300 man protection force to provide security to the military observers. These forces were deployed with no vehicles and only one satellite phone to communicate with Addis Ababa.   

By June 2004 AMIS’s capacity began to increase slightly. Each sector commander received $5,000 for logistical needs. In addition, the six sectors that constitute the AU’s mission received four vehicles and two Thuraya satellite phones. It was only when the US, the UK, Canada, and the Netherlands stepped in, did an increase in AMIS’s logistical capabilities become significantly noticeable.  Through the US State Department, AMIS received logistical support from the Pacific Architectural Engineers (PAE). In December 2004, AMIS received 143 vehicles with communications capability from the British government with an additional 476 being provided by the British Crown Agents. The UK and US are assisting AMIS with rapid deployment capacity as well. AMIS’s current airlift capability has been supported by Canada and the Netherlands.   

Darfur, unlike Rwanda, Liberia, and a host of other conflicts on the continent is receiving a lot of international attention. Albeit slow, humanitarian assistance continues to pour into Darfur. Greater international support for Darfur was witnessed early in 2006 by NATO’s willingness to back a UN peacekeeping force set to replace AMIS. It is possible that the international community’s response to Darfur—in particular the Western response—can be linked to the West’s unwillingness to respond to the 1994 Rwandan genocide. It is widely known that the failure to respond to Rwanda is the biggest regret of the US Clinton administration. Politically, the US and other Western powers cannot afford a repeat of their response to Rwanda in Sudan. 

The attention on Darfur, and international efforts to build Africa’s capacity for peace operations including—the establishments of the EU Peace Facility, and the Joint Africa/G8 Plan to Enhance African Capabilities for Peace Support Operations, have primarily focused on peacekeeping training, operational management, and logistical support. When attention has been given to peace-building/reconstruction activities the focus has been disarmament, demobilization, reintegration (DDR), and mine removal. If Africa’s capacity for peace operations is to be increased with efficacy, more attention needs to be given to peace-building and conflict prevention beyond the current focus.  Policies related to identity that is ethnicity, nationality, citizenship, as well as, actual post-war reconstruction should be more aggressively included in current peace-building and conflict prevention strategies. Liberia’s relapse into conflict makes the case for the latter, while the former is supported by the fact that policy making in Africa is not only ethnically charged, but often driven by sentiments surrounding citizenship and nationality.

The argument regarding ethnicity considers the causes of civil conflict and full blown war in African states. The causes being the fragile and underdeveloped state of African economies, the uneven distribution of political and economic power within African states, policy designed to marginalize people and regions, and an asymmetrical relationship between governance, development, and security. All of these factors continue to be deeply entrenched in African political institutions. Unfortunately, this makes the inevitability of war, conflict, and civil strife in Africa more likely than not. With that said, it is not sufficient to build capacity for peacekeeping through methods that focus far too heavily on military solutions like DDR activities. If the goal is to prevent future wars and civil strife, then the tasks of physical reconstruction and nation building must also assume center stage in Africa’s policy making.

Established in 2002, the AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) acts as the main thrust of Africa’s new security architecture, along with the ASF, and the RSBs. Like the New Economic Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), the goal of the AU in building new security architecture is African ownership. Post-war reconstruction is one area that African leadership can increasingly assert the continent’s ownership in creating Africa’s security architecture. If this is to be addressed comprehensively three very important issues must be examined. First, Africa’s leaders should seriously examine the failures of UN peace-building operations in Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea-Bissau, as there are important lessons to be learned from them. Second, African leaders need to explore alternative approaches to peace operations. Third, African leaders should create policies to support a broader role for African militaries in peace operations to include actual physical reconstruction. Fourth Africa’s leadership should take the lead in broadening the scope of peace-building activities directly related to reconciling grievances both in war torn states and stable African states. This would entail examining factors that have traditionally contributed to conflict that is the economy and political representation as well as examining factors that have often been ignored like nationality and citizenship. 

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