Peacekeeping Crucial for African Stability
By the Africa Center for Strategic Studies
September 8, 2017
Despite their shortcomings, African peace operations have saved lives, built security sector capacity, and helped mitigate conflict—reducing pressure on international actors to become directly involved.
Armed conflicts in Africa have substantially declined from their peak in the early 1990s. The 12 ongoing conflicts represent a 35 percent drop from two decades ago. This downward trend can be attributed to a variety of factors. One of these has been the greater willingness to deploy peacekeeping missions in Africa. Since 2000, more than 40 United Nations (UN), African Union (AU), and other UN–authorized missions have been deployed to the continent. This pattern reflects several developments:
A Move from Non-Interference to Non-Indifference
African countries contributed only 10,000 troops to UN operations in 2000 when the AU was established. By 2017, some 18 African countries had contributed approximately 80,000 military, police, and civilian personnel to UN and AU missions, making Africa the largest contributor to global peace operations. Today, African forces represent 50 percent of all UN peacekeepers.
The AU has deployed eight operations of its own during this time, including to Burundi (AMIB), the Central African Republic (MISCA), the Comoros (AMISEC and MAES), Mali (AFISMA), Somalia (AMISOM), and Sudan (AMIS I and II). It has also deployed specialist task forces to combat the Lord’s Resistance Army in Central Africa and Boko Haram in Nigeria, Chad, and Cameroon.
This increase in AU peacekeeping is a departure from the operating norm of its predecessor, the Organization of African Unity (OAU). Under the OAU, the principle of “non-interference” prevailed with regard to political and humanitarian crises. Recognizing the devastating effects of prolonged conflicts on Africa’s stability and development, the AU replaced the standard of non-interference with the principle of “non-indifference.” This principle asserts the right to intervene without host government consent in grave circumstances, including war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. Peacekeeping and peace enforcement have emerged as vital instruments in this regard.