ROLE OF OAU/AU IN RESOLUTION OF CONFLICTS IN AFRICA


The AU headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

In 1990, there were about 20 wars going on simultaneously in Africa but by 2010, there were only four ongoing wars and this is a big success story for AU1. AU’s first mission was deployed in Burundi where the transition to self-rule was characterized by ethnic violence between the Hutu majority and the Tutsi minority. The failure of Arusha Peace and Reconciliation Agreement for Burundi signed in 2000 to consolidate the peace process in the country and the ceasefire agreement signed in 2002 without success led to the launching of the Peace Operation in Burundi (AMIB) by the AU2. In April 2003, the AU dispatched a peacekeeping mission with the task to protect, disarm, demobilize and reintegrate combatants. The mission was described as one of the AU’s biggest success stories. It made concerted efforts to prevent genocides in the Great Lakes region and played a crucial role in the ceasefire negotiations. AU troops protected returning politicians who took part in the transnational government and provided favourable conditions for the United Nations (UN) troops, which joined in 2004.3 At the end of the AMIB mission, peace was restored to the majority of the Burundi regions, except the region outside Bujumbura, where armed national liberation forces remained a problem.

According to Africa Briefing Report (2011), there remains a discrepancy between the African Union’s (AU) capacity on paper and its actual impact in crisis situations.4 The obstacles of the AMIB mission include inadequate equipment, food and medicine. Although the European Union (EU), the World Health Organization, the United Nations Children’s Fund and the German Technical Operation were the major sources of fund, the funds arrived late when too many have died.

More so, delay in deployment of troops from Ethiopia and Mozambique for Burundi was a major hindrance for the mission. The delay was due to the AU’s decision that the deploying states had to finance their own troops.5

Again, the Security arm of the AU, PSC also has a severe leadership and management problem and this suffocated the swift resolution of the Burundi conflicts. There is poor leadership, a lack of consensus in the AU and weak early warning capabilities in the intelligence field.

The conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) in 1998, between the government of Congo and armed rebel groups, sucked in neighbouring countries of Rwanda, Uganda, Angola, Zimbabwe and Namibia. There were outcries of invasion of the DRC by the neighbouring countries and rebellion by the Congolese rebel groups. Ultimately, all the parties sat together in a regional effort and considered all internal and external dimensions to the conflict. The resultant Lusaka Peace Agreement addressed the concerns of the rebel armed groups and those of the neighbouring countries. Consequently, forces of neighbouring countries withdrew and eventually, elections were held in the DRC whereas Rwanda, in particular, was concerned about the DRC’s continued harbouring and supporting, on its territory, Ex-FAR/Interahamwe who committed genocide in Rwanda in 1994. It was only in February/March 2009 that DRC and Rwanda agreed and undertook joint operations against the Ex-FAR/Interahamwe. The same applies to the DRC and Uganda, with the participation of Sudan, in the joint operations against the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in the DRC.

The joint operations signified a new spirit of regional commitment. The Tripartite Plus Joint Commission involving Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and DRC mediated by AU played a key role in building confidence and trust among these countries and paved the way for these bold measures.6

Meanwhile, in Darfur, where the Arab ‘white’ Sudanese government fought a civil war against the predominantly black population, the AU was successful at the beginning. AU’s mediation team and the Abuja Inter-Sudanese Peace Talks negotiated the signature of the N’djamena Humanitarian Ceasefire Agreement on 8 April 2004 and the Darfur Peace Agreement between the government of Sudan and the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army.

Although AU received a bulk of the funding from Canada, the EU, Germany, Great Britain and the United States of America (USA), the mission was still underfunded. Peace and Security Directorate (2008) noted that of the US$570 million proposed by the Commission for its 2005 budget, member states only approved US$158.4 million, little more than a quarter of what was requested. Of this amount, US$63 million came from assessed member states contributions, which support the AU’s operational and running costs. For the remaining nearly US$100 million, the AU Commission relied on voluntary contributions from member states (the key donors being Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Nigeria and South Africa, each of whom contribute 15 percent of the budget), and grants from external donors. International Colloquium report (2012) remarked that today, over 90 percent of the AU’s peace and security efforts are funded by external actors. However, the AU’s lack of influence over external interventions led by the UN Security Council and its five permanent members (P-5) – the United States (US), China, Russia, France, and Britain – who often have their own more parochial interests, has sometimes resulted in undesirable outcomes. Again, AU’s mission in Darfur was unclear due to the different views of the members of the AU about the mission’s purpose.7 Hence, AU admitted its limitation and joined with the UN in a UN-AU Hybrid Mission in Darfur (UNAMID).

The civil war in the ethnically homogenous country of Somalia led the PSC to establish the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) with the purpose to stabilize the situation in the country and to promote dialogue, facilitate the provision of humanitarian assistance and create conditions for a long-term peace. The mission did not undertake any urgently needed confidence-building measures and in 2007, AU revealed the weakness of its peacekeeping mission to Somalia and inadequacy of the mission regarding the complexity of the situation.8

Other major roles of AU include AU brokering of a power-sharing agreement and deployment of a 462-strong force to support elections in Comoros in May 2006, providing an important security presence that eased the passage of democracy. African troops supported the Comorian armed forces to remove self-styled ‘President’ Mohammed Bacar from power in Anjouan in March 2008. The African Union did so at the request of Abdallah Sambi, the President of the Union of Comoros.9 In the same vein, African Heads of State suspended Member State of the African Union that removed democratically elected government by unconstitutional means. It is an implementation of this that Mauritania, Guinea Conakry and Madagascar were suspended from the AU until the constitutional order was restored in those countries. AU also prevented the crisis in Niger by suspending the country’s membership in February 2010 after the military coup and demanded a return to constitutional order. Although the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance (ACDEG), adopted in 2007 exists, the Member States hardly adhere to nor commit themselves to its norms and values. The same observation goes for the Panel of the Wise (not being fully involved in its conflict resolution efforts) and the African Standby Force (ASF) (its establishment being delayed).

AU’s lack of good communication tools; management capacity and positive visibility, especially in the recent crises in Libya and Côte d’Ivoire, have soiled the credibility, authority and reliability of the organization. According to Africa Briefing Report (2011), the proposed AU roadmap for resolving the conflict in the Libya crisis has not been given proper attention by the international community and has rather been criticized within and outside the continent.10 The AU appears to have lost credibility due to the interplay of the following fundamental factors: perception- the popular protests in Libyan and the Middle East have been perceived as an ‘Arab Spring’, rather than an African issue; internal divisions- South Africa, Gabon and Nigeria voted in favour of UNSCR 1973, despite the AU High Panel (Toumani Ture/Mali, Zuma/RSA Museveni/Uganda, Abdul Aziz/Mauritanie, Nguesso/C-Brazzaville) taking a different position; subsequently, the AU five-point roadmap, which included a ceasefire, the protection of civilians, humanitarian aid, dialogue, and an inclusive transitional period, meeting the aspirations of the Libyan people gathered much criticism. The AU’s mediation proposals were rejected by the Libyan opposition (Transnational National Council), which insisted on Gaddafi’s departure. Similarly, the AU has also been criticized for having mismanaged the quick resolution of the conflict in Côte d’Ivoire, among others, by not being forthright in supporting the ECOWAS position on intervention. The situation in Côte d’Ivoire showed that the AU Panel lacked a coherent strategy. The AU’s choice to send Thabo Mbeki to resolve the dispute between Gbagbo and Ouattara in December 2010 failed on two accounts. First, Mbeki did not combine efforts with ECOWAS. Second, South Africa was seen as a peacemaker that often opted for a pro-government (in this case pro-Gbagbo) approach. Similarly, Raila Odinga compromised his neutrality as a mediator when he supported military action prior to confirmation by ECOWAS. President Bingu wa Mutharika visit to Côte d’Ivoire in an effort to salvage the declining role of the AU proved unsuccessful and Teodora Nguema was considered too controversial to be involved in the resolution of the crisis because of his questionable human rights credentials. The AU attempts at a peaceful resolution of the Côte d’Ivoire crisis was hampered many times by internal divisions between the Member States that undermined the credibility of the AU as the main political mediator. These divisions were reflected within the AU mediation team.11

Footnotes:

  • 1 Ndiho, P. (2010): “African Union Plays a Significant Role in Conflict Resolution. Retrieved from http://www.vipiafrica.com/2010/11/african-l.22/08/12.
  • 2 Rodt, A.P. (2011) “The African Mission in Burundi: The successful management of violent ethnopolitical conflict?”, Ethnopolitics Papers, 10: 1-27;
  • 3 Murithi, T. (2008) “The African Union’s evolving role in peace operations: The African Union Mission in Burundi, the African Union Mission in Sudan and the African Union Mission in Somalia”, African Security Review, 17(1): 69-82
  • 4 Africa Briefing Report (2011) “The African Union’s role in the Libya and Côte d’Ivoire conflicts”, Brussels – 16 May
  • 5 Rodt, A.P. (2011) “The African Mission in Burundi: The successful management of violent ethnopolitical conflict?”, Ethnopolitics Papers, 10: 1-27;
  • 6 Kutesa, S.K. (2009) “Peace and Conflict Resolution in Africa”. Paper presented by the Ugandan Foreign Affairs Minister in JICA, Tokyo, Japan, June.
  • 7 Nikitin, B.S. (2010) “Report: The Positive Impact of African Union Forces on Darfur”, Student Pulse, 2(1): 1-3.
  • 8 Marangio, R. (2012) “The Somali crisis: Failed state and international intervention”, Istituto Affari Internazionali Working Papers 12-15, May
  • 9 Kutesa, S.K. (2009) “Peace and Conflict Resolution in Africa”. Paper presented by the Ugandan Foreign Affairs Minister in JICA, Tokyo, Japan, June.
  • 10 Africa Briefing Report (2011) “The African Union’s role in the Libya and Côte d’Ivoire conflicts”, Brussels – 16 May
  • 11 Africa Briefing Report (2011) “The African Union’s role in the Libya and Côte d’Ivoire conflicts”, Brussels – 16 May

REFERENCE

  • Africa Briefing Report (2011). “The African Union’s role in the Libya and Côte d’Ivoire conflicts”, Brussels – 16 May.
  • Boka, L. (2012). “Impact of the North African Revolutions on sub-Saharan Africa”. Open Society AfriMAP.
  • Dalacoura, K. (2011). “Democratization: Uprising, Violence and Reform”. London School of Economics and Political Science.
  • Kutesa, S.K. (2009) “Peace and Conflict Resolution in Africa”. Paper presented by the Ugandan Foreign Affairs Minister in JICA, Tokyo, Japan, June.
  • Marangio, R. (2012) “The Somali crisis: Failed state and international intervention”, Istituto Affari Internazionali Working Papers 12-15, May.
  • Murithi, T. (2008) “The African Union’s evolving role in peace operations: The African Union Mission in Burundi, the African Union Mission in Sudan and the African Union Mission in Somalia”, African Security Review, 17(1): 69-82.
  • Ndiho, P. (2010): “African Union Plays a Significant Role in Conflict Resolution”. Retrieved from http://www.vipiafrica.com/2010/11/african-l.22/08/12.
  • Nikitin, B.S. (2010) “Report: The Positive Impact of African Union Forces on Darfur”, Student Pulse, 2(1): 1-3.
  • Richards, C (1995). “Algeria Uses Emergency Laws to Fight Islamic Group”. The Independent London.
  • Rodt, A.P. (2011) “The African Mission in Burundi: The successful management of violent ethnopolitical conflict?”, Ethnopolitics Papers, 10: 1-27
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