Rwanda

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UN Peacekeeping Operations in Africa

by Vladimír Kváča
Jan Masaryk Centre of International Studies, University of Economics, Prague

From the total of all 60 UN peacekeeping operations in history, a considerable number (over 38 %) took or takes place in Africa. Particularly in the post-Cold War era, became Africa a permanent challenge for UN peacekeeping attempts. Attitude of the United Nations Security Council (UN SC) towards the security situation in Africa have evolved in time, but the performance of UN peacekeeping in Africa is widely considered to be poor. The aim of this paper is to provide an overview of UN peacekeeping activities in Africa, a region that is so much torn by violence, and to discuss the ways of cooperation between the UN and regional organization like the African Union (AU) or the Economic Community of the West African States (ECOWAS) on the field of peacekeeping.

A Brief Overview of the UN Operations in Africa

For a long time, the only UN operation in Africa was the United Nations Operation in the Congo (ONUC)[1] in 1960 - 1964. This is not due to a lack of situations, which could need a UN activity, but the effect of the Cold War situation. Both Cold War blocks had their own interests in Africa and it was unlikely to reach a consensus in the UN SC to run a peacekeeping mission in response to civil wars in Mozambique, Angola or Ethiopia. As a result, of the present total of 23 UN operations in Africa have 22 taken place in the post-Cold War era. The number of UN peacekeeping activities in each particular year can be seen from the Chart 1.

The end of the Cold War brought a rapid growth in quantity of UN activities in Africa. Soon after, unsuccessful withdrawal from Somalia and failure to stop the genocide in Rwanda led to the retrenchment and reassessment of UN operations in Africa[2]. Major powers in the UN SC retreated from their initial post-Cold War enthusiasm for engagement in African conflicts. Simultaneously, a debate about possible increased cooperation with regional organizations emerged. New boom of UN peacekeeping missions in Africa came at the beginning of the 21st century, possibly as an indirect result of worldwide war against terrorism.

Tasks of Missions

All but two operations have dealt with internal conflicts. Exceptions are present monitoring mission in the Ethiopian-Eritrean conflict and a tiny operation to oversee the withdrawal of the Libyan forces from Chadian Aouzou strip according to the Judgement of the International Court of Justice (only 9 military observers, supported by 6 civilian staff). In general, most operations have been associated with some previous form of peace agreement. This resulted into following predominant tasks: monitoring the withdrawal of troops from a given area, monitoring a cease-fire, overseeing and implementing disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of forces, protection of civilian populations, including refugees or internally displaced persons (IDPs), and overseeing elections[3]. In three countries the UN SC authorized operations in the absence of any peace agreement. These operations include the first mission in Congo (ONUC), all operations in Somalia, and UNOMSIL in Sierra Leone. Results of these operations were more or less bad. In connection to ONUC, the UN secretary-general lost his life, from Somalia the UN had to withdraw without any success, and in the case of Sierra Leone was rebels’ overran of the capital followed with withdrawing of most of the UN forces.

The Mandates

As the attitude of the UN SC towards Africa varied, so did the mandates of operations described in UN SC resolutions. Majority of missions was established according the UN Charter Chapter VI only, which means these missions had been authorized to use the force only for purposes of self-defence. In three cases (both operations in Congo and the UNAMSIL in Sierra Leone) the mandate was enlarged by Chapter VII...
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