Conflict Trends 1999/4

From peacekeeping to complex emergencies: Peace support missions in Africa

Book Review

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on whatsapp
Share on email

The main thrust of this book is the pursuit of consensus around a standard African peacekeeping doctrine. In the first article, Cilliers and Mills do an excellent job in introducing the reader to the harsh realities that characterise conflicts and their resolution.

The article paints a picture of distress and waning interest in peacekeeping throughout the world, specifically in Africa. A point is made of how violent conflicts have increased while a sharp and consistent decrease in the commitment of human and financial resources towards their resolution is recorded. The authors further analyse the impact of this phenomenon on subregional peacekeeping and South African participation in particular.

Malan’s article provides the background and institutional arrangements of peace-keeping at international, regional and subregional levels. What Malan captures well are the discouraging and impossible conditions that frustrate regional security efforts. The author proposes that, in order to meet challenges posed by conflicts, membership to regional arrangements is reconsidered, organisational focus is looked into and organisational structures are revisited.

Neethling gives a clear analysis of the role of the United Nations and regional organisations in maintaining security within the UN Charter. The article portrays the incapacity of the UN as having led to the inevitable option of forging regional partnerships. The conditions of the partnership are that regional organisations execute the hardcore peacekeeping functions while the UN will play a limited role of observation and monitoring. The author cites the ECOMOG scenario as best reinforcing his hypothesis and analysis.

A probing article in the book is penned by Landsberg who boldly charges against wholesale acceptance of conventional peacekeeping as characterised by huge coalitions of multilateral and regional forces. Citing different cases, the author convinces the reader that, for different reasons, the financially able countries are unwilling to undertake peacekeeping, whereas the financially unable are much more willing. The author proposes that smaller and ad hoc coalitions are considered that would complement the already existing regional arrangements. On a note of restraint, Landsberg cautions that this option would work well when supplemented by other arrangements aimed at addressing conflicts comprehensively. The author then suggests the revisitation of the idea of a Conference on Security, Stability and Development Co-operation in Africa, considering the political hurdles it would encounter.

An article by Ero looks at the advent of subregional peacekeeping by looking at ECOMOG. The article provides an understanding of the problems faced by the regional force around consensus among member states. The debate around the ‘able-willing’ issue comes to the fore again to illustrate the problem of decision-making around participation or involvement. The article also looks at the role of ECOMOG in the resolution of the civil war in Sierra Leone and Guinea-Bissau. The author concludes with the declaration that, despite many problems that besiege the group, it will remain intact, as it is an embodiment of the belief that Africans are able to mobilise own solutions to own challenges.

Kwesi Aning’s article traces the evolution of the balance between economic and security agendas within ECOWAS. The article provides an analysis of the ECOWAS institutional development path in preparation for effective response to conflicts. The article sheds light on the complicated task of synchronising the efforts of the different and individual units into a coherent and effective organisation towards unity of effort and purpose. According to Kwesi Aning, a few institutional attributes led to failed decision-making, among them institutional structures themselves. The author commends efforts to strengthen the organisation, and points to future areas of concentration as early warning, the understanding of local dynamics and risk-mapping.

Hutchful, in his article on Ghana’s army in Liberia, specifically looks at ‘mean peacekeeping’ as the new characterisation of peacekeeping. The limited supply of resources, the lack of decisive cohesion and disunity among regional players are advanced by the author as the main reasons why the latest trend in peacekeeping is towards ‘backyard’ peacekeeping. The article makes some suggestions on the positive impact that participation in ECOMOG had on the Ghanaian army, including healthy civil-military relations and the overall institutional recomposition of the army. Exploring lean peacekeeping, Hutchful observes that the call for regional peacekeeping will or is polarising the peacekeeping community into two camps, one providing the labour and the other the resources.

Sibanda’s article articulates the intricacies of the UN Verification Mission in Angola and reasons for its success and shortcomings. The author, based on experience, asserts the important and supreme role that the UN should continue to play in theatres of conflict and encourages more commitment to its contribution towards global security. The next article in the book is by Nhlapo who maps out South Africa’s peacekeeping policy. The article outlines the country’s progress with promulgating policies, building capacity and institutional structures for peacekeeping. The author also unveils the country’s peacekeeping policy as contained in the white paper on the country’s participation in peace missions. According to the author, the policy prescribes, as a means to resolve conflicts, reliance on preventive diplomacy and the addressing of the root causes of conflicts should these get out of hand.

Another thought-provoking article is by Cilliers who declares subregional peacekeeping as a project driven by the United States. The author deduces that the rush of offers for peacekeeping capacity-building to developing countries is aimed at equipping these countries and regions to do their own backyard peacekeeping. The author further observes that these capacity-building projects, when reaching fruition, will bypass the UN in order to take action. The author rejects these projects as unsuitable for Africa because of their state-centric nature; instead, he seems to suggest a back-to-basics approach looking at domestic security through healthy civil-military relations and the construction of sound justice systems. Furthering this argument, the author is of the opinion that regional security should not be forced upon regions as is the case now, but should be a project pursued after the achievement of domestic security and the creation of chances of mutual need and benefit.

Williams’ article deals with how non-consensual peace missions pose challenges to Southern African countries. The author looks at the development of African peacekeeping capacity-building ventures and responses to these by African countries. The most important part of the article is the articulation of South African peacekeeping philosophy and motivations behind it. The author does this by tracing the development of the country’s White Paper on Peace Missions and outlining the key principles that will determine participation. Williams concludes that, with the above setting the stage, it is unlikely that South Africa will take part in peace missions where consent has not been secured.

The book is an excellent offer that draws attention to a continental search for a peacekeeping doctrine relevant to the African theatre of conflict. It provides insights into institutional issues in need of attention to ensure capability to operationalise such a doctrine. The book should be of good use to all those concerned with meaningful peacekeeping capacity-building with the aim to meet the challenges of the unrelenting African conflict scene. The book will be of value to observers of peacekeeping, specifically in the Southern African region. The book raises points of discussion on methods of keeping, enforcing and making peace and therefore should shape future debates on the subject.