Peace in Africa: Towards a Collaborative Security Regime

From the League of Nations to the United Nations to the regionalisation of security, one has witnessed the trend from collective security to collaborative security mechanisms and structures. While the earlier approaches to security focused more on collective security and responses to inter-sate conflict and upheld the motto ‘an attack on one is an attack on us all’, the changing international context with the end of the Cold War and increased intra-state conflict ushered in the more cooperative response to security as embraced by the global trend of regionalism. This trend has been largely prevalent in trade and economic considerations; however, the benefits of regionalism in these sectors have promoted the move towards a collaborative framework of security. At the same time, while these benefits did indeed play a contributory role in this move towards regionalisation of security, it was also largely based on the understanding that conflict undermines economic growth and thus preventing and managing conflict is vital for economic stability. Africa is currently building the blocks for a collaborative security regime in Africa as enshrined in the principles of the African Union’s (AU’s) Peace and Security Council. It is therefore timely that a book analysing the prospects for collaborative security in Africa is produced.

In essence, the book provides an overview of approaches to collaborative security as adopted by regional organisations across the world, and assesses the lessons learned and best practices which may inform the development of Africa’s security mechanism. While the book largely espouses the benefits of such a security regime, it does provide some reflection on the challenges of designing and implementing such a security structure. The emphasis is placed on military structures for collaborative security and dedicates a large portion of the book on the prospects for developing an African Standby Force as key to this security regime.

The first chapter by Gavin Cawthra discusses the security arrangements in the context of the end of the Cold War, globalisation and post-September 11, and how these developments have further encouraged sub-regional organisations to undertake security functions. He further provides an assessment whether the AU’s Peace and Security Council contains elements of collaborative or common security, or both. Cawthra argues that in practice security management in Africa should harmonise sub-regional and regional structures. Anthoni van Nieuwkerk provides an analysis of the security mechanisms of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), the AU and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and discusses the prospects for the Peace and Security Council in establishing a collaborative security framework in which he stresses that political will is vital for the success of Africa’s security structures.

The third chapter by Laurie Nathan provides a strong case for mediation as an important element of the Peace and Security Council. This chapter is a fresh perspective on the components of a security structure, moving away from a purely military response to security. Nathan gives a practical guide for the location of a mediation unit and how it could function in the AU.

The next three chapters focus on security regimes from South America, the Gulf, Asia, Europe and Africa and how these structures may provide lessons for the development of Africa’s collaborative security structure. Greg Mills, Garth Shelton and Lyal White consider the security regimes of the Americas, Asia and the Gulf, highlighting the similarities between these region’s security context and dimensions and Africa’s, and emphasising the importance placed on confidence-building between members and the successes of this approach. Bjorn Muller considers the security arrangements of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), the European Union (EU), and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). While Muller highlights the successes of these organisations, he cautions against Africa “uncritically emulating the European experience”. An observation, which, in essence, is applicable to all comparisons, applied to developing Africa’s security structure. An example from Africa presented is that of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in which Festus Agoagye outlines the institutional and procedural shortcomings of this structure, but also highlights that ECOWAS’s strength lies in its members’ sustained political will and commitment to deal with sub-regional security issues.

The development and establishment of an African Standby Force is the focus of chapters 7, 8 and 9. While for the most part the arguments presented are in favour of the establishment and operationalisation of such a force, critical issues for consideration are highlighted for the success of such a security response for Africa. Mark Malan discusses the operationalisation of an African Standby Force drawing attention to the importance of UN-AU collaboration for Africa’s security structure, but also providing alternative options to a standby force. In chapter 8, Roger Kibasomba provides options for financing the African Standby Force, as well as generating funds for the AU’s Peace Fund. In essence, Kibasomba argues that while international contributions to the AU’s Peace Fund are required, Africa too can fund the Peace Fund.

As with the implementation of any activity, structure and programme, logistical considerations are vital for success and sustainability. Tsepe Motumi correctly argues in chapter 9 the importance of logistics in preparation, planning and implementation of an African Standby Force and provides a clear discussion on the logistical considerations for such a structure. He also adds a further element on the contribution South Africa can make to the standby force.

Rok Ajulu provides the final chapter and concentrates on how regional organisations, specifically the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), may play a role and contribute to Africa’s security system. He concurs with van Nieuwkerk on the importance of political will for sustaining a security structure in Africa, and in his argument that IGAD has lost credibility, Ajulu provides some lessons for developing this structure.

The book presents clear arguments advocating an African security regime, particularly the African Standby Force; however, further clarification on terms like ‘collective’, ‘common’ and ‘collaborative’ would have been relevant. Overall, the book is very informative and, as indicated earlier, a timely contribution for policy-makers and others to consider while developing Africa’s security structures.

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