27 January 2013

Cameroon: Inadequate Conflict Management Mechanisms

The African Union has devised ways of handling conflicts at sub-regional level that are yet to live up to expectations.

The defunct Organisation of African Unity, OAU decided at the 1976 Council of Ministers meeting to split Africa into five regions along Regional Economic Community lines. Regional bodies and leaders had realised that the endemic insecurity and instability in their regions were major impediments to integration and development.

Thus, the founding of the African Union, AU in 2002, brought with it the promise of a more robust African regional security mechanism capable of addressing and coordinating responses to various challenges facing the continent.

AU Peace Architecture:

The African Peace and Security Architecture, PSA, has as centrepiece the African Standby Force, ASF that is composed of five regional standby brigades. These are the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS Standby Force, the East African Standby Force, the Southern African Development Community, SADC Brigade, the Central African Multinational Force, FOMAC, and the North African Standby Brigade, NARC. Their role is to provide support to political missions and robust military interventions to prevent genocide. All four Sub-Saharan African brigades have taken initial steps towards becoming operational, but the North African Standby Brigade has made considerably less progress towards achieving full operational capability. None of the brigades is currently capable of conducting the range of operations contained in ASF's mandate without significant external support - in terms of financial resources, training, logistical assistance and equipment.

Peacekeeping Successes:

The AU's first peacekeeping mission was deployed to Burundi in 2003 in support of international efforts to end the country's long-running civil war. This was followed in 2004 by a UN operation. In 2004, the African Union Mission in Sudan, AMIS, was deployed in response to the conflict in Darfur. The AU in 2008 also authorised the Tanzanian-led intervention in The Comoros to settle a leadership dispute. The African Union Mission in Somalia, AMISOM, has over the past five years gradually seized large swathes of territory from Al-Shabab militants. On the other hand, ECOWAS in the 1990s helped to restore peace and stability in Liberia and Sierra Leone and currently has a stabilisation force in Guinea Bissau. With the support of other African nations, ECOWAS is currently helping Malian and French troops to recapture northern Mali from rebels.

The Economic Community of Central African States, ECCAS, since 2008 deployed MICOPAX in the Central African Republic under the Central African ASF Brigade, FOMAC. The force was reinforced earlier this month after Sèléka rebels overran most of the country, threatening to overthrow the government of President François Bozizé. The East African Standby Force that is supported by 10 East African countries, is currently assisting AMISOM through the deployment of staff officers to AMISOM's headquarters in Mogadishu.

Peacekeeping Challenges:

They include increasingly dangerous and complex conflict environments in which African peacekeepers are serving, systemic weaknesses within African militaries and insufficient resources, equipment, capacity and logistics.

There has also been a resurgence of conflicts in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, Guinea Bissau, the Central African Republic and Mali. There is therefore urgent need to accelerate the operationalisation of the African Standby Force, admits AU Commission Chairperson, Dr Nkosazana Dlamini Zuma.

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