Success and Failures of Peacekeeping Operation in Africa

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Peacekeeping, carried out by the United Nations (UN), is a crucial function that aids conflict-ridden countries and acts as an influential tool for establishing lasting peace in the face of constantly changing political circumstances. Currently, Africa faces some of the most challenging global conflicts.

The necessity of peacekeeping missions in Africa arises from various factors, including the region’s history of colonialism and conflict. The weakening of state institutions in countries like Liberia, Somalia, Sierra Leone, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) occurred simultaneously with the end of the Cold War. Conflicts intensified due to disagreements over valuable resources like diamonds in Sierra Leone and gold and cobalt in the DRC. As a result, guerilla warfare involving mercenaries, warlords, militias, and child soldiers emerged as a consequence of these disputes.

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During the 1990s, Africa faced a major issue as a large quantity of weapons and small arms were imported from Eastern Europe, resulting in conflict. The absence of a central governing authority in numerous African nations led to unrest and armed violence, causing instability. As a result, Africa acquired the derogatory nickname “The Dark Continent.” This problem was particularly prevalent in West Africa due to well-established cultural and trade connections that extended beyond national boundaries. To tackle this chaotic situation, the international community frequently dispatches peacekeeping troops.

The United Nations encounters difficulties in its peacekeeping endeavors in Africa, as demonstrated by the crisis in Darfur and the unstable governments in Sierra Leone, Angola, and the DRC. Among the 63 peacekeeping missions established globally by the UN, 44 are exclusively assigned to Africa. Although certain missions have achieved success, there are instances where their initial duration has been surpassed without accomplishing their intended objectives.

Between 1997 and 2009, the United Nations (UN) experienced a significant increase in peacekeeping missions specifically in Africa compared to other continents. Africa has seen a total of 41 UN Peacekeeping Missions since 1948. According to the Henry L. Stimson Center’s report titled “African Capacity-Building for Peace Operations, UN Collaboration with the African Union and ECOWAS,” by the beginning of 2005, around 50,000 out of the global total of 65,000 UN peacekeepers were located in Africa. The report also examines both the achievements and shortcomings of these UN peacekeeping missions on the African continent.

There are a variety of UN missions in Africa that have either achieved their objectives and ended their operations or are still ongoing without significant advancements.

An exemplary example of a successful mission is the African Union – United Nation Hybrid Operation In Darfur (UNAMID). Recently, there have been multiple meetings involving the Sudanese Government, rebel groups, international organizations, and other countries. The primary focus of these discussions is to find political solutions to the conflict in Darfur, enhance security measures, guarantee unrestricted movement, encourage development initiatives, and improve accessibility to water resources.

In July 2011, a peace conference was held in Doha, Qatar, hosted by the UN, AU, and the Arab League. After six weeks of negotiations, the Sudanese government and the Liberation and Justice Movement (LJM) signed a peace agreement. While U.S. and UN officials support this accord, they emphasize the need for ongoing engagement between the Sudanese Government and rebel forces to prevent setbacks.

The establishment of the Darfur Joint Assessment Mission is considered successful as it will identify and evaluate the region’s needs for economic recovery, development, and poverty reduction according to the Doha Agreement.

Nevertheless, there are still significant challenges ahead as other rebel groups like the Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) have rejected this agreement. Furthermore, Chad and Sudan have reached their own peace agreement to improve border security in Darfur which previously faced issues with armed militias supported by mercenaries linked to its regime.

Muammar Qaddafi of Libya, the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNIMISS), and two countries, Sudan and South Sudan, have been engaged in negotiations since June. The process has been slow and somewhat counter-productive; however, it is crucial for both countries to reach an agreement on persisting issues to stabilize South Sudan. This negotiation process began in June after the Security Council’s warning in April that sanctions would be imposed if a comprehensive agreement is not brokered by August 2.

The process moved slowly over the summer, but in August of South Sudan recommended payment for oil exports, which Sudan agreed to on the condition of tighter border security. The agreement is still awaiting finalization. In August, an interim agreement was established based on this provision, leading the Security Council to extend the deadline for imposing sanctions until September 22. Negotiations resumed on September 5, with both countries and mediators hoping that these talks would establish a foundation for peaceful relations and the resumption of oil flow.

Progress has been made as on Aug. 31, the two countries agreed to resume flights between their capitals, which were halted in April. The discussions will mainly focus on finalizing the agreement on oil in Abyei and the demilitarized tenants.

In terms of UN missions, there have been two failures:

  • The United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL): In October 2011, Liberia conducted presidential elections. UNMIL closely collaborated with the National Electoral Commission and the Liberia National Police to ensure fairness and security throughout the country. By March 2012, a reduction in troop numbers from 15,000 to 8,000 was authorized by the Security Council as part of its phase three disengagement plan for UNMIL. As it enters this new phase, the mission’s priorities will increasingly shift towards infrastructure development and governance to uphold peace and decrease reliance on humanitarian aid.
  • On June 8th, due to post-election conflicts in Cote d’Ivoire, conflict erupted along Liberia’s eastern border. To address ongoing unrest, meetings have been arranged between representatives from Liberia and Cote d’Ivoire by UNOCI and UNMIL.

UNMIL reallocated peacekeepers to the border to better handle the situation, while also continuing its plans to shift control over to Liberian authorities. The United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) initially focused on the disagreement between Morocco and the Frente Polisario regarding the voting rights of Moroccan settlers in Western Sahara and exiled Sahrawis in Algeria. They aimed to resolve this through a voter identification process, but Morocco rejected the project’s results. In 1997, the U.S., in conjunction with the U.N., sent former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker III as a Personal Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for Western Sahara.

The Baker Plans, put forth in 2000 and 2003, aimed to find a compromise between the involved parties but were ultimately rejected. The first proposal suggested granting autonomy to Western Sahara within Morocco, while the second plan proposed a period of self-rule as an interim solution. However, both plans were met with rejection from the Frente Polisario and Morocco respectively. Frustrated with the lack of progress, Baker resigned in 2004.

In late April 2012, Ambassador Ross initiated informal talks between the two parties but they proved unsuccessful. Recognizing that tensions persisted, the Secretary General requested an additional 15 military observers to enhance the monitoring capabilities of the mission consisting of 228 members.

Meanwhile, in early May 2012, Resolution 2046 was passed by the Security Council calling for Sudan and South Sudan to withdraw their forces from Abyei.

Both parties, South Sudan and Sudan, adhered to the resolution set by the Security Council. South Sudan withdrew its troops by May 15th, and Sudan also withdrew its troops by May 30th. Nevertheless, there are still 100 Sudanese policemen stationed in the disputed area, which contradicts the Security Council’s resolution. In early June 2012, both countries resumed negotiations to address unresolved matters from the 2005 Comprehensive Peace Agreement. These matters encompass border demarcation, distribution of oil revenues, and determination of citizenship status for South Sudanese individuals residing in Sudan.

Despite the lack of progress in discussions, the presence of unresolved issues suggests that violence will continue to affect the relationship between Sudan and South Sudan.

The problems, issues, and challenges faced by UN peacekeeping operations in Africa are discussed.

A major problem arises when a government does not fully recognize the legitimacy of a peace process sponsored by the UN or only partially acknowledges it, leading to complications in the UN’s relationship with that government.

The United Nations (UN) has demonstrated effectiveness in multiple areas of early peace-building. This includes assisting with an all-inclusive political process, aiding in the establishment of a constitution, and organizing elections. The UN’s success can be attributed to three key factors:
a) It is grounded in a peace agreement that the UN helped negotiate.
b) The UN works closely with a transitional government that emerged from the agreement and derives its legitimacy from it.
c) The UN actively engages with important stakeholders and civil society organizations involved in implementing the agreement. This approach enhances the credibility, legitimacy, and persuasive power of the UN, encouraging parties to uphold international standards. However, circumstances may differ in Libya and South Sudan, potentially affecting the relationship between these governments and the UN. Despite this, both governments have agreed to allow for the presence of the UN.

Additionally, the UN is valued in Libya for its past assistance in achieving independence in 1951 and its recent authorization of a no-fly zone. Similarly, in South Sudan, the UN is appreciated for its extensive involvement and recent efforts in organizing the referendum. In both countries, there is also a native transitional process in place, and the emerging governments do not face a lack of legitimacy inherent to their positions, unlike previous situations where the UN has intervened. These governments have already garnered significant legitimacy by staunchly defending their respective national causes.

The NTC is credited with leading the fight against an oppressor, while the SPLM Government is recognized for leading a liberation movement. It remains uncertain how this situation will impact the governments’ interactions with the UN in the near future and if they will be willing to collaborate fully on their respective responsibilities. In Libya, the NTC’s choice to hold elections within eight months contradicts the valuable lesson the UN has learned from previous experiences; that is, elections are more likely to succeed when appropriate preparation is done and haste is avoided.

It is unclear whether the United Nations was consulted on this matter, but this decision demonstrates that Libya wants to pursue its own path on certain important matters in the transition, without seeking guidance. Another challenge is the viability of the political process. If the government, which the UN is supposed to assist, lacks enough representation to garner popular support for the transitional process, it could create favorable conditions for spoilers who could undermine the entire process.

The UN may encounter this challenge in Libya or South Sudan if the transitional government lacks autonomy to fully implement UNSMIL’s mandate and lacks legitimacy to gain popular support. Another challenge is the issue of national ownership, a principle emphasized by the UN and a goal of all peace operations.

In the instances of Libya and South Sudan, where the matter of the government’s legitimacy differs from other situations, and where the majority of the UN’s focus will be on delicate endeavors like state-building and democratization, it becomes even more crucial to guarantee that this objective is not merely mentioned without proper action. Both countries will need to advance their nations in their own time, without external pressures or interference.

International actors who have a stake in their interests will expect quick results and have their own ideas about what should be prioritized and how things should be done. UNMISS and UNSMIL must consistently emphasize that these processes take time to achieve lasting sustainability. Another challenge is the UN’s ability to carry out its mandate for long-term state-building. UN peace operations have gained extensive experience in establishing provisional governments, managing elections, and in certain situations, creating constitutions.

Although these entities have had limited success due to their inferior equipment and inconsistent track record, they have been less effective in constructing efficient institutions. The United Nations (UN) focuses mainly on peace-building shortly after a conflict rather than long-term state-building, though it has gained valuable insights from its limited state-building experiences. One important lesson learned is that the prescriptive approach used in the Balkans and similar situations does not work effectively, highlighting the significance of national ownership during the state-building process.

The UN’s expertise lies in facilitating and supporting state-building efforts by collaborating with partners, rather than directly engaging in peace-building tasks. It is essential to address the long-term priorities of peace-building immediately after a conflict concludes. Despite this, the effectiveness of the UN’s role in preparing for state-building remains uncertain. In South Sudan, there is a call for increased involvement from the UN in peace-building, particularly regarding assistance with establishing a national army.

However, the challenge of achieving multiple objectives has been demonstrated in countries like the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Even with active involvement from bilateral donors and a prioritization of national ownership, it can still be difficult. In some cases, assigning multiple mandates to the UN, as seen in UNMISS, is one approach. While its main goal is peace-building, the mission also plays an important part in military operations and protecting civilians.

In order to carry out its multiple and complex responsibilities, the mission must address the issue of capacity and resources, especially during a time of financial restraint. Initially, UNSMIL was assigned to provide urgent support in various areas such as security, transitional process, elections, governance, human rights, and early recovery. However, it is possible that its mandate may become narrower and more achievable. Nonetheless, the question remains of how the mission will address the other needs beyond its mandate.
Moreover, in the current financial environment, there is a challenge of fulfilling peace-building mandates with limited funds. UNMISS, a peacekeeping mission, benefits from being funded through assessed contributions. However, concerns about resources still hinder its activities. On the other hand, UNSMIL, a special political mission, faces an additional challenge of securing funding.

Lack of economic and political resources is hindering the progress of the process. The situation in Darfur and the political challenges faced by the peacekeeping operation highlight the crisis within. Darfur depends entirely on the support of the international community for its survival. Despite the reformation of the peacekeeping force into an AU/UN hybrid force in January 2008, aimed at achieving optimal efficiency, it has been unable to gather enough personnel for deployment in the troubled region.

There was an understanding among those involved that Africa and most Third World states would provide manpower while the West would offer logistical support. However, both manpower and logistics have not been fully provided for the force. The future of UN peacekeeping missions in Africa appears to be uncertain as the UN ‘peacekeeping family’ will likely be hesitant to intervene in African crises. Alternatively, Africa could choose to form regional coalitions to handle its peace support operations.

However, in order for Africans to effectively utilize their peacekeeping capacity, it is crucial to establish a strong military alliance. Merely participating minimally in secure UN missions will not suffice. African nations can only achieve significant progress in peacekeeping when they openly recognize the prevalence of national interests, accept a certain level of bias, and are willing to utilize force against armed resistance that challenges a legitimate mandate. Unfortunately, only a few countries are willing to acknowledge and act upon this reality, let alone make the necessary sacrifices for a more substantial intervention approach.

Dr Salim Ahmed Salim, Secretary General of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), stated in his opening address to the Second Meeting of the Chiefs of Defence Staff of Member States of the OAU Central Organ that OAU Member States must not rely on the International Community to prioritize their problems or provide solutions. Salim emphasized that they can no longer afford to stand apart and expect outside assistance when many of the problems are of their own creation.

The truth we must acknowledge today is that the world does not owe us a living. We must take action to prevent conflicts from spiraling out of control. This is particularly evident in the ongoing debate about the future of peacekeeping in Africa. The focus is increasingly on efforts to strengthen African capabilities for conducting peace operations. The deployment of UN peacekeeping troops has been fraught with difficulties, as decisions require unanimous agreement from the Security Council’s five permanent members (United States, Great Britain, France, Russia, and China). This often makes it impossible to rapidly deploy UN forces. In fact, the number of UN forces in Africa decreased between October 2006 and October 2007. While these factors may contribute to the failure of peacekeeping operations in Africa, there are likely other reasons at play as well.

While some interventions have prevented conflicts, the imposed solutions often only address the military aspect without resolving the root causes of Africa’s conflicts. The UN, the European Union, and the African Union are primarily focused on peacekeeping and peace building, neglecting the origins of conflicts such as disputes over grazing land or seasonal water in various parts of Africa. Urgent attention is needed for rehabilitating and reconstructing infrastructure following violent conflicts.

The urban population in African countries has experienced significant growth in recent decades. However, essential infrastructures such as water supply, power supply, transport systems, offices, and houses are easily rendered inoperable or destroyed, while the process of rebuilding them is slow and expensive. Furthermore, the destruction of roads, bridges, ports, and airfields hampers communication, distribution, integration, and social unity. In addition to this, conflict also dismantles the networks that promote political and social cohesion. Therefore, rebuilding these networks is crucial for restoring and sustaining peace.

In order to avoid reigniting hostility, it is crucial to use punishment and pardon cautiously when embarking on post-conflict peace building. Additionally, reintegration programs must prioritize education, employment, and social equity in order to have a meaningful impact. Insufficient attention to human security has been a major obstacle in effectively addressing security issues in Africa and finding solutions. However, progress has been made in resolving some issues through visits and engagement by delegations from the Department of Security Council.

During a visit to rule-of-law institutions, there was a need for support for the upcoming establishment of justice hubs. This support was crucial in order to extend State authority throughout the country and combat the threat posed by international drug traffickers. The discussion on the progress made by the world body in promoting peace and stability in the region focused on Cote d’Ivoire, which had recently encountered cross-border issues with Liberia, as stated in a news release from UNOWA.

Furthermore, the convening of a high-level meeting on the Sahel during the recent General Debate of the General Assembly by Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was praised. The meeting helped to increase awareness about the challenges facing the region and led to greater international concern for the Sahel’s urgent and long-term needs. Addressing the electoral situation in Sierra-Leone, the UN officials emphasized the significance of the upcoming presidential, parliamentary, and local elections on 17 November in promoting the country’s journey towards complete representative democracy.

They fully supported UNIPSIL in assisting national and local efforts to promote dialogue and ensure violence-free elections. The conclusion is that UN peacekeeping operations in Africa have undergone significant changes, necessitating larger and stronger UN Forces due to the complex nature of conflicts in the present era. The Darfur conflict began in 2003, and the AU made efforts to establish a force to deal with it.

The actors involved in the Darfur conflict are heavily armed and the region is so large that it has been challenging for peacekeeping forces to efficiently operate. Due to logistical and personnel constraints, these forces have struggled to be effective. However, in 2008, with support from the international community, the force transformed into a stronger hybrid force called UNAMID. This new force is the largest United Nations mission to date. Unfortunately, UNAMID still lacks the necessary resources to adequately patrol and ensure the safety of civilians in Darfur.

All things considered, the people of Darfur are very hopeful that UNAMID possesses the necessary qualities to establish favorable conditions for lasting peace in the region. This demonstrates that the responsibility for creating peace and ending conflicts in Africa lies with the global community. However, it is crucial for the nation itself to take proactive measures to foster harmony and tranquility.


1. Ananthan S. (2012) Management Of Peacekeeping Operation Module, UPNM, Kuala Lumpur.

2. David K. C. M. (2010) Journal article Effectiveness Of United Nation’s Missions In Africa: A Comparative Assessment Of Unamsil, Monuc, And Unamid, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

USA. 3. Adebajo, Adekeye. (2000) Back to the future UN peacekeeping in Africa. International Peacekeeping, Boston, MA: Global Equality Initiative, Harvard University 4. “African Peacekeeping Operations” : Article in the Official Website of Council of Foreign Realations : 5. Official United Nation Website : Current peacekeeping operations. United Nations Peacekeeping : http:/ /Home/ Peacekeeping operations/Africa

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