Prejudice and Poverty
African Conflicts and Nigerian Peacekeeping
Africa is a mysterious continent that many in American and around the world know little about. Many people have biases and incorrect views about Africa based on the way the continent is depicted in film and through other forms of media. Different epidemics and problems that can be found in certain places in Africa like the AIDS epidemic and malnutrition is highlighted and little about the wonders of Africa is ever seen. Regardless, for the most part, these perceptions of Africa are wrong and will change as the world becomes better informed about Africa and the changes that are occurring within the continent. This paper will address African conflicts in the past and now, and it will give some suggestions as too what can be done to prevent such conflicts. It will observe the rise of African peacekeeping forces and the affects that they have had on the continent. Lastly, the paper will look more specifically at the Nigerian peacekeeping forces and through this spectrum determine to what extent African peacekeeping forces will be successful at keeping the peace and what that will mean for the future of Africa.
Africa has had many conflicts in the past and now for numerous reasons. Many of African problems have occurred due to foreign influences. For example, many tribal wars and conflicts are the direct result of colonialism because colonial nations divided African countries through ethnicity groups rather than around them. In addition, apartheid caused black oppression similar to what was seen in the United States of America, and blood diamonds, which are diamonds that are produced by a foreign company that sustains an ethnic conflict so that the production of diamonds will remain cheap, have been a problem in places like the Congo and Zimbabwe. However, other African conflicts and problems are due to other factors such as economic ones; for instance, they don’t allow for education about such problems as AIDS to effectively reach a wide enough audience so that the epidemic does not keep expanding. Also, the lack of medicine to treat the AIDS after the virus is contracted and the lack of contraceptives to help prevent the spread of AIDS in the first place is also due to economic factors.
In an article called “Natural Resources and Conflict in Africa,” Paul Collier goes into a detailed discussion in which he looked at social factors (such as inequality, and the ethnic and religious composition of a society), history (such as the time since democratic political rights) as well as economic characteristics to determine why African conflicts and civil wars have not been declining over the past thirty years like all other regions. Collier found that the dominant factors for the root of conflicts and more specifically civil wars were: the level of income, its rate of growth, and its structure. He found that if a country is poor, in economic decline, and is dependent upon natural resource exports, then it faces a substantial risk that sooner or later it will experience a civil war. Sadly, these economic characteristics are the norm in many places in Africa, so that explains why African civil wars have not declined. Furthermore, the dependence upon natural resource exports increases the risk that there will be a civil war in a given nation because citizens become detached from the government since the citizens are merely concerned with how the government taxes the natural resources as supposed to taxes in general; additionally, natural resources provide an obvious source of finance for rebel groups. Nevertheless, natural resources can also provide enormous opportunities for low-income African economies. Collier gives two contrasting examples to help to bring the issues into focus.
“Thirty years ago Botswana and Sierra Leone had the same level of per capita income. Then they both received enormous diamond income. The government of Botswana succeeded brilliantly in harnessing these revenues for economic growth for many years Botswana was not just the fastest growing economy in Africa, it was the fastest growing economy in the world… Sierra Leone had a dramatically different experience. The diamond revenues fomented violent political contests which destroyed the society. The economy collapsed, and now the country is at the bottom of the Human Development Index” (4-5).
From Collier’s study it can be seen that economics as well as the use of natural resources plays an important role in African conflict. As a result, African countries must make an asserted effort to use their natural resources to their benefits economically while not allowing it to be detrimental to their government practices in order to secure a brighter future for those involved.
After looking at African conflicts, it is equally as important to look at efficient ways to intervene in these conflicts and wars. The international community has been able to do a fair job, in some incidences like those dealing with apartheid and blood diamonds. For example, international pressure helped in putting an end to apartheid, much like it had helped to invoke change during the Civil Rights Movement of America. In addition, the international community has also black listed diamond companies whose diamonds were produced cheaply as a result of them helping to sustain a conflict between different ethnic tribes in Africa. In Greg Mills article “How to Intervene Africa’s Wars,” he speaks about the consensus reached in the Report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, The Responsibility to Protect. It was required that the threshold for outside intervention should be a grave breach of humanitarian law such as genocide or ethnic cleansing, that military intervention should always be a last resort, and that any intervention must the support of regional opinion and obtain multilateral authorization. This report might seem conservative to the untrained eyed because it says that military intervention should always be a last resort, as if there are many better or more effective options; nevertheless, it is important also to realize the huge causalities that can occur as a result of rushed and poorly planned military action. Along with, it allows for other methods of intervention to be used before deaths have to occur, like intervention through diplomatic means such as compromise and negotiations.
Further into the article, Mills speaks about how:
“The Brahimi Report reflected a growing awareness of a formula for successful conflict resolution and peace-building efforts, to which the experience of South Africa and West African countries contributed. Perhaps the primary lesson from South Africa’s own transition and its experience in African conflict mediation is that successful resolution of inter-communal problems depends on the need for communities to recognize the reward of cooperating and, conversely, the costs of not doing so. For conflict resolution to succeed there has to be a real basis for an internal settlement, where the parties want peace rather than war and compromise rather than continued conflict. A way has to be found in which the major conflicting parties can simultaneously achieve essential elements of what they want. If the settlement merely puts off the day of reckoning (as, for example, if did in Angola), then mediation efforts are not going to progress far or any agreement stick for a prolonged period of time” (3).
This passage is very succinct and specific to the best ways to resolve a conflict between nations. It demonstrates that negotiation and peace talks that strive to reach a compromise, and where both parties are happy is the only way to have sustained peace. The passage indicates the great power that communication can have in resolving conflicts, and it also speaks about the importance of making sure that both parties know what they can gain as well as lose because this will allow for the countries to see the bigger picture and the consequences that could occur. By doing this, the countries will be more open to negotiation because they will not be so blinded by their demands, and peace is more likely to occur.
Along with negotiations and peace talks, peace-keeping forces are also a vital key needed in order to maintain peace in Africa. In the article “The Challenges of peace-keeping and peace-making in Africa: The Role of the United Nations and Nigeria’s contributions, Professor Ibrahim A. Gambari explains the why the role of the United Nations and Nigeria’s contributions to peace in Africa is both relevant and timely. Professor Gambari first examined the United Nations declaration, and its peace-keeping experience in Africa. The founding fathers of the United Nations made a bold declaration made a bold declaration contained in the Preamble of the Charter that “we the peoples of the United Nations (are) determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war which twice in (their) life times have brought untold sorrows to mankind.” Professor Gambari described this passage as a clear expression of the ideal of collective security. The United Nations is a relatively neutral organization that can sometimes help to bring smaller conflicts to an end and keep them from flaring anew. Over the years, the United Nations has become more modest and has more realistic objectives such as the mediation of isolated and peculiar conflicts, the monitoring of cease-fire arrangements and the separation of hostile armed forces. Professor Gambari said that he could not “imagine conflicts such as that in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo without multi-functional peace-keeping operation involving military and civilian personnel. There is a need to support these countries in finding political, settlement, in overcoming humanitarian crisis, in strengthening law and order, security and economic institutions” (2). In this passage, Professor Gambari acknowledges the fact that peace keeping is a joint effort that includes civilian and military forces working together. Also, Professor Gambari briefly suggests what has to be strengthened in order to make exact and last peace in nations with humanitarian crisis. Law and order prevents civilians from just doing what ever they want, security prevents foreigners from attacking the country and imposing their will, and economic institutions are what allow countries to move away from the poverty line, which in turn will allow them to many of the humanitarian crisis that are directly related to a nation’s economy like malnutrition, the uncontrolled spread of diseases, and other such problems.
Professor Gambari further speaks about the need to intimately link peacekeeping with peacemaking. He stated that Nambia was again an innovation for peacemaking because it proved that peacemaking is not an activity restricted only to a phase prior to the deployment of peacekeeping but it is a constant aspect of the entire peace process. This just further enhances the important of negotiations and communications between nations because this is what makes the peace, and not the deployment of peacekeeping forces. Also, from Professor Gambari’s observation of a debacle in Sierra Leone and the difficulties of deployment of peace-keepers in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, he suggests that the United Nations should match its “robust” mandates or rules of engagement with equally robust means of accomplishing them. In this passage, Professor Gambari suggests that there needs to be a balance between the rules of engagement and the means of accomplishing them.
Furthermore, Professor Gambari speaks about the challenges of peacemaking in Africa, and he argues that peace-making rather than peace-keeping is the greater challenge for the United Nations with regards to Africa. The reasons that Professor Gambari gives for this argument includes: First, and despite the resources and emotion that surround them, there are only three United Nations peace-keeping operations in Africa whereas there are about eighteen or so conflict situations in Africa. Second, peace-making efforts tend to be less glamorous but they are no less time consuming than peace-keeping and they cover more grounds in Africa with varying degrees of intensity of violence. Third, peace-making efforts are far less costly in financial, logistic and human terms but ultimately they are more enduring. Finally, even in conflicts to which United Nations send peace-keeping forces, the need for peace-making efforts do not diminish; on the contrary, they often need to be intensified as can be seen with respect to Western Sahara, Sierra Leone and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Therefore, while both current and potential United Nations Peace-keeping Operations should be focused on, broader attention needs to be paid to the challenges of United Nation peace-making in Africa which also covers preventive actions and post-conflict peace-building endeavors. In this regard, the United Nations’ peace-making efforts are unlikely to succeed unless the root causes of conflicts are properly addressed. This was highlighted in Secretary-General and current President of the United Nations Kofi Annan’s Report in April 1998; it noted that peace and developments are indeed closely inter-related. Professor Gambari makes many excellent points regarding dealing with and intervening on Africa conflicts. He made it clear that although, peacekeeping is quite essential to the peace process, peacemaking is the final goal. Kofi Annan’s quote further added to his argument, as it suggested that development would help make peace because as previously stated increase in economics as well as development will help to prevent the humanitarian crisis associated with poverty.
In the article “Africa builds its own peace forces,” Ernest Harsch speaks about the rise of African peace keeping forces and its ability to handle its own problems. In the league with the UN or on their own, African mediators, troops and civil society activists are playing an increasingly active and central role in trying to resolve the numerous conflicts that afflict their continent. They do so out of a growing sense of commitment that African must take the lead in resolving their own problems. At the annual summit meeting of the African Union (AU) in Maputo, Mozambique, in early July, Professor Maria Nzomo said that “Africa is coming of age in handling its own affairs. There’s a new sense that Africa ought to be refereeing its own disputes” (2). This passage indicates the development that has been occurring in Africa, and the fact that as soon as Africa can resolve its own conflict and make peace, it is well on its way to further development and economic success. Yet Africans also are shouldering more of the burden through sheer necessity. The permanent members of the UN Security Council – which have armies, equipment and financial resources to mount large-scale peacekeeping operations – appear very reluctant to become directly embroiled in African conflicts according to Harsch. Nevertheless, there are several thousand European and US troops currently engaged in peace missions in Africa, but for the most part under their own ad hoc arrangements and for very specific assignments, not as part of comprehensive UN peacekeeping operations.
Furthermore, the United Nation’s Secretary-General Kofi Annan in 2002 told representatives of the South Africa –based civil society group, the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD) that “they can help ensure that regional peace efforts are closely integrated with the approach of a [UN] peace operation,” he said. “They can also identify personnel for such operations and develop long-term peace-building strategies to stabilize African countries emerging from the conflicts. And, of course, they can build their won peacekeeping capacities” (2). This passage indicates that the United Nations feels that Africa is now capable of controlling their peace process and for this reason they have been somewhat reluctant to become directly involved in African conflicts. However, Harsch suggests that with limited budgets and insufficient training, equipment and transport, Africa cannot quickly develop such capabilities on its own. As ACCORD Executive Director Vasu Gounden points out, “there is a special need for strategic partnerships to develop between Africa and the international community” (2). Director Gounden realizes that Africa will soon be able to supply its own peace-keeping forces, but he still feels that Africa can use the help of the international community.
Since the early 1990s, Africa has been swept by a proliferation of armed conflicts, as many of the continent’s established military and one-party regimes have been undercut by the end of the Cold War, the growth of pro-democracy movements and an eruption of ethnic and other social tensions. From Somalia and Rwanda to Liberia, Sierra Leone, Cote D’Ivoire, Burundi, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo, hundreds of thousands have been killed outright and millions more have succumbed to war-related epidemics and starvation. All but a fraction of the victims have been civilian. For this reason, it is essential that African countries and its civilians do everything in their power own peace forces and their own peace.
Harsch’s article goes on to explain that “Traditional” peacekeeping missions were not well suited to dealing with these kinds of conflicts since they were generally set up to monitor peace agreements between established armies holding separate territories. Only the 1998-2000 border war between Ethiopia and Eritrea matched that model. Instead, most of Africa’s recent conflicts have been civil wars or insurgencies, with multiple armed factions and grievances rooted in poverty and inequality. Even when peace accords have been painstakingly negotiated, not all political and military leaders have been able to fully control their followers. In some countries, local warlords who profited from the chaos of war saw little immediate advantage in laying down their arms. For all these reasons, it is easy to see why African conflicts continue, and why something has to be done in order to stop the violence.
Nevertheless, the situation in Africa has been getting worst, especially for the international forces that are there fighting for peace. These difficulties were dramatically demonstrated by the losses suffered by US forces in Somalia in 1993, prompting that country’s unilateral withdrawal. This seriously weakened the UN peacekeeping mission, which ultimately ended without restoring national political order. The “Somalia effect” – combined with the preoccupation of the US and other NATO power with events in the Middle East and the Balkans – led to a marked decline in big-power participation in UN peacekeeping missions generally, but especially in Africa. As a result to the decline in UN participation, Africa has been forced to create its own peace-keeping forces to protect their land and African countries have attempted to work with the UN, so that together they will be bring sustained peace to Africa.
This attempt by African nations to unite with the UN is evident when one observes African’s participation in the UN. At the start of 1991, eight of the top ten contributors to UN peacekeeping missions were developed countries, but by the beginning of August 2003, one transitional country (Ukraine) was in the top ten. All the rest were from the developing world, including four African countries (Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, and South Africa). In the five UN peacekeeping missions then under way in Africa, troops, police and military observers from the Security Council’s five permanent members comprised only 2 per cent of the total personnel. At the beginning of September, 24 African states had nearly 10,000 nationals serving under the UN flag. They constituted 26 per cent of all UN peacekeepers worldwide. But nine-tenths of them were posted in Africa, where they made up 35 per cent of the five UN peacekeeping operations then under way in the continent (a sixth was subsequently established in Liberia). In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), African troops constituted nearly half of the total.
As this participation in UN peacekeeping reflects, African leaders place a high value on such internationally authorized multilateral missions. They not only bring financial, material and logistical support, but also the political credibility of the UN flag. In African conflicts where neighboring countries support or favor one side or another, the UN sometimes is perceived as more nonpartisan and therefore better able to bring the belligerents together. At the same time, African leaders are emphasizing the need to build up the continent’s own peace capacities. These include not only the ability to mount peacekeeping mission, but also to mediate political disputes before they erupt into a war, broker peace talks in ongoing conflicts and better coordinate support for countries just emerging from war. “Conflict resolution,” South African President Thabo Mbeki told the July summit, “is a top priority for the [African] Union. As a consequence, conflicts that have been raging for many years are being tackled with increased determination and many African countries are committing their own resources to conflict prevention, management and resolution.” This quotation sums up Africa’s attitude toward dealing with conflicts in this day and age; they are proactive.
However, this was not always the case. In the 1970s and 1980s, the AU’s predecessor, the Organization of African Unity (OAU), engaged in several mediation efforts and even a couple of military missions (Chad and Zaire). But for the most part the OAU Charter’s emphasis on national sovereignty and its prohibition against African state’ interference in the internal affairs of other member states made such initiatives quite difficult. Nevertheless, by the early 1960s, as more conflicts erupted across the continent, such notions began to change. According to Mr. Rugumamu, the idea of national sovereignty was gradually redefined. To some extent, it became less categorical by considering massive human rights violations and population displacements resulting from domestic conflicts as regional security threats. Simultaneously, the concept of “security”: was broadened to include not just state security but also human security, a shift that “tends to augur well for multinational interventions conducted to arrest anarchy, restore order and protect innocent civilians.”
African peacekeeping forces will continue to grow stronger and so will the continent. Harsch’s article speaks about the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), adopted by African leaders in 2001, places a strong emphasis on achieving the political conditions necessary to help sustain the continent’s development. “African leaders,” says NEPAD, “have learnt from their own experiences that peace, security, democracy, good governance, human rights and sound economic management are conditions for sustainable development. They are making a pledge to work, both individually and collectively, to promote theses principles in their countries, sub-regions and the continent.” NEPAD recognizes not only that peace and security can create more favorable conditions for development, but also that greater development and reduce poverty can in turn make armed conflict less likely. “Long-term conditions for ensuring peace and security in Africa require policy measures to address the political and social vulnerabilities on which conflict are premised.” African leaders are finally beginning to understand that it is better to cure the disease, than to keep treating it, and Africa is well on its way to full recovery. “African leaders are making a commitment to the African people and the world to work together in rebuilding the continent,” NEPAD concludes. “it is a pledge to promote peace and stability, democracy, sound economic management and people-centered development and to hold each other accountable in terms of the agreements outlined in the program.” Again, this passage suggests that Africa finally understands what must be done to ensure a successful future for the continent, the countries, and its peoples.
After looking at the increase of African participation in the UN and the rise of the African peace keeping forces, it is beneficial to look at a more specific example of the African peace keeping force that has arisen and then to make generalizations from it. Nigeria is a good example to observe because it was not coincidence that Nigeria was chosen in October of last year by the United Nations to host the first trial course for strategic and senior United Nations mission leaders. In the article by George Oji called “Nigeria Showcases Peace-Keeping Potentials,” Oji explained that Nigeria’s records in peace-keeping remains very impressive and incontrovertible. According to military record for instance, over the past 45 years, Nigeria has contributed troops to over 23 peace support operations in different parts of the world. In so doing and starting from the Congo in the 1960s the country has produced 11 Force Commanders at the global, regional and sub-regional levels. The records also show that the nation has produced Special Representatives to the Secretary General of the United Nations, Force commanders, Deputy Force Commanders, Deputy Military Adviser for UN operations. The nation’s has also produced the Special Representative of the Executive Secretary for ECOMICI and Force Commander for the Economic Community of West African States and African Union peace operations. Also, with regards to the National War College and in pursuit of its professional training programs, the college, which was established in 1992, has been involved in training at strategic levels for the past 13 years. Through this global network of Peace Keeping Training Center, Nigeria has been able to share its knowledge and experiences in the area and also build up capacity through institutional cooperation arrangements. Consequently, it evident that Nigeria is a big time player when it comes to peace-keeping and that it has potential to become even bigger.
The fact that Nigeria is beginning to assume an important peace-keeping role in Africa is not just beneficial for the nations that it helps; rather, it is beneficial for both Nigeria and the nations that surround it. General Ilogho said that for Nigeria, the hosting of the International seminar on “Challenges of Peace Operations in the 21at Century” will be of immense benefits for the country, especially given Nigeria’s continuing responsibility in providing leadership in regional and UN peace operations. The course will be most beneficial for further development of capacity in peace-keeping. In addition, the hosting of the course he remarked will promote Nigeria’s profile as a major contributor to the ideas and efforts of the United Nations in the development of peace-keeping training. Also, the choice of Nigeria as host country for this course no doubt is a recognition of the nation’s critical role in the management of peace operations at the strategic level. All in all, Nigeria is providing the service of peace-keeping to Africa and as a result, it is receiving recognition, developing schools and men, creating more jobs, and making a better future for itself and the nations around it.
Ultimately, Africa has stepped up in its attempt to take care of its own problems, and the continent no longer looks for the international community to protect it. Africa has created its own peace-keeping forces and has aligned with international ones like the UN’s, all in an attempt to establish lasting peace in the continent. Like in Nigeria, assuming an important role in peace-keeping is something that has and will continue to be beneficial for the nations that have already done so because with the rise of the peace-keeping forces in Africa, conditions for sustainable development such as peace, security, democracy, good governance, human rights and sound economic management will be met. The world is being exposed to Africa’s peace-keeping efforts, and they are beginning to see Africa in a new and bright light and not as the Dark Continent of the past. Nigeria has set the example for the fight for peace, and the rest of the nations will follow suit, and soon Africa will be able to rid itself of conflicts and problems from the past. Furthermore, African resources will be able to be used to their full potential, and epidemics and problems that can be found in many of the impoverished nations of Africa will be treated because of the economic development that peace allows for. Finally, the wonders of Africa will be made more visibly to the world since it will not be overshadowed by the darkness of war and conflicts, and people from all nations will come to visit Africa’s spectacular lands and beautiful people.
Collier, Paul. “Natural Resources and Conflict in Africa.” Crimes of War Project. War in Africa Magazine. 5/19/05. http://www.crimes of war.org/Africa-mag/afr-04-collier-print html. Pages 1-7. (Picture 1)
Gambari, Ibrahim A. “The Challenges of Peace-Keeping and Peace-Making in Africa: The Role of the United Nations and Nigeria’s Contributions.” Zumunta Association USA, Inc. 5/3/05. http://www.zumunta.org/Publications/challenges_of_peace.htm.
Harsch, Ernest. “Africa builds its own peace forces.” Africa Recovery, Vol. 17 #3 (October 2003), 5/19/05 http://www.un.org/ecosocdev/geninfo/afrec/vol17no3/173peace.htm. Pages 1-14. (Picture 3, 4, and 5)
Mills, Greg. “How to Intervene in Africa’s Wars. Crimes of War Project.” War in Africa Magazine. 5/19/05. http://www.crimesofwar.org/africa-mag/afr_03_milss_print.html. Pages 1-10. (Picture 2)
Oji, George. “Nigeria Showcases Peace-Keeping Potentials.” 4/16/05. AllAfrica.com. 5/3/05. http://allafrica.com/stories/printable/200504180478.html. Pages 1-3.