UN seeks to bolster African Union’s response to conflicts

The United Nations on Monday adopted a new resolution to help streamline resources towards African peacekeeping missions, to ensure timely response to conflicts on the continent.
Rwandan troops at the Kigali International Airport shortly before departing for CAR in January. File.
Rwandan troops at the Kigali International Airport shortly before departing for CAR in January. File.

The United Nations on Monday adopted a new resolution to help streamline resources towards African peacekeeping missions, to ensure timely response to conflicts on the continent.

UN Resolution 2167 was drafted by Rwanda and co-sponsored by Argentina, Australia, Republic of Korea, Chad, Jordan, Luxembourg, Chile and Nigeria.

The resolution seeks to devise a better  working mechanism between the United Nations and regional blocs on the continent, to ensure peacekeeping troops are sourced from within the region and swiftly deployed.

“I believe today’s resolution will help us address many challenges as we forge ahead, including how major organisations will pool their resources together and allocate roles and responsibilities,” the United Nations Security Council President, Eugene-Richard Gasana, said.

Gasana stressed that the AU has financial challenges which must be shrugged off in order for it to be influential in Africa’s political sphere.

“On financial support, the resolution recognises that one major constraint facing some regional organisations, in particular the AU, in effectively carrying out the mandate of maintaining regional peace and security is securing predictable, sustainable and flexible resources,” Gasana said.

Having come into existence in May 2001, following the rebranding of the inept Organisation for African Unity, the AU has been accused of doing little or nothing to influence matters in the 54-nation grouping.

The organisation has been accused of taking a back seat in a number of conflicts on the continent, compelling countries to seek help from elsewhere.

An example in the Central African Republic, where earlier this year the first boots on the ground were French, who came in to avert a possible genocide that mainly targeted Muslims perpetuated by the so called Anti-Balaka Movement.

The AU has since deployed in the country with Rwanda among the troop contributors.

Structural bottlenecks

Prof François Masabo, a senior researcher at the Centre for Conflict Management (CCM) at the University of Rwanda, told The New Times yesterday that AU’s failures will not be addressed by money alone, but by structural changes.

“Look at what is happening in South Sudan or Mali. Foreigners get there before AU does. It is the same situation in Central African Republic. AU always seems to have a strategy but nothing works in the end,” Masabo said.

“Sourcing for money to finance AU peacekeepers will address only half the challenge. They must change their internal structures which prevent them from reacting timely in conflict areas.”

In an article titled; “Why is the African Union still failing its people on peace and security?” Martin Plaut, a Senior Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, Oxford, argues that although AU has achieved some success, it has largely failed to step out of the shadows of its predecessor, the OAU.

“The conflict in the Central African Republic is spiraling out of control… yet this is exactly the kind of catastrophe that the African Union was designed to address,” Plaut argues.

 AU can directly intervene in a member state if there are grave circumstances, namely war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. 

This was introduced to ensure that Africa’s top organisation would never again allow itself to stand idly by, as  it did during the 1994 Rwandan Genocide against the Tutsi.

The new resolution, according to Ambassador Gasana, will help steer AU in the right direction. 

“When it comes to the African continent, it is clear that the AU and regional organisations often have political legitimacy, the advantages of proximity, and access to African capabilities,” he said.

“Rwanda, therefore, welcomes the steps taken by the Chairperson of the African Union Commission to generate resources from within AU member states, in support of peace support operations, but we also urge external partners to seriously consider the capacity in which they can assist regional organisations in this context.”

The new resolution alsotasks the Secretary-General of the UN to produce a report on the progress of partnerships between the UN and regional organisations in peacekeeping operations, not later than 31 March 2015.

Rwanda deployed its first peacekeepers to the African Union Mission in Sudan in 2004 and has since deployed in more peacekeeping operations, making it the sixth major troop contributor to UN missions.

Rwanda concludes its presidency of the UN Security Council at the end of July.

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