How Africa Can Finally Provide Its Own Security

| October 5, 2011 | 0 Comments

Sub-Saharan states have made real progress in building their own security. Here’s how they can do even better and how can help

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African Union Mission in Somalia soldiers take up new positions in northern Mogadishu / Reuters

Given the tumultuous decade since 9/11, it’s easy to overlook one of
the world’s unsung success stories: the spread of peace, prosperity, and
good governance across much of sub-Saharan Africa. This hopeful trend
is challenging the still-common Western view that Africa is doomed to be
the perpetual ward of the international community. Fifty years after
decolonization, Africans are shrugging off a sad legacy of violent
conflict, stagnant growth, and venal political leadership.

Bolstering Africa’s Security
Modern Life, Modern Ills


One force behind this transformation is the African Union
(AU), which succeeded the dysfunctional Organization of African Unity
(OAU) in May 2001.  A decade after its founding, however, the AU suffers
from serious shortcomings in its ability to implement its grandiose
ambitions. The goal of U.S. policy, as George Washington University
professor Paul D. Williams argues
in a new Council on Foreign Relations report, must be to help the AU
close this “capabilities-expectations gap.” In short, Washington must
persuade African leaders to commit themselves politically and
financially to a more robust AU system of conflict management, including
effective mechanisms for early warning, political mediation, coercive
sanctions, and peacekeeping. Rather than charity, this would be an
investment in the stability of a continent increasingly important for
U.S. counterterrorism efforts, energy security, and trade and investment
opportunities–not to mention ensuring peace within a post-Qaddafi and
-Mubarak Africa.

In its short history, the AU has played a significant role in
Africa’s improving security, economic, and political environment. The
OAU was famously welded to the principles of absolute sovereignty and non-intervention in the internal affairs of member states. The AU Constitutive Act
turns this on its head. It declared a policy of “non-indifference”
concerning the internal affairs of African governments, condemns
“unconstitutional changes of government,” and legitimates coercive
intervention in African states in situations of mass atrocities. Since
2003, the African Union has condemned every coup and, indeed, regularly
peppers its official statements with expressions of support for

Under the rubric of African solutions to African problems, the AU has also created an African Peace and Security Council
(PSC), deployed member state troops in AU-led peacekeeping missions,
and begun developing subregional military capabilities within the AU‘s
eight recognized regional economic communities (RECs). AU troops are
currently leading the UN mandated African Union Mission in Somalia
(AMISOM), with a 9,000 person force, recently authorized to rise to 12,000 troops.

Regardless of the AU‘s progress, I find the following areas merit U.S. concern:

  • Inattention to conflict prevention. The AU PSC has devoted
    the vast majority of its energy to resolving conflicts that have already
    erupted, rather than heading off conflicts before they erupt. As
    Williams observes, the AU‘s Continental Early Warning System (CEWS)
    “remains a work in progress,” too underpowered to monitor and analyze
    emerging conflict dynamics across the region. Moreover, the presence of
    authoritarian governments on the PSC itself has hindered its willingness
    to defend democratic governance.
  • Anemic sub-regional bodies. Ultimately, the African Union’s
    ability to ensure peace and security in Africa will rest heavily on the
    vigor of its regional economic communities. Alas, while a few of these
    are well developed–notably the Economic Community of West African States
    and the Southern African Development Community–most, like the Common
    Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, remain anemic.
  • Underpowered peacekeeping. Despite their growing
    importance, AU peace operations suffer from critical shortcomings. This
    includes dependence on a handful of African troop contributing
    countries; reliance on the international community for financial,
    logistical, and technical support; uncertain support from AU member
    states to authorize robust mission mandates; and the lack of specialized
    military assets and personnel. Beyond these needs, the PSC, as well as
    the AU Commission–the executive arm of the AU–remain significantly
    under-resourced, both financially and in terms of the personnel that are
    required to plan, generate forces, and provide logistical support for
    complex peacemaking and peacekeeping operations. In May 2003, the AU
    developed a framework for an African Standby Force (ASF) of more than
    20,000 troops, divided into five regional brigades. More than eight
    years later, the ASF has yet to emerge as a fully functional
    multinational force, with clear command and control and reliable access
    to member state assets.

As Williams’ paper suggests, it’s time that the Obama administration
increase strategic cooperation between the AU and Africa Command, the
focal point for U.S. military engagement on the African continent,
including exchanges of officers. Second, the administration should
deploy U.S. civilian experts in conflict management to help bolster the
AU‘s early warning, conflict prevention, and mediation efforts. Third,
the United States should work with other likeminded governments with
significant military assets to help fill the gaps in the AU‘s
operational capabilities, including in the areas of lift and logistics.
Fourth, the Obama administration should work with Congress to ensure
continuation of the Africa Contingency Operations Training Assistance (ACOTA) program and with its Group of Eight partners to extend the Global Peace Operations Initiative,
to ensure that more African countries have professional troops they can
deploy to AU operations. Finally, the United States should work to
enhance the AU‘s intelligence collection and analytical capabilities.

Again, given the ongoing leadership transitions taking place in North
Africa, the AU will inevitably become even more of an indispensable
regional institution. Let’s hope U.S. officials both recognize and act
on this sooner rather than later.

This article originally appeared at, an Atlantic partner site.

Culled from :Here

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