UN Must Back Up AU Peacekeeping Efforts

Cape Times (South Africa), October 12, 2006 | Go to article overview

UN Must Back Up AU Peacekeeping Efforts


BYLINE: Hussein Solomon

and Amelia du Rand

In response to Africa's myriad conflicts, the African Union (AU) envisions creating a standby system that will build on the military capabilities of African regional organisations.

According to the AU's Policy Framework for the Establishment of the African Standby Force (ASF), presented to the third meeting of the African Chiefs of Defence Staff in May 2003, the ASF will consist of five regionally-managed, multidisciplinary contingents comprising 3 000 to 4 000 troops, between 300 and 500 military observers, police units and civilian specialists on standby in their countries of origin.

These regional brigades will be deployed under AU mandates and placed under AU or UN operational control, as applicable.

The AU forces are often under-equipped, under-armed and under-manned. The absence of adequate funding for an airlift capability is also cause for concern.

If the force is to be worthy of the "standby" in its name, the issues of funding, airlift and logistical support in the field have to be sorted out. Ad hoc arrangements with wealthy nations are not enough to guarantee political credibility, speed and effectiveness.

Moreover, restricted mandates always limit the scope of operations of AU forces.

Finally, the diversity of AU forces and the plurality of leadership and multiple centres of power often lead to a lack of unity and synergy in the AU multinational force.

Neither Africa nor Southern Africa can "go it alone" in providing the stability which is essential for development. The region does not have the means, in terms of doctrine, training, trained manpower, finances and resources.

The focus of peacekeeping operations in Africa is shifting towards a more integrated approach, including reconstruction, development, stability, civilian involvement and humanitarian aspects.

However, this more integrated approach demands even more resources from a cash-strapped continent.

This, in turn, entails increased donor support for the provision of equipment and the necessary funding to support African peacekeepers in the establishment of inter-operability mechanisms, intelligence gathering and communication equipment, and human rights and gender training.

However, even with the necessary donor support, a credible AU force will take time to develop.

The proposed United Nations emergency peace service could, ideally, collaborate with the AU in order to aid in peacekeeping efforts on the African continent.

A definite need has arisen for the implementation of a permanent UN emergency peace service, not as a solitary solution for security challenges, but rather as a complementary approach to other regional, national and UN efforts.

The peace service utilises a holistic strategy, which advocates the notion that peacekeeping is much more than the deployment of armed forces. The service will also be a permanent entity, situated at UN sites, in order to give it greater mobility.

The 12 000 to 15 000 volunteer personnel will be trained and co-ordinated to enable a rapid response in the case of a complex emergency.

The personnel involved in the service will come from diverse backgrounds in order to complement the multi-dimensional approach to peacekeeping that the emergency peace service seeks to adopt.

Obviously, such a comprehensive plan will require extensive funding and international support.

Proponents of the service argue that the responsibility lies with civil society groups working with the UN, as well as governments willing to collaborate in peacekeeping efforts.

Leaders in these civil society groups and citizens' organisations should be trained to:

l Identify and recruit interested parties so as to make the initiative known on a global level.

l Ensure an agreement on what the duties and responsibilities of the service are. …

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UN Must Back Up AU Peacekeeping Efforts
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