Academic journal article Strategic Forum

An All-African Peace Force: An Immediate Option or Long-Term Goal for the Region?

Academic journal article Strategic Forum

An All-African Peace Force: An Immediate Option or Long-Term Goal for the Region?

Article excerpt


* The social and political disintegration in Burundi has prompted calls from the United States for intervention by an all-African force. The concept of an African force for peacekeeping and humanitarian operations has substantial support in Africa and in important outside countries. Yet it is not realistic to rely upon an all-African military force for Burundi.

* Africans have serious problems with the idea of being used by outsiders who will not participate directly themselves. For Burundi, they also worry about the exact nature of the mission. Regardless of their political will, potential African contributors seriously lack a number of military capabilities that would be essential for success if they were thrown into Burundi today.

* A sound strategy for Burundi and other African contingencies in the near-term must continue to be based upon the leadership of the United States and other Western powers, including some participation as part of any force. This participation is required not just for political reasons (such as guaranteeing the non-alignment of any African military force). Several African states can make substantial contributions to an African force, but they will require international assistance with key personnel and equipment, as well as assurances that their contingents will be paid.

* Burundi offers an important opportunity to begin developing an all-African peace force. If the international community were to take a strategic view of regional stability, it could participate in a joint operation in Burundi in order to improve the capabilities of African contributors and, by extension, the long-term prospects for a regional solution to future African problems.


In confronting the growing crisis in Burundi before it turns into another genocidal upheaval, the United States, the international community, and the UN have been exploring the establishment of an all-African contingent for peace operations. It was not possible to mobilize such a force for Rwanda and it probably will not be possible for Burundi. However, the idea of an African peace force for future contingencies is very much alive. The Organization of African Unity (OAU) is expanding its conflict resolution capabilities while the United States, France, United Kingdom, and Nordic countries have a number of on-going programs to develop peace operations capabilities across the continent.

Political considerations will play a large role in determining which African countries participate in future peace operations. However, political factors will ultimately be irrelevant to the development of a viable African military force for peace operations if the Africans cannot field adequate military capabilities. This paper summarizes the present and prospective military capabilities and limitations of such a force. It also considers means of strengthening the capacity of African military establishments to respond to future crises.

Why An All-African Force for Peace Operations?

A stand-by force of African military units ready to respond to peace operations and humanitarian disasters on the continent is the logical extension of several developments. One is the UN's and the international community's increasing emphasis on regional solutions for regional problems. Like CARICOM in Latin America and the Baltic Battalion in the Baltics, an all-African force could become an important institutional mechanism for fostering greater regional integration and conflict resolution.

Second, by promoting regional stability-the prerequisite to virtually every other U.S. objective in AfricaCan all-African force capable of humanitarian and peace operations would underwrite the Clinton Administration's National Security Strategy of Engagement and Enlargement. An important by-product of an international effort to train and equip such a force would be an improvement in the professionalism of participating militaries, thereby building greater respect for civilian control and stable demo-cracies. …

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