Academic journal article Journal of International and Global Studies

The African Union and the Conflict in Mali: Extra-Regional Influence and the Limitations of a Regional Actor

Academic journal article Journal of International and Global Studies

The African Union and the Conflict in Mali: Extra-Regional Influence and the Limitations of a Regional Actor

Article excerpt

It is the contention of this paper that France's late intervention (after the troops of African led International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA) were overrun) significantly weakened a proactive response to the conflict. The same resources used by France could have been more effectively and efficiently utilized if made available to the African Union.--Considering the fact that the African Union lacked the resources to effectively intervene in Mali, making such resources available to the Union would have bolstered its capacity to intervene in Mali. In this case, cooperation not for that mission alone but future missions could have been achieved.

Since the end of the Cold War, concerns have heightened about sustained violent conflicts in Africa. Conflict mitigation and resolution have become the dominant governance activities in almost every part of Africa. Many of these conflicts seem intractable; conflict mitigation and resolution initiatives are at best yielding modest success. Even so, such successes typically provide peace in the short term but hardly lay the foundation for the reconstitution of order and the attainment of sustainable peace. Although the underlying causes of these conflicts are multifarious, the fluid, shifting nature of conflicts and their underlying causes require both top-down and bottom-up approaches that ensure both external expertise and local ownership.

Peace and security have become priority issues not only for the African continent but also for the international community. Although resolving violent conflict has been recognized as one of the most urgent challenges facing the continent, until recently, many such conflicts had not gained the marked profile they are currently attaining in terms of political priority and effort (including those made from both inside and outside Africa). Thus, the parameters of conflict resolution have shifted in the direction of greater visibility and a heightened political will to act.

Conflict resolution in Africa through military intervention, although recent, has accounted for an alarming proportion of the methods attempted (though this was not the case in the 1970s and 80s). African institutions such as the former Organization of African Unity (OAU) and the international community (including the United Nations and other key regional, subregional, and state actors) have been willing to intervene militarily in extreme, emergency situations to protect civilian populations. However, numerous critical doubts--both from the African Union (AU) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)--have been expressed regarding military actions in Africa and the motives informing the initiatives and military actions taken by external actors in Africa.

This paper is an effort to offer a nuanced engagement with the conflict in Mali. Even though the conflict in Mali is considered one of the most devastating conflicts on the African continent, little attention has been given in the academic literature to assessing the various conflict resolution mechanisms adopted by the African Union Peace and Security Architecture (APSA), how such mechanisms are operationalized, and the challenges they face. This paper aims to fill this gap. The overarching objective is to analyze how the collaboration between the extra-African bodies and the regional and sub-organizations played out in the resolution of the conflict in Mali. In order to achieve this objective, this study triangulates both primary sources through interviews and secondary sources, including journal articles, online sources, and reports. This is enriched by historical analysis of the conflict in Mali.

The AU Mechanism for Conflict Resolution

In its 1990 declaration, the OAU Heads of State and government recognized that the prevalence of conflicts in Africa was seriously impeding their collective and individual efforts to deal with the continent's economic problems. …

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