Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Africa Looks for Paths to Peace ; Today the Continent's Leaders Are Set to Adopt a Plan for Joint Peacekeeping Forces. Can It Work?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Africa Looks for Paths to Peace ; Today the Continent's Leaders Are Set to Adopt a Plan for Joint Peacekeeping Forces. Can It Work?

Article excerpt

With armed conflicts raging in at least 20 African countries, the continent's leaders are preparing to adopt a recovery plan that would put greater peacekeeping responsibility in the hands of Africans themselves.

But many analysts are questioning whether African heads of state, traditionally loath to criticize their counterparts, have the political will or institutional capacity to tackle regional security issues such as the growing instability in Zimbabwe and continued conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The African initiative, expected to be adopted today in Lusaka, Zambia, at a meeting of the Organization of African Unity (OAU), merges South African President Thabo Mbeki's Millennium African Recovery Program (MAP) and a separate plan proposed by Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade.

"We need to see MAP as a program by African leaders and governments to take ownership and responsibility for the sustainable socioeconomic and political development of the continent," Mr. Mbeki told South Africa's Parliament in March. He added that for the plan to work, African states would have to take a greater role in policing each other.

The combined plan has been endorsed by international leaders, including US President George Bush and UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan of Ghana. It will form the cornerstone of the new African Union (AU), a European Union-style body that will replace the 38- year-old OAU, long criticized for its ineffectiveness on security and development issues.

African leaders are lauding the new initiative and the new union as heralding a new era for Africa, in which African nations will accept greater responsibility for their own future.

Though largely focused on economic recovery, the plan is based on the idea that development is not possible without peace, stability, and democracy. The plan calls for the building of African capacity for conflict resolution, peacekeeping, and post-conflict resolution, and for increased efforts to combat the proliferation of illegal weapons and land mines. It also seeks to strengthen the continent's democratic institutions and hold member nations accountable for human rights and the rule of law.

While analysts laud the spirit of the initiative, many say it falls short on substance.

"I think MAP makes all the right noises about the need for good governance and democracy and conflict resolution," says Greg Mills, national director of the South African Institute of International Affairs. "The much more relevant question about MAP in particular and the AU in general is: How do you set up and utilize mechanisms to ensure good governance and democracy through which this process of conflict resolution can be nurtured? That is where we're all still waiting to be enlightened [on]."

The initiative leaves it to a yet-to-be-formed committee to work out details on how peacekeeping forces would operate.

The top concern of many Africa specialists is whether the political will exists for joint, continent-wide conflict resolution. …

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