By Zhi Yuchen
In many countries of Africa, West Asia and other regions, inept public managements and corruptions, the politicizing of the State’s security organs and so on are playing significant roles in animating today’s conflicts. One or another set of ethnic, religious or tribal groups dominates power to the exclusion of others. Although the collapse or absence of a dominant central authority led to the State’s fracturing, Attempts to rebuild or extend a central authority could lead not to peace, but to deepening conflict in a context of fragmentation.
The role of the African Union (AU) and other sub-regional organizations over the past two decades has been critical in conflicts and crises in Africa. From the peacekeeping missions in Burundi to the Sudan and Somalia, various models of cooperation have gradually emerged between AU and the United Nations (UN). The transitions from AU peace operations to UN peacekeeping operations in Mali and in the Central African Republic took place based on an enhanced partnership at both the strategic and operational levels.
In response to the crises in Mali, on 13 November 2012, the Peace and Security Council of the African Union requested the Security Council of UN to authorize, for an initial period of one year, the planned deployment of the African-led International Support Mission to Mali (AFISMA). The UN Council authorized the deployment of AFISMA and provided for the transfer of authority from AFISMA to UN’s Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) on 1 July 2013.
Regarding the Central African Republic, the Peace and Security Council of AU requested the Security Council of UN to authorize the deployment of the African-led International Support Mission in the Central African Republic (MISCA). Thus the UN Council authorized the deployment of MISCA for a period of 12 months and defined the transition from MISCA to the UN’s Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA) on 15 September 2014.
We can learn lessons by comparing these two processes of transition for China’s attending and cooperation in international peacekeeping operations in Africa in the future.
First, successful transitions of peacekeeping operations from AU to UN require political coherence and the harmonization of policy and strategies. In Mali, due to the distinct concepts of operations between the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and AU, the efforts of Security Council Secretariat to deploy military and security planners to assist ECOWAS and the African Union in planning for AFISMA were hampered. However, in the Central African Republic, UN worked from the outset to support the transition to the African-led operation MISCA by means of providing technical and expert advice to support MISCA to strengthen its command and control, administrative infrastructure and training capacity, and deployed the UN support team to the Central African Republic in February 2014 which contributed greatly to a smoother transition.
Second, complex multinational peace operations require a clear and effective command and control framework. In Mali, the relatively short transition time frame affected command and control structures in part by triggering the dissolution of the Joint Operations Centre of AFISMA. The challenge was better managed in the Central African Republic through the establishment of a common Joint Operations Centre between AU and UN ahead of the transfer process. Furthermore, coordination between MISCA and the European Union-led peacekeeping force in the Central African Republic was facilitated by the integrity of the command within the respective forces and the clarity of their respective mandates.
Third, it’s essential to increase collaboration on force generation between AU and UN at an early stage and to provide supports for broader efforts to build the capacity of African contingents. Even the UN Secretariat conducted an assessment to identify critical shortfalls among troops and undertook efforts to bring troop levels in line with operational requirements, enhance awareness of UN peacekeeping mandates and upgrade equipment and capabilities, most of the contingents that MINUSMA and MINUSCA inherited on the date of their respective transfers of authority had equipment and capabilities that remained below UN standards. In fact, the allegations of sexual exploitation and abuse in the Central African Republic nearly have tarnished the ideal of UN, and the whole world is looking forward to the measures of UN.
At last, the experience of western countries’ supports is worthy to learn. For instance, France and the United States of America provided non-lethal and lethal support directly to a number of troop- and police-contributing countries, and the provision of weapons and vehicles by France and strategic lift and other support by the United States were essential for the deployment of additional MISCA contingents.
For China, as permanent member of the United Nations Security Council, except sending troops, police, and military experts, we can do more in African peacekeeping operations under the framework of UN including joint assessments and planning, force generation, coordination mechanisms, transfer of civilian capacity, support mechanisms, and arrangements to increase troop standards.
Copyright: Institute of West-Asian and African Studies, CASS
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