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The Problems of Peacekeeping Operations in Africa

Info: 3432 words (14 pages) Essay
Published: 17th Jul 2019

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Jurisdiction / Tag(s): African Law

1. Having seen certain case studies in terms of successes and failures of missions in Chapter III, it is important to first study the challenges faced by these missions to come up with concrete recommendations to improve them. The problems faced by peacekeeping operations in Africa to a large extent mirror those of peacekeeping operations across the world. There are several difficulties in dealing effectively with conflicts and complex emergencies in Africa. These challenges can be classified into different categories such as Conceptual problems, Structural problems, Operational problems and problems arising out of Human Rights aspects. In this chapter we will view these aspects individually.

2. There seems to be a lack of consensus regarding conceptual issues in peacekeeping around the world. At this level research has begun to question the core assumptions of peacekeeping and its legitimacy [1] . The operational problems stem from the fact that on the one hand over the last decade, Africa has experienced a proliferation of bloody warlords, enjoying a situation of disorder in which they can threaten the local population and engage in illegal business. They often use a condition of illegality to exploit, as in the case of Sierra Leone and DRC, the country’s economic resources. As a consequence they have no interest in participating in a serious peace process. On the other hand, at the regional level, there has yet to be an agreement among Africa’s major powers on a common strategy. The large majority of African states follow diverging political agendas. Thus in several cases, such as the DRC, it has been difficult to find uniting efforts among regional powers to promote an effective process of conflict resolution. The structural problems are mainly to do with the hierarchical nature of the UN and aspects of coordination and cooperation between the member states. Human rights issues including the vexatious problems of sexual exploitation and abuse have gained ground in recent years.

Conceptual Issues.

3. Peacekeeping operations in the past have tended to be efforts to separate warring adversaries and to implement / observe ceasefires. Thus it was essential to enroll the parties involved in the peacekeeping arrangement. The central premise being that the peace was to be built by the locals themselves and not be imposed by others. However, in recent years UN has been acting without the consent of the parties involved and this has led to certain conceptual conflicts regarding peacekeeping. These issues are discussed in succeeding paragraphs.

4. Peacekeeping is Built on a Liberal Economic Model. Peacekeeping presupposes that liberalization introduced in a country will bring around peace and stability. It has been described as an enormous experiment in social engineering. The problem lies in the fact that this can cause widening inequalities, economic dislocation and very often ends up benefitting those already in power. [2] Therefore the liberal qualities of democracy and capitalism so much vaunted by the western powers need to be introduced with care and diligence. [3]

5. Legitimacy of Peacekeeping. Peacekeeping, especially when it is imposed on the host nation, inevitably brings into question of western powers forwarding their own agendas and imposition of foreign ways. This has also got to be viewed along with concerns of the developing world being increasingly marginalized. Developing countries tend to view peacekeeping with suspicion and as a means of western interventionism. There are fears of the agendas of large and powerful corporations and international institutions such as the IMF and World Bank being dominant without caring for social justice and human needs in the host nation. [4] This poses a fundamental question as to the legitimacy of peacekeeping itself.

6. Scope and Limits of Peacekeeping. A conceptual problem also arises over what the scope of the mission is and the limits of its responsibilities once the operation has been decided. The boundaries of commitment are not decided as per the requirement of the UN but the interest of states that contribute. The outcome therefore is a conflict in the priorities and the commitment shown by the powerful countries according to their interests resulting in some operations being given more attention than others. To add to this is the fact that peacekeeping missions become multifunctional such as those in Namibia and the attempts to do more in lesser time create more problems than solutions [5] .

7. Provision of Adequate Resources for Peace Enforcement. Peace enforcement missions are undertaken when there is a lack of consensus between the warring parties. This type of mission entails additional military risks to the peacekeepers and a strong military structure in the UN. However, this would lead to the individual countries surrendering some aspect of sovereignty which is not acceptable to the world powers. Passing resolutions under Chapter VII without providing the adequate resources for a mission takes away the credibility and ability of that mission to actually successfully intervene in the conflict. Peace enforcement requires greater clarity as to how to implement such a mandate because the necessity of supporting a strengthened political process is vital for conflict resolution [6] .

8. Non Tackling of Root Causes of Conflicts. The failure to take into account the importance of religious aspects during the Somalia conflict was a major contributor towards the failure of UNOSOM II. The ethnic rivalry between the various warring groups which was reported by news organizations was also neglected. The UN made a great mistake by underestimating the religious aspect of the confrontation between General Aidid and his supporters on one-hand and UNOSOM Forces on the other. The root causes underlying the conflict were thus not adequately addressed and these challenges hampered the success of the mission and the attainment of lasting peace in Somalia [7] .

Operational Issues.

8. Peacekeepers frequently encounter operational problems arising from their basic guidelines which are contradictory to the actual requirements of the missions. The DRC in 1961 faced a complex situation with the influx of foreign mercenaries representing multi-national mining companies, a constitutional crisis and the absence of central power [8] . The commander of the force ordered a shutdown of the Katanga airport which led to allegations that the peacekeeping forces were aggravating the dispute. It is in such cases that organizational challenges are brought to light, emphasizing the ambiguity of the rules of engagement and the lack of commitment and a common purpose amongst the contingents.

6. Magnitude of the Task of Peacekeeping. Peacekeeping faces the tremendous challenge of the sheer magnitude of the task involved. Post conflict societies lack institutions of governance, face human security problems and development challenges. The conflicts often remain in limbo till the intervention is over and thereafter flare up again. The problem gets compounded in cases of fragmented political authority, social opposition to peacekeeping and if there are factions or leaders who have a stake in the continuation of conflict [9] . These problems get further accentuated when there are gross human rights violations but the legal systems remain ineffective. Although the UN has achieved some successes with criminal tribunals they are expensive and foreign legal instruments.

18. Inadequate & Non Robust Mandate. The UN Secretary General through the Security Council lays down the mandate for any peacekeeping mission. Generally, political considerations and compulsions prevail over military operational requirements. This leads to weak mandates which are then exploited by war lords often leading to death of UN peacekeepers. An example of this was in UNOSOM II where UN troops were quarantined at Mogadishu Airport by militias without response by the troops due to lack of mandate to do so. In 2005, also there was the incident in MONUC where Bangladesh Contingent lost 10 peacekeepers between March and May due to ineffective mandates [10] . The experience of the Indian Brigade deployed in the North Kivu province of the DRC also highlights this problem. The mandate given to the peacekeepers very often severely limits the actions required to be taken to prevent civilian causalities. In many cases Indian peacekeepers could not retaliate despite provocations due the complex rules of engagements and the weak mandate.

19. Ineffective Enforcement of Arms Embargo. Approximately 50 military observers were deployed in Somalia by June 1992 and were later reinforced in August by a peacekeeping force of 500 Pakistan Soldiers [11] . General Aidid with his heavily armed militias confined the troops to the area of Mogadishu Airport. The Pakistani peacekeepers, armed with only light weaponry undertook operations with principles of consent and using force only in self defence, were unable to execute their mission. Since this included the monitoring of arms embargo and ceasefire violations they were dishonored with impunity by the warring sides. The prevention of the UN forces in carrying out their tasks by the warring parties resulted in the ineffective enforcement of arms embargo imposed on the adversaries in Somalia. This was a major contributor to the failure of the mission.

20. Inadequacy of Logistics and Personnel. The non availability of optimal levels of personnel, equipment and other resources in peacekeeping missions is one of the important challenges leading to failure of peacekeeping efforts in Africa. The UN has always had to deal with a lack of resources and this is a major aspect that limits their work. Peacekeeping is a complex task, it requires personnel – troops to form an adequate sized force, in addition to the correct equipment – vehicles, armoured personnel carriers and helicopters which are all essential to enforce the given mandate in strife ridden areas. However, there is often a great discrepancy between the quantity of these resources the UN needs and the amount that is actually provided by countries around the world. For example, 26 thousand troops were pledged by the UN Security Council and its member countries to aid the Darfurian peacekeeping effort, yet only 9474 troops were provided in the end [12] . The force commanders of missions across Africa report a lack of these essentials, even though many nations are more than capable of donating them. These disparities greatly diminish the capabilities of UN peacekeeping forces and thus render them less capable of accomplishing the given mandate.

21. Another example of inadequate forces for a mission was witnessed in Oct 2008 in the DRC. The eruption of violence in North Kivu province where Indian peacekeepers were deployed illustrated the difficult conditions and conflicting responsibilities that MONUC was asked to tackle from day to day. Deployed with the challenging mandate to protect civilians and facilitate the delivery of humanitarian assistance, MONUC was also tasked with the supervision and enforcement of the buffer zones between the Congolese national army (the FARDC) and the rebel group CNDP led by self-proclaimed ‘General’ Laurent Nkunda. In contradiction with this role as a neutral mediator was MONUC’s responsibility for working with FARDC in operations against the FDLR, the rebel movement led by the remnants of the perpetrators of the Rwanda genocide who fled into DRC in 1994. These contradictory requirements, coupled with a lack of military and civilian resources, and a total lack of political support, placed MONUC peacekeepers in a very difficult situation [13] .

Structural Issues

22. The UN is a well defined hierarchy with adequate vertical communication but hardly any horizontal communication. The structural shortcomings result in inefficiency of the peacekeeping operations [14] . There is no clear institutional home for peace building in the UN although the Department of Peace Keeping Operations exists. This is because peace building cuts across the mandates and activities of many parts of the UN. Therefore there is a need for coordination among secretariat departments, UN agencies and non- UN actors.

23. Coordination Among Contributing Nations. At the political level missions are subject to Security Council approval and mandate renewal and are therefore vulnerable to bargaining and shifting political alignments among members of the council [15] . This leads to vague and unsuitable mandates as was the case in Somalia and Rwanda. Another important aspect is that the peacekeeping and peace building efforts require a long term commitment of resources and finances. However, the ever present concern among member states over exit strategies and avoidance of quagmires have led to formulation of unrealistic time frames and quick impact projects which fail to serve the long term interests of developing sustainable peace.

8. Slow Rate of UN PKO Deployment. Due to the fast nature of war, the situation can rapidly change from low violence levels to all out war. In Somalia the civil war started in 1991 and on 24 April 1992 the Security Council established UNOSOM I to implement the ceasefire plan [16] . The deployment of UN troops began only in August 1992. This crucial delay gave adequate time for the adversaries to effectively prepare for the conflict. This slow deployment is one test that is a challenge for successful completion of a mission. The reasons for such delays have been identified to be structural shortcomings and excessive bureaucracy resulting in inefficiency and waste [17] . In 1994 the Office of Internal Oversight Services was established by a ruling of the General Assembly to serve as an efficiency watchdog [18] . How successful OIOS have been especially as it relates to mission establishment is a moot point.

9. Inadequate Media Coverage. An important reason for the delays in rapid intervention of the UN in Africa is the ‘CNN Effect’. Major international news organizations do not adequately cover conflicts in Africa. The swift mobilization of thousands of troops from the both developed and developing world to UNIFIL during the 2006 Israel/Lebanon War was due to the wide-ranging 24 hours live coverage by CNN and BBC. If we compare this with their coverage of Darfur-Sudan and Somalia crises in Africa we will find a large discrepancy. The UN hierarchy does tend to be media driven and the lack of coverage is one reason that the adequate force levels are not assigned to African conflicts in the required time frame.

Human Rights Issues

23. The past decade has witnessed countless incidents in which women and children have been victims of sexual assault both during and in the aftermath of internal conflict. While the international community has made great strides in addressing these issues, the United Nations recently has had to grapple with shocking revelations that peacekeepers and humanitarian workers themselves have been implicated in such assaults.

24. Sexual exploitation and abuse by humanitarian staff. Allegations concerning humanitarian workers and peacekeepers in West Africa in 2002 and allegations concerning sexual misconduct of peacekeepers in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC), 2004 brought about an increased focus on the Human Rights abuses being perpetrated by peacekeepers and this was met with outrage by the international community. Sexual abuse and exploitation turns the population of the country against the peacekeepers and thereby cause irreparable damage to the mission.

25. Use of Excessive Force by Peacekeepers. Many examples of use of excessive force and disrespect for human life have been brought forward against UN missions causing an international outcry and these have often been one of the primary reasons for the failure of the missions. Developments in Somalia in 1992, where foreign forces in UNITAF and UNOSOM II were accused of mistreatment and murder of Somalis, detention without trial, armed attacks on civilians and displacement and compulsory resettlement of the population. Human rights abuses were also recorded in Liberia and DRC. Human rights issue in peace enforcement raises complex ethical issues including the moral legitimacy of supporting one side over the other [19] .

26. Difficulties of Enforcing Human Rights Standards. Troop contributing countries themselves are responsible for taking disciplinary action if peacekeepers violate codes of conduct. It is this weakness in the disciplinary chain that reinforces the image and reality of impunity for peacekeepers. UN personnel are all subject to rules and regulations, including the UN Charter, Staff Rules and Regulations, and Ten Rules (Code of Conduct for Blue Helmets). The Ten rules stress the importance of integrity and conduct; express the expectation that peacekeepers will always strive to conduct themselves in a professional and disciplined manner; enjoin them to respect the environment of the host country and respect local customs and practices through awareness and respect for the culture, religious traditions and gender issues; encourage them to treat the inhabitants of the host country with respect, courtesy, and consideration, and support; and emphasize proper conduct among fellow peacekeepers. However, the specific trial of a UN peacekeeper can only take place with the consent of the troop contributing country under its own laws. The UN can only repatriate the individual back to his nation and cannot prosecute him. This perceived immunity of peacekeepers strengthens the negative perception of the peacekeepers in the host nation thereby eroding the efficacy of the mission, often leading to sidetracking of the larger picture.

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