On 25 May 2013, Africa celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) established in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on May 25 1963 by representatives of 32 nations. Sadly most African’s do not understand what the OAU was or what strides its successor has chalked. Even many more have no clue what almost insurmountable obstacles had to be overcome before the OAU was founded. Many do not see the impact of the African Union.
Africa today according to the World Bank and the IMF (See previous posts) hosts some of the fastest growing economies in the globe having maintained a solid expansion for the past 10 years right through the recent global recession. This is partly due to a stable atmosphere within which businesses thrive vis-a-vis the Africa of yesterday which was riddled with coup d’états in every corner making the continent unfavourable for investments of any kind. The reason for the reduction of these senseless conflicts and promotion of regional economies owes in large part to the work of the OAU and its successor the African Union (AU). What follows in this blog entry is an attempt to educate any willing reader about the history, setbacks and achievements of the OAU/AU. All claims are verified by the references at the end of the entry. Let us begin.
The African Union (AU) is the regional organization primarily responsible for providing peace and security on the world’s second largest and second most populous continent which is home to a population of about 1,022,234,000 people (2011 estimate) living in 57 countries (United Nations DESA Population Division, 2011). The AU is made up of 54 Member States. To get a more holistic view of peace and security management on the continent, the first half of this paper will consider the genesis and historical development of regionalism in Africa. In doing so, the paper/blog will consider the security mechanisms that preceded the AU. The second half of the paper/blog will consider the AU and its chief organ for maintaining peace and security namely the Peace and Security Council (PSC) and its African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA). Though peace and security encompasses broad issues relating to food, health, shelter, conflicts etc, this paper will focus on the mechanisms for managing peace and security issues.
On March 6 1957, the former British colony known as the Gold Coast gained Independence and changed its name to Ghana. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. who was present on this occasion recalls Ghana’s first black Prime Minister Dr. Kwame Nkrumah walking into Parliament with his ministers dressed in the prison garbs they had worn for months to deliver a speech (King Jr, 1957). After having addressed Parliament, Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah addressed the crowds waiting outside with his famous Independence speech in which he made a statement which contained the seed of regionalism in Africa. He said, “The independence of Ghana is meaningless unless it is linked up to the total liberation of Africa” (Nkrumah, 1957). In pursuit of the total freedom of Africa, Dr. Nkrumah believed that African nations had to come together to form a political, economic and cultural union giving them the needed leverage to topple the remaining hegemony of colonialism on the continent. Other African leaders shared this Pan-African dream but differed with Dr. Nkrumah as to the nature and approach of attaining the union (Yoh, 2008).
Division among African states
Conservative states such as Nigeria, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia and francophone Africa preferred a gradualist, functionalist approach to African unity whereas Radicals like Nkrumah’s Ghana, Guinea, Mali and Libya wanted an immediate unity. The former preferred an economic union whereas the latter a political union that encompassed culture and economy .
Brazzaville versus Casablanca groupings
In December 1960, 12 leaders from francophone Africa gathered in Congo, Brazzaville to form a regional alliance that would safeguard their interests. These became known as the Brazzaville group. At the end of this meeting they founded the African and Madagasy Union (AMU). This regional arrangement cast its collective support in favor of Mauritania’s aspirations of applying for United Nations membership. This was contrary to Morocco’snational policy which claimed that Mauritania was part of Morocco. Needless to say, this new regional arrangement did not sit well with the King of Morocco so he joined forces with the group of states that held and opposing view to the conservatives—the radicals. He was instrumental in hosting a conference for the radicals in Casablanca in January 1961. Those who gathered at this conference became known as the Casablanca group and they included Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Morocco, Algeria, Egypt and Libya. At the end of the conference, the Casablanca group produced a document called the African Charter in which they called for an African political, economic and cultural union, that is, a United States of Africa. Additionally, they asked for the formation of a Joint African High Command Committee to manage the continent’s security issues as part of this union (Yoh, 2008). The Brazzaville and Casablanca groups remained at odds with each other and this reflected in their policy directions. In the Congo crisis for instance, the Brazzaville group supported the conservative President Joseph Kassavubu whiles the Casablanca group supported his nationalistic Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba. The continent was split between these two factions. In May 1961, the Ivorian, Senegalese, and Liberian Presidents convened a conference inviting both groups to find an amicable solution to the problem posed by African unity but the radicals refused to attend. At this conference some of the motives behind the conservative stance of some members of the Brazzaville group were brought to the fore. A number of francophone countries still had strong ties to France and some had signed defense agreements with their former colonial master. Nigeria found itself in the same situation with Britain. Owing to some of these reasons, the conservatives felt they could not afford such radical moves as were being proposed by the Casablanca group (Yoh, 2008).
Bridging the divide
Not wanting the differences between the two groups to stifle the Pan-African dream of a united Africa, Emperor Haile Selassie intervened as a mediator of sorts. His government through diplomacy managed to convince both groups to attend a conference hosted by Ethiopia in May 1963 in Addis Ababa. At this gathering, both camps presented their positions. Though not arrived at easily, eventually a compromise was arrived at which marked the founding of the first all-African regional organization—the Organization of African Unity (OAU) (Yoh, 2008).
Organization of African Unity (OAU) and security
The Organisation of African Unity (OAU) was established in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, on May 25 1963 by representatives of 32 nations. The OAU Charter in its preamble explains that it was established amongst other things to “safeguard and consolidate the hard-won independence as well as the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our states, and to fight against neo-colonialism in all its forms” (p.1). The OAU structure was made up of 4 organs, the fourth being the organ responsible for ensuring peace and security. The organs were:
- the Assembly of Heads of State and Governments
- the Council of Ministers
- the General Secretariat
- the Commission of Mediation, Conciliation, and Arbitration
The commission was tasked was responsible for coordinating peace and security policies but sadly the Commission was unsuccessful because of challenges posed by Member States who narrowly interpreted the principle of sovereignty and non-interference (African Union, 2003). An additional reason for the failure of this organ was the fact that its lacked teeth to bite, that is , its inability to sanction Member States for undesirable behaviour. To cope with the ineffectiveness of the Commission, the OAU set up Ad-Hoc Committees of wise men to handle specific security challenges (Ibok, 2000). Later on, the formation of regional economic communities (RECs) like the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) helped the OAU in managing security on the continent through a decentralised system. Because the RECs understood the culture and terrain of their regions better than external actors, the RECs were better suited to manage peace and security challenges within their regions. ECOWAS for instance did well in bringing peace to Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea through the use of the Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group (ECOMOG) which drew forces from Ghana, Guinea, Sierra Leone, The Gambia, Liberia, Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger etc (Khobe, 2004). In 1990 the OAU reached a milestone for peace and security management on the continent when the ineffective Commission was replaced with the Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution which was more proactive in that it sought to quell conflict before it started unlike the Commission which was more reactionary waiting for a conflict to flare up before attempting to mitigate it through mediation, conciliation, and arbitration (Yoh, 2008).
OAU Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution
The adoption of this mechanism facilitated increased cooperation with international actors such as the United Nations (UN) in matters relating to peacemaking and peacekeeping. In section 25 of the Cairo declaration of this mechanism, the OAU elaborated on the nature of cooperation with the UN as including financial, logistical and military support for Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution on the continent as stipulated in the provisions of the UN Charter on the role of regional organizations in the maintenance of international peace and security found in Chapter VIII. Furthermore the mechanism empowered the Secretary General to deploy fact finding missions and special envoys into troubled spots to gather necessary information for needed for constructive deliberations (Yoh, 2008). This led to the development of an Early Warning System to help the OAU detect potential challenges before they became full blown crises. In 1992 a Conflict Management Centre (CMC) was set up to operationalize the mechanism. The CMC was effective in addressing conflicts in Angola, Burundi, the Central African Republic, Comoros, Liberia, Democratic republic of Congo, Guinea-Bissau, Rwanda, Somalia and Sierra Leone; as well as the Ethiopia-Eritrea border dispute and conflict. Peacekeeping wise, the Mechanism enabled peacekeeping missions and operations in Rwanda (NMOG); Burundi (OMIB); Comoros (OMIC); DRC (JMC) and Ethiopia-Eritrea (OLMEE) (African Union, 2003).
In addition to the CMC, the OAU established other security arrangements to aid the operationalizing of the mechanism such as field operation units. This in addition to what is known as the African Standby Forces was the military component in the CMC’s conflict resolution structural framework. More will be said on this in the section on the Africa Peace and Security Architecture (APSA) of the AU.
Challenges faced by the OAU
Right from its inception the OAU was fraught with many challenges ensuing from the history of the continent. Ethnic differences and territorial border conflicts were rife as a result of colonially inherited artificial borders. At this same time, the cold war was raging and superpowers were busy vying for allegiance from UN Member States, many of which belonged to the OAU. This further polarised the member states on ideological lines. In addition, racial discrimination between the Arab North and black sub Saharan countries persisted. The Belgian execution of Patrice Lumumba in 1961 (Hollington, 2007) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) assisted overthrow of President Nkrumah in 1966 (Gebe, 2008) did little to help the infant regional organization. When the new unconstitutional government of Ghana attended their first OAU meeting, they were initially condemned and not recognized as legitimate by some of the other Member States but the USA and the international community put pressure on the OAU to accept them hence setting a very deadly precedence (Boafo-Arthur, 2008). Till today, the continent struggles with coup d’états, the most recent being those of Mali and Guinea-Bissau in 2012.
To gauge the achievement of the OAU, it must be judged against the backdrop of its objectives of which the chief was to rid Africa of all forms of colonialism including apartheid (African Union, 2012). By the time the OAU became defunct, it had managed to achieve this goal. Beginning with 32 nations at its inception, an additional 21 states had been added by the time it was ready to metamorphose into the African Union. This was the crowning success of the OAU (Ibok, 2000). The OAU was instrumental in solving a number of territorial disputes. It started the process of creating regional economic communities (RECs) which became the building blocs of its successor, the AU. Due in part to the work of the OAU, countries who had in the past protracted seasons of civil war such as Angola, Mozambique, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Rwanda are all at peace now (Hoeffler, 2008).
TThe post-cold war era was one that promoted values such as democracy, good governance and transparency. The OAU Member States were not especially known for upholding these values but amidst international pressure to reform, the OAU felt the need to transform itself to better reflect the aforementioned values. Other reasons for reform were economically induced. During this period Africa was experiencing very difficult economic crisis hence the Structural Adjustment Programs (SAPs) and Economic Recovery Programs (ERPs) that were proliferated in Africa in the early 80s to mitigate these challenges. These did not help. By 1980 OAU Member States had come to a conclusion that Africa’s challenges could only be addressed by Africans and that overdependence on former colonial powers and the Bretton Woods system of monetary management was contributory to the woes of the continent. To find a remedy, African leaders convened in Lagos and came up with the Lagos Plan of Action for the Economic Development of Africa. This implementation of this plan was slated for the period between 1980–2000 (Lagos Plan of Action, 1980). This plan was a comprehensive road map of development for the continent. Initially, African leaders disagreed as to the approach to attaining an African Union. Some states proposed a gradualist approach whiles others preferred an immediate integration into a United States of Africa—similar to the post independence arguments between the Casablanca and Brazzaville groups that merged into the OAU. After much deliberation, African leaders in Lagos settled on a gradualist approach to the attainment of an Africa Union where the RECs would serve as the building blocs of the conceived Union (Adejo, 2001). The Plan of Action under section 2B(1a) declared that for the period of the 1980s, African nations would strengthen existing Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and establish others in other regions of Africa (Lagos Plan of Action, 1980). There are 8 main RECs namely:
- CEN SAD (The Community of Sahel-Saharan States)
- COMESA (Common Market of Eastern and Southern Africa)
- EAC (The East African Community (EAC)
- ECCAS (Economic Community of Central African States)
- ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States)
- IGAD (Intergovernmental Authority for Development)
- SADC (Southern African Development Community)
- AMU (The Arab Maghreb Union)
For the next decade after the Lagos Plan, there were other Summits held to discuss the future of Africa using as a basis for discussion the Lagos Plan of Action. These Summits culminated in a meeting of Heads of African governments in Abuja in June 1991. It was at this meeting that African leaders came up with the Abuja Treaty, a concretization of ideas brought up in Lagos. In this treaty, provision and plans were made for the formation of an African Central Bank, the African Monetary Union, the African Court of Justice, and the Pan-African Parliament (South Africa Department of Foreign Affairs, 2012).
Transition from OAU to AU
The Lagos Plan of Action for the Economic Development of Africa was scheduled to have been implemented by the new millennium. By this time, the RECs were to have been strong enough for the next phase of possible integration. On September 9 1999, the President of Libya hosted a Summit in Sirte to discuss the acceleration of the formation of the provisions of the Abuja treaty such as the African Central Bank, the African Monetary Union, the African Court of Justice, and the Pan-African Parliament. Following this meeting in Sirte, there was another summit in Lomé in 2000 where the already drafted Constitutive Act of the AU was adopted. In 2001, in a Summit held in Lusaka drew up a road map for the implementation of the AU. At this summit it was reaffirmed that the RECs would serve as the building blocs of the AU. Finally in 2002 at the Durban Summit, the AU was established and its first Assembly of Heads of States was convened (South Africa Department of Foreign Affairs, 2012).
The vision of the AU is “An integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in global arena”. Its mission statement is “An efficient and value-adding institution driving the African integration and development process in close collaboration with African Union Member States, the Regional Economic Communities
(RECs) and African citizens” (African Union Commission, 2009).
AU and Security
The preamble of the AU Constitutive Act highlights the importance of peace and security in the following statement:
…CONSCIOUS of the fact that the scourge of conflicts in Africa constitutes a major impediment to the socio-economic development of the continent and of the need to promote peace, security and stability as a prerequisite for the implementation of our development and integration agenda…
—Preamble, African Union Constitutive Act
Different articles of the AU Constitutive Act also emphasize the importance of peace and security for the AU. Article 4 of the Constitutive Act enumerates principles that the AU and its Members States must abide by. Noteworthy amongst the principles are principles (g) and (h). The first upholds the principle of non-interference by any Member State in the internal affairs of another. That notwithstanding, principle (h) gives the African Union the right to intervene in a Member State pursuant to a decision of the Assembly in respect of grave circumstances, namely: war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity (The African Union Constitutive Act, 2000). Principle (d) makes provision for the establishment of a collective defence policy and principle (e) provides for the peaceful resolution of conflicts through any means decided upon by the assembly. Principle (m) declares respect for democratic principles, human rights, the rule of law and good governance. Principle (n) promotes social justice to ensure balanced economic development. Principle (o) elucidates the importance of respect for the sanctity of human life and thus condemns and rejects impunity and political assassination, acts of terrorism and subversive activities. Principle (p) condemns unconstitutional change of governments. In agreement with principle (p), Article 30 of the Constitutive Act stipulates that Governments which shall come to power through unconstitutional means shall not be allowed to participate in the activities of the Union. Such governments shall be suspended as is currently the case with Madagascar, Mali and Guinea-Bissau. Articles 17 and 18 make provision for the creation of a Pan-African Parliament and Court of Justice. Articles 19 and 22 make provision for the creation of financial Institutions and an Economic, Social and Cultural Council respectively (The African Union Constitutive Act, 2000).
The Peace and Security Council (PSC)
The AU Constitutive Act makes provision for the constituting of a Peace and Security Council (PSC) as the main organ of the AU responsible for ensuring peace and security. In December 26 2003, the Protocol which established the PSC entered into force. Fifteen Member States make up the PSC membership on a rotational basis. The difference between the AU’s PSC and the UN Security Council (UNSC) is the former has no permanent membership seats or vetoes. Decisions are taken by a majority vote. For very important decisions, a two-thirds vote is needed (Maasdorp, 2011). The functions of the PSC are as follows:
- Promotion of Peace, security and stability in Africa
- Preventive diplomacy and the maintenance of peace
- Management of catastrophes and humanitarian actions
- Replacement for the Central Organ of the Mechanism for the prevention, management and regulation of conflicts in Africa, created in 1993 by Heads of States during the Summit in Tunis
The PSC Protocol requires that the RECs are part of its general security framework (Africa Union, 2008). The arms and feet of the PSC are the RECs. In the pursuit of peace and security, the Peace and Security Department makes use of what is known as the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA).
Continental Early Warning System (CEWS)
The CEWS was originally conceived by the OAU after the introduction of the Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution. In the AU dispensation it has been modified to include Open Source Software programmes that track, monitor and report security trends at the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) level. Regional Early Warning Systems (REWS) feed into the CEWS and provide useful information to the PSC for decision making (Maasdorp, 2011).
Panel of the Wise
This panel is appointed by the Assembly to play an advisory role to the Chairperson of the PRC (Yoh, 2008). The Chairperson may delegate responsibility for particular conflict situations to the Panel (Maasdorp, 2011). The Panel report to the PSC and the PSC to the Assembly.
African Peace Fund (APF)
This fund is for peace support operations and it is financed by contributions of Member States and Donors. One such donor is the European Union who have earmarked an amount of €600 million for peace support operations (European Commission, 2012).
Common African defence and security policy
Quarterly, Chiefs of Staff of the armed forces of Member States meet to deliberate on common security issues. Since this has been taking place, cross-national border conflicts have been on the decline (Maasdorp, 2011).
Military Staff Committee
This comprises of military personnel who meet at set times to discuss peace and security matters and make recommendations to the PSC (Maasdorp, 2011).
African Standby Force (ASF)
PSC protocol, Article 13(1) established the ASF. The protocol came into force July 9 2002. The force is made up of military, police and civilian components on standby in five regions that must be ready for deployment within a certain time frame of activation by the PSC (Cilliers, 2008).
The five regions are:
- Northern African Regional Capability (NARC) with the Regional Headquarters located in Tripoli, Libya
- East African Standby Forces (EASBRIG) with the Brigade Headquarters located in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia and the planning element in Nairobi, Kenya
- Central African Standby Forces (ECCAS) with the Regional Headquarters located in Libreville, Gabon
- West African Standby Forces (ECOWAS) with their Regional Headquarters located in Abuja, Nigeria
- Southern African Standby Forces (SADC) with their Regional Headquarters located in Gaberone, Botswana (Maasdorp, 2011)
The following is a diagram showing the ASF approved order of battle:
Arguably, the biggest challenge facing the AU in its management of peace and security is the lack of adequate funding (Cilliers, 2008). The AU receives funding from the EU and other international bodies but, this is still insufficient.
Another challenge is its lack of capacity in the area of humanitarian relief. This lack is augmented by support from the United Nations Country Teams (UNCT).
Another challenge is the need for greater cooperation between the building blocs i.e. the RECs. Within the RECs, there is unevenness of capacities. For instance, some RECs are richer and more efficient than others. There also exists the need for greater human and institutional capacity for better regional cooperation and integration to take place.
With regards to actual security challenges, the AU has to grapple with refugee challenges arising from droughts or ethnic conflicts, hunger, malaria, HIV/AIDs and the occasional unconstitutional change of legitimately elected governments. Furthermore, the UN population census department has projected that the 1 billion population of Africa will double by 2050. The AU has to figure out how to manage this demographic change whiles reducing the income inequality gap so as to forestall uprisings within the youth who constitute more than 60 per cent of Africa’s present and future populations.
Apart from all of the above, the AU has still to wrestle with some of the challenges their predecessors had to deal with such as the sheer size of the continent, number of member States, displacements arising from artificial colonially drawn borders, ethnic violence, racism, xenophobia etc.
Once upon a time, African despots and warlords committed human rights crimes with impunity flagrantly brutalising their own populations knowing that the OAU could not intervene. Such attitudes are fast on the decline within the continent because the AU through its Constitutive Act is mandated to intervene in Member States in respect of grave circumstances, namely war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. No longer can despots hide under a narrow interpretation of sovereignty. As one researcher has observed, the number of civil wars has drastically reduced since the 1990s (Hoeffler, 2008). Fortunately, due in part to the work of the AU, this trend has continued till date.
The number of cross-border conflicts has also reduced since the Chiefs of Staff of armed forces started to dialogue together regularly (Maasdorp, 2011).
Another achievement is the ability to sanction and suspend Member States who transgress the AU Charter and Constitutive Act. A good example is the suspension of Member States such as Mali and Guinea-Bissau who underwent unconstitutional change of governments in 2012. This intolerance for impunity serves as a deterrent for any states who might otherwise be tempted to behave like the suspended states.
The PSC has successfully deployed peace support operations to quell conflicts in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Burundi, Côte d’Ivoire and other countries. Resolutions have been adopted to authorise peacekeeping missions in Somalia and Darfur. It has even imposed travel bans and frozen assets of leaders of rebellion in Comoros (Cilliers, 2008).
Concerning peacekeeping missions, a New York Times article read the following “Analysts say the African Union has done a better job of pacifying Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital and a hornet’s nest of Islamist militants, clan warlords, factional armies and countless glassy-eyed freelance gunmen, than any other outside force, including 25,000 American troops in the 1990s” (Gettleman, 2011). Such articles are testament to the hard work being done by the AU missions.
Another achievement is the establishment of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (2006), and the Pan-African Parliament (2004).
In the May 13 2000 print edition of The Economist, the cover page had a map of Africa superimposed on a black background with the title “The Hopeless Continent”. In a May 11 2000 article entitled “Hopeless Africa”, The Economist explained why Africa in their opinion was hopeless. It claimed for reasons buried in African cultures, Africans seem especially prone to brutality, despotism and corruption (The Economist, 2000). The article goes on to buttress its point by citing the security challenges of the continent at that time such as the bloody civil war in Sierra Leone, famine in Ethiopia and political conflict in Zimbabwe. In another article also dated May 11 2000 titled “The heart of the matter“, The Economist explains that “Africa’s biggest problems stem from its present leaders. But they were created by African society and history” implying that Africa’s challenges can be traced to its society and history.
Fast-forward to August 2012, the UN magazine, Africa Renewal carries a story titled “African economies capture world attention” with the subtitle “But huge challenges still lie ahead”. This article outlines some of the promising economic indicators that have made Africa a favourable destination for more and more investors in recent years. The article explains that since The Economist article was published 12 years ago, “Africa’s trade with the rest of the world has increased by more than 200 per cent, annual inflation has averaged only 8 per cent and foreign debt has decreased by 25 per cent. Foreign direct investment (FDI) grew by 27 per cent in 2011 alone”. Sub Saharan economies are projected by the IMF to grow by above 5 per cent. The UN article quotes the McKinsey Global Institute as saying that, “The rate of return on foreign investment is higher in Africa than in any other developing region”.
But what are the factors behind these positive indicators? The article cites “an end to many armed conflicts, abundant natural resources and economic reforms that have promoted a better business climate” (Ighobor, 2012).
These factors mentioned as being catalytic to the development of these positive indicators are a direct consequence of the work of the AU and its PSC. The important role of the AU in leading development within the continent by providing a safe and conducive environment for business cannot be overstated.
Regionalism and its role in maintaining peace and security in Africa has come a long way since the early 1960s when the Casablanca and Brazzaville groups were fighting over whether to “unite now” or later. Much work was done during the tenure of the OAU. The gains of that organization continue to be consolidated by their successors who have tried to right some of the wrongs of the OAU such as putting respect for life above all narrow interpretations of the principle of sovereignty.
The building blocs of the AU i.e. the RECs are also much stronger than they were in the 1990s and are actively participating and cooperating with each other, with the AU and other international bodies to provide peace—a requisite environment for development.
More work still remains to be done in the provision of adequate security and peace. The AU recognises this and is working to that end. It is not easy to prognosticate the future but if the present gains are sustained and the current trajectory is maintained, there is a real chance of Africa becoming one of the world’s most peaceful and most secure continents in the not too distant future.
* Solomon Appiah is a Public Policy enthusiast with a passion for the development of sub-Saharan Africa.original Article Can be viewed at http://solomonappiah.wordpress.com.