December 6, 2007

HARRISONBURG—In his weekly “Strategic Interests” column for the World Defense Review, Dr. J. Peter Pham, Director of the Nelson Institute for International and Public Affairs at James Madison University, discusses peacekeeping capacity in Africa and the challenges faced by the continent’s security forces.

Noting both the failure of the United Nations Security Council-authorized African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) to fully deploy since only 1,600 Ugandan troops were dispatched and serious questions about whether or not African Union/UN hybrid operation for Sudan’s conflicted Darfur region (UNAMID) will actually subsume the African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) at the end of this month as planned, Dr. Pham observes that while “everyone pays lip service to the need for Africans to secure their own region, but the fact that they have an exceptionally limited capacity to do so.” The article cites the figures for current peacekeeping operations in Africa:

In addition to the sui generis AMISOM and AMIS/UNAMID operations, there are currently nine international missions in Africa overseen by [the UN] Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO): the UN Integrated Office in Burundi (BINUB), the UN Mission in the Central African Republic and Chad (MINURCAT), the UN Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO), the UN Organization Mission in the Democratic Republic of Congo (MONUC), the UN Integrated Office in Sierra Leone (UNIOSIL), the UN Mission in Ethiopia and Eritrea (UNMEE), the UN Mission in Liberia (UNMIL), the UN Mission in Sudan (UNMIS), and the UN Operation in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI). Together, the nine DPKO missions have 54,306 personnel, two-thirds of the 82,701 peacekeepers deployed worldwide by the international organization at the end of October. The DPKO African operations have a budget for the current fiscal year of some $3.4 billion, and UNAMID will cost at least another $1.4 billion…

Only one-third of the 54,306 international peacekeepers assigned to Africa—some 16,799 troops—hail from the continent…Even the continent’s most prosperous state, South Africa—a country whose economy account for more than a third of Africa’s GDP and whose defense minister, Mosioua Lekota,…has publicly led opposition to the establishment of the United States Africa Command (AFRICOM) in the name of the ideology that Africa should “avoid the presence of foreign forces on her soil”—contributes barely 1,200 peacekeepers to DPKO operations in Africa, a figure well behind Ghana, Nigeria, Senegal, Ethiopia, Morocco, and even tiny Benin.

According to the article, part of the problem is that “many policymakers and analysts have long viewed African militaries more as a source of trouble than as a force for security—and not without reason.” Consequently, Western donor countries have largely focused their aid programs on humanitarian relief and economic development, rather than building up the military and security forces of the continent’s countries. However, with increased recognition of the link between security and prosperity, a number of Western countries—including the United States, Great Britain, France, and Portugal—have recently been making concerted efforts to build up the military capacities of their African partners, especially for peacekeeping and other stability operations.

To read the full text of Dr. Pham’s article, “Too Few Good Men—and Even Fewer Supplies: The Challenge of Peacekeeping in Africa,” click here.