War and Strife in Africa: Issues in Peacekeeping


War and Strife in Africa: Issues in Peacekeeping

War and peace have come to dominate the experience of man in the world in which we live today. Man pours so much time and resources into defense, and the procurement of arms for the destruction of man and his environment.

The world has never been able to record any decade in history, which has been war-free. It must thus be mentioned that even after the establishment of International Organizations such as the United Nations, the African Union (A.U), etc., the conflicts or crises spots have continued to increase on the world map. 

Nations have gone to war to increase their wealth or power, but whatever the inclination or policy, their ultimate manifestation is the conditions of war, its hazards and hostilities that are created by man against man.

In this article, we focus on the issues concerning peacekeeping and the resultant effects. Also you should be able to:

· Discuss war and strife in Africa

· Discuss issues concerning peacekeeping

· Discuss refugee problems in Africa

· Discuss the UN and peacekeeping.


The Costs of War

It is a fact that the cost of war exceeds by far the benefits that might accrue from the struggle not only in the human and material resources which are expended in the process, but also in the socio-economic as well as the post-war environment hazards.

It is in this light that nations tend to preserve or to restore peace whenever this is breached by war. A reason for which the U.N.O was set up with the ultimate functions of preserving world peace, to facilitate and increase the relationship and interaction amongst nation states.

Whenever and wherever any party strains relationships, it usually calls for some concern from the whole world. This is because small-scale wars or conflicts have in the past showed that they have a high tendency of escalating into confrontation among superpowers, which in itself would lead to a mutual nuclear annihilation e.g. the Vietnam War.

It was the widespread interest in peace which culminated in the efforts by nations to create the United Nations in 1945, which includes its package, the practice of peacekeeping sought for after the leagues’ failure to prevent the world war 11. 

The controversy surrounding United Nations activities in the achievement of its primary function, which is the maintenance of world peace, is clouded by dispositions, which is in itself surrounded by complex, and emotional historical problems of the 20th century.

Some students and scholars of the disciplines are of the view that the United nations has failed in its primary objective, and have again gone further to describe it as ineffective irresolute body which creates a forum where diplomats go and let out abuses on each other.

While a few hold this view, there are others who hold entirely different view. They, on the other hand, say that there is nothing wrong with the United Nations, but its members, Kurt Waldheim former Secretary General of United Nations as being microsm of the world, and he is of the view that the United Nations has done its best to preserve peace despite the obstacles, which have continued to emerge.

Following the wake of events and trend of activities in the International system as well as the role played by the United nations in its primary role of maintaining peace, there has arisen such rigorous controversy regarding the efficacy of the world Body in carrying out its primary functions which is preservation of peace.

The performance of the United Nations organization, in the preservation of world peace has no doubt turned out to be a subject of discussion, which is clouded by a historical and emotional phenomenon. 

While some are of the view that the United Nations has failed in its primary assignment, others have their reservations and they hold an opposing view as regards the efficacy of the International Organization.

This dissension is however not restricted to scholars or people in the discipline, rather it spread amongst people of all walks of life. However, those who are of the view that the United Nations has failed, and has such outlived its usefulness believe that: “It has fallen in its central role of keeping the world peace and…it seems a little more than a debating chamber…where hot-headed diplomats angrily abuse each and nothing effective ever gets done”? This idea was further buttressed by the words of German Scholar, Rudiger Jucte, who is of the institute of peace research and security policy, at the University Hamburg. He noted as follows… Conflicts and crises, dominated the agenda of the United Nations and… The capacity of the Security Council and the General Assembly.

The overall results where well known: the United Nations record in maintaining peace and Security presents itself as a history of predominant failures; and a few outstanding roles that the organization could play were indeed exceptions to the rule rather than evidence of its functions as a reliable instrument to safeguard the elements of rudimentary peace.

Some have however gone further to suggest that there is need for a complete overhaul and a re-organization of the system if it is to be of any significance to the contemporary International system. Daniel Frei (1973) while writing on the rationales and implications of crises research, mentioned that: “It is certainly no exaggeration to the hypothesis that since 1945, there has never been less than three crises spots simultaneously active somewhere on the map and they are all prone to the risk of eruption and escalation into confrontation through the involvement of the major powers” Due to the fact that the international system has become a highly sensitive network of political and socio-economic interdependence any local crises inevitable has its effect on the entire system.

So much so that a confrontation amongst or within a nation (local crises) could lead to a threat of mutual annihilation.

The United Nations has often been found engaging in the regulation of conflict between international actors in disagreement but the organization was powerless. This was evident however in the non-reaction of the United Nations Organization towards their anti-Libya policy which resulted in the air raid against Libya, which no doubt was a violation of both the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Libya.

In our Opinion, however, the issues surround the efficiency of the United Nations in the attainment of its primary objective that are eluded by emotions and disposition towards the organization, such that a general consensus cannot be reached even within the organization itself. Decisions taken would always be reviewed as being biased by one nation or another. Whichever being the case it has often been stated that the veto power of the Security Council and permanent members has presented one of the structural defects of the United Nations Organization.

The decision and the activities of the United Nations would always be subjected to scrutiny and criticism, for good or bad.


The Nature of Conflicts and Means of Peacemaking

Since the end of the cold War, the world has witnessed some, but not many conflicts between nations. Such conflicts are called international conflicts.

More often today, we witness some kind of civil conflict within a nation, called international conflict. Have you ever thought about how to define war and types of war? It is not a pleasant thought. When we think of war – conflict – we think of people shooting each other, of bombs dropping, of tanks firing, of people dying. We become sad, we feel powerless, and we are confused. What do we know about war? We know war involves the use of violence.

We know war means that the political order within a country or between countries has broken down. We know that war means someone or some group could not prevent it. We know that war leave deep scars on any society.

Many experts have tried to find out why conflict occurs. One thing these experts all agree on is that in any conflict there are many causes, perhaps a major cause and several others. All the experts agree that studying conflict is complex. Below, five major causes, or types of conflict are summarized.

As you read the case studies, keep these types of conflict in mind so that you can apply them in a particular case.

1. Ideological Conflict: Is a clash of basic values related to the role of government in society, how economic resources should be owned and used, who should make decisions for people, how decisions should be made, and who is rewarded and punished in a society. Ideology is a “world view”. It is lens through which all things are perceived.

2. Territorial and Environmental Conflict: Involves disputes over land, water, control of rivers, the protection and use of natural resources and the environment. Territory very often becomes the place where other types of conflict occur. Or, perhaps control of land, water, or other natural resources becomes the heart of conflict.

3. Identity Conflict: Occurs over the questions, which we are? Or alternatively who am I? Individuals and groups of people want to feel secure where they live and how. They do not want to fear for their lives or subject to discrimination. Tribal, religious, ethnic, linguistic, and nationality conflicts fall into this category. As with most conflict, identity becomes a question of values, norms, and tradition. These beliefs become so central to people that they fear, mistrust, and hate others who are not the same.

4. Racial Conflict: Is a type of identity conflict, instead of values and beliefs that become issues, it is the colour of one’s skin or the origin of the group from which they came. Perceived differences in outside appearance such as skin colour, often result in one group been considered inferior by a group that considers itself superior.

5. Governance and Authority: Conflicts result from the use or misuse of power. Simply stated, the conflicted arises over who makes decisions for a group of people. With decision-making power come the associated decisions related to economic matters, territory, and matter of justice. Often conflict arises because those in authority favour or punish groups of people based on race or religion.


Techniques of Managing International Conflicts

Managing Conflict: Karen A. Mingst, Professor of Political Science at the University of Kentucky, has provided an overview of means of managing conflict. In a paper published with support of the United States Institute of Peace, professor Mingst offers and analysis of ways conflict is managed. Excerpts from the paper follow.

Low-level conflicts, especially conflicts that arise from miscommunication, may be managed through traditional and routine diplomacy… First, when diplomatic recognition is exchanged, states promise to resolve disputes and conflicts through peaceful and diplomatic means. Second, many diplomatic practices are codified into international law.

Diplomacy may, then, provide a means through which communication between disputing parties occurs; it may or may not lead to resolving conflict. International conflict may also be managed through balance of power silent and sometimes not so silent diplomacy.

A balance of power approach is predicated on the belief that power may counter power. Conflict is managed, kept under control, by putting the power of state against the power of another. Equality or balance of power assures that no other nation or group will become dominant.

Balance of power may become institutionalized into security alliances. Such alliances are the oldest and perhaps the most familiar to conflict management. Like-minded states, states having similar security interests, or states whose enemies are the same join together.

Security alliances serve both an international and external role in managing conflict. States promise to resolve internal disputes and to speak with a one voice against the outsides; alliances structure conflict directed toward external actors.

Security alliance may evolve into international organizations – organizations established by member states to fulfill a number of different tasks. Modern international organizations, the most prominent being the League of Nations and the United Nations, are largely products of warfare in the 19th and 20th century…. International peacekeeping:

The United Nations was established at the war’s end (World War 11), designed by the victors including the United States, to eliminate war and its causes.

The United Nations Charter obligates all members to settle disputes by peaceful means, to refrain from the threat or use of force, and to cooperate with UN sponsored actions:

1. UN peacekeepers serve as observers – traditionally the least controversial of their activities. This has included supervising armistices and maintaining ceasefires, or more recently verifying troop withdrawals, observing elections, or coordinating the voluntary surrender of weapons.

2. UN forces may be interposed between two states engaged in conflict or disengage warring factions and observe firsthand the violations of ceasefires. Separation of forces is a technique of conflict managers.

3. UN peacekeepers may act defensively to maintain law and order in a country, should central government authority be eroded. Usually UN civilian police assist local police in performing these functions.

4. Peacekeepers may use limited force defensively. Use of force has always been controversial: How much is limited force? Is force really used defensively? These controversies are being re-opened with the end of the Cold War and the accelerated demand for peacekeepers pitted against elements having great destructive potential.

International Negotiation: Paraphrased, negotiation process in which parties in conflict make a series of proposals in order to reach an agreement based on their common interest. 

Negotiations proceed in stages. When the problem is being identified, individuals participating in the negotiations need to be separated from the problem.

At the state of presentation of positions, interests need to be articulated, rather than personal positions negotiated. At the stage where options are considered, negotiators should seek options with mutual rather than individual gains. The criteria for option selection need to be objective.

The framework, as well as the actions suggested, is appropriate for discussion of negotiations at every level of daily life Third Party Dispute Resolution: Attempts at conflict management by third parties are very old, dating from the time of the Greeks when city-states agreed that if there were disputes, the matter should be “ judicially decided”. If quarrels broke out, states promised to appeal to other cities which both deemed to be impartial – mediators in fact. Disputants generally make a cost-benefit calculation – the gains versus the risked and constraints (of a settlement).

Although stronger parties are more reluctant to seek third-party intervention for fear that their power will be neutralized, either weak or strong parties may find it in their interest to avail themselves of third party instrumentalities.

Likewise, third parties have their own motivations, ranging from a sense of public responsibility to a desire for prestige and honour.

Track-Two Diplomacy: Track-two diplomacy involves both individuals and organizations from outside the government. Such individuals and groups from disputing countries interact in ways to facilitate conflict resolution.

In track-two diplomacy three processes occur. First, non-government participants from each side meet in informal problem-solving workshops mediated or facilitated by psychologically sensitive third parties. These workshops bring politically influential representatives of parties together to enable participants to see that they have shared problem and to examine the underlying causes of the conflict.

Second, a track-two approach involves influencing opinion, trying to shape the overall political environment.

The programme serves to increase communication and understanding between people in conflict. This, track-two diplomacy involves trying to take concrete actions. Most proposals focus on economic development proposals. However, the key is to find something concrete that parties can believe in for the purposes of building up habits of cooperation and managing conflict.

An interesting example has been the role that civilian groups have played in arranging humanitarian ceasefires. As you learn more about the case studies of conflict, think about the best possible means, or combination of means, you might recommend managing the conflict.


Conclusion on War and Strife in Africa: Issues in Peacekeeping

There is little doubt that issues of war and strife constitute important social and political issues that occupy and task the skills of African leaders, diplomats and the international community. Part of the efforts at addressing the issue includes the use of international peacekeeping by the UN. Whether this has been effective or not is still largely debatable. However, the point remains that there are various techniques currently employed for managing conflicts around the world, many of which have been tested in Africa. Some work, some do not work. It is left for us to find out the reasons why many have not worked.

In this article, we have examined wars and strife and what are usually done to combat and manage them. We examined issues relating to peacekeeping in Africa, conflicts and the means of peacemaking. The various techniques for managing international conflicts were also examined.

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