Wednesday, October 18, 2017
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UN and AU commit to enhancing African peace and security

African Union soldiers.The African Union and United Nations are working towards enhancing African peace and security capabilities as part of a shared interest in solving African conflicts.

Ambassador Smail Chergui, Commissioner for Peace and Security to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), last month told the Council that the African Union is an indispensable partner in promoting peace and security in Africa. “Over the last decade, the African Union has mandated or authorized the deployment of more than 100 000 uniformed and civilian personnel, many of whom are deployed in some of the most high risk and volatile environments.

“This has come at a huge cost to human lives. It is noteworthy to mention here that the number of casualties by African troops in peace support operations in the last decade exceeds the combined casualties experienced in UN peacekeeping missions over the last 70 years. This is a compelling reality to demonstrate the commitment of Africans and the African Union to durable peace and stability on the continent,” Chergui said.

“Despite these sacrifices and commitment, African troops are faced with some of the most challenging situations due to inadequate force enablers and multipliers, as well as financial resource gaps,” he told the UNSC.

Last month the African Union Peace and Security Council declared that AMISOM had successfully achieved its mandate over the last decade on the basis of a recently concluded lessons learned study by the African Union Commission. “Yet, AMISOM remains the least resourced mission in comparison with other deployed regional or international enforcement missions with similar mandates.”

As a result, Chergui made several proposals to the UNSC on how best to support African peace and security. The first entails the UN and international community promoting conflict prevention in Africa, as “conflict prevention remains the most cost effective conflict management tools but yet the least resourced,” he said, with the April 2017 Joint AU-UN Framework on the Enhanced Cooperation in Peace and Security a good foundation on this.

Secondly, Chergui called for the enhancement of the operational readiness of the African Standby Force. “The African Union and its Regional standby forces have put in tremendous efforts to develop and operationalize the African Standby Force (ASF) and its Rapid Deployment Capability (RDC) as one of its conflict management tool, as enshrined in the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA). This was evidenced by the declaration of Full Operational Capability of the ASF In January 2016 by the African Union (AU) Specialized Technical Committee on Defense Safety and Security (STCDSS).”

However, Chergui noted that even though the ASF has been declared operational, there are challenges with the mandating process, funding and logistics support. The Maputo Five Year Workplan on the enhancement of the ASF will go a long way to addressing these concerns.

Chergui noted that a High Level Technical Team is currently undertaking the verification of the capabilities of the five brigades of the ASF.

Chergui expressed concern about the spread of violent extremism but applauded the recent authorization of regional coalitions such the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) against Boko Haram and the G5 Sahel force. “The African Union Counter-terrorism Fund, as well as activities of the African Centre for the Study and Research on Terrorism, the Nouakchott and important coordination platforms through which the supported and in the fight against terrorism,” he said.

Lastly, Chergui said the financing of peace support operations is a perennial issue. “It is clear that Africa will not be able fund peace initiatives on its own… We, therefore look forward to further deliberation and possible decision by this Council in September 2017, on the dedicated support from the UN to all UNSC-mandated African peace support operations.”

UN Secretary-General António Guterres agreed to strengthen the partnership between the AU and UN. “I firmly believe the international community needs to change the narrative about Africa and to establish a higher platform of cooperation that recognizes Africa’s enormous potential and promise.

“In the area of peace and security, the African Union and United Nations have a shared interest in strengthening mechanisms to defuse conflicts before they escalate, and to manage them effectively when they occur.

“Enhancing African capacities is essentially both in the context of our collective response to international peace and security challenges as well as for the self-reliance of the African continent.

“This is why, on April 19, I joined with the Chairperson of the AU Commission Moussa Faki Mahamat to sign a Joint UN-AU Framework for Enhanced Partnership in Peace and Security”.

The Framework includes four key action areas: first, preventing and mediating conflict and sustaining peace; second, responding to conflict; third, addressing root causes; and fourth, the continuous review and enhancement of our partnership.

Guterres pointed out it is critical that the UN and AU work together to solve disputes. “In The Gambia, for example, the strong leadership of West African nations — with the support of ECOWAS, the African Union and United Nations – contributed significantly to find a peaceful settlement to the political crisis.

“And in South Sudan, IGAD, the African Union and the United Nations are actively coordinating efforts to find a durable peace – including through a joint call for the immediate cessation of hostilities and a comprehensive and inclusive political dialogue.

“The African Union and the sub-regional organizations have deployed tremendous efforts to develop and operationalize the African Standby Force and its Rapid Deployment Capability. Under our new Framework, we look forward to further supporting the strengthening of this Force and to exploring synergies with the UN Peacekeeping Capability Readiness System,” Guterres said.