Although armed conflicts in Africa are on the decline, current hostilities have become more intractable and complex. Conflicts are now characterised by humanitarian, security and governance crises involving more effective illegal armed groups and non-state actors, often backed by external supporters. Peacekeeping responses have become multidimensional with large but often ineffective armed peacekeeping components.
To create the conditions conducive for peace processes and impartial peacekeeping, it is often necessary to deploy combat intervention forces alongside peacekeepers. Africa’s response to modern crises and the ‘responsibility to protect’ civilians under immanent threat has ranged from an effective if costly combat intervention in Somalia, to an ineffective response in Mali and a ground-breaking, if unproven, determination to deploy an African Standby Force/SADC Brigade combat intervention force in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).
This seminar, organised by the ISS’s Conflict Management and Peacebuilding Division (CMPB) and hosted by Denel Dynamics in Centurion, Pretoria explored the rationale of peace interventions in Africa. Why are these operations needed, and who has the will and the capacity to make them work? What role should the UN and the AU play? The crucial question is what is needed for peace interventions to be effective, and if South Africa is able to make a contribution. The highly successful and well-attended event was chaired by Annette Leijenaar, Head of CMPB at ISS, and included dynamic presentations from four international experts in conflict management, peacekeeping and peace enforcement. Speakers considered the following questions:
- Why we need peacekeeping – the future of armed conflict in Africa
- Peacekeeping and peace enforcement: who does the heavy lifting and what does the future hold?
- The African Union (AU) Peace Support Operations Division’s requirements for future peace operations
- South Africa’s capacity to support peace intervention operations
A situation update on the United Nations’ latest robust mandate and deployment of a ‘Force Intervention Brigad’ to neutralise M23 rebels and other armed groups in the DRC, preceded a discussion on the AU’s future requirements to operationalise a peacekeeping and peace enforcement capability. The final session examined the enablers needed for successful peace interventions, such as the recent French intervention in Mali, the emerging combat capabilities of rebel groups and the South African National Defence Force’s capability to respond to future peace enforcement tasks under the AU’s new intervention force capability mooted as the African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises (ACIRC).