BY MANYOK CHOL DAVID
The United Nations formed in 1945, aimed at promoting global peace and security. Rising interests and different ideologies have led to the emergence of different conflicts. This has called for great UN roles in restoring stability in conflict areas. History has shown that the UN has succeeded in restoring peace in some conflict zones while failing in others.
In the 1990s, the civil war in the Balkan led to the formation of UNMIBH (2000-2002). The mission provided millions of US dollar to supported capacity development and reconstruction, a success in UN peacekeeping in Southern Europe. (UN report, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars).
In Asia, the United Nation Integration Mission in East Timor (UNMIT, 1999), formed by UNSC resolution 1704, and headed by Ameera Haj, an American, was a UN success. The mission supported the government in consolidating stability, enhancing the culture of democratic governance and facilitated political dialogue among East Timorese and prepared them for eventual referendum leading to independence. Immediately after its closure (UNMIT), China built the presidential palace, Brazil provided financial support and Cuba trained its (East Timorese) doctors.
Despite the UN successes in other part of the world, most of the UN missions failed in Africa and one has to ask: Why do UN missions fail in Africa? Let begin.
During the civil war in Serra Leone, the UN Security Council failed to enforced arm embargo on Eastern European countries (Ukraine, Kirgizstan and Slovakia) who shifted weaponry to Liberia and later smuggled to Serra Leone, through a European arms dealer, with an accomplice from an alleged West African Nation. In addition, the UNSC failed to authorize a strong mandate to UNAMSIL in Sierra Leone to enforce arm embargo on the RUF especially in Kailahun district.
The civil war in Liberia between 1989 -2003 led to the formation of a UN mission known as UNMIL(2003), however, the UNMIL present did not stop the blood diamond trade that led to thousands death. In fact, allegations still lingers until today about alleged role of European millionaires who participated in the trade and whose revenue was allegedly used to finance Charles Taylor’s government in Monrovia (refer to UN report on Liberia).
In 1994, before the Rwandan genocide, Gen. Dallaire notified the head of UN peacekeeping, Dr. Koffi Annan, however, his warnings were ignored. Instead, western embassies in Kigali arranged the withdrawal of expatriates claiming the conflict has nothing to do with Europe!
Furthermore, the Ministry of Defense in Belgium continued to supply arms to Hutu extremists in Kigali, regardless of the warnings given by Gen. Roméo Dallaire, who demanded an explanation. He asked for more peacekeepers and more power to stop the looming genocide (UN mission in Kigali was mostly comprised of Belgian and French forces), but the Belgian told him not to worry and to let the shipment go through and no additional peacekeepers would be sent.
On one occasion, Gen. Dallaire was infuriated, and turned on his Belgian officer, asking to justify why he was working for a nation that was arming the men who might kill him. The Belgian officer replied, “Peacekeeping is peacekeeping, business is business, and the business of Belgium is arms!”
Furthermore the US knew exactly what was going to happen more than two weeks before it started, but they decided not to involve because Rwanda had no value to American interests. “Whether we get involved in any of the world’s ethnic conflicts,” Clinton said, justifying his decision, “must depend on the cumulative weight of the American interests at stake”.
In his words, the US Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, Prudence Bushnell said “America has no friends, America has interests. In the case of Rwanda, America has no interest!” Since America has no friends, the Americans lawmakers did not prevent the genocide. Nonetheless, after the war, Bill Clinton when he visited Rwanda in 1997 said, “America regrets for not preventing the Rwanda genocide”.
In DRC, The United Nations Mission in Congo (1999-present) failed to protect the civilians from the marauding militants in the east of country. Despite the mission presence, civilians continue to suffer in the hand of militias who continue to receive arms from individual arm dealers. The alleged role of Rwanda and Uganda in Congo resources plundering was kept secret by the UNSC and refused to publish the report. In this way, the UN became an accomplice to those who were guilty of atrocities and human rights violations so they and their patrons could continue to plunder Congo (Mvemba Phezo Dizolele, 2014).
In Darfur, the UNAMID failed to bring peace to Western Sudan. Instead, the President of the Sudan, Gen. Omar Al Bashir, who was allegedly accused of the killing ironically brought peace to the region!
UNAMID’s failure was not a surprise since it was a competition of power between the European powers and the African Union. The rivalry between the two parties affects their ability to operate. In addition, UNAMID suffers from the divided UN Security Council over different interests in the Sudan, including the American interest! In addition, the UNAMID lacked a mandate and the equipment to intervene. Some of its soldiers were armed with pistols against a government force with tanks (courtesy of Ahmed H. Adam, Cornell University).
In Libya, what the Americans described as the Arab Awakening, evolved into a civil war that saw the Arab Republic of Libya disintegrating into clan-based regions. The Arab oil now flows cheaply to Europe via Benghazi oil terminals, while Africans continue to suffer under the ISIS. Regardless of this, the UN Security Council never intervened with the exception of NATO that came to Libya, bombed and left. In his remarks before leaving office, President Obama said, “We regret for killing Mohammaur Gadhafi!”
In 2005, the UNSC established the United Nations Mission in Sudan (UNMIS) to oversee the peace implementation and to prepare South Sudan independence. After South Sudan independence, the President of the Sudan, Gen. Bashir, requested UNMIS to leave the country since its mission was over. Consequently, UNMISS found a sanctuary in South Sudan. Unlike the missions in the Balkan and East Timor, UNMISS have partially detached itself from working closely with the government and chose to work more independently. Apart from supporting South Sudanese in UNMISS camps, the mission have failed to support war reconstruction efforts such as clearing roads for civilian transports, supporting civil education, providing health care services to civilian among others. It also failed to provide safety for NGO staffs where government efforts are beyond reach.
While U.N missions in Africa seem to fail, the African missions on the other portrayed success stories.
The Africa Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) formed in January 2007, by the AU Peace and Security Council, and authorized to support the Transitional Government of Somalia have shown achievements. Comprised of Ugandan, Burundian, Rwandan and Kenyan armies it helped expelled Al Shabab militants from Somali cities, helped in transitioning from Transitional Government of Somalia to the Federal Government of Somalia headed by President Hassan Sheikh Mohamed and the current government. Today, Somalia is fairly a stable country.
In 2017, the long serving president of the Gambia, Yahya Jamme was defeated in presidential election by Adama Abaro, however, he refused to relinquish power, but, the Economic Community of West Africa States (ECOWAS) helped in restoring democracy!
There are endless stories about UN mission failures in Africa, including the crisis in Central African Republic with sexual abuses allegations. It is high time for UN to review its staffing and mandate policies if it want to maintain is objectives.
In conclusion, it is undeniably true that African nations are parties to UN conventions, and having equal statutes at the UN like any other European or American nations, however to my opinion, the African conflicts should be solved by Africans as you saw from the article and UN should just embark on empowering African institutions such as AU, ECOWAS, SADCC, IGAD and EAC to manage regional conflicts.
The author is a Lecturer at the University of Juba.
The can be reached on 0921676987, firstname.lastname@example.org