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Peace Operations in Africa: Lessons Learned Since 2000

Peace Operations in Africa: Lessons Learned Since 2000

Violent conflict and the power of armed nonstate actors remain defining priorities in 21st century Africa. Organized violence has killed millions and displaced many more, leaving them to run the gauntlet of violence, disease, and malnutrition. Such violence has also traumatized a generation of children and young adults, broken bonds of trust and authority structures among and across local communities, shattered education and healthcare systems, disrupted transportation routes and infrastructure, and done untold damage to the continent’s ecology from its land and waterways to its flora and fauna. In financial terms, the direct and indirect cost of conflicts in Africa since 2000 has been estimated to be nearly $900 billion. The twin policy challenges are to promote conflict resolution processes and to identify who can stand up to armed nonstate actors when the host government’s security forces prove inadequate.

Whether the focus is on al Shabaab in Somalia, the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda or M23 rebels in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), the Janjaweed in Darfur, Sudan, or al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb and Ansar al Dine in northern Mali, peace operations have been designated a leading role in dealing with these “spoiler” groups.

Following a U.S.-led international withdrawal from peacekeeping in Africa after the “Black Hawk down” episode in Mogadishu in October 1993, a new wave of peace operations were deployed to the continent in the late 1990s with the missions to the DRC, Sierra Leone, and the Central African Republic. During the 21st century, 52 peace operations have been deployed to 18 African countries (see Table). Since 2011 alone, 10 new peace operations have been deployed in 8 African countries. They were conducted by a range of international organizations, principally the United Nations (UN), African Union (AU), European Union (EU), and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS).

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