Crafting an African Security Architecture: Addressing Regional Peace and Conflict in the 21st Century, edited by Hany Besada. Ashgate. UK. £55 hardback
Reviewed by Desmond Davies, Africa Editor, North-South magazine, London
One of the overarching aims of the African Union, which was established in 2002, is to ensure that human security takes precedence over state security. This has been a thorny issue for some of the continent’s leaders who feel that the pan-African body has been given too much power to intervene in the internal affairs of member states.
Those who back this concept point out that if African leaders behave in the right manner in the first place, there would be no need for humanitarian intervention.
There is no denying that some countries and regions in Africa have been involved perpetual conflict and in most of these cases it has been down to the UN to try to rein in the protagonists. Nevertheless, there is now a growing reluctance among some members of the international community to commit themselves to peacekeeping and humanitarian assistance in Africa.
It is in this regard that the AU, under the auspices of its Peace and Security Council (PSC), decided to create the African Standby Force (ASF) that will ensure that well trained troops are rapidly deployed to deal with emergencies in the continent. The ASF will draw from the five standby forces established by the various regional organisations, such as the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), which has had huge experience in regional intervention.
Indeed, African troops have acquitted themselves well when they are part of UN peacekeeping operations. This is the point made in Crafting an African Security Architecture: Addressing Regional Peace and Conflict in the 21st Century, which lays bare the challenges Africa faces in dealing with its security challenges. ‘For those sceptical of Africans’ willingness to assume greater responsibility for the protection of civilians, the statistics on troop contributions to United Nations missions tell an encouraging story about the active engagement of African states in peace operations.
‘As of November 2008, three of the 10 countries contributing the most soldiers, military observers, and police to UN peacekeeping operations are African. Nigeria ranked fourth, Ghana sixth and Rwanda eighth. This is part of a sustained pattern, with four out of the 2003 top 10 contributors also being African: Nigeria ranked third, Ghana fifth, Kenya ninth and South Africa tenth.’
Clearly, Africa has the manpower with the relevant experience to lead the way in providing ‘African solutions to African problems’, as the AU is wont to say these days as part of its Responsibility to Protect doctrine. This encompasses not only intervention in conflict situations but also how the AU can respond to conflicts over health, water, land and food security in the continent.
The same could be said for Africa’s New Peace and Security Architecture: Promoting Norms, Institutionalizing Solution. It provides an informed and critical analysis of how the continent’s peace and security architecture could take root.
The book is of significance because some of the authors were directly involved in the establishment of the AU’s Peace and Security Architecture, with specific reference to the Continental Early Warning System ‘ which is crucial to dealing with conflict in Africa before it gets out of hand.
Africa’s New Peace and Security Architecture examines the institutions that will carry the continent’s peace and security forward, raises pertinent questions dealing with the successful operation of the architecture and discusses the medium and long-term challenges to putting into practice the ASF. The book provides quick references on the evolution of Africa’s attempts at establishing a peace and security system that will deal with perennial problems in the continent’s hotspots.