Peacekeeping in Africa: Emerging Challenges and Critical Lessons for Sustainable Peacekeeping Operations

Thematic Insights

Date | 18 March, 2021

Tomorrow (18 March) the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) will convene its 988th session on ‘Peacekeeping in Africa: Emerging Challenges and Critical Lessons for Sustainable Peacekeeping Operations’. This session will be held at the Ministerial level, which is the first since the last ministerial session in December 2019.

Cabinet Secretary for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Kenya, Raychelle Omamo, is set to make the opening remark as PSC chairperson for the month of March. Kenya, apart from being a major Troop Contributing Country (TCC) to AU Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), is a member of the UN Security Council (UNSC). Bankole Adeoye, Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security (PAPS) is also expected to deliver a statement. The main presentation for the session is expected from the Cabinet Secretary of the Ministry of Defence of Kenya, Monica Juma. Also expected to make statements during the partially open segment of the session are representatives of the UN and the European Union (EU). The representatives of ongoing peace support operations including AMISOM and the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) in the Lake Chad Basin will also participate.

Coming against the background of ongoing discussions about AMISOM, tomorrow’s session will address not only the issues affecting AMISOM, by far AU’s largest peace support operation, but also emerging trends and dynamics affecting peace operations on the continent including ad hoc missions like MNJTF. This is not the first time for the PSC to discuss issues affecting peace support operations in Africa. It is to be recalled that the 851st session of the PSC held on 22 May 2019 was to consider the AU Commission’s report on the challenges faced by AU led Peace Support Operations (PSOs).

The AU has mandated about a dozen PSOs since coming into operation in 2002. Until its end on 31 December 2020, the AU was running jointly with the UN the UN-AU Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID). AU further authorized and provided political and technical support for three ad hoc regional security coalitions including the MNJTF and the G5 Sahel Joint Force. AU’s nearly two decades of experience has shown that peace support operations face various issues resulting from the changes in both the peace and security landscape of the continent and international relations.

One of the major challenges likely to gain PSC’s attention is funding. Despite the willingness that the AU has shown over the years for deploying missions in conflict situations where there is no peace to keep and thereby contributing to the maintenance of international peace and security, its missions suffer from lack of predictable and sustainable funding. In recent years, efforts have been underway to address this challenge by trying to identify various funding arrangements including via AU’s major step for mobilizing funds from within the continent. Yet, financial arrangements for African peace support operations remain neither sustainable nor predictable, thereby significantly affecting their effectiveness. In deliberating on this perennial issue, it would be of interest for the PSC to reflect on the status of operationalization of the Peace Fund, the implications of the new financial tool of the EU that came in to operation early this year replacing the Africa Peace Facility and on the preparatory work and next steps that should be undertaken on the part of the AU for reactivating the draft UNSC resolution on AU peace support operations through UN assessed contributions.

Also of interest to PSC members is emerging security threats and their implication to peacekeeping in Africa. Africa witnessed some 1,878 terrorist attacks and over 8,200 death toll in 2020, with incidents of such attacks showing worrying persistence and rise in the Sahel, Lake Chad Basin, Somalia and Northern Mozambique. Other features of the security landscape that present further challenge to peace operations include porous borders, transnational criminal networks, human and drug trafficking, proliferation of Small Arms and Light Weapons, climate change, and most recently by public health emergencies such as COVID-19. Characterized by asymmetric warfare and proliferation in particular of local identity militias, non-traditional security threats have increased in scale, intensity and complexity, a development that makes PSOs extremely challenging, with peacekeepers suffering increasing fatalities as witnessed in Mali and CAR in 2020.

There is a growing call for a robust mandate to peace support missions for them to deal with changing security dynamics. As the various experiences including AMISOM and the plethora of security operations in the Sahel show, relative success of peace support operations with robust mandate depends not only on gains made in the security sphere through degrading the capacity of groups such as Al Shabaab but also and importantly in the progress achieved in the political process on which the political end state of such operations has to be anchored. This underscores the ‘primacy of politics’, in that the use of political process is the primary means for the resolution of conflicts, with robust peace operations playing supporting role. This principle of the ‘primacy of politics’ is recognized as one of the nine core principles of the AU Doctrine on Peace Support Operations, adopted by the 3rd extraordinary meeting of the Specialized Technical Committee on Defense, Safety and Security in January 2021, described as referring to ‘the principle and commitment by the AU to ensure that all AU PSOs are deployed with the primary objective to facilitate a political end state as set out in its mandate’.

Gaps in the cooperation and coordination among various stakeholders notably AU, UN, RECs, TCCs, and host government is the other issue affecting PSOs that also deserves attention during tomorrow’s session. Countries that contribute uniformed personnel; those that provide financial, technical and logistical support; and those that authorize the mission are often different. Not each of these actors exert equal influence in making some strategic decisions, which from time to time negatively affects the role of PSOs on the continent. The recent experience of AMISOM highlights some of these challenges. It is to be recalled that in its 978th session on Somalia and AMISOM, the PSC expressed its regret over UN Security Council for conducting an independent review of AMISOM despite PSC’s call for an AU-UN joint leadership in undertaking the independent assessment. Subsequently, further tensions emerged in relation to the negotiation over Resolution 2568(2021). The representative of Niger speaking on behalf of the ‘A3+1’ expressed his disappointment over the manner in which the proposal of the A3+1 to include a reference to the UN assessed contributions as a possibility to be examined with the view to enhance the predictability and sustainability of AMISOM’s financing was rejected without ‘any convincing explanation’.

Experiences in Africa also show the multiplicity of peace operations actors in the continent, with some of the operations taking the form of ad hoc coalitions. This also underscores the imperative not only for harmonization of decision-making between AU and RECs/RMS but also for strategic coordination to avoid reversal of the gains made including in ensuring compliance with AU standards and norms.

Challenges related to troop drawdown, transition and eventual exit of peacekeeping missions may also feature in tomorrow’s session as another issue affecting peace support operations in Africa. Although it did not show the pitfalls of previous transitions such as in Mali and CAR, this remains an issue particularly in light of recent developments in relation to the exist of UNAMID. The imperative for consensus and coordination between national, regional, continental and international actors including affected population on troop drawdown, transition and exit has been highlighted by protests held in Darfur against UNAMID’s withdrawal and the sharp uptick of violence in Darfur just weeks after UNAMID’s closure of operation in December 2020. All these developments underscore the painstaking venture of winding up missions which requires striking the right balance between undertaking transfer of responsibility for national governments and maintaining security gains.

The other critical lesson likely to interest the PSC is the importance of ensuring full and meaningful involvement of women and the youth in Africa’s peace support missions as well as mainstreaming the women and youth in the peace and security agenda. Given the gender and age specific consequences of conflict, there is an urgent need for the inclusion of women and the youth in the planning, deployment and running of peace support operations. In this regard, there is a need for translating into strategic and operational plans the pronouncements of the PSC on the importance of mainstreaming and increasing the involvement of women and youth in all stages of peace process ranging from conflict prevention to peacebuilding as exemplified by the AU PSOs Doctrine.

The expected outcome is a communique. As part of the effort to ensure predictable and sustainable funding for AU’s peace initiatives, the PSC is likely to urge member states to redouble their support and commitment to the scale of assessment for contribution to the Peace Fund pursuant to the consensus reached by the Executive Council through Decision EX.CL DEC./1100(XXXVII) on 14 October 2020. The PSC is also likely to follow up on the Assembly’s request, at its 14th extra ordinary session on Silencing the Guns held on 6 December 2020, for the PSC to articulate a common African position on financing PSOs in Africa with the view to guide the A3 members in the UN Security Council ‘for adoption of a resolution that will enable Africa to access UN assessed contribution for peace support operations in the continent’. PSC may also stress the importance of strategic coordination among plethora of stakeholders in peace keeping operations in Africa, particularly among the AU, UN, RECs, and other international partners as well as national actors. It may further emphasize the importance of consultation with the AU before the UNSC makes strategic decisions on peacekeeping missions in the continent. PSC may also make reference to the recently adopted AU Doctrine on PSOs and may underscore that all AU PSOs shall be guided by the fundamental values and standards incorporated in the doctrine.

Ministerial Session on Countering Extremist Ideology and Radicalization in Africa

Thematic Insights

Date | 15 November, 2021

Tomorrow (15 November) the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) is set to convene its 1048th session at ministerial level on countering extremist ideology and radicalization in Africa.

Following the opening remarks of the PSC Chairperson of the month and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Egypt Sameh Hassan Shoukry, the AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security (PAPS), Bankole Adeoye, is expected to make a statement. Representative of Al-Azhar Observatory for Combating Extremism, Representative of the Egyptian Money-Laundering and Terrorist Financing Combating Unit (EMLCU) and the Director of the African Centre for the Study and Research on Terrorism (ACSRT) are also expected to deliver statements.

The report of the Chairperson of the AU Commission on ‘Continental efforts in preventing and combating terrorism and violent extremism in Africa’ which was considered by the PSC at its 1040th session convened at the ministerial level indicates the growing rate of extremism in the continent manifested through terrorist attacks, kidnappings for ransom (KFR) and other transnational organised crimes. As captured in the report, in central Africa, over 595 attacks leading to 1758 deaths were recorded, whereas in western Africa, 253 attacks were recorded which have resulted in 1538 deaths, only during the first half of 2021. So far into 2021, there have also been 82 recorded cases of KFR throughout the continent. The attacks carried out during the same period also demonstrate that an overwhelming majority of the targets of terrorist acts are civilians. This concerning trend has prompted Council’s much needed attention to tomorrow’s session which aims to explore means of countering radicalism and extremist ideologies which are at the bottom of the spread of terrorist acts.

The AU Commission Chairperson’s report further highlights that international terrorist groups such as Al Qaida and Daesh (the Islamic State) continue to seek alliances with domestic terrorist sects in Africa, battling for dominance over one another. As these groups fortify efforts to spread and establish strongholds, radical and extremist ideologies serve as their main weapons for mobilising and recruiting local communities. As various examples of counter-terrorist missions demonstrate, efforts aimed at preventing and fighting against radicalism and extremism fail to go beyond security responses and military approaches which are ineffective in addressing underlying root causes of the problem. In that regard, Council’s note at its 749th session that member States need to adopt holistic approaches, which address root causes of terrorism, and violent extremism has been significant in emphasising that military responses alone cannot achieve the needed success in counterterrorism efforts.

As studies into trends of terrorism and violent extremism in various parts of Africa indicate, local grievances due to inequality, marginalisation, poverty, injustice, corruption and poor governance, lack of socioeconomic opportunities and high rate of unemployment, oppression and subjugation of minority groups, and violations of human rights and freedoms are widely manipulated by terrorist groups to convert and recruit local communities, particularly the youth. To some extent, the very formation of extremist and radical ideologies is also the result of such socioeconomic challenges which are left unaddressed, prompting affected and aggrieved members of society to explore less than peaceful means of seeking their societal quests. The misuse and distortion of political opinions and religious and cultural identities and the lack of proper and timely management of resulting disputes in society also lay a fertile ground not only for the radicalisation of affected individuals and their manipulation into joining existing terrorist groups, but also for the creation of extremist ideologies. However, most of the conversation regarding terrorism and violent extremism is centred around radical religious and cultural ideologies and security-centred measures to counter them, while the background and underlying causes for the creation of such ideologies is mostly ignored. This curtails the prevention and effective response to radicalism and violent extremism.

Understanding the unique contexts under which extremist ideologies develop is also important as opposed to adopting a one-size-fits-all approach. The factors and circumstances that make individuals vulnerable to radicalisation may vary considerably from one geographic location to another. To prevent, mitigate and ultimately eradicate violent extremism therefore, identification of the specific local causes and dynamics and engaging with community members in an all-inclusive manner to find solutions to these causes is essential. The importance of early education of children and sensitisation of youth and adults on the culture of peace, peaceful resolution of disputes and respect for diversity should also not be overlooked or underplayed and should be supported with concrete government policies.

The growing linkage between terrorism and transnational organised crimes including human and drug trafficking could also be considered as factors significantly contributing to the spread of radicalism and extremist ideologies. Particularly, with poverty and lack of employment serving as push factors, individuals, especially the youth, are driven to identify with extremist ideologies and to join groups that advance them, in hopes of making a living and supporting themselves and their families. Therefore, in addition to strengthening national efforts aimed at creating economic opportunities and ensuring inclusive development, member States should also reinforce local, regional and continental initiatives designed to address transnational organised crimes in order to stem the finances it provides to advance radicalism and extremist ideologies. It is also to be recalled that at its 1040th session, Council underscored the need to expedite the establishment of an African list of persons, groups and entities associated with terrorist acts, including those sponsoring terrorism. This, followed with appropriate action from concerned member States and the international community such as freezing accounts of persons sponsoring terrorism, will also contribute towards reducing the spread of radicalism and extremist ideologies.

Another concerning factor which could further exacerbate radicalism and extremist ideologies in Africa is the existence of substantial number of foreign terrorist fighters in the continent, particularly in Libya and the Sahel region. At its 1035th session, Council addressed the growing security concern the projected withdrawal of foreign forces from Libya imposes upon the Sahel region and the rest of the continent and stressed the importance of developing and implementing a plan for their withdrawal. In addition to the direct security consequences, a mismanaged withdrawal of foreign forces from Libya also entails the possible spread of extremist ideologies to the rest of the continent. Therefore, in addition to disarming these forces, it is also important to develop withdrawal and relocation plans with an element of deradicalisation.

The manipulation of modern technologies and misuse of the cyber space to spread extremist ideologies, motivate and radicalise targeted groups, as well as to recruit and incite violence has also been a concerning trend. Hence, while ensuring and respecting freedom of expression, the right to privacy and other relevant rights, it also important for member States to regulate the use of social media and cyber space in general to restrict the flow and dissemination of inflammatory content.

The expected outcome of tomorrow’s session is a communiqué. Council may express grave concern over the growing rate of violent extremism and terrorist attacks in the continent and emphasise the need to strengthen existing response mechanisms while adopting measures to address underlying root causes of radicalism and extremist ideologies. It may call on member States and Regional Economic Communities and Regional Mechanisms (RECs/RMs) to enhance collaborations in securing and managing borders in order to effectively control the illicit flow of weapons and to combat transnational organised crimes, which serve to finance the spread of radicalism and extremism. The PSC may reiterate the decision of the 14th extraordinary session of the Assembly on Silencing the Guns and its previous decision on the development of a comprehensive strategy for countering terrorism in Africa; the urgent need to operationalize AU Special Fund on the prevention and combating of terrorism and violent extremism in Africa; the establishment of a special unit on counter-terrorism within the African Standby Force (ASF); and the reactivation of the Council’s sub-committee on counter-terrorism. Council may also highlight the need to update relevant AU instruments on counterterrorism, including the OAU Convention on the Prevention and Combating of Terrorism and its 2004 Protocol, to ensure that the issue of extremist ideologies is also well reflected.

Joint Consultative Meeting between the AUPSC and the UNPBC

Thematic Insights

Date | 11 November, 2021

Tomorrow (11 November), the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) is expected to hold its regular meeting with the United Nations (UN) Peacebuilding Commission (PBC). The Chair of the AUPSC Ambassador Mohammed Gad and the Chair of the UNPBC Ambassador Osama Abdel Khalek are expected to deliver opening remarks. Then, the AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security and Special Representative of the Secretary-General to the AU and Head of the UN Office to the AU (UNOAU), Hanna Tetteh, will brief the meeting. This will be followed by interventions and interactive discussion.

This meeting is taking place during the post-conflict reconstruction and development week launched for the first time by the African Union to allow experts and relevant stakeholders from the peacebuilding and development community “to exchange views on practical ways to support countries in political transition, strengthen their resilience and avoid a relapse into conflict”. Series of events are organized during this week which include the first Annual African Flag Day, a virtual High-Level Seminar on PCRD in Africa and an AUPSC session to examine the Report of the Chairperson of the Commission on the AU’s Efforts on Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Development in Africa.

The last meeting between the AUPSC and the PBC was held virtually on 23 October 2020 where the two bodies exchanged views on how to further enhance cooperation in support of peacebuilding in Africa on the basis of the AU’s policy framework on post-conflict reconstruction and development as well as the UN’s sustaining peace agenda. The meeting took place at the backdrop of the 2020 review of the UN peacebuilding architecture and it recognized the African common position on the review of the peacebuilding architecture. A discussion was also held on the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on peacebuilding in Africa, with particular emphasis on the role of women and youth.

The AU-UN partnership in peacebuilding and sustaining peace has been strengthened in recent year within the context of the AU-UN framework on enhanced partnership for peace and security signed in 2017. The then AU peace and security department and the UN peacebuilding support office also signed a memorandum of understanding the same year. Since its establishment, the UNPBC has been supporting the peacebuilding and post-conflict reconstruction efforts of African countries emerging from conflict. It has been considering numerous country specific and thematic issues related to Africa on its agenda. The UN Peacebuilding Fund (PBF) has also provided financial support to several of these countries constituting 66% of PBF’s investments.

The AUPSC and the UNPBC have been meeting annually since 2018. Tomorrow’s meeting is expected to explore UN-AU cooperation in support of political transitions in Africa, including in the Sahel and in the Great Lakes region, according to the concept note prepared to help guide the discussion. This includes how the two organizations can coordinate their efforts across “the full spectrum of preventive action and diplomacy, post-conflict reconstruction and sustainable development” to support political transitions in the continent.

There appears to be keen interest to link the discussion with the Secretary-General’s “common agenda” released in September. The PBC held a discussion with him recently to exchange views on the peacebuilding objectives of his common agenda. The document underscores, among other things, the need to support regional capacities in peacebuilding. It also points out the need to take measures to increase investments in prevention and peacebuilding and dedicate more resources to the Peacebuilding Fund, including through assessed contributions.

The African Union has outlined its priorities on peacebuilding as encapsulated in the common African position on the review of the peacebuilding architecture. One of the priorities is financing for peacebuilding and the CAP supports the proposals by the UN Secretary-General, which among other things, include allocating a certain percentage of assessed contribution to support medium to long-term peacebuilding. The UN General Assembly is expected to hold a high-level meeting next year to consider options for ensuring adequate, predictable and sustainable financing for peacebuilding.

The expected outcome of the consultative meeting is a press statement with solid recommendations for future collaborations between the two organs in the prevention of conflicts, as well as in assisting political transitions and maintaining peace in Africa.

Protection of Medical Personnel and Facilities in Armed Conflicts

Thematic Insights

Date | 05 November, 2021

Tomorrow (5 November), the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) is expected to convene its 1044th session to discuss the protection of medical personnel and medical facilities in the context of armed conflicts.

Following the opening remarks of the PSC Chairperson of the month and Permanent Representative of Egypt to the AU, Mohamed Omar Gad, the AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security (PAPS), Bankole Adeoye, is expected to make a statement. Council is also expected to receive statements from Hanna Tetteh, Special Representative of the United Nations (UN) Secretary General and Head of the UN Office to the AU (UNOAU); Bruce Mokaya, Head of International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) Delegation to the AU; and a Representative of Doctors without Borders.

While this is the first session of the PSC dedicated to the specific theme, Council has at its various previous thematic and country specific sessions condemned attacks on medical personnel and facilities, such as its 862nd and 965th sessions. The protection of medical personnel, units and transport is a core principle stipulated under the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and also forms part of customary International Humanitarian Law (IHL). As such, in both cases of interstate and internal conflicts, attack against medical personnel and facilities engaged in discharging professional activities is prohibited under international law. Moreover, having regard to the growing cases of attacks against healthcare providers and facilities in conflicts, the UN Security Council (UNSC) adopted in 2016, Resolution 2286 which calls on States to “develop effective measures to prevent and address acts of violence, attacks and threats against medical personnel, their means of transport and equipment, as well as hospitals and other medical facilities in armed conflict”. Despite the existence of these and other normative standards necessary for the protection of healthcare in conflict situations, recent trends signify the growing rate of attacks perpetrated against medical personnel and facilities.

As reports indicate, in the period from 2016 to recently, there have been well over 4500 incidents of attacks against healthcare providers and facilities in armed conflicts across the world, which include killings, kidnappings, and sexual assault perpetrated against medical personnel as well as looting, damage and destruction to medical facilities. In Africa, countries such as Central Africa Republic (CAR), Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Libya and Nigeria have experienced the highest rate of attacks. In the DRC for instance, 434 incidents of violence against and obstruction of healthcare were recorded only during the year 2019. Added to the outbreak of Ebola throughout various regions of the country, the impact had been nothing short of catastrophic. In Libya, 77 cases of attacks against and obstruction to healthcare were recorded during 2020. In addition to resulting in injury and death of health workers, these incidents have been cause for multiple hospitals in the country to cease operation, therefore creating serious healthcare vacuum and constraints in the time of Covid-19 pandemic.

While these exemplify incidents that were recorded, it is not hard to imagine that these numbers would increase significantly if unrecorded cases of violence against healthcare in those and other conflict affected countries in the continent were to be considered. Such trend has grave implications not only on medical personnel and facilities, but also on civilian populations in conflict affected areas and their access to humanitarian assistance. This is further aggravated in times of pandemics as has been witnessed in the period from February to December 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic was at peak. According to data recorded by the ICRC, there were 848 Covid-19 associated violent incidents perpetrated against health workers in that period. It is also important to note that in addition to its immediate impacts, attack on medical facilities also endangers years of developmental efforts and progresses obtained in the medical field.

One of the major reasons behind the persistent attacks against medical personnel and facilities in conflict settings is the lack of awareness and guidance among belligerents regarding the relevant international rules protecting healthcare in armed conflicts. In addition to the lack of awareness of these rules, armed forces are usually not sufficiently trained to understand the overall applicability of IHL, which is fundamental in regulating military operations. Particularly, the basic IHL principles applicable to the conduct of hostilities – distinction, proportionality and precaution – are essential to minimise civilian casualty in conflicts, including healthcare. It is therefore important for States to ensure that the core principles of IHL are made part and parcel of their military doctrines and manuals and that their troops are well trained on abiding these rules throughout any engagement in hostilities. This would contribute towards ensuring that medical personnel and facilities as well as other protected persons and objects under IHL are not deliberately targeted and that their risk of being subject to indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks is minimised. Mandatory and periodic trainings which target senior leadership as well as junior members of States’ armed forces are also important in translating these basic rules and principles into action. On top of training armed forces to identify and avert attacks against healthcare, it is as important for military manuals to provide guidance on how armed forces can assist and provide protection to medical personnel and facilities.

In addition to integrating IHL rules into military manuals, it is also important for States to develop domestic legal frameworks protecting medical personnel and facilities in times of conflicts. This includes particularly rules which emphasise the prestige and significance of emblems such as the Red Cross and Red Crescent movement’s. Such rules would be instrumental in propagating the protected status of medical units, transport and personnel bearing such emblem, thereby protecting them from attacks throughout their operations in conflict settings. Laws which criminalise and prescribe penalties for attacks against and obstruction to healthcare are also necessary not only to deter, but also to fight related impunity and to set precedent of consequences for such acts.

Misconceptions around the provision of neutral and impartial medical treatment in conflict settings also often put medical personnel at risk of attacks. The principles of neutrality and impartiality under IHL oblige health workers to provide medical care to all sick or wounded persons without regard to their status – civilian or combatant/fighter – or their affiliation or lack thereof with either one or more of the conflicting parties. Despite the rule however, medical personnel have in various cases been targeted and attacked by conflicting parties, for providing medical assistance to members of adversary forces or individuals perceived to be affiliated with the “enemy”. This indicates the need for raised awareness regarding not only the obligation of medical personnel to provide care without distinction based on affiliations, but also regarding Geneva Convention I and Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions which provide for the protection and humane treatment of persons not taking active part in conflicts, including those rendered “hors de combat” due to wounds or sickness.

Both States and non-State armed forces have been implicated in multiple armed conflicts for attacks on medical personnel and facilities. It is therefore important to emphasise and support initiatives of impartial and neutral organisations to create awareness of domestic and international norms protecting healthcare in the context of conflicts to ensure that belligerent parties comply with such norms.

The outcome of tomorrow’s session will be a communiqué. The PSC may express concern over the growing rate of attacks against medical personnel and facilities in situations of armed conflicts in Africa. Council may urge member States to ensure increased efforts towards raising awareness on international standards protecting medical personnel and facilities in the context of conflicts. It may also call on member States to strengthen domestic laws and military doctrines to sufficiently integrate IHL rules on the protection of healthcare in armed conflicts and to fight impunity and ensure that violations are properly addressed. It may also encourage member States to report on implementation of Resolution 2286(2016) of the UNSC. Moreover, Council may urge both State and non-State conflicting parties to put their best efforts towards minimising civilian casualty from their engagement in hostilities, including to health workers and medical facilities, and to ensure that medical personnel are granted safe environment to provide medical care and assistance to all in need, in a neutral and impartial manner.

Disaster Management in Africa: Challenges and Perspectives for Human Security

Thematic Insights

Date | 29 October, 2021

Tomorrow (29 October), the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) is expected to convene its 1043rd session on ‘Disaster Management in Africa: challenges and perspectives for human security’ at the level of Heads of State and Government. This session takes place under the chairship of Mozambique, which also hosted a virtual meeting of the Committee of Ministers Responsible for Disaster Risk management from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) on 26th May 2021 with the aim to review progress on regional Disaster Risk Management programmes and ensure effective coordination at the regional level.

The session is expected to have two segments, an open and a closed session. In the open session invited guests will deliver their statements. Following the opening Statement by Felipe Jacinto Nyusi, President of the Republic of Mozambique and Chairperson of the PSC for the month of October, the Chairperson of the AU Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, is expected to make remarks. Further remarks are expected from the President of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, in his capacity as the AU Champion for Refugees, Returnees and Internally Displaced Persons, as well as President of Gabon, Ali Bongo Ondimba, in his capacity as the Leader of the Committee of African Heads of State and Government on Climate Change (CAHOSOC). AU Commissioner for Health, Humanitarian Affairs and Social Development, Amira EL Fadil, and AU Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development, Blue Economy and Sustainable Environment, Josefa Leonel Correia Sacko, are scheduled to deliver presentations.

This session comes on the heels of the International Day for Disaster Risk Reduction, which is observed on 13 October to raise awareness about disaster risk reduction. This year’s commemoration took place under the theme of ‘international cooperation for developing countries to reduce their disaster risk and disaster losses’, the sixth target of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030. The session also takes place ahead of the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow, which is scheduled for 31 October-12 November 2021. As Africa bears the brunt of climate change but has contributed least to climate emissions, the summit may also present an opportunity to remind commitments around climate finance and adaptation.

This high level engagement on disaster management becomes all too important as Africa continues to face evermore frequent disasters and increasing vulnerability with a devastating repercussion on the lives and livelihoods of its people. According to World Risk Report 2021, Africa has the second highest disaster risk next to Oceania while it is the continent with the highest overall societal vulnerability—12 of the 15 most vulnerable countries in the world are located in Africa. The risk has been evident from multiple disasters that hit the continent in recent years including the volcano eruption on Mount Nyiragongo in the city of Goma in DRC, locust swarms and flooding in Horn of Africa, cyclones and storms that led to heavy rains and flooding in Southern Africa countries such as the Comoros, Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. 90 percent of the major disasters in Africa have been climate related.

Over the years, the AU has put in place policy and institutional frameworks to effectively respond to the increasing disasters confronting the continent. The African Regional Strategy for Disaster Risk Reduction (ARSDRR), which was adopted by the Assembly (Assembly/AU/Dec.38) during its third ordinary session held in July 2004, guides the continent’s disaster risk reduction efforts. The AUC has further developed the Programme of action (PoA) for the implementation of the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030. To address the humanitarian consequences of disasters, the Union also adopted, among others, the Kampala Convention for the Protection and Assistance of Internally Displaced Persons in Africa and the Common African Position (CAP) on Humanitarian Effectiveness that shaped Africa’s new humanitarian architecture.

On the institutional aspect, the African Risk Capacity (ARC)—a specialized agency of the AU established in 2012—comes at the center of Africa’s ‘disaster risk architecture’. The ARC aims to help African governments improve their capacities to better plan, prepare, and respond to extreme weather events and natural disasters by combining the concepts of early warning, disaster risk management, and risk finance. The Special Emergency Assistance Fund (SEAF) is also established to support African countries affected by drought and/or famine although it needs to be replenished. The African Humanitarian Agency (AUHA) is also expected to facilitate coordination in humanitarian response. The African Standby Force (ASF) is another mechanism that has the mandate to respond to natural disasters.

While there are notable progress in terms of laying down the necessary structures to address disaster risks in the continent, many challenges remain. One of the significant challenges in this respect is, as captured by Lesley Ndlovu (CEO African Risk Capacity Limited) in her recent remarks on the international day for disaster risk reduction, that ‘disaster response is extremely slow and inefficient and, by the time governments and NGOs have raised enough money to respond meaningfully, the problem has become much worse, and more funding is needed’. In most cases, not only the response is ‘slow and inefficient’ but also it is largely reactive focusing on relief and immediate rehabilitation while ignoring preventive disaster reduction measures.

Hence inadequate early warning system and the gap in translating early warning to early action remain critical hurdles. As captured in the notes prepared for this session, ‘in most countries, early warning systems are sectoral in nature and hardly coordinated’. A positive development in this respect is a recent conference convened this month by the AU Commission to validate a Multi-Hazard Early Warning/Early Action (MHEWS/EA) Framework. The development of the Framework is a step forward in building the resilience of African countries as it ensures a functional early warning system. It is also to be recalled that the Council, at its 864th session held in August 2019, suggested the ‘establishment of command centers which operate on a 24 hour basis to closely monitor and timeously issue early warning alerts on impending natural disasters’, something that the Council find it worth following up in terms of strengthening the early warning system.

Inadequate funding has heavily affected disaster management. Not only there is a huge gap between the needs of people at risk to disasters and the available funding but also most of African countries and the continental mechanisms lack sustainable and predictable funding as they rely largely on external sources. Though there is an Assembly Decision to increase AU Humanitarian Fund from 2% to 4% of member states’ assessed contributions, meant to ensure predictable and sustainable resources for the AU to enable fulfil its humanitarian responsibilities, its practicality and buy-in from member states remain questionable. As indicated in the notes prepared for tomorrow’s PSC session, there is a growing trend of establishing uncoordinated disaster specific funds, and hence there is a need to embrace ‘multi-hazard funding mechanisms’.

The expected outcome is a communiqué. Among others, while commending the existing AU structures that are established to address disaster risks, the PSC may emphasize on the need to operationalize and strengthen the capacity of these structures, and in this respect, there much to be desired from member states in supporting the mechanisms. In addition, the Council may also stress the importance of enhancing coordination among the plethora of AU mechanisms for disaster management to ensure complementarity as well as avoid duplication of efforts. The PSC may underscore the importance of shifting the focus from treating the effects of disasters (reactive measures) towards a proactive approach that is more economical and efficient. On the funding challenge, the Council may stress not only on the need to rely on Africa’s own resources in the spirit of pan-Africanism but also highlight the imperative of diversifying sources of finance, as well ensuring predictable and sustainable funding for the AU to effectively discharge the expected role in addressing disaster risks. In this regard, the Council is likely to explore options to raise funds from non-traditional donors from non-traditional donors including African civil society, private sector and the diaspora, in addition to traditional sources of funding. The Council may further reiterate its support for the upcoming African Humanitarian Summit and Pledging Conference in Malabo, which is expected to serve as impetus to operationalize the African Humanitarian Agency and mobilize required financial resources to address the ever growing humanitarian needs of the continent. In relation to building effective early warning system and bridging the gaps between early warning and early action, the Council may also urge for the finalization of the Multi-Hazard Early Warning/Early Action (MHEWS/EA) Framework and the development of Continental MHEWS/EA Situation Room, which are pivotal in providing operational guidance on Multi-Agency and Multi-Sectoral coordination and communications at member states, regional and continental level. Finally, the Council may reiterate its 864th session which underscored the need for the ‘Regional Standby Forces to reinforce their engagement in responding to natural disasters’.

Consideration of the Report of the Chairperson of the AU Commission on Continental Efforts in Prevention and Combating of Terrorism in Africa

Thematic Insights

Date | 22 October, 2021

Tomorrow (22 October) the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) will convene its 1040th session at a ministerial level to consider the report of the Chairperson of the AU Commission on continental efforts in prevention and combating of terrorism in Africa.

The session is expected to have two segments, an open and a closed session. In the open session invited guests will deliver their statements. Following the opening statement by Verónica Nataniel Macamo Dlhovo Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Mozambique and PSC Chair for October, the Chairperson of the AUC Moussa Faki Mahamat is expected to deliver remarks. The Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security (PAPS), Bankole Adeoye, is scheduled to deliver a presentation. Ramtane Lamamra Minister of Foreign Affairs of the People’s Republic of Algeria and Champion in Combating Terrorism and Violent Extremism in Africa is also expected to deliver remarks. The Chairpersons of the Regional Economic Communities and Regional Mechanisms (RECs/RMs) as well as the representatives of the European Union and the United Nations are expected to present their statements. During the closed segment Bankole Adeoye will present the report of the Chairperson of the AUC on continental efforts in the prevention and combating of terrorism in Africa. The Secretary General of the Committee of Intelligence and Security Services of Africa (CISSA) is also scheduled to present its statement.

The report of the chairperson is in line with the Assembly decision (/AU/Dec.311 (XV)) during its 15th Ordinary Session, held in July 2010, which requested the Commission to submit regular reports on the status of the fight and cooperation against terrorism in Africa. During its 249th meeting held in November 2010, it is to be recalled that the Council also requested the AU Commission to submit reports and briefings on the state of terrorism in Africa and the efforts made at continental and international level to address the scourge. Since then the Chairperson of the Commission has been reporting to the Council regularly, on the challenges related to terrorism in Africa and on continental efforts being undertaken towards combating the problem. The Council thus far held three of its sessions on the theme at the level of Heads of State and Government (455th, 571st, and 749th meetings). This makes the thematic issue the most addressed at a summit level.

On the state of terrorism and trends, the report underscores persistence of Africa’s vulnerability to the threats of terrorism and violent extremisms despite the progress achieved by member states in preventing and combating the scourge. Citing African Centre for the Study and Research on Terrorism (ACSRT) data, the report provides that, from 1 January to 30 June 2021, the continent witnessed a total of 950 terrorist attacks resulting in 3,883 deaths—showing a 10 percent increase in the number of attacks as compared to the same period in 2020. Civilians continued to bear the brunt of terrorist attacks. On a positive note, the report indicates that counter terrorism operations neutralized 1,943 terrorists. Recently, major successes have been also registered in neutralizing top ranks of terrorist groups operating in Africa though its implication in reducing their lethality remains to be seen.

In terms of geographic distribution of terrorist attacks, the report highlights that Central Africa registered the highest number of attacks with 595 attacks resulting in 1,758 deaths (constituting 45 percent of the total death registered in the continent) while North Africa recorded the least both in number of attacks and deaths (11 attacks and 32 deaths). West Africa, East Africa and Southern Africa come second, third and fourth, respectively. Mai-Mai groups, Allied Democratic Front (ADF), Al-Shabaab, Boko Haram and Al-Sunnah Wa Jummah (ASWJ) were the most active terrorist groups during the reporting period. Among these, ADF that operates in eastern DRC is the deadliest while Boko Haram remains the most lethal terrorist group in Africa.

The report attributes the spread of terrorism in Africa to several factors. First is the surge in the influx of foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs) from outside the continent. Despite the military defeat of ISIL and its affiliates in Iraq and Syria, its spillover effect has continued to reverberate across Africa and elsewhere. On one hand, the return and relocation of FTFs pose a huge security risk by enhancing the operational capability of local terrorist groups and affiliates, particularly in the area of using and manufacturing Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). On the other hand, the threat posed by ISIL and Al-Qaida has morphed into a ‘less visible network of autonomous individuals and cells’, which makes efforts of combating terrorism more challenging. Growing trend has been also witnessed among terrorist groups operating in Africa in terms of pledging allegiance to ISIS and Al-Qaida though there is little evidence suggesting strong link between them. It is against this context that the PSC, during its last session on FTFs (957th meeting), requested the AU Commission, African Union Mechanism for Police Cooperation (AFRIPOL) and ACRST to ‘develop a comprehensive “guideline framework for countering FTFs”, as well as to expedite the development of a “database” of persons, entities or organizations involved in or supporting, in any form, the activities of terrorist organizations…’.

The second factor is the intricate linkage between terrorism and trans-national organized crime where not only illicit economies have become major source of financing for terrorists but also its profitability has become financial motivation for them to continue with their activities. Hence, as noted by the report of the Chairperson, depriving terrorist and violent extremist groups of their sources of funding should be a central element of any counter terrorism strategy. Terrorist groups also derive their funding from kidnapping-for-ransom (KFR), which showed a dramatic rise in 2021 as compared to the same period last year. Proliferation of small arms and light weapons and the rise of mercenarism—phenomenon particularly aggravated by the instability in Libya and Sahel—are also mentioned as factors contributing to the spread of terrorism in the continent. It is also worth noting that terrorists have taken advantage of the porous nature of African borders and ungoverned spaces in some of African countries due to weak national institutional capacities in this regard.

On the continental efforts to address the scourge, AU has made strides in building strategic partnership with UN and other stakeholders including through the launch of Coordination Committee between the AU Commission and UN Office of Counter-Terrorism on preventing and countering terrorism and violent extremism. The AU has also continued its support to RECs/RMs and member states to strengthening their capacity in countering terrorism through the available mechanisms notably ACSRT, AFRIPOL, and CISSA. The ACSRT, for instance, have been providing assistance in the areas of developing/reviewing their respective counterterrorism strategies and plan of actions, building technical capacities, as well as sharing information and analysis. AFRIPOL, on its part, is also working to assist member states in their efforts to prevent and combat terrorism and transnational organized crimes through training and technical expertise. The establishment of the African Police Communication System (AFSECOM), which is intended to facilitate easy and security communication and sharing of information and data among police agencies of member states is a positive step towards the operationalization of AFRIPOL. The establishment and functioning of the 55 AFRIPOL National Liaison Offices (NLOs) within member states is another notable development having an impact on the functioning of AFRIPOL as well as its linkage with police agencies of member states. Financial, human and infrastructural issues however remain huge challenges in effectively discharging their mandates.

The expected outcome is a communiqué. Among others, the Council is expected to express its concern over the surge in influx of FTFs into Africa and its implication on the peace and security of the continent, and in this regard, the Council may reiterate its warning to ‘name and shame’ all those involved in sponsoring FTFs. In addition, the Council may recall its 1035th session that emphasized the need to expedite the implementation of the establishment of an African list of persons, groups and entities involved in terrorist acts, including FTFs. Towards strengthening continental mechanisms to counter terrorism, the Council may follow up on its previous decisions as well as the decision of the 14th extraordinary session of the Assembly on Silencing the Guns including the development of a comprehensive strategy for countering terrorism in Africa; the urgent need to operationalize AU Special Fund on the prevention and combating of terrorism and violent extremism in Africa; the establishment of special unit on counter-terrorism within the ASF; and the reactivation of the Council’s sub-committee on counter-terrorism. The PSC may also stress the need to strengthen the capacity of the specialized agencies including CISSA, ACSRT and AFRIPOL to fulfill their mandates effectively and to enhance their horizontal cooperation to create more synergy. The Council may reiterate its previous decision on the need to address the root causes including poverty and marginalization, which provide breeding ground to terrorism. Drawing on the recommendation of the report of the Chairperson, the Council may also highlight the need to mainstream counterterrorism and prevention/countering of violent extremism in the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA).

Ministerial Session on the Consideration of the Projected Impact of Withdrawal of Foreign Forces and Mercenaries from Libya on the Sahel and the rest of Africa

Thematic Insights

Date | 30 September, 2021

Tomorrow (30 September), African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) will convene its 1035th session at a Ministerial level on the projected impact of withdrawal of foreign forces and mercenaries from Libya on the Sahel region and the rest of Africa.

Following the opening remarks of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, African Integration and Chadians Abroad of the Republic of Chad PSC Chairperson of the month, Ambassador Cherif Mahamat Zene, the Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security (PAPS), Bankole Adeoye, is expected to make a presentation on the AU Paper on the projected impact of the withdrawal of foreign forces and mercenaries from Libya on the Sahel and the rest of Africa. Representatives of concerned countries and neighbouring countries as well as Regional Economic Communities (RECs), namely, Libya, Algeria, Chad, Egypt, Niger, Sudan, Tunisia, Burkina Faso, Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS), and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) are expected to deliver statements. The Special Representative of the Secretary General to the AU and Head of the United Nations Office to the AU (UNOAU), Hanna Tetteh, and the Head of the European Union Delegation to the AU, Ambassador Birgitte Markussen, may also make statements.

Cognizant of the risks posed by the departure of foreign forces on the peace and stability of neighboring countries and the wider Sahel, it is to be recalled that African members of the UN Security Council and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (A3+1) initiated two events at the UN Security Council on the theme—an informal interactive dialogue on 29 April and the Arria-formula meeting on 18 June 2021. The Arria-formula meeting sought to address, among others, the threat that the ‘unsupervised departure’ of foreign forces from Libya poses to the stability of the Sahel region and how international and regional organizations could best collaborate to tackle this threat. Tomorrow’s session therefore brings the broader discussion held at the UN to a regional level and presents the PSC the opportunity to, among others, deliberate on the threat posed by withdrawal of foreign fighters and mercenaries from Libya to the Sahel region and the continent at large and explore ways and means to address the danger posed by the withdrawal of foreign forces and ensure a well-managed and orderly withdrawal.

It is estimated that there are some 20,000 foreign fighters and mercenaries in Libya mainly coming from Syria, Russia, Sudan and Chad. Though the October 2020 permanent ceasefire agreement reached by Libya’s 5+5 Joint Military Commission clearly envisages the withdrawal of all foreign forces by January 2021, eight months later, translating this commitment into action remains elusive. As the UN Secretary-General captured in his latest report on Libya issued on 25 August, the continued presence of foreign forces in the Libyan soil posed a significant threat ‘not only to the security of Libya, but also to the whole region’. Given that the departure of foreign forces constitutes a critical step for sustainable peace and stability of Libya and the broader region, the international community, including the PSC through its communiqué adopted at its 997th ministerial meeting on Libya, has intensified its call for the ‘immediate and unconditional’ withdrawal of these forces from Libya. The issue of withdrawal of foreign forces had been also at the centre of the 23 June Second International Berlin Conference on Libya, co-organized by Germany and the UN that drew significant number of participants including AU. One positive sign towards the withdrawal of foreign forces as a follow up to the Berlin Conference is the reported discussion between Russia and Turkey, to pull out 300 Syrians from each side.

While the discussion around withdrawal of Syrian fighters and other private security companies in Libya is indeed a step forward towards the stability of the country, little attention seems to be given to the foreign fighters and mercenaries who hail from neighbouring countries, which have become a particular concern for countries in the Sahel region. These countries have been also drawing attention to the other dimension of the withdrawal process by raising the alarm about the implication of the withdrawal of foreign forces in exacerbating the security situation of the already volatile region of the Sahel. Pursuing the agenda of withdrawal of foreign forces from Libya without a clear strategy to steer the process is a threat to the stability in the Sahel and the rest of the continent. In this connection, the representative of Niger, during the 21 May 2021 UNSC briefing on Libya, captured the link between Libya conflict and the security in the Sahel stating that ‘we fear that the arms being silenced in Libya may resound again in the Sahel’. It is also in recognition of such danger that the PSC, at its last session on Chad (1016th meeting held on 3 August 2021), requested the AU Commission to expedite the finalization of the ‘AU Policy Paper on addressing the potential impact of the withdrawal of foreign troops and mercenaries from Libya on Central Africa region and the Sahel’.

A clear illustration of the danger is events unfolded in Chad that led to the death of late President Idriss Déby Itno. Chad rebel group the Front for Change and Concord in Chad (FACT), which has been reportedly fighting in Libya’s conflict since 2016, launched attacks from Libya on the same day of the Presidential election (11 April 2021). Chad’s military announced the death of Déby on 20 April due to the injury he sustained while fighting FACT rebels, which sparked the fear of destabilization to a country widely seen as key partner in the fight against terrorism and violent extremism in the region. It is to be recalled that the PSC, during its 996th meeting convened on 14 May 2021, attributed the security situation in Chad to the activities of mercenaries and foreign fighters from Libya in addition to its call for the ‘unconditional and expeditious withdrawal of all mercenaries, and foreign fighters from Chad’ based on the 1977 OAU Convention for the Elimination of Mercenarism in Africa.

One starting point to ensure an orderly departure of foreign fighters and mercenaries is perhaps to assist Libyan authorities to implement the terms of October 2020 ceasefire agreement including the one that requires to ‘immediately start identification and categorization of armed groups and armed entities on the entire Libyan territory, whether they are integrated into state institutions or not’. This step would be critical particularly to venture on the task of the dismantlement of armed groups and entities in Libya. The other available avenue is through an effective support to a disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration (DDR) process both in Libya and neighboring countries where foreign fighters and mercenaries originate. For DDR to succeed and bring the desired outcome, however, it must form part of a broader political and security reforms aimed at addressing root causes of instability such as security sector reform (SSR), national reconciliation, and peacebuilding programmes. A positive development worth highlighting in this regard is Chad’s interim president invitation of opposition armed groups to participate in the upcoming national dialogue, which is due to be held before the end of the year.

A related challenge of interest to the Council is the continued violations of the arms embargo established by UN Security Council Resolution 1970(2011), which contributes to the illicit transfer and destablising accumulation of weapons in Libya. This, coupled with the porous borders of the region and high mobility of armed groups, is affecting the stability of countries in the Sahel and beyond.

The expected outcome is a communiqué. The Council is also expected to express its concern over the impact of unsupervised withdrawal of foreign fighters and mercenaries form Libya to the peace and stability of the Sahel region as well as the rest of the continent. The Council is likely to stress on the importance of undertaking the withdrawal of foreign fighters and mercenaries in an orderly and carefully designed manner to ensure that the peace efforts in Libya do not negatively affect the peace and stability of the Sahel region. The Council may further stress on the need for close coordination and complementarity of efforts between the sub-regional, regional and international actors including ECOWAS, the G5 Sahel, ECCAS, the Community of Sahel-Sahara Countries (CEN-SAD), Lake Chad Basin Commission (LCBC), AU, UN, and other international partners with the view to effectively manage the withdrawal process. In relation to addressing the multiple challenges facing the Sahel region in holistic manner, as indicated in the Concept Note prepared for tomorrow’s session, the Council may call for the need to develop a comprehensive and integrated strategy by the AU, ECOWAS, ECCAS, UN, EU and neighboring countries for the Sahel region. In light of the growing threats posed by the departure of foreign forces from Libya, the illicit flow of arms and high mobility of armed groups in the Sahel and Lake Chad Basin regions, the Council is expected to urge member states of the regions to effectively utilize the existing security arrangements in the region including the G5 Sahel Force as well as the Multi-National Joint Task Force, as well as AU’s Committee of Intelligence and Security Services of Africa (CISSA).

Consideration of the Midyear Report of the Chairperson of the Commission of the African Union on the Elections in Africa (January - June 2021)

Thematic Insights

Date | 23 September, 2021

Tomorrow (23 September) African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) will convene its 1034th session to consider the midyear report of the Chairperson of the AU Commission on the elections in Africa.

Following the opening remarks of the PSC Chairperson of the month and Permanent Representative of Chad to the AU, Mahamat Ali Hassan, the Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security (PAPS), Bankole Adeoye, is expected to present the midyear report on elections held in the continent. Representatives of member States that organized elections during the period from January to June 2021 may deliver statements.

The midyear briefing is based on PSC’s request, at its 424th meeting held in March 2014, to receive quarterly briefings on national elections in Africa as part of AU efforts towards conflict prevention on the continent. Since then, the Council has been briefed by the AUC on a regular basis. This briefing follows the previous one, which took place during the 982nd meeting in February, to highlight the outcome of elections organized between January and June 2021 and provides an outlook of the elections set to take place between July and December of this year. Apart from providing reviews and outlooks of the elections, the bi-annual briefing is also expected to shed light on key trends in governance, patterns emerged in the conduct of elections, the electoral support and interventions made by the Commission, as well as policy recommendations.

From the 17 presidential and parliamentary elections on the AU calendar for 2021, 11 presidential and parliamentary elections, namely Uganda, Niger (runoff), Cote d’Ivoire, CAR, Congo, Djibouti, Benin, Chad, Cape Verde (parliamentary), Algeria, and Ethiopia) were conducted between January and June 2021. For the second half of the year, seven elections are organized or are expected to take place, which includes Sao Tome and Principe, Zambia, Morocco, Somalia, Cape Verde (presidential), The Gambia and Libya.

In relation to the governance issues in the continent, the midyear report captures four key trends: the increasing appeal for democratic dividends around the continent; the “choiceless” nature of electoral politics; voter apathy; and the persistent challenge of the concentration of power at the centre. These worrying governance trends are further compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic, which affected the quality of elections in the continent. The resurgence of unconstitutional change of government in Africa, which witnessed three military seizure of power this year alone, is also a clear indication of the ‘deepening democratic deficit’ that the continent is facing.

One of the positive developments witnessed in the reporting period likely to be highlighted in the report is Niger’s first-ever democratic power transfer since its independence in 1960, although the attempted coup few days before the presidential inauguration signals the fragility of the democratic gains. The other positive trend is member states ability and will to stick to their electoral calendars despite the enormous challenge posed by COVID-19 pandemic and other political and security issues. Given that the PSC (for instance during its 982nd and 713th meetings) emphasized the importance of mobilizing funds from within the continent with the view to reducing external manipulation and influence, there are encouraging trends in this regard as well. The report indicates that four of the member states that conducted elections during the reporting period ‘primarily financed’ their elections by national funds. The increasing participation of women and youth in the electoral process is another area of positive development though there are still limitations in the participation of the same as candidates.

Despite electoral progress in some member states, challenges to elections in Africa have persisted in the reporting period. Volatile security atmosphere not only dented the credibility of some of the elections but also affected voter turn out. Security threats, political tension, shrinking political space, opposition boycott, and low voter turnout have continued to be worrying trends affecting the elections in some member states. It is worth noting that elections conducted amid intense political climate and high opposition boycott are clear indications of deep-seated divides, highlighting the imperative of political dialogue to accompany elections.

Some elections including the April presidential election in Benin exhibited continued challenge of voter apathy. There is a need to address the factors behind this problem given that voter participation is one key element of credible election. It is to be recalled that the PSC, at its 713th session in August 2017, ‘urged member states to make deliberate efforts towards ensuring and promoting participation in democratic process’.

In relation to the elections that happened in third quarter of the year (covers Sao Tome and Principe, Zambia, and Morocco), of particular interest to the Council is the general elections in Zambia held last month where power has been transferred peacefully to an opposition leader after incumbent Edgar Lungu conceded defeat. The successful transfer of power is a testament to the effective electoral support provided by the AU, which deployed election observation mission to Zambia led by former President of Sierra Leone, Ernest Bai Koroma.

The PSC may also wish to discuss those elections scheduled to take place during the fourth quarter of the year, particularly in Somalia, The Gambia, and Libya. The power tussle between the Prime Minister and the President in Somalia not only risks escalation into an open conflict but also threatened to derail the Presidential election slatted for next month. In Libya, uncertainties are looming on whether the conduct of the parliamentary and presidential elections is feasible within the agreed timeline of 24 December as some of the contested issues (such as the types of elections to hold in December, a referendum on a draft constitution and qualifications to stand as candidate) remains yet unresolved. Given its history of engagement in supporting the transition in Somalia, The Gambia and Libya and the high stakes involved, it is a high time for the AU to utilize all the available tools to keep the electoral process on track.

With respect to the practice and methodology of election observation, AU has deployed short-term election observation and technical missions to all countries that organized elections during the reporting period except for Cape Verde and Algeria (on account of logistical reasons). As highlighted in the Chairperson’s report, in case of Ethiopia, AU deployed a long-term election observation mission in addition to short-term AU Election Observation Missions (AUEOMs). While positive measures have been taken to make AU observation missions more effective and efficient, one important issue worth following up for the PSC is its decision, at its 713th meeting (2017), for the establishment of monitoring and follow-up mechanisms for the implementation of the recommendations of the observation missions. The other issue is on the progress in terms of building synergies with regional mechanisms, particularly through deploying Joint High Level Political Mission (JHLPMs) and championing joint election observation missions, as stressed by the Council during its 653rd session in 2017. The joint deployment of JHLPM in The Gambia and Ghana, as well as AU and ECOWAS co-leading pre-election mission in Niger in 2020 are some of previous experiences for the Commission to build on in this regard.

The expected outcome is a communiqué. It is expected that the PSC would congratulate those member states who successfully conducted their elections during the reporting period. The Council may welcome the growing positive trend of peaceful transfers of power in some member states, notably in Niger and Zambia. However, the Council is also likely to express concerns over persisting challenges of elections including tense political climate, insecurity, opposition boycott, and low voter turnout. In this respect, the Council may encourage member states to take all the necessary steps to create conducive conditions for conducting credible, peaceful and democratic elections. On AU election observation mission, the Council is likely to echo the communique of its 713th meeting in stressing the importance for member states to ensure the implementation of the recommendations of AUEOM.

The Council may also encourage the Commission to build more synergies with regional mechanisms on election related matters, particularly through the deployment of JHLPMs as well as joint election observation missions. In relation to the upcoming elections in Somalia, the Gambia and Libya, the Council may request the Commission to use all the available tools at its disposal to support the election process in these countries, particularly through the deployment of strategic technical support to the electoral management bodies (EMBs) as well as preventive diplomacy and mediation interventions. As elections continue to be conducted within the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Council may reiterate its call for member states to ‘expedite the adoption, and there after the implementation of AU Guidelines on Elections in Africa in the Context of COVID-19 pandemic and other Public Health Emergencies’ with the view to ensuring safety and security of people.

Open session on the Commemoration of the International Day of Peace

Thematic Insights

Date | 21 September, 2021

Tomorrow (21 September) the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) is set to convene its 1033rd session, which will be an open session dedicated to the commemoration of international day of peace. Council will receive briefing on the second edition of the Luanda biennale “pan-African forum for the culture of peace” at the session.

Following the opening remarks of the PSC Chairperson of the month and Permanent Representative of Chad to the AU, Mahamat Ali Hassan, the AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security (PAPS), Bankole Adeoye, is expected to make a statement. It is also expected that Amira El Fadil, Commissioner for Health, Humanitarian Affairs and Social Development will be making remarks. Representatives of the Republic of Angola, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as well as United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) are also expected to make presentations. A statement is also expected to be delivered by Solomon Dersso Founding Director of Amani Africa. All AU member States and the Regional Economic Communities and Regional Mechanisms (RECs/RMs) are envisaged to participate in the session.

A joint initiative of the AU, UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the Government of Angola, the Pan-African Biennale was held for the first time in September 2019, in Luanda, where it was agreed that the forum shall be convened every two years. The first edition of the forum served to highlight the importance of strategic partnerships to scale up projects for sustainable peace in Africa, the value of disseminating good practices for the prevention and resolution of conflicts and the need to showcase cultural diversity in Africa and demonstrate the resilience of the people in the face of conflicts. Tomorrow’s briefing is expected to elaborate the main contents of the second edition of the biennale which is planned to take place on 4 October, under the theme “Strengthening the Pan-African Movement for a Culture of Peace and Non-Violence: Towards a Global Partnership”.

As indicated in the concept note for the biennale, one of the thematic areas of focus expected to feature at the event is “the contribution of arts, culture and heritage to peace”, in line with AU’s theme for the year 2021. As emphasised by the PSC at its 995th meeting commemorating “International Day of Living Together in Peace”, respect for history, heritage and religious and cultural diversity are fundamental for maintaining peace. Similarly, at its 928th session committed to the same theme, Council underscored the need to address the underlying root-causes of conflicts in the continent including “inequalities, exclusion, marginalization, as well as mismanagement of ethnic, religious, and cultural diversity”. As demonstrated in different crises throughout Africa, intolerance for religious and cultural diversity is among the main factors instigating and exacerbating conflicts and violence. In connection with that, tomorrow’s briefing may address the growing concern over terrorism and violent extremism in the continent, which are largely the results of fundamentalism that is based on intolerance of diversity. Promoting interreligious and intercultural dialogues therefore needs to be emphasised as a critical means of countering intolerance, a major underlying root-cause for conflicts as well as the increasing incidence of terrorism and extremism in Africa. AU’s 2021 theme also presents the best opportunity to demonstrate through various arts, Africa’s rich heritage as well as the diverse history, culture and religion of its people as a way of promoting better appreciation and respect for varied identities, thereby strengthening the culture of peace.

In addition to intolerance of diversities, deeply entrenched inequalities also contribute immensely to the outbreak and exacerbation of violence and conflicts in Africa. Ethnic, religious and other minorities, indigenous people and other marginalised groups are particularly most impacted as a result of legal norms or State practices which result in unequal treatment among citizens. Exclusion of specific sects of society, principally women, from participation and decision-making in peace processes and other State affairs is also another adverse impact of inequality on nurturing sustainable peace and development. Most importantly, the dominance of power and consequently, access to wealth and resource resting in the hands of very few, while an overwhelming majority of the continent’s population lives under poverty lines is a principal reason for the creation of social divides in Africa. This is further complicated by either perceived or manifest ethnic dimensions to such class divides which have in multiple cases led to the creation of interethnic and clan based tensions culminating in political crises and armed conflicts. Violation of civil and political rights, lack of good governance and corruption also form part of factors which contribute to the creation and furthering of socio-economic inequalities. Tomorrow’s briefing may reflect on how governments, civil society and the people at large could better utilise existing AU norms and frameworks on equality, human rights and democracy, to effectively fight against socio-economic inequalities.

Another topic that may feature at tomorrow’s briefing is the contribution and importance of Africa’s youth for the sustainability of peace and stability on the continent. One of the thematic areas of focus at the upcoming biennale, youth engagement in peace processes throughout the phases of conflict prevention, management and resolution is paramount to ensuring that peace efforts will have lasting impact. Also taking into account that Africa’s youth constitutes almost 60% of the continent’s population, it is important to take advantage of this and work towards building a generation that advances and champions peaceful settlement of disputes. It is also to be recalled that at its 933rd session on “Youth, Peace and Security”, Council emphasised the importance of increasing youth involvement in peace and security efforts and recognising the youth as resourceful agents for peace and security as well as for socio-economic development, and particularly, their role in the realisation of the Silencing the Guns agenda. In light of that, Council highlighted the importance of ensuring full implementation of the various relevant instruments including the African Youth Charter, Aspiration number four of Agenda 2063, as well as the Continental Framework on Youth, Peace and Security and its 10-year implementation plan. At tomorrow’s session, Council may reiterate its request for the AU Commission to collaborate with the regional economic communities and regional mechanisms (RECs/RMs) towards the popularisation and implementation of the Continental Framework and its 10-year implementation plan.

The last theme which will be addressed at this year’s Luanda biennale is the potential of Africa’s maritime domain for fostering peace and development. The importance of Africa’s blue economy for the continent’s sustainable development and integration, and therefore the need to ensure its effective management was among the key concerns stressed by the PSC at its 834th session. At a more recent session convened on maritime security (Council’s 1012th meeting), emphasis was given to the need for concerted efforts, particularly among littoral States, to address maritime insecurity and its root-causes, including through adoption of security and military measures. One of the more contemporary concerns around the African maritime sector is also the vulnerability and exposure of sea traders to cyber attack. Hence, in addition to the traditional threats such as piracy and other crimes committed at sea, there is need for addressing cyber security concerns within the maritime domain, mainly through incorporating cyber security measures in instruments and frameworks dealing with Africa’s maritime security. Tomorrow’s briefing may capture the major challenges to Africa’s effective utilisation of its maritime domain and reflect on the available normative standards for addressing these challenges.

The expected outcome of the session is a Press Statement. Council may underscore the importance of the Luanda biennale for strengthening African unity and solidarity and for fostering the culture of peace. In light of that, it may reiterate the call made by the AU Assembly in Assembly/AU/Dec.796(XXXIV), for all AU member States to support and participate in the 2nd Luanda Biennale. It may call on member States and all other relevant stakeholders to take all necessary measures against intolerance of diversities, including through formal and informal education and awareness creation. It may also urge member States to address existing inequalities in their societies and to work towards building social cohesion based on equal rights and opportunities. Council may encourage the meaningful participation of youth, women and other marginalised groups in peace processes, as well as the instrumentality of indigenous approaches to prevention, management and resolution of conflicts. It may call on member States to ensure ratification and implementation of relevant instruments relating to maritime domain, including the Lomé Charter as well as Africa’s Integrated Maritime Strategy (AIMS) and its Action Plan.

Briefing on Continental and Regional activities in the area of Mine Action in Africa

Thematic Insights

Date | 16 September, 2021

Tomorrow (16 September), the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) is expected to convene its 1032nd session on activities in the area of mine action in the continent.

It is envisaged that following the opening remarks of the PSC Chairperson of the month and Permanent Representative of Chad to the AU, Mahamat Ali Hassan, the AU Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security (PAPS), Bankole Adeoye, will make a statement. It is also expected that the representative of the United Nations Mine Actions Services (UNMAS) will make a presentation. Others expected to make statements include the Chairpersons of the Regional Economic Communities (RECs) and Regional Mechanisms (RMs) and the representative of the European Union (EU).

Council emphasized at its 837th session on International Disarmament that antipersonnel mines, explosive remnants of war (ERW) and improvised explosive devices (IEDs) continue to impose serious risk to the lives, safety and health of civilian populations. As highlighted in the Statement of the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General (SRSG) to the AU at the commemoration of 2021’s International Day for Mine Awareness, there were 30,000 deaths caused due to the use of explosive weapons recorded in 2019 only, out of which 66% were civilian deaths. In addition to the immediate risk to the life and safety of individuals, mines and ERW also impede social and economic development and stand as serious hindrance to humanitarian action. On the impact for humanitarian work, United Nations (UN) General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution 74/80 of December 2019 (A/RES/74/80) stated that the presence of mines and ERW in humanitarian settings impede the delivery of humanitarian assistance, thereby impacting the lives and livelihoods of refugees, internally displaced persons (IDPs) and other members of civilian populations who are dependent on humanitarian aid.

Africa hosts majority of the world’s countries that are highly affected by mines and ERW. While encouraging steps have been taken by multiple African States in ratifying and taking some steps towards implementation of the Anti-personnel Mine Ban Convention (APMBC) and other relevant instruments, there is still much that remains to be done. Notably, the number of AU States parties to the APMBC suspected to be contaminated with or affected by anti-personnel mines and ERW has decreased from 30 to 16 States. However, the remaining 16 States are yet to fully meet their obligations related to demining. For instance, according to data presented by the Mine Action Review of 2020, out of eight States parties to the APMBC with regards to which no clearance of anti-personnel mines was recorded for the year 2019, seven were African countries. The same review also indicates that of the nine States parties to the APMBC, which failed to submit their reports on its implementation for the year 2020, seven are African States. In addition, in countries like Mali that confront struggles against armed non-State actors, increased threat from improvised anti-personnel mines has been recorded. This has invoked reasonable concerns over re-proliferation of mines in conflict affected African countries. One of the issues for PSC during tomorrow’s session is how to address these gaps and ensure that States renew their commitments towards full implementation of the APMBC.

Another relevant instrument is the Declaration of States parties to the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction (Maputo Declaration). The Maputo Declaration has been instrumental in highlighting the need to expedite demining efforts around the world, thereby setting the year 2025 as a deadline by which member States shall ensure that there are no new mine victims in areas under their jurisdiction or control and that survivors are fully assisted and included in societies on equal basis with others. As the deadline for the implementation of the Maputo Declaration quickly approaches, it is essential for member States of the AU through the leadership of the PSC to reflect on how far they have been able to meet their commitments and how they can strengthen efforts towards meeting the 2025 deadline. Indeed, silencing anti-personnel mines and freeing African countries from landmines should form part of the AU flagship project on Silencing the Guns.

In addition to demining efforts, it is also important to emphasise the importance of taking actions against the production, export and proliferation of landmines and other excessively dangerous weapons. Particularly in light of the rise in illicit proliferation of arms in Africa, it is important for member States to remain cautious and take additional institutional and legal measures against the infiltration of excessively hazardous weapons into their territories. Although some IEDs that are remotely operated are not considered as mines, it is equally as important for States to take all necessary measures to ban the use of these devices and restrict the availability of the chemicals and elements, which are used to locally manufacture them. States also need to abide by their obligations under the APMBC to destroy their mine stockpiles, which impose serious risks including the possibility of diversion and use by unauthorized non-state actors. As experience in some African States, exemplified most recently by the experience of Libya, has indicated in the past, the lack of strict and proper regulation of the flow of arms and importantly their proper stockpiling and management has enabled non-state groups and separatists to obtain mines in black markets at very low prices, in some cases, serving as catalyst for outbreak of conflicts.

Another issue of interest for tomorrow’s session related to the proliferation of mines is the issue of porous borders. In addition to taking measures against production, transfer and storing of mines within their territories, States need to strengthen border security cooperation among them in order to thwart attempts by criminal and terrorist groups to traffic mines and other arms and weapons. In order to protect civilian populations and spare them from the impacts of mines and ERW, States also need to engage in awareness creation campaigns and consider incorporating lessons in their education curriculum, targeting particularly rural communities and refugees and IDPs who are at heightened exposure and risk of mines and ERW.

One of the major constraints that has lagged AU States parties to the APMBC from implementing their commitment under Article 5 to conduct mine clearance activities is the lack of sufficient resources and the decline in donor funding for mine action programmes. This has become particularly more challenging in the context of Covid-19 outbreak, which has forced concerned States to divert most of their resources towards efforts aimed at responding to the pandemic. The AU Mine Action Strategic Framework launched by the AU Commission is aimed at, among others, supporting concerned member States transition to national ownership and financing of their demining efforts. One of the avenues the AU Commission aims to explore in this regard is through providing capacity building trainings for AU Peace Support Operations (PSOs) on management and clearance of explosive hazards. It is important to explore similar approaches and options in order to address the resource barrier faced by concerned member States.

The expected outcome of tomorrow’s session is a press statement. Council may emphasise the serious victimisation of civilians as a result of mines and other dangerous weapons and call on States and other relevant actors to take necessary measures against production, use and transfer of such weapons. The PSC may decide that the monitoring and promotion of the efforts of member states in the clearance of mines and the banning of the production, circulation and use of mines in Africa should be include in the AU Roadmap on Practical Steps for Silencing the Guns in Africa as silencing mines on the ground that threaten the lives and personal security of people is as important as silencing other forms of arms. It may encourage Members States, who haven’t yet done so, to sign, ratify and implement the APMBC as well as the Maputo Declaration. It may urge States who are already parties to the APMBC to take all necessary measures to clear mined areas, assist victims of landmines and ensure timely reporting on their clearance and demining activities in line with Article 7 of the Convention. Member States may also be urged to sign, ratify and implement the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples Right on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Africa, as well as the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), in order to ensure that survivors of exploded mines are fully assisted. Council may also appeal to international partners to continue their support for States in their mine clearance activities as well as efforts aimed at strengthening border control and weapons regulations. In light of the importance of enhancing cross-border coordination and cooperation to control transfer of mines as well as their use in border areas, Council may call on Member States, who have not yet done so, to accede to and ratify the AU Convention on Cross-Border Cooperation (Niamey Convention). The various RECs/RMs may also be requested to enhance their regional strategies on management of cross-border threats. The AU Commission may be requested to mobilise support, including technical and financial resources, in collaboration with its partners.