Re-imagining AfSol within the context of Peace and Security in Africa: Opportunities and Challenges
By Darlington TshumaBlog
17 January 2019
The concept of African Centred Solutions (AfSol) emerged in 2009 primarily concerned with the elimination of conflicts in Africa and the promotion of sustainable peace. It has gained traction since then, consequently becoming a default alternative, particularly, against a backdrop of protracted, often unresponsive and frustrating conventional interventions with respect to peace and security challenges on the continent[i]. In recognition of the philosophy and plausibility of AfSol, the continental mother body; the African Union (AU) began instituting reforms with the goal of reforming the AU. The reforms began in earnest in 2012 under the leadership of Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma as AU Commission Chair.
At the 28th Ordinary Summit of Heads of States and Governments in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in January 2017, Paul Kagame, president of Rwanda and current AU Chair reiterated the need to reform the mother body when he admitted to the AU being ‘a dysfunctional organization in which member states see limited value, global partners find little credibility and citizens have no trust’[ii]. AU reforms under President Kagame are predicated on five key priorities that will breathe life to the philosophy of AfSol. Key priorities with continental scope include realigning AU institutions to deliver on key priorities; connecting AU citizens (including through the delivery of continent-wide public goods); effective and efficient management of the business of the AU at political and operational levels; and promoting a more sustainable and predictable financing of the Union, mainly, through contributions by member states[iii]. The notion of AfSol is predicated on two important pillars; the most important being a commitment to find lasting solutions to challenges of peace and security on the continent. Tied to that, is a need for collective preparedness to tackle security challenges that threaten regional and continental stability. It is against this background that AfSol is justified on the following grounds; first, because quest for peace and stability is a longstanding objective of governments and development partners in Africa, and that the peace process on the continent has attracted the participation of a multiplicity of actors in the form of local, national, regional and multi-national organizations.
While this is commendable, it also presents real challenges with far-reaching implications. For example, the proliferation of support by various international partners has raised suspicions about their real intentions. The experience of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Libya is poignant. Second, AfSol speaks to the need for Africa to find durable solutions to address her challenges particularly those of a political and security nature. This responsibility cannot and must never be outsourced. This position is reiterated by Rwengabo who argues that based on previous experiences, it has become evident that ‘borrowed fists’ cannot solve Africa’s complex security problems[iv]. Third, AfSol is about putting in place homegrown solutions that will support and contribute to a shared understanding of ownership, financing and accountability of security provisions. All these considerations are significant in a rapidly changing security context, not only on the continent but also on a global scale.
There are also practical and tangible derivatives to the philosophy and concept of AfSol. These were demonstrated by the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and the experience of both South Sudan (2013) and Lesotho (2014). Based on past experiences, some practical examples of the philosophy of AfSol; especially when faced with a crisis of security or political nature include; first, proximity to the crisis. This enabled the regional economic community - Southern African Development Community (SADC) to intervene in the crisis in Lesotho in 2014[v] swiftly. Second, historical and geopolitical linkages have been extremely important in intervening in crisis situations. For example, the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) was quick to intervene to avert a politico-military crisis in South Sudan in 2013 which threatened the whole of the Horn of Africa[vi].
Similarly, AMISOM has proved AfSol’s relevance in tackling Africa’s peace and security challenges; the African Union-led intervention relied on the principle of AfSol whose pillars bordered on genuine commitment, shared Pan-African values, and a sense of ownership[vii]. A combination of these ensured a successful intervention in a complex security environment where both the UN and the United States’ mission - Operation Restore Hope had catastrophically failed in the 1990s. AMISOM incorporated and reflected on AfSol principles, through for example; initiating the Mission-building upon IGAD’s efforts; demonstrating commitment amidst severe human and resource constraints and politico-security costs; bringing on board both local and Somalis in the diaspora; and integrating different intervention programmes into a single, AU-sanctioned Mission. AMISOM’s success has remained a stubborn reminder of Africa’s need to harness her potential to own and address peace and security challenges on the continent.
Despite AfSol’s promise, there are challenges which cannot be ignored in as far as the promise of eliminating conflicts and promoting a peaceful and stable continent are concerned. AfSol’s shortcomings have to do with policy and structural weaknesses of the umbrella structure under which Regional Economic Communities (RECs) are expected to exist and that of the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA). There’s a need for critical reflection of the strategic and operational partnership between the AU and RECs as part of efforts to promote collective, participatory decision making between the AU and RECs, especially on matters of security and peace. Competition between the AU and REC’s Chief Executives must be eliminated through aligning RECs with the broader AU mandate. Another challenge which threatens AfSol’s promise involves regional organizations and member states lacking impartiality, neutrality and cohesion in the discharge of their duties and obligations. For example, the mission comprizing of IGAD and Heads of States and Government that descended on Juba in 2014 was criticized for lacking impartiality and neutrality in their intervention in South Sudan. The neighbouring states of Sudan and Uganda were conflicted parties, both directly and immensely involved with factions that led to the deterioration of the security situation in South Sudan.
Despite these shortcomings, AfSol holds a promise of resolving Africa’s complex peace and security challenges. The philosophy of AfSol must become the bedrock that underwrites Africa’s quest for a peaceful and stable continent.
[i] Rupiya, M. (2016). Regional Intervention in Fragile African States: Comparative Case Studies of South Sudan and Lesotho: Any Lessons Learnt? AfSol Journal, 1, (1), pp. 1-28.
[ii] “The Imperative to Strengthen Our Union: Report on the Proposed Recommendations for the Institutional Reform of the African Union” by President Paul Kagame, 29 January 2017, https://au.int/sites/.../32777-file-report-20institutional accessed on 8 January 2019.
[iii] Okeke, J (2018). Ambition versus Realism: Evaluating the Prospects of Success of the African Union Institutional Reform Agenda. Tana Papers 2018: A Collection of Policy Briefs.
[iv] Rwengabo, S. (2016). AMISOM and African-Centred Solutions to Peace and Security Challenges. AfSol Journal, 1, (1), pp. 91-137.
[v] Rupiya, M. R. (2016). Regional Intervention in Fragile African States: Comparative Case Studies of South Sudan and Lesotho: Any Lessons Learnt? AfSol Journal, 1, (1), pp. 1-28.
[vii] Rwengabo, S. (2016). AMISOM and African-Centred Solutions to Peace and Security Challenges. AfSol Journal, 1, (1), pp. 91-137.
About the Author:
Darlington Tshuma is a Doctoral candidate in the Peacebuilding Programme at Durban University of Technology, South Africa. He is also a Regional Analyst with Political Economy Southern Africa (PESA).