What is the African Union? Part II
The AU’s willingness and ability to fight terrorism and carry out peacekeeping operations has become increasingly important in tackling complex and changing conflicts, especially as such operations fall outside the UN mandate.
An important difference between the AU and the UN’s peace operations is that the AU can use force in military operations. The AU can therefore play an important role in combating violent extremism and terrorism. Many believe that the UN and the AU should work together by playing on their respective strengths. Where the UN is impartial and does not use force, the AU can do the opposite.
AU’s largest operation is in Somalia, where they first intervened in 2007. The operation consists of approximately 22,000 soldiers and has a mandate to fight al-Shabaab and other terrorist groups , and promote stability in Somalia.
6: What has AU achieved?
Although the AU has set the list high, it has had some notable successes in peace and security. For example, the organization played an important role in preventing protests in Sudan from developing into large-scale violence in 2019, and it has mediated an important agreement between the government and rebel groups in the Central African Republic. On the other hand, it has also been criticized for the way crises in Cameroon, the Sahel and South Sudan have been handled.
The AU has conducted eight peacekeeping operations in Burundi, the Central African Republic, the Comoros, Mali, Somalia and Sudan. In the last 15 years, the AU has strengthened its contributions to UN peacekeeping operations in Africa, from 10,000 to 50,000 soldiers.
Today, it would have been inconceivable for the UN to send peacekeeping forces to Africa , without an agreement with the AU, the regional organizations and the member states.
In addition, AU has sent out so-called special envoys to prevent conflict and mediate between parties. They have played an important role in preventing coups and the military has taken over power in several countries.
But it is not just in peace and security that AU has achieved much. Financial integration has also been a very important part of the work AU has done. AU has established a continental free trade agreement – a very important milestone. The agreement is important because it will help increase trade between African countries. AU also works for the free movement of people, something we know from the EU and the EEA . This shows that when there is will and the member states gather around one goal, great progress can be made in Africa. This is something that has often been more difficult to achieve with peace and security.
7: What are the biggest challenges and the way forward?
It is important to remember that AU’s development has taken place on a continent that is also in development. Africa will change significantly over the next 50 to 80 years. African cities such as Lagos and Kinshasa will be some of the largest in the world. Many countries will be industrialized, and Africa can become, as China has been for the past 20 years, the world’s manufacturing hub. But it can only happen with the right policy and the right institutions in place, and that is what AU is working towards now – to put in place the institutions that are necessary for future development.
One of the biggest challenges for AU is funding. The organization is still dependent on contributions from international partners to keep its operations going. Africa is a continent with great poverty, and member countries have different levels of development. As member states strengthen their economies, AU will become less dependent on international partners.
Another task that must be carried out is to make the organization more efficient and at the same time have good contact with the inhabitants of Africa. Major internal reforms and restructuring are underway.
The AU must also shape its role among other multilateral actors, such as the UN and the EU. What kind of role should AU play and when is it right for AU to take the lead?
Finally, the challenges on the African continent are great: increase in violent extremism and terrorism, migration, demographic growth, climate change and global pandemics such as covid-19.
According to neovideogames.com, AU has played an important role in coordinating the response to covid-19. This has led to many member states implementing necessary measures early, which has saved many lives. Nevertheless, measures to reduce proliferation, such as travel restrictions and curfews, prevent AU’s opportunities to keep the organization in operation. The Union must therefore make some tough decisions to deal with the covid-19 crisis, while keeping alive other important ongoing operations.
The AU has a comprehensive and good system for tackling the peace and security challenges that characterize Africa. But at the same time, dealing with crises such as covid- 19, implementing internal reforms, and continuing to focus on the campaign to end armed conflict (“Silencing the Guns”), will be challenging tasks. But there is also a growing awareness that today’s crises often have a global scope, and these can only be resolved through cooperation and a strong AU. In times of increasing uncertainty and pressure on multilateral systems, AU is more important than ever.
These states are members of the AU:
- Democratic Republic of the Congo
- The Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic
- The Central African Republic
- Equatorial Guinea
- Ivory Coast
- Cape Verde
- Republic of the Congo
- São Tomé and Príncipe
- Sierra Leone
- South Africa
- South Sudan