Nigeria and African Union Peacekeeping Missions in Burundi, Sudan and Somalia


1.1       Background to the Study

The African Union (AU) has pledged to create a continent of peace and solidarity. However, dozens of socio-ethnic conflicts occur across the continent despite the AU’s best efforts to prevent them. In this thesis, case studies of Sudan and Congo will be used to assess the efficacy of the AU in the realm of peacemaking and peacekeeping. Within each of these case studies, AU impediments to peacemaking and peacekeeping on financial, political, and socio-cultural fronts were analyzed.

One of the main basic reason for the transformation of the former Organization of African Unity (hereinafter the OAU) 1 to the brand new African Union (hereinafter the AU) is the need to shift from maintaining colonial independence of African states to a more pragmatic aspects of securing the realization of human rights, democracy, good governance and economic development of the African continent.

Contextualizing Sudan in the Study

There are many reasons Sudan is a compelling country to study. Sudan, until recently, was Africa’s and the Arab world’s largest country. It is also the cradle of the worlds’ longest river, the Nile, and the Sudanese government exerts authority over the river’s tributaries, the Blue and White Niles.2 Additionally, the country is endowed with astonishing resources ranging from fertile land to minerals and oil. Sudan’s oil reserves were estimated to be among the richest in the continent and its potential agricultural products are considered enough to eradicate hunger in all of Africa. 

Sudan’s location makes it an intriguing country. Located in northeast Africa, the country is where the Islamic-Arab civilization and the African ones intersect. By disposition, the country was predestined to house diverse groups of people. The advent of British colonizers and the European missionaries added to this diversity. This made the Sudanese national an African, an Arab, a Muslim, a Christian, and animist, a secular, and/or a Shariah-law observant.

The politicisation of some of these identities led to international ramifications that placed Sudan at the centre of the ‘War on Terror.’ Since Sudan’s independence in 1956, polarization of ethnic identities was common. This polarization was the most severe in the last two decades when the ruling party politicized the Islamic identity and affiliated itself with radical Islamist ideologues. In the early-mid 1990s, Sudan provided a sanctuary for Bin Laden as his Saudi government banished him. Subsequently, the U.S. claimed that the country was hosting terrorists and establishing Islamist terrorist links.  This led to Sudan’s 1993 designation as a State Sponsor of Terrorism.3

Other than the Sudanese involvement in the ‘War on Terror’, historically the leaders of the country have participated indirectly or directly in the Arab-Israeli conflict, in regional affairs including the birth of neighbouring Eritrea and in the Cold War.

Wars and conflict faced Sudan on every front, not only internationally but also nationally. Internally, Sudan has been ravaged by two civil wars. The first is the North-South civil war, also known as Africa’s longest civil war, and the second is the conflict in Darfur. Khartoum’s involvement in the Darfur conflict resulted in an arrest warrant issued by the International Criminal Court (ICC)for the president of Sudan, Omar Al-Bashir, for crimes against humanity. Omar Al-Bashir’s authoritarian prolonged rule is said to eclipse the hopes for a democratic Sudan. Yet, the country underwent four democratic governments in the past five decades and therefore the spirit of revival persists. Sudan also experienced a few federal arrangements that are worth examining.

Additionally, Sudan is one of the first few states to experience secession by a referendum in the world. In January 2010, South Sudan exercised its right to self-determination and in June 2011, declared itself as Africa’s youngest nation.

Conceptualising Burundi in the Study

The Burundian Civil War was an armed conflict lasting from 1993 to 2005. The civil war was the result of long standing ethnic divisions between the Hutu and the Tutsi tribes in Burundi. The conflict began following the first multi-party elections in the country since independence from Belgium in 1962, and is seen as formally ending with the swearing in of Pierre Nkurunziza in August 2005. The estimated death toll stands at 300,000 killed.4

Before colonization,  Burundi had been a strong, organized kingdom for centuries. Society consisted of four groups: the Twa potters, hunters and entertainers, the Ganwa the ruling aristocracy (today regarded a Tutsi subgroup), the Tutsi mainly cow herders and the Hutu mostly cultivators . Society was a hierarchical network  of patron and client ties, with   the princely Ganwa enjoying the highest status, and the Twa the lowest. How Hutu and Tutsi related was not clear, but actually the history of their relationship is much politicized. A rich Hutu could come to be regarded as a Tutsi, and an impoverished Tutsi as a Hutu. Hutu and Tutsi with merits and high achievements in the society could be elevated at the Ganwa status. Intermarriages among the groups were tolerated. All groups spoke and still speak the same Swahili language, shared the same culture, and practiced the same religion”.5

On October 21, 1993, Burundi’s first democratically elected Hutu president, Melchior Ndadaye, was assassinated by Tutsi extremists. As a result of the murder, violence broke out between the two groups, and an estimated 50,000 to 100,000 people died within a year.6 They were followed by a long civil war that killed both Hutu and Tutsi leading to the Rwandan Genocide with influx of hundreds of thousands of Rwandan refugees and the activities of armed Hutu and Tutsi groups further destabilized the regime.6

The civil war, however, continued, despite the efforts of the international community to create a peace process. Ceasefire talks were held in Tanzania in 2000, facilitated by Nelson Mandela. The Arusha agreement which established a transitional government, where the presidency and vice-presidency would be rotated every 18 months, sharing power between the Hutus and Tutsis was reached. While the government and three Tutsi groups signed the ceasefire accord, two leading Hutu rebel groups refused to participate, and the fighting continued. The Arusha talks closed with little progress made on November 30, 2000.9  In 2005, many developments were made in the peace process. The president signed a law in January 2005 to initiate a new national army, consisting of Tutsi military forces and all but one Hutu rebel groups. Matters continued to look prosperous after Burundi’s last rebel group, the Forces of National Liberation (FNL) signed a ceasefire deal in Tanzania, “solidifying the end of a 12-year civil war.”10

Conceptualising Somalia in the Study

The Somali Republic gained independence on 1 July 1960. Somalia was formed by the union of British Somaliland and Italian Somaliland, while French Somaliland became Djibouti. A socialist state was established following a coup led by Major General Muhammad Siad Barre. Rebel forces ousted the Barre regime in 1991, but turmoil, factional fighting, and anarchy ensued. The Somali National Movement (SNM) gained control of the north, while in the capital of Mogadishu and most of southern Somalia, the United Somali Congress achieved control. Somalia had been without a stable central government since dictator Mohamed Siad Barre fled the country in 1991.11

The Somali Civil War is an ongoing civil war taking place in Somalia. It grew out of resistance to the Siad Barre regime during the 1980s. By 1988–90, the Somali Armed Forces began engaging various armed rebel groups, including the Somali Salvation Democratic Front in the northeast,the Somali National Movement in the northwest, and the United Somali Congress in the south.12 This coalition of clan-based armed opposition groups eventually managed to overthrow the nation’s long-standing military government in 1991.13

Various factions began competing for influence in the power vacuum that followed, which precipitated an aborted UN peacekeeping attempt in the mid-1990s. A period of decentralization ensued, characterized by a return to customary and religious law in many areas as well as the establishment of autonomous regional governments in the northern part of the country.

The early 2000s saw the creation of fledgling interim federal administrations, culminating in the establishment of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) in 2004.14 In 2006, the TFG, assisted by Ethiopian troops, assumed control of most of the nation’s southern conflict zones from the newly formed Islamic Courts Union (ICU). The ICU subsequently splintered into more radical groups, notably Al-Shabaab, which have since been fighting the Somali government and the AU-mandated AMISOM intervention force for control of the country.15 In 2011, a coordinated military operation between the Somali military and multinational forces began, which is believed to represent one of the final stages in the war’s Islamist insurgency.

This study investigates not only the basic causes of the civil wars in Burundi, Sudan and Somalia, but also the response of the AU to these wars that have resulted in the deaths of millions of people in the region.

1.2       Statement of the Problem

At present, the efforts of the African Union in peacekeeping in Burundi, Sudan and Somalia, are yet to receive the attention of scholars. Meanwhile, these case studies illuminate the financial, political, and socio-cultural trials the AU faced when engaging in peacemaking and peacekeeping. Hence, analyzing the adequacy and efficiency of the AU intervention to the civil wars in Burundi, Sudan and Somalia,as well as exploring the major factors that have affected, undermined and influenced the responses of AU are one of the major points which will be extensively discussed in this study.

Also, taking in to account the main socio-economic, demographic and political factors behind the occurrence of the civil wars in Burundi, Sudan and Somalia,, the thesis will proffer some concrete suggestions for the AU and its member states to tackle the causes of future civil wars, unrests and instabilities in Africa. So, having all the above mentioned points in consideration, the main research questions to be addressed by this study are listed below:.

1.3       Research Questions

It will examine questions stemming from three quintessential areas of AU peacemaking and peacekeeping: economical, political, and socio-cultural.

  1. How is the AU tackling African civil wars?
  2. If the purpose of peacekeeping is to broker peace through compromise between opposing parties, is it within the interest of member states that are the subject to peacekeeping measures to contribute state funds to the AU Peace Fund?
  3. Why do Governments such as Burundi, Sudan and Somalia prefer the intervention of an AU peacekeeping mission than UN peacekeeping forces?
  4. Is AU peacekeeping more acceptable because of its African origin, or is it because of its widespread record of lame-duck peacekeeping missions that offer little threat to the offending government?
  5. Has the AU been able to offer lasting solution to the crises in Burundi, Sudan and Somalia?

This study will attempt to address these questions within three case studies of Burundi, Sudan and Somalia.

1.4       Justification of the Study

The Burundi, Sudan and Somalia conflicts were chosen for analysis due to their high level of AU involvement and therefore offer sufficient evidence of AU peacemaking and peacekeeping capabilities. Although, Somalia civil war was subject to more outside peacemaking and peacekeeping assistance rather than driven by a high level of AU involvement, nevertheless, it will provide a background to AU peace efforts in areas that have multiple peacekeeping interventions as it occurred in Rwanda. Hence, the Burundi, Sudan and Somalia case studies, will offer sufficient data for greater understanding of the AU peacemaking machine due to the AU’s deep involvement in each of these conflicts. Moreover, the comparison of the two cases will offer a more balanced understanding of the AU’s capacity for peacemaking and peacekeeping efforts in Africa.

1.5       Scope of the Study

A number of parameter need to be established for the study. First, the period covered is from 1999 to 2005. Second, the African Union (AU) intervention in Burundi, Sudan and Somalia is critically examined based on their peace and solidarity efforts. Third, the civil wars are to be examined primarily from the perspective of African Union’s peacekeeping initiatives despite the involvement of other international organisations such as the United Nations as well as regional third party interventions.

1.6       Literature Review

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1.7       Research Methodology

Through the use of primary sources such as UN and AU publications and secondary sources such as periodicals, books, articles, and newspapers, I will address the issue of AU peacemaking and peacekeeping efficacy by analyzing two case studies: the Darfur crisis and the Western Sahara stalemate. The analysis will focus on whether or not economic, political, and cultural factors have stymied AU peacemaking and peacekeeping efforts in these two distinct African regions.

End Notes

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