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3 Africa Programme for Peace Overview

This chapter provides an introductory overview of the APP. It first presents the Programme’s objectives, and then provides short introductions of the peace and conflict challenges on the African continent in a general sense, and the Sahel and the Horn of Africa specifically, in an effort to present the context in which the Programme is operating. The chapter subsequently presents the organisations that have been identified as the main APP partner organisations, providing an overview of their mandates and experiences in response to conflict and stability challenges in their respective areas of operation.

3.1 Programme level objective

The APP is built on the assumption that peace and security in Africa is best ensured if there is a strong continental architecture of organisations and capabilities preventing and reacting to conflicts and building peace, thereby following the ‘African solutions to African problems’ paradigm that underpins the AU and Regional Economic Communities (RECs).[38] Throughout the four APP phases,[39] the overall programme objective has remained largely the same: to promote peace and security as the basis for development in Africa through strengthening the capacity of African institutions to respond within their mandate. When looking at the objectives identified in the different programme documents for the various APP phases, it is clear that the concept of ‘development’ is further specified throughout the programme’s life cycle:

  • Phase I and Phase II: to promote peace and security as a basis for sustainable development in Africa;
  • Phase III: to promote peace and security as the basis for addressing poverty reduction and human rights in Africa;
  • Phase IV: to contribute to enhanced conflict prevention and good governance through strengthening the ability of African institutions to engage in preventive diplomacy, mediation, and democratisation engagement on the continent.

Also, the main assumption underlying the programme remained the same, namely that peace and security are prerequisites for development in Africa. In addition, regional organisations that are mandated to act as facilitators for peace and security on the African continent remained the key beneficiaries of the APP. The overall programme objective as identified by the mid-term review of the APP III therefore best captures the programme’s main objective and underlying assumptions:

To support the structures and processes that will enable Africa to address peace and security challenges and thereby promote poverty reduction and human rights.[40]

3.2 Conflict and peace on the African continent

The incidence of violent conflict has steadily increased in Africa since the end of the Cold War, making it the most unstable continent in the world. According to the Uppsala Conflict Data Programme (UCDP), Africa was home to more than 75% of the global total of violent conflicts between 1990 and 2015. The UCDP finds that Africa has witnessed an estimated 630 conflicts in this period, and that while the number of conflicts seemed to reduce between 1990 and the early 2000s, an upward trend manifested itself since 2010. It also finds that while armed conflicts have been registered in approximately 30 African countries, about three-quarters have occurred in just seven countries: The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, and Sudan.[41]

Most conflicts on the African continent can be labelled as protracted violence, or ‘repeat civil wars’. Some 90% of all civil wars worldwide were such repeat civil wars at the beginning of this century, with most occurring in the Middle East and Africa. With the exception of Libya, every civil war that started since 2003 was a continuation of a previous one.[42] This not only raises serious questions for policy makers and organisations involved in conflict prevention and conflict resolution, it also raises questions about more traditional approaches in response to conflict (military interventions or sanctions, for example), which seem to be less effective. Partly, this problem of repeat civil wars is caused by the political order in many of the countries that are experiencing these conflicts. With governments, leaders and elites only held accountable to the public in a limited way, situations arise that make societies more susceptible to conflict. Poverty is often mentioned as a key variable in this regard.[43] In reality however, poverty is not a sufficient explanatory variable for war or conflict. The combination of bad governance, democratic deficits (accountability mechanisms lacking), minority rule, and resulting poor state performance seem more relevant causes of conflict.[44] Though these factors often coincide with poverty, it is important to recognize them as separate.

Reference is also often made to the shift from ‘traditional’ interstate conflict towards intrastate conflict, in particular on the African continent. The label of interstate and intrastate conflict suggests well-defined and functioning political territorial units. However, this is not always the case. In cases where the state is weak, where the central government fails to control all of its territory, where security forces are unprofessional or inadequate, and where dispute resolution mechanisms (other than the use of force) are lacking, the state is often part of the problem. In such circumstances, new actors such as paramilitary groups, criminal gangs and terrorist organisations can challenge government. Whereas some of these actors may have a clear structure and agenda, others may lack such characteristics. More traditional conflict resolution approaches may no longer apply, and new approaches may have to be developed to engage a wide range of non-state actors – warlord factions, tribes, clans, or militias – as well as security forces (police, military) of the state.

In reality, there is an increased hybridity of conflict, where conflicts are influenced by regional developments and cross-border processes, therefore rarely remaining confined to the territory of just one state.[45] Most so-called intrastate armed conflicts in Africa could be more accurately labelled as ‘internal conflicts with important internationalized economic, political and military components’[46] both in terms of regional actors and interlocking political and economic agendas, as well as the wider geopolitical power balance (proxy wars). For this reason, issues like cross-border military operations, transnational organised crime and irregular migration are considered in this evaluation, focusing on the role and the effectiveness of the AU and the RECs in this regard.

However, the primary origins of many conflicts ultimately remain largely domestic in nature, which means that (sub)national social, economic and political processes are key foci for analysis, reflection and action.

Most of the causes of conflict have largely remained the same over the last decades. Competition over resources, territory, the state or people continue to ignite and recur the bulk of violent conflict, impacting large groups of people but securing power and wealth for only a few. The Africa Peace and Security Architecture (APSA) Impact Report finds that conflicts across the continent in 2016 were driven by issues related to: national power (22%); system/ideology (20%); subnational predominance (19%); resources (17%); autonomy (9%); secession (6%); and territory (4%).[47] Regionally, there are interesting differences to be noticed on the African continent. The large majority of conflicts in North Africa took place at the level of medium to high intensity, with conflicts in this region predominately being fought over system or ideology (i.e. violent extremism). The major conflict drivers in Sub-Saharan Africa, however, were national power (23%), subnational predominance (20%) and resources (18%). Here, system or ideology was only fought over in 14% of conflicts.[48]

Even though many armed conflicts at the subnational level stem from localized disputes over sources of livelihood, often related to environmental issues such as access to land and water,[49] one of the most important factors contributing to the level of intrastate violence and conflict is the level and character of governance, particularly the level in which people experience freedom to hold their government accountable. Freedom House identifies a negative trend in this accountability, noting that African countries are becoming increasingly less ‘free’ in this regard (with 20 countries in the ‘not free’ category in 2016 versus 14 countries in this category in 2008).[50]

In addition, there are a number of factors that further complicate the story of conflict in Africa in the 21st century. First, conflict and instability are aggravated by demographic changes, such as population increases and urbanisation that coalesce with, and intensify struggles over, scarce resources. This dynamic that is further intensified by the consequences of climate change. In addition, the increase in irregular migration (and related human trafficking) negatively affects traditional migration patterns as an alternative livelihood protection strategy, as is common in many of the affected regions. National governments and donor countries alike are struggling to find the right balance between halting the smuggling and curbing the refugee flows, while at the same time allowing for traditional migration to continue. This creates a potentially explosive situation in already unstable regions that offer few economic alternatives, such as the Horn of Africa or the Sahel.[51] Furthermore, the influx of refugees in Europe has resulted in a surge in populist and xenophobic sentiments, further strengthened by the various violent extremist attacks such as 9/11.[52] This has resulted in a general trend where international actors focus their engagement in Africa more around their own national interests, which are increasingly driven by a security perspective (the EU’s focus on containment and the creation of a security belt around Europe is a prime example of this trend).[53]

Additional factors to consider are gender and youth. Gender, an area that the APP focuses on, remains an important issue in conflicts on the African continent. Armed Conflict Location & Event Data (ACLED) research shows that the countries with the highest number of reported cases of rape and gender-based violence are African FCS like Sudan, South Sudan, the Central African Republic (CAR) and DRC.[54] The youth bulge, high rates of unemployment and underemployment, limited social mobility, easy access to small arms and light weapons, and persistent inter-group animosities are now well-understood as a dangerous mix.[55] The interrelation between youth bulges and conflict is illustrated by the fact that those countries with the youngest populations in Africa (CAR, DRC, Kenya, Mali, Nigeria, Uganda and Tunisia) are also the most conflict-affected states on the continent, where young men aged 15 to 29 account for the majority of casualties from lethal armed violence.[56]

3.3 Conflict and peace in the West African region

The West African region has historically experienced continuous cycles of instability and conflict. The postcolonial history of the Sahara-Sahel is characterised by multiple waves of unrest and periods of violence. Authoritarian regimes were ushered in by coups d’état in Mali (2012 – following earlier coups in 1968 and 1991), Mauritania (2005 and 2008 – earlier coups took place in 1974 and 1984), Libya (2011), and Niger (2010 – other coups occurred in 1974, 1996 and 1999). The region also witnessed border disputes between Libya and Chad; Burkina Faso and Mali; Nigeria and Chad; and between Morocco, Algeria, Mauritania and the Polisario Front. Mali and Niger experienced multiple Tuareg (federalist and secessionist) rebellions in the 1990s and the 2000s and 2010s, while Algeria remained entangled in a civil war for over a decade (1991-2002).[57] Likewise, West Africa has been plagued by regionalized civil war in Nigeria (1967-1970), Sierra Leone (1991-2002), Liberia (1989-1996; 1999-2003), Guinea-Bissau (1998-1999) and Ivory Coast (2002-2007; 2010-2011); coups d’état in the Gambia and Guinea; ethnic conflict in Benin and Nigeria; insurgency in Nigeria (2004-2009) and the rise of Boko Haram (2009).[58]

Not unlike the situation on the wider continent, the chronic instability in the West African region is largely driven by the weakness of its states, the presence of inequality and greedy elites, and the proliferation of armed groups.[59] Maritime piracy in the Gulf of Guinea, trafficking (oil, cocaine, cannabis, firearms and humans), the rise of religious extremism, political exclusion, democratic deficits, migration, and contested land tenure are additional drivers of instability in the region.[60] Moreover, food insecurity has the potential to exacerbate violence and is linked to high risk of democratic failure, protests and rioting, and the protraction of conflicts.[61]

West African states form a relatively compact regional grouping with a great population mobility, and both formal and informal cross-border trade.[62] These strong connections deepen the concerns of these countries for each other’s stability and increase the potential for spill over of conflicts.

Over the past decade, three cross-border phenomena – conflicts over natural resources, proliferation of organised crime and armed extremism – have arisen that contribute to instability in the region. First, confrontations between herders and farmers are becoming more frequent and violent.[63] At the base of these conflicts lies competition for increasingly scarce resources (such as land), proliferation of weapons in the region, failure of traditional adjudicative mechanisms to resolve tensions between herders and farmers, and clashes between the sedentary culture of the farmers and the nomadic culture of the herders.[64] Second, the proliferation of organisational crime – and the emergence of Latin American drug cartels in West Africa in particular – has become a game changer in regional conflicts. Northern and Central Mali exemplify this phenomenon. In Mali, increased fragmentation of armed groups has become intertwined with local and communal land and resource conflicts, all funded through drugs and other forms of trafficking.

This fragmentation stands in the way of efforts at conflict resolution.[65] Third, armed extremism has become an additional conflict layer on top of these new drivers of conflict. Boko Haram, which originated in the Nigerian state of Yobe as a protest movement to the state governor’s corruption, is now an ultra-violent movement operating in the north of Nigeria and in the Diffa region of Niger. Around 240,000 people fled Nigeria and have been forced to live in camps in Diffa.[66] At the same time, Nigeria, Mali, Niger, Algeria, and Sudan currently face the creation and expansion of armed groups influenced by Wahabist and Salafist extremist thought.[67] Such groups are particularly mobile and carry out operations in the Sahelo-Saharan region with great ease (not only military, but also illicit trafficking).[68] Their mobility is further enhanced by wide social networks that allow them to organise across borders (and to strike where the state is weakest) in a way that is unparalleled by groups in other fragile nation states that constitute the region.

3.4 Conflict and peace in the East African region

The Horn of Africa (HoA) is one of the most unstable regions in the world. The region is characterized by porous borders, interstate competition, and remains the stage for large pockets of state fragility as well as ongoing protracted violent conflict. At the historical crossroads between Asia, Europe and Africa, the Horn of Africa has always been a fault line of shifting geopolitical centres of power and influence and maintains a legacy of violent conflict and foreign involvement in local affairs. While specific actors, interests and drivers of conflict have shifted in the wake of decolonization and the Cold War, the nature of regional conflict dynamics in the Horn of Africa has arguably remained the same. Conflict drivers vary from conflicts over natural resources to religious extremism.

The Horn of Africa is blessed and cursed with a range of natural resources that have historically formed a problematic driver of local and regional conflict. Issues relate not only to resources access and extraction rights, but also to market access. Though in pre-colonial days, ivory, slaves, spices, and gold were the main commodities extracted from the region, we now see a dependence on income generated from crude oil, teak, and other minerals. These commodities are extracted from the peripheral backwaters and transported downstream to the Nile or to the ports of Mombasa, Zanzibar, Mogadishu, and Djibouti. The Nile is the longest river in Africa and connects at least four[69] of the eight countries comprising what is now considered the Horn of Africa, and has therefore often been a source of conflict. For example, the controversial Jonglei Canal plan has been cited as one of the main proximate triggers of Sudan’s second civil war.[70] With the construction of the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam in Ethiopia tensions have risen again, as the Egyptian and Sudanese governments fear losing control of the Nile, which serves as their major water supply.[71] In a similar vein, conflicts between pastoral groups and agriculturalists on resource use remain. In Kenya for instance, the most prominent conflicts revolve around livestock in general. Such conflict including disputes over grazing land due to the high premium placed on livestock and livestock products, expansion of agricultural land, commercialization of pastoralism and agriculture, and episodic droughts and food insecurity.[72]

Ethnic identity politics can also act as a driver of conflict as the examples of Kenya, Rwanda, Sudan, South Sudan, and Uganda (Karamojo) show. In Rwanda, ethnic identity politics and the clash between pastoralist groups and agriculturalists led to one of the biggest genocides in modern history. The hierarchical power structure of ethnic identities in Rwanda between the Tutsis (pastoralists) and Hutu (agriculturalists) was used as narrative by the Hutu government for mobilizing resources, institutions and organised armed groups – in particular unemployed youth – to participate in a genocide against all Rwandans of Tutsi ethnicity.

Conflicts are also driven by geopolitical agendas. Like many other parts of Africa, the Horn of Africa was the stage for many bloody proxy wars fought during the Cold War between the US and its allies against the USSR and its allies. The Eritrean war of independence (including the prelude to the Eritrean-Ethiopian war in 2000), the first and second Sudanese civil wars, and the military government under Siad Barre in Somalia are all examples of such proxy wars. In addition, separatist non-state armed actors receiving support from competing regional powers, who are in turn backed by foreign interests, have been at the centre of many conflicts in the Horn of Africa. For example, the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) in South Sudan was first supported by socialist Ethiopia and based much of its identity on other socialist movements such as South Africa’s African National Congress, the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), and the Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola (MPLA) in Angola. After the end of the Cold War, the SPLA aligned itself with the US and Israel, as its main ally against Khartoum was rapidly falling out of favour with the West. This shows how a local conflict whereby a marginalized group takes up arms to fight for more autonomy is quickly hijacked by regional, and by extension global, geopolitical interests. It is interesting to note, however, how quickly alliances and interests in these proxy configurations can shift. The Horn of Africa has witnessed the emergence of more armed non-state actors than any other part of Africa. In fact, the term non-state may be misleading considering how swiftly so many non-state actors were incorporated into (state) power, and how former state actors defected to becoming non-state armed insurgents.

Religion has always played an important role in shaping the cultural identities and socio-economic relationships between wide ranges of communities in the Horn of Africa, and recently the role of Islam has been especially influential in this respect. Islam features in a diversity of ways throughout regional conflicts, and it is particularly important to differentiate the role of political Islam as separate from that of violent Islamic radical extremism. For example, Sudan offers an instance of political Islam, where the rise of Omar Al Bashir and his National Congress Party has been appropriated into a mechanism of state control. Somalia demonstrates an example of Islamic radical extremism, where the rise of religious, extremist non-state actors such as Al-Shebab signify a fragmentation of state control. Notably, the cases of Sudan and Somalia also demonstrate that regional responses to religious movements are often deeply interwoven with foreign geopolitical interests. Both the positions of the main incumbent political force in South Sudan (the SPLA) and the transitional government in Somalia are largely due to Western response to the (perceived) threat of militant Islam.

State fragility is another driver of conflict in the region. State fragility does not strictly mean a withdrawal of the state and lawlessness. Rather, fragility is a situation in which the lines between state and non-state, or licit and illicit, become blurred. This is characteristic for some parts of the HoA. In South Sudan, for example, the largest corruption scandals take place through the Government of South Sudan’s procurement offices as well as its military supplies and services. Another example is Somalia, where piracy has become a lucrative business – in fact, a multimillion dollar enterprise – and the waters off the coast of Somalia are considered among the most dangerous shipping lanes in the world. While the world’s attention lies primarily on prosecuting pirates and mobilizing naval forces, the actual challenges are ashore: the rise of piracy has primarily been driven by the non-functioning political system, poisoned waters, illegal fishing, poverty and lack of job opportunities.

3.5 The African Union’s response to conflict

The African Union (AU) was established in 2002 on the foundations of the post-colonial continental body the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) and consists of 55 member states. Its overall mandate is to promote political cooperation, peace and security, and economic integration in Africa. In 2004, the AU in collaboration with the RECs established the so-called African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA). The APSA evolved in the late 1990s, when the African continent was confronted with severe crises such as the civil war in Somalia and the genocide in Rwanda. At the time, the statutes of the OAU did not allow intervention in the inner affairs of another state. In order to be able to intervene in situations of severe human rights violations, the member states of the OAU decided to establish the AU and subsequently the APSA. Through the APSA, it is the AU’s purview to prevent, manage and resolve crises and conflicts, post-conflict reconstruction and development in the African continent.[73] The approach of the AU to conflict prevention includes: 1) structural prevention aimed at reducing the possibility of conflict by supporting ‘the balancing of political, economic, social and cultural opportunities among all segments of society, contributing to the strengthening of democratic legitimacy, the effectiveness of governance institutions, peaceful conciliation of group interests and bridging of dividing lines among different segments of society’[74]; and 2) operational prevention consisting of ‘actions designed to address the proximate or immediate causes of conflict, normally taken during the escalation phase of a given conflict.’[75]

AU institutions have help curbed the harmful trans-boundary effects of violent conflicts in Africa. However, the underlying causes of these political and security crises remain largely unresolved and that solutions in the sphere of peace operations are strongly militarised.[76] The establishment of the African Governance Architecture (AGA) in 2011 is therefore complementary to the APSA, as it coincides with the rise in the number of attempts to remain in power through amendments to the constitution by an African sitting head of state. This has inspired attempts by the AU to promote a ‘shared values agenda’ in an attempt to develop frameworks across countries to promote a common approach and good practices to governance. These shared values include inter alia human rights and the rule of law, democratic governance, constitutionalism, gender equality, youth empowerment, development, environmental protection, popular participation democratic elections and durable solutions to humanitarian crises.[77] One of the objectives of the AGA is to facilitate joint engagement and deepen synergy with the APSA in strategic interventions: preventive diplomacy, conflict prevention and post-conflict, reconstruction and development in Africa.[78]

Whereas previously the OAU and many of the RECs had already been involved in managing or resolving violent conflicts and some of the political crises on the continent, the effects of these efforts were limited due to the fact that most members strictly adhered to the principle of sovereignty and non-interference. The AU has a much stronger mandate, embracing the principle of non-indifference to war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. It also has a voluntary mechanism that calls on the soft power of peer pressure on matters of good governance and democracy.[79] By the end of 2016, the AU was involved in most peace operations in the continent, gaining acknowledgement ‘for its capacity to conceptualise, plan and deploy conflict management tools that take the form of peace-support operations and peace enforcement.’ [80] However, the political and operational burden to take the first steps in managing escalating conflicts is still placed on regional lead countries and RECs, such as ECOWAS.[81]

Overall, the capacity and willingness of the AU and RECs to intervene in violent conflicts on the continent has increased; there is more active and visible engagement of African states and regional organisations in strengthening peace and security in Africa. This increased engagement is especially visible in the development and operationalisation of APSA’s (and AGA’s) central instruments for conflict prevention (mediation and early warning), conflict management (peace operations) and post-conflict reconstruction and development.[82]

The AU often welcomes initiatives aimed at tackling regional challenges, such as the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) initiated by Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Niger, and Nigeria aimed at neutralising Boko Haram. The AU also supports actions taken by individual members and often joins these initiatives, such as in the case of the Algeria-led mediation for Mali. However, the AU is powerless in face of new interventions being built on top of pre-existing ones. The AU’s Peace and Security Council (PSC) tried to remedy this situation in its statement on the so-called G5 Sahel (the EU-backed, five-nation joint counterterrorism taskforce on the Sahel, framed as an ‘alliance of the willing’), by requesting that references to the PSC Protocol, the AU Strategy for the Sahel Region and the Nouakchott Process be introduced before new interventions take place. However, it is unlikely that these additions will be enough to assert the AU’s authority, since the region has stopped being a priority on PSC’s agenda since 2016.[83] In light of these developments, the African Standby Force (ASF) and the ECOWAS Standby Force are often overshadowed by external interventions in the region.

Similarly, with regard to Mali, the AU followed up its efforts with a proposal for the creation of an intervention brigade that could engage in an anti-terrorist offensive in the country, which the UN-coordinated Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali’s (MINUSMA) classical peacekeeping mandate does not allow for.[84] Despite the timely nature of this proposal, Western powers stood in the way of its realisation. France, for example, has long worked outside the APSA mechanism to exert influence over the security aspects, as it considers the Sahel to be of strategic value.[85] Since the start of the conflict in Mali, France engaged militarily (upon Malian invitation) on a bilateral basis, rather than by strengthening the AU’s African-led International Support Mission for Mali (AFISMA).[86] In addition, the G5 Sahel proposes itself as a parallel structure to the ASF, appropriating the APSA without being under any AU authority.

Finally, to address many of these challenges, upon the request of the AU Assembly (2016), President Kagame is currently overseeing a reform of the continental architecture (which is expected to be finalized by January 2019[87]). This reform addresses both the ‘crisis of implementation’ (i.e. the gap between the vast AU agenda and what actually gets implemented at national and regional levels) and the ‘over dependence on partner funding’ with yearly contributions from member states to the AU remaining far below what is budgeted, unpredictable and insufficient, as the AU ‘still has to be made fit for purpose’.[88] It will be important for future APP programming to take the outcomes of this reform process into account, as they are expected to affect the way in which the APP can work with the AU (and the RECs) going forward.

3.6 The ECOWAS response to conflict

The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) is the largest sub-regional organisation in Africa comprised of 15 member states.[89] When it was established in 1975 via the Treaty of Lagos, ECOWAS first and foremost was set up as an organisation mandated to promote economic integration in the region. However, ECOWAS increasingly also focused on addressing issues of conflict and instability in West Africa. As a REC recognised by the AU, ECOWAS is meant to be a region governed in accordance with the principles of democracy, rule of law and good governance – and is a formal partner in implementing the APSA and the AGA.[90]

ECOWAS has the ‘most sophisticated peace and security architecture on the African continent’ and is a pioneer in the supervision of political practices and the exercise of power in its member states.[91] ECOWAS shapes its peace and security mandate through the ECOWAS Conflict Prevention Framework (ECPF). The ECPF defines conflict prevention in terms of operational prevention – such as early warning and response, mediation and peacekeeping through the ECOWAS Standby Force (ESF) – and more structural prevention consisting of peacebuilding through political and institutional reforms, peace education, etc.[92] Within the operational prevention line of work, ECOWAS has developed a sophisticated Early Warning and Response Network (ECOWARN) that collects information on potential conflict dynamics from the member states, making use of formalised agreements with civil society organisations. However, the 2012 Malian crisis showed that collecting reliable information on conflict dynamics is of little use if governments are unwilling to act upon detected threats and to share relevant information. In the aftermath of this crisis, ECOWARN has therefore moved towards establishing national response centres to promote member state ownership over conflict prevention.[93]

ECOWAS has promoted peaceful electoral transitions and the enforcement of electoral results. Since 2004, ECOWAS acted as an observer in all West African elections but the 2011 presidential elections in The Gambia.[94] It has been noted that ECOWAS contributed significantly to peaceful transitions in countries such as Ghana (2008), Guinea (2010), Benin (2011) and Liberia (2011).[95] In addition, ECOWAS sanctions, mediation efforts and threats of military force resulted in the enforcement of electoral results in the cases of Ivory Coast (2010-2011) and The Gambia (2016).[96] In a similar vein, ECOWAS helped install an interim government in Burkina Faso following the ousting of long-time President Compaoré (2014-2015).[97] Although two-thirds of ECOWAS member states are considered less than fully democratic regimes, and good governance remains an issue,[98] a clear normative shift has been visible in the region towards the regular election of new presidents into office.[99]

When it comes to conflict resolution and conflict management, however, ECOWAS has shown that its diplomatic influence often lacks military weight and the ability to push through necessary governance and security reforms. Throughout the 2000s, for example, ECOWAS intervened in Guinea Bissau in a timely and effective manner. Its permanent presence in the country, which allowed for the mediation between political and military actors, and the facilitation of satisfactory and non-violent elections (2005, 2008, 2009, 2014), resulted in the diffusion of political tension before its escalation into lethal conflict. ECOWAS was less effective however, at progressing with security sector reform in the country.[100]

In the last five years, ECOWAS has seen itself confronted by new crises that extend beyond its geographic area (such as in the Sahel and Lake Chad regions) and in regions where it has limited impact, experience and influence (such as the desert terrain of Northern Mali).[101] The regional response to these security challenges has been mainly one of harnessing new regional multilateral security and counter-terror institutions and strategies (such as the eleven-nation, Algerian-led but African Union-coordinated Nouakchott Process; the EU-backed, Sahel regional coordination body G5 Sahel; the Multinational Joint Task Force (MNJTF) in charge of securing the Lake Chad region’s borders against Boko Haram; and the Liptako-Gourma Authority, which was modelled after the MNJTF to secure the contiguous areas of Mali, Burkina Faso and Niger).[102] A common criticism of these regional responses is that they address the violent symptoms of these dynamics rather than their underlying causes. The increased shift in G5 Sahel operations from development to security measures and the inability of ECOWAS to create an effective regional cooperation structure addressing transnational organised crime are cases in point.[103] At the same time, the militarised response to these dynamics has been rife with regional coordination problems and a proliferation of security initiatives – showing a strong mismatch between the ability of radical armed groups to organise across borders and the fragmented regional response.

There are several deficiencies ECOWAS suffers in relation to its peace and security mandate. First, ECOWAS’ actions are hampered when a conflict takes place on the outskirts of the ECOWAS region or is driven by the involvement of armed groups with ties that extend across borders, particularly those with ties outside the ECOWAS region. This is not only the case in northern Mali (as described above), but also in the Lake Chad Basin, where Boko Haram’s activities expand across the region’s and ECOWAS’s border areas.[104] Boko Haram has increasingly forced Nigeria to turn its attention inwards. Given that Nigeria is the hegemon of the ECOWAS bloc and has often functioned as the driving force behind the organisation’s interventions, this development has negatively affected ECOWAS’s ability to act.[105]

Second, funding and capacity issues remain prevalent. Although ECOWAS is the only REC that has established a formal Community Infrastructure Levy, ECOWAS still strongly depends on donor funding for its conflict prevention activities and needs to balance competing demands and priorities.[106] The formation of the ECOWAS Standby Force (ESF) has been a slow process and its political framework, configuration and deployment capacities underperform when compared to the ESF’s formal objectives.[107]

Third, defective management and the informality of governance hamper the delivery of concrete results. ECOWAS itself identified many pervasive organisational deficiencies in its internal evaluation in the aftermath of the Mali crisis, finding that limits to its military capabilities, the rivalry with the AU over ownership of the intervention, and indecision had been some of the reasons that withheld ECOWAS from intervening.[108] Yet these same organisational deficiencies may well stand in the way of effective reform of the organisation.[109] In relation to this, it has been argued that the absence of solid compliance and accountability mechanisms within the ECOWAS structure may well be a deliberate choice, as ‘these flaws are not primarily linked to capacity issues. They reflect the existence of powers that have a vested interest in allowing many “grey zones” and space for ad hoc approaches to decision-making, resource allocation and accountability provision.’[110] As ECOWAS consists of an array of (semi-)fragile states with problematic governance practices, it will remain a challenge to make it more than a sum of its parts.

3.7 The IGAD response to conflict

The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) is one of eight RECs recognised by the AU and acts as a pillar of the African Union’s various continental architectures. The organisation dates back to 1993 when it was established by Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya and Djibouti as the Inter-Governmental Authority against Drought and Desertification (IGADD). Its mandate has since grown to include peace and security matters, although many claim this is more by chance than design.[111] IGAD currently consists of eight countries in the Horn of Africa[112] and supports its member states in their development efforts, particularly with regard to peace processes and food security. Moreover, IGAD acts as the principle regional institution for conflict resolution in the Horn of Africa. In October 2011, IGAD signed an agreement with the AU to guide the implementation of the APSA support programme in the region.

Overall, IGAD’s track record in regional peace and security matters has been fragmented, due to blurred lines between unwarranted interference and legitimate intervention, political sensitivity over sovereignty and governance issues, a deeply entrenched hard security mindset among member states, a history of mistrust and competition among member states, and capacity deficits that have not been conducive to donor perceptions. It has also not primarily been concerned with governance, even after its mandate was expanded in 1996. IGAD activities in the field of peace and security have been primarily focused on conflict prevention and early warning systems, mediation efforts, and some degree of peacebuilding, but governance, post-conflict reconstruction and development, and peacekeeping have remained the domain of the AU and other RECs.[113] It is important to note that out of all the current eight IGAD members, Somalia is the only member state that is not also a member of another REC. IGAD has thus been striving to identify its specific added value as a REC in the region, thereby focusing mainly on peace and security matters.

Two examples illustrate IGAD’s different roles on peace and security, namely the conflict between Sudan and South Sudan and the radical Islamic insurgency in Somalia.

IGAD became involved in facilitating peace negotiations between the Government of Sudan and the Sudan People’s Liberation Army as early as 1993, when President Omar al-Bashir first asked neighbouring member states to help end the conflict. Between 1993 and the signing of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement (CPA) in 2005, which eventually paved the way for South Sudan’s independence in 2011,[114] IGAD witnessed the numerous support shifts. Support from different member states to various warring factions regularly changed, such as in 1994 and 1995 when Eritrea and Ethiopia broke off ties with Sudan and began supporting the SPLA. This contingent then together with Uganda became a regional block fighting a proxy war against Khartoum, and received significant military and financial backing of the US. A donor triumvirate comprised of the US, UK, and Norway, dubbed the ‘Troika’ kept IGAD’s Sudan peace process on the rails through the IGAD Partners Forum, and helped it secure the funding it needed, as well as an institutional home in the Kenyan Ministry of Foreign Affairs. With Kenya in the lead, under the auspices of IGAD, and backed by significant support and pressure of the US, a first protocol for the referendum on self-determination was negotiated in 2002, finally culminating to the signing of the CPA in January 2005. Despite the fact that regional alliances were extremely volatile throughout the period of 1993-2005, IGAD remained the institutional constant in the Sudan peace process, and thereby an attractive entry point for donor support. Many agree that without the sustained backing and pressure of the Troika, the CPA would never have materialized.[115] Conversely, the Troika would never have managed to broker the agreement without IGAD’s sustained involvement.

The world celebrated the birth of Africa’s 54th state on the 9th of July 2011; however, unfortunately South Sudan’s promising future proved to be short-lived. Gross mismanagement of the domestic economy and an economic warfare with Khartoum over oil pipeline fees devastated the fragile political settlement between rival factions. In December 2013, fighting broke out in Juba between various political and military groups, which rapidly spread to the rural areas. IGAD found itself in a familiar position with member states supporting different sides: Uganda immediately came to the political and military support of the government, while Sudan supported for the opposition (SPLM). IGAD relied on the support of the Troika once again for financial backing to bring the warring parties together. This renewed Western involvement was not welcomed by all parties however, and parallel peace talks in Tanzania brokered by South Africa and Ethiopia in particular undermined IGAD’s initial efforts. Eventually the two warring sides were brought together under the IGAD-led peace process, leading up to the Agreement on the Resolution of the Conflict in South Sudan in 2015 (ARCSS). But this again proved to be short-lived when violence broke out in Juba on July 9th, 2016, the day of South Sudan’s 5th birthday. Limited progress has been made thus far and the peace process appears to be at an impasse with economic conditions worsening and very few tangible results made by the High Level Revitalization Forum.

IGAD’s involvement in resolving the intra-state conflict in Somalia has been very different from its role in Sudan. In Somalia, the conflict resulted from total state collapse after the downfall of Siad Barre’s regime in 1991. The subsequent emergence of radical Islamism as a political force in Somalia brought about a regional dimension for Ethiopia and Kenya, both of whom are home to large Somali communities, and a global dimension with the US and other Western states’ concern over radical Islamist terror groups.

From 1991 to 1998 there were multiple attempts to bring warring factions together. Most notably the Ethiopia-backed Sodere process lead to the establishment of the National Salvation Council in 1997. This Council was however boycotted by the Aideed faction that controlled most of Mogadishu, and which was supported by Egypt and the Arab League. The latter parties in turn sponsored their own peace process leading to the Cairo Agreement of 1998, which undermined the Sodere process and condemned both to failure. The 1998-2000 Ethiopian-Eritrean war further worsened the Somali prospect for peace, with both sides engaging in proxy warfare supporting different factions inside Somalia. The Djibouti-brokered Somali National Peace Conference, which lead to the establishment of the first Transitional National Government (TNG) was technically in the framework of IGAD, but was supported by external powers such as Egypt, Libya, and the Gulf States, and excluded a number of powerful Somali warlords. The TNG also did not receive the blessing from Ethiopia, which viewed the Islamist foundations and Arab backing of the TNG with suspicion.

In 2002, IGAD took a more institutional role in brokering a peace agreement in Somalia by commissioning Kenyan President Moi to work with Ethiopia and Djibouti to bring all the different factions to the table for the Somalia National Reconciliation Conference, this time with financial aid of European development funds. Contrary to the Sudan peace process, the Somali process involved very limited political interference of Western powers, which was considered to be a positive factor contributing to the sustainability of positive outcomes. Finally, with the extra political support of Uganda and Eritrea, IGAD managed to broker the establishment of a Transitional Federal Charter and in 2004, the Transitional Somali Parliament elected Abdulahi Yusuf as president of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG). Despite the fact that the TFG continues not to be recognised by the semi-autonomous regions of Somaliland and Puntland in the north, and despite ensuing instability in the southern part of the country due to proliferation of radical Islamist groups like Al-Shabab, the establishment of the TFG remains one of IGADs major achievements.

In 2005, IGAD first entertained the possibility of coordinating a peacekeeping mission in Somalia, the IGAD Peace Support Mission in Somalia (IGASOM), on behalf of the AU. Yet IGAD struggled to harmonise its approach with the different key players and faced a difficult time to muster the resources required. When in 2006 the US used the Security Council to oppose the deployment of regional peacekeepers, Kenya’s foreign minister declared IGASOM a failure. IGAD has not taken the lead in any peacekeeping mission since, mainly due to a lack of sustained political and financial backing. Nonetheless, IGAD member states including Uganda, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Djibouti still provide the bulk of peacekeepers for the AU Mission in Somalia.

In 2010, IGAD initiated the Peace and Security Strategy as a proactive measure to mitigate the insecurities around the region by:

  • Strengthening preventive diplomacy, conflict prevention, management, and resolution;
  • Promoting cooperation on terrorism, maritime security, organised crime and SSR; and
  • Enhancing cooperation in other areas, including environmental protection, disaster management, water and energy resources, energy resources and IDPs.[116]

[38] Danida, Africa Programme for Peace, Phase III (APP III) – 2014-2017 – Programme Document, June 2013, p. 9.

[39] Phase I: 2004-2009 / Phase II: 2010-2013 / Phase III: 2014-2017 / Phase IV: 2018-2021.

[40] Danida, Mid-Term Review Africa Programme for Peace, Phase III (APP III) – Review Aide Memoire, July 2016, p. 2.

[41] Uppsala Conflict Data Program (UCDP), available at http://ucdp.uu.se/.

[42] Barbara F. Walter, “Why Bad Governance Leads to Repeat Civil War,” Journal of Conflict Resolution, 59:7 (2015): 1242–72.

[43] See for instance: Jonathan Goodhand, Violent conflict, poverty, and chronic poverty, CPRC Working Paper 6 (2001). London: Chronic Poverty Research Centre, ODI / Frances Stewart, Horizontal inequalities as a cause of conflict, Bradford Development Lecture, University of Bradford, November 2009.

[44] Walter, “Why Bad Governance,” 1243. Ibid., 1263.

[45] Paul D. Williams, War and Conflict in Africa (Cambridge: Polity, 2nd edition, 2016), chapter 2.

[46] World Peace Foundation, Report for the African Union on African Politics, African Peace, July 2016, para. 41.

[47] Institute for Peace and Security Studies, APSA Impact Report 2016: Assessment of the Impacts of Intervention by the African Union and Regional Economic Communities in 2016 in the frame of the African Peace and Security Architecture, Addis Ababa University, October 2017, p. 15.

[48] Institute for Peace and Security Studies, APSA Impact Report 2016, p. 15.

[49] The APSA Impact Report 2016 for instance states that in 2016, nearly a fifth of all conflicts – or six out of the 28 high-level conflicts – revolved around or were influenced by resources. See: Institute for Peace and Security Studies, APSA Impact Report 2016, p. 19.

[50] Freedom in the World 2017, Populists and Autocrats: The Dual Threat to Global Democracy (Washington DC: Freedom House, 2017), available at https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/ freedom-world-2017 / Freedom in the World 2009, The Annual Survey of Political Right and Civil Liberties (Washington DC: Freedom House, 2009).

[51] See for instance: Fransje Molenaar et al., A line in the sand: Roadmap for sustainable migration management in Agadez, Clingendael Conflict Research Unit, October 2017.

[52] With 13,488 terrorism-related incidents in 2016, versus 3,387 terrorism-related incidents in 1990 (see: https://ourworldindata.org/terrorism). Relevant for the APP, the number of terrorist attacks on the African continent has increased by more than 1,000% since 2006 (see: Africa at a tipping point, 2017 Forum Report. Mo Ibrahim Foundation).

[53] See for instance: Richard Gowan, Bordering on crisis – Europe, Africa and a new approach to crisis management, European Council on Foreign Relations, April 2017.

[54] ACLED. (2015). Sudan Leads in the Use of Rape as a Weapon of Violence in Africa. ACLED. (2015). Rape as a Weapon of Political Violence, Part 2: Where, When, and by Whom is This Tactic Used?

[55] UNFPA. 2014. State of the World‘s Population 2014: Factsheet—Youth in Sub-Saharan Africa, p. 1, as quoted in Tana Forum Secretariat at the Institute for Peace and Security Studies. (2017). Tana Forum Report. No Retreat, No Surrender, p. 65.

[56] UN Inter-Agency Network on Youth Development. (2016). Young People’s Participation in Peacebuilding: A Practice Note.

[57] OECD. 2014. An Atlas of the Sahara-Sahel: Geography, Economics and Security, Paris, OECD Publishing.

[58] Omeje, K., year unknown, Conflicts in West Africa, Bundesheer, http://www.bundesheer.at/pdf_pool/publikationen/sorting_out_the_mess_conflicts_west_africa_k_omeje.pdf; Annan, N. 2014. ‘Violent Conflicts and Civil Strife in West Africa: Causes, Challenges and Prospects’, Stability: International Journal of Security and Development 3(1), art. 3.

[59] Kuerschner, M. 2013. Conflict in West African States, http://www.e-ir.info/2013/03/15/conflicts-in-west-african-states/.

[60] Marc, A., Verjee, N., Mogaka, S. 2015. The Challenge of Stability and Security in West Africa. Africa Development Forum, World Bank and Agence Française de Développement.

[61] Indeed, the 2007-2008 food price crisis, led to violent food riots in Senegal, Guinea, Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso. Bossuyt, J. 2016. Political economy of regional integration in Africa: The Economic Community of West African States. (ECOWAS) Report, ECDPM.

[62] Bøås, M. Nigeria and West Africa: from a Regional Security Complex to a Regional Security Community? In E. Braathen et al. (eds.), Ethnicity Kills? Palgrave Macmillan. p. 141.

[63] Oyama, S. 2014. ‘Farmer-herder conflict, land rehabilitation, and conflict prevention in the Sahel region of West Africa’, African Study Monographs, Suppl. 50, 103-122.

[64] Oyama, S. 2014. Op. cit.; Maiangwa, B. 2018. ‘“Conflicting Indigeneity” and Farmer-Herder Conflicts in Postcolonial Africa’, Peace Review: A Journal of Social Justice, 29: 282-288.

[65] Moreover, cross-border smuggling practices are tied to border communities and ethnic groups with transnational ties that depend on transnational trade for their livelihoods and that are usually quite distant from the central state project. This makes interventions in these regions a precarious affair. Lebovich, A. 2017. Bringing the desert together: How to advance Sahel-Maghreb integration. European Council on Foreign Relations; Maiangwa, B. 2015. ‘Assessing the Responses of the Economic Community of West African States to the Recurring and Emerging Security Threats in West Africa’, Journal of African and Asian Studies, 52:1, 103-120. This latter problem is compounded by the fact that the international community’s attention has been drawn to the proliferation of irregular migration in the region. Given that irregular migration is not necessarily seen as a criminal activity by local communities – that often also depend on the age-old practice of facilitating movement across borders for their livelihoods – current efforts to stop migration flows and reinstate formal borders in the West-African region may contribute to grievances and may strengthen potentially destabilizing forces. Molenaar, F., and El Kamouni-Janssen, F. 2017. Turning the tide, Clingendael Institute.

[66] Médecins Sans Frontières 2017. ‘Niger: The burden of violence in the Diffa region’, http://www.msf.org/en/article/niger-burden-violence-diffa-region.

[67] OECD 2014. op. cit.

[68] Gow, J., Olonisakin, F. and Dijxhoorn. E. (eds.) 2013. Militancy and Violence in West Africa: Religion, Politics and Radicalisation, Routledge.

[69] From its sources: Uganda (White Nile), Ethiopia (Blue Nile), South Sudan, and Sudan.

[70] Back, 2016.

[71] Swain, 2011.

[72] Biamah, Yabann & Biamah, 2016.

[73] Organization of African Unity, ‘Constitutive Act of the African Union’, http://www.achpr.org/instruments/au-constitutive-act/.

[74] African Union Peace and Security Council 2014. ‘Report of the Chairperson of the Commission on the follow-up to the Peace and Security Council Communiqué of 27 October 2014 on Structural Conflict Prevention’, 3.

[75] African Union Peace and Security Council 2014, op. cit., 1.

[76] Jan Vanheukelom, Understanding the African Union. How to become fit for purpose? European Centre for Development Policy Management (ECDPM), 2017, pp. 5-6.

[77] Faten Aggad et al., Understanding the African Union and its Governance Agenda; African Governance Architecture and the Charter for Democracy Elections and Good Governance, ECDPM, 2017, pp. 3-4.

[78] Faten Aggad et al., Understanding the African Union and its Governance Agenda; African Governance Architecture and the Charter for Democracy Elections and Good Governance, ECDPM, 2017, p. 5.

[79] Jan Vanheukelom, Understanding the African Union. How to become fit for purpose? ECDPM, 2017, p. 6.

[80] Dersso, S. 2014. Annual Review of the African Union Peace and Security Council 2013/2014, 43.

[81] Vanheukelom, J. 2016. ‘The political economy of regional integration in Africa’, The African Union Report, ECDPM, 32; Observatoire de l’Afrique 2011. ‘The African Union’s role in the Libya and Côte d’Ivoire conflicts’, Africa Briefing Report, Brussels.

[82] Institute for Peace and Security Studies, APSA Impact Report 2016.

[83] Institute for Security Studies 2017. ‘Challenges and opportunities for the G5 Sahel force’ https://issafrica.org/pscreport/situation-analysis/challenges-and-opportunities-for-the-g5-sahel-force.

[84] This is in line with the target “Silencing the Guns by 2020”, part of the AU Agenda 2063. Institute for Security Studies 2017. ‘A new African force for Mali?’, https://reliefweb.int/report/mali/new-african-force-mali.

[85] Gain, M. 2018. ‘Challenges to the African Union’s Security Engagement in North Africa and the Sahel’, Kujenga Amani, http://forums.ssrc.org/kujengaamani/2018/01/09/challenges-to-the-african-unions-security-engagementin-north-africa-and-the-sahel/#.Wq_3Mp3waM8.

[86] Oluwadare, A. 2014, op. cit.

[87] See: https://au.int/AUReforms/implementation.

[88] https://www.tralac.org/news/article/11228-address-by-president-paulkagame-at-the-retreat-of-the-au-heads-of-state-and-government.html.

[89] Member countries making up ECOWAS are Benin, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Cote d’Ivoire, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea Bissau, Liberia, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Senegal, and Togo. ECOWAS initially comprised 16 member states, with Mauritania withdrawing its membership in 2000 for a variety of political and strategic reasons.

[90] http://www.ecowas.int/about-ecowas/basic-information/.

[91] International Crisis Group 2016. ‘Implementing Peace and Security Architecture (III): West Africa’, Africa Report N°234. Also, see Bossuyt, J. 2016, op. cit.

[92] Lucey, A. and Arewa, M. 2016, op. cit.; Bossuyt, J. 2016, op. cit.

[93] Lucey, A. and Arewa, M. 2016, op. cit.; ICG 2016, op. cit.

[94] ECOWAS did not send a team, stating that the country did not have an environment conducive to free and fair elections. Lucey, A. and Arewa, M. 2016, op. cit.

[95] Lucey, A. and Arewa, M. 2016, op. cit.

[96] Bossuyt, J. 2016, op. cit.; Hartmann 2017.

[97] Tejpar, J. and Lins de Albuquerque, A. 2015. op. cit.; Bossuyt, J. 2016, op. cit.; In this latter case, accusations did abound that ECOWAS has been too slow to intervene due to prevailing personal interests.

[98] Tejpar, J. and Lins de Albuquerque, A. 2015. op. cit.

[99] Bossuyt, J. 2016, op. cit.; As shown by Hartmann (2017), ECOWAS member state heads of state have the lowest average years in office of all the African regional organisations.

[100] ICG 2016, op. cit.; Tejpar, J. and Lins de Albuquerque, A. 2015. op. cit.

[101] ICG 2016, op. cit.; Tejpar, J. and Lins de Albuquerque, A. 2015. Challenges to Peace and Security in West Africa: The Role of ECOWAS, FOI memo 5382. Stockholm: Swedish Defence Research Agency.

[102] Lebovich, A. 2017, op. cit.

[103] ICG 2016, op. cit.

[104] Albert, I. 2017. ‘Rethinking the Functionality of the Multinational Joint Task Force in Managing the Boko Haram Crisis in the Lake Chad Basin’, Africa Development 42(3). These developments show that ECOWAS has achieved very little by way of countering terrorism. Maiangwa, B. 2015. op. cit.

[105] Maiangwa, B. 2015. op. cit., Bossuyt, J. 2016, op. cit.; Tejpar, J. and Lins de Albuquerque, A. 2015. op. cit. Also, see Francis, D. 2009. ‘Peacekeeping in a bad neighbourhood: The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) in peace and security in West Africa’, African Journal of Conflict Resolution 9(3).

[106] Bossuyt, J. 2016, op. cit.; Lucey, A. and Arewa, M. 2016, op. cit.

[107] ICG 2016, op. cit.

[108] ICG 2016, op. cit.

[109] ICG 2016, op. cit.; also see Bossuyt, J. 2016 op. cit.

[110] Bossuyt, J. 2016, op. cit.

[111] Lucey & Mesfin, 2016.

[112] Ethiopia, Djibouti, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Kenya, Uganda, and Eritrea as an inactive member.

[113] Such as the East African Community (EAC) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA).

[114] Back, 2016.

[115] Cosmas, 2015.

[116] IGAD Peace and Security Strategy: 2010-2014 (Final Draft), 19 January 2010.


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