Africa's End to Conflict Contingent on Common Pact, Analyst Says

By Stephen Mbogo | July 7, 2008 | 8:15pm EDT

Nairobi, Kenya ( - With so much political violence raging on the continent, a leading analyst said African leaders would do well to adopt a common policy on peace and security.

David Monyae of the department of international relations at South Africa's Witwatersrand University said a common policy would help Africa win international help and pool together the financial and manpower resources needed to resolve conflicts.

"Africa needs stability more than anything else," said Monyae in an interview. "A common foreign policy on security will ensure that what has successfully worked elsewhere is replicated in nations where civil wars persist."

He said such a policy would need to be formulated by the African Union (AU) and ratified by all African nations, to be effective.

As an example, Monyae cited the current situation in the Great Lakes region, where a number of national states and rebel groups have been involved in the complex conflict.

"[It requires] Africa to speak with one voice against individuals and states that instigate violence against innocent people in the Democratic Republic of Congo," Monyae said.

The policy should contain zero tolerance for nations and political criminals refusing to respect the territorial integrity of other states, he said, and include a common agenda on international terrorism.

Africa's security problems have persisted for four decades, since many nations became independent from their former colonial rulers.

Successive studies conducted by Africa's development partners like the World Bank have identified the lack of security as the single biggest contributor to the continent's slow socio-economic progression. Africa is home to 800 million people.

Apart from disrupting economic activity, the security concerns also call into question the suitability of investment in Africa, despite a high rate of returns realized by investments here.

Brooks Spector, a former United States diplomat now conducting research at the South Africa Institute of International Affairs, said Africa has failed to nurture democratic institutions, which could help build political consensus and prevent conflicts from recurring.

African leaders are often criticized for being too slow and hiding under the cover of "respecting national sovereignty" when the need to address political and economic conflicts arises.

In its four decades of existence, the Organization of African Unity (OAU) achieved little in the way of developing a common African solution to African problems.

But analysts speak of a new wave of commitment by African leaders to confront conflicts, coinciding with the emergence of the OAU's successor, the AU, as well as the rise of post-apartheid South Africa as a regional power willing to commit resources to suppress conflicts.

Monyae said the efforts of one country were not enough, however, hence the need for collective responsibility by all nations through a common peace and security policy.

Failing that, South Africa may find itself criticized for pursuing what some see as a "unilateralist" policy, if it shows interest in attempting to restabilize every nation involved in conflict.

Monyae noted that AU peacekeeping troops are now engaged in a peacekeeping mission in Burundi while others, led by South Africa, have started an observation mission in the war-torn Darfur region of western Sudan.

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