Africa's Poor Rights Record May Derail Peacekeeping Initiative

By Stephen Mbogo | July 7, 2008 | 8:18 PM EDT

Nairobi, Kenya ( - A shortage of genuine democracy in Africa will hamper the effectiveness of an African "standby force" being established to pre-empt conflicts and support peace efforts, a leading conflict management researcher here has warned.

Mohammed Guyo, who heads the conflict management program at the Institute of Security Studies in Kenya, said the failure by some African countries to adhere to the rule of law may see the force being used on missions that do not benefit society.

"Where human rights are not respected, the force could be used to strengthen despotic regimes rather than help the continent tackle human security challenges," he said.

It was crucial that Africa militaries shift their view of peacekeeping away from the notion of protecting rulers and towards that of serving the people, Guyo added.

An annual global human rights assessment report released this week by the U.S. State Department highlighted poor human rights records in a number of African countries.

Guyo voiced concern about "selective intervention."

Kenya, for instance, was proactive in efforts to mediate between the Islamist regime in Khartoum and non-Muslim south Sudan, yet the same government recently refused to mediate between the Ugandan government and a notorious rebel group in that country, the Lord's Resistance Army, he noted.

The plan for a continental force was mooted by the Africa Union in 2003 and is meant to be in place by 2010, capable of handling complex peacekeeping missions.

Five African regional blocs are each required to form their own brigades with command and control. These will then be combined to form a joint force when missions arise. The force will be designed to be summoned at short notice and will also engage in pre-emptive missions where conflict is deemed imminent.

Earlier research by the ISS said that while institutional structures of the force are being built, operational capacity remains limited in the face of rising demands and expectations.

Analysts like Patrick Maluki, a teacher at Kenya's Defense Staff College, said that the first phase of the force formation, which ended in 2005, was only 50 percent successful.

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