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What It Takes to Realise Peace in Africa [column]

Africa

What It Takes to Realise Peace in Africa [column]

Mar 08, 2016 (Addis Fortune/All Africa Global Media via COMTEX) — Peace is a comprehensive and holistic exercise. Meeting the demands of the African people for peace and security requires addressing a wide range of challenges, including democracy, inclusion, peacemaking and peacekeeping, as well as the longer-term challenges that are posed by climate change.

The key concepts behind international discourse on peace and security originated in Africa, among Africans. The concept of ‘sovereignty as responsibility’ was, for instance, born in this continent. The ‘responsibility to protect‘ was also first used in the report of the Organisation of African Unity’s (OAU) International Panel of Eminent Personalities on Rwanda in 2000.

Furthermore, the rejection of unconstitutional changes in government as a threat to peace and security arose in Africa. The African Peer Review Mechanism (APRM) even goes far beyond its Organisation for Economic Cooperation & Development (OECD) counterpart in addressing domestic governance issues.

The framework of ‘security sector reform’ to promote a democratic and accountable military and police, its character and conduct reflecting society at large, were generated in southern Africa with the end of racist rule. And of course the very framework of collective security and the primacy of the international rule of law owe much to Emperor Haileselassie’s famous speech to the League of Nations in 1936.

As we face the challenge of ‘silencing the guns’ by 2020, we must reflect on these legacies and examine how better to apply the norms that we ourselves have fashioned.

How are these principles to be applied more consistently? How are our norms to be upgraded for the challenges we face today? How are these instruments to be utilized in the current context? How can we make our domestic security governance more accountable to our citizens? How could the APRM be revitalized as a tool for preventative diplomacy and conflict mitigation?

Certainly, national constitutions are a national prerogative, and deepening democracy is a domestic task. But African experience shows that each country is profoundly affected by its neighbours, and that domestic political crises often have regional ramifications. Regional peace and security strategies are therefore of great significance.

In its Constitutive Act and in the procedures of the Peace & Security Council (PSC), the African Union (AU) treats unconstitutional changes in government as a threat to regional peace and security. In the coming year, the debate on what constitutes a legitimate constitutional change, and how to manage competing demands of constitutional propriety, democratic openness, stability and other political goals, will need to be conducted in an open and creative manner.

It does not end there, though. A disturbing number of locations across Africa, communities and governments are faced with violent extremism, often associated with religious fundamentalism. Fortunately, this remains a minority phenomenon. Also, many countries, faced with the same factors that have led to virulent extremism in a neighbouring state, have escaped the threat.

While recognising that the ‘war on terror’ has generally proven counterproductive, Africa has yet to develop its own transnational strategies for countering violent extremism, drawing on its own experiences. The high-level mediators’ retreat in Windhoek, on mediation and terrorism, was an important step towards formulating such an approach.

True, Africa is a strategic beneficiary of multilateralism. On the global stage our countries are small and vulnerable, and we need the protection of international law to survive and the stage of multilateral organisations to be heard.

Fundamentally, the AU, the Regional Economic comunities (RECs) and the United Nations must be strategic partners – they will rise together or fall together. But much work needs to be done to design those elements of the African peace and security architecture that require collaboration between the AU, the RECs and the UN.

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