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Research Questions

  1. What have the peacekeeping missions undertaken by African institutions in Burundi, the Central African Republic, Darfur, the Comoros, Somalia, and the Lake Chad Basin achieved?
  2. What were the missions' mandates, sizes, and other characteristics?
  3. How did the missions respond to challenges in the areas of security, humanitarian relief, governance and civil administration, democratization, and economic reconstruction?

Three previous RAND volumes examined the record of American-, United Nations (UN)--, and European-led peacekeeping, peace enforcement, and postconflict stabilization operations. This volume considers similar missions by the African Union and several subregional African organizations. These missions range from mediation and traditional peacekeeping to peace enforcement and extended counterinsurgency campaigns. This report contains case studies of six of these missions in Burundi, the Central African Republic, Darfur, the Comoros, Somalia, and the Lake Chad Basin. The case studies are followed by a statistical comparison of U.S., UN, European, and African missions. The report concludes with recommendations for the relevant African institutions, the UN, and other organizations and governments interested in peace and security in Africa.

Of the six missions examined, two were ultimately successful, and three have shown some progress. What is most remarkable and commendable about Africa's institutional role in regional peace operations is the level of cooperation generally achieved among the states most directly affected by these conflicts. African countries do not all agree with one another but instead have established effective consultation processes. They are also able to form ad hoc coalitions to pursue their shared interests. African-led peace operations have shown the flexibility to undertake a range of different types of tasks, up to and including high-intensity combat, under different subregional or continent-wide institutions, supported by varying partners. African institutions will likely develop new capabilities for peace operations, especially if new funds become available.

Key Findings

The level of achievement of African-led missions is noteworthy

  • African-led missions have often been the peacekeepers of last resort, taking on tasks that other institutions turn down.
  • Two of the six African operations examined (Burundi and Comoros) helped set a relatively peaceful trajectory.
  • Three of the missions examined (Darfur, Somalia, and the Lake Chad Basin) contributed to improving security.
  • African-led missions tend to focus on security tasks — and, in some cases, on security in only a limited area — as opposed to economic and other forms of assistance.

Regional solidarity is the greatest asset that African institutions bring to peace operations on their continent

  • While the greater resources and organizational capacity that the UN and other partners wield will still be important, African institutions will continue to play a major role in keeping the peace on the continent.
  • Several policy steps could help build up African organizations' capabilities for peace operations, such as authorizing the African Union to tax imports for funding such missions and developing model templates for collaboration with the UN and other non-African organizations.


  • Authorize the African Union (AU) to tax imports for funding. The AU has agreed on a clear solution to the problem of funding: a 0.2-percent levy on all imports to the continent. U.S. opposition has been a principal reason why the tariff has not been implemented. U.S. officials should consider providing a waiver or facilitating special authorization by the World Trade Organization.
  • Help African institutions improve their capabilities. African-led missions have not focused on non-security issues, such as building democratic governments or encouraging economic growth, but African institutions have expressed an ambition to do so. International partners that often take on these tasks could help African institutions develop these capabilities.
  • Increase bureaucratic capacity-building in African institutions and develop an African-centric, longer-term approach that would consider African priorities rather than Western goals and identify ways to articulate operations concepts in an African context.
  • Develop templates for future collaborations. The UN and AU could build on their experiences and develop two or three basic templates for future collaborations to avoid starting each mission from scratch. African nations and the UN have alternated lead and support roles, for example, and the UN-AU hybrid pioneered in Darfur is also a possible model.

This research was sponsored by the Carnegie Corporation of New York. It was conducted jointly by the International Security and Defense Policy Center within the RAND National Security Research Division (NSRD) and the African Centre for the Constructive Resolution of Disputes (ACCORD).

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