Peacekeeping in Africa

February 13, 2001
Tim Docking



  • The Brahimi Report represents the first systematic and comprehensive effort to identify and address the technical problems with UN peacekeeping missions and within the United Nations' Department of Peacekeeping Operations. The conference participants largely agreed that the report is, as one participant said, "the most important document on peacekeeping ever written."
  • The Brahimi Report does not, however, address the most serious problem facing contemporary peacekeeping missions: lack of international political will.
  • Yet the 1990s witnessed both the changing nature of international conflict and the growing need for peacekeeping operations. Between 1948 and 1988 the UN undertook just 15 peacekeeping operations around the world; between 1989 and 1999, that number jumped to 31.
  • In 1999 the African continent was gripped by 16 armed conflicts, 7 of which were wars with more than 1,000 battle-related deaths.
  • Currently, the United Nations has four peacekeeping missions in Africa: MINURSO in the Western Sahara, UNAMSIL in Sierra Leone, UNMEE in Eritrea and Ethiopia, and MONUC in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
  • Today, a distinct possibility exists that more civil wars, like those that gripped Sierra Leone and Liberia during the '90s, will occur on the continent.
  • Despite the growing discussion of African affairs in American foreign policy circles, the United States is largely disengaged from security issues on the continent.
  • The United States (and the rest of the Western nations) is loath to contribute peacekeepers to African peacekeeping missions.
  • Conference participants agreed on the continued importance of the democratization process in Africa.
  • Conference participants also agreed that the agenda put forth by the Brahimi Report offers numerous points of entry for members of the international community to promote conflict prevention on the continent.


About the Report

This report presents the major questions and themes brought to light during the United States Institute of Peace conference "The United Nations, The United States, and Peacekeeping Operations: Africa," held on October 24. The conference was organized by the Institute's Research and Studies Program as a one-day forum for leading policymakers, diplomats, and academics to discuss the "Report of the Panel on United Nations Peace Operations" (known as the Brahimi Report). This Special Report synthesizes the presentations and discussions from the conference with the major themes covered in the Brahimi Report. This report then places the most salient points raised at the conference in the broader context of peacekeeping activities in Africa today. It concludes with a brief discussion of participants' suggestions for mitigating conflict on the continent.

This report was written by Tim Docking, program officer in the Jennings Randolph Program for International Peace.

February 13, 2001