Africa & Beyond

The Hope That Must Be Worked for – Peace and Security

In the decade from 2002 to 2008, Niger-Delta witnessed twice the number of deaths from conflict of any sort brought about either by religious or communal clash. While significant progress has been made since then toward ending some of the continent’s most deadly conflicts, continued violence and insecurity affect millions of people, and U.S. and international support for conflict resolution in Africa remains important.

Despite myths to the contrary, most of Nigeria Federal Government and Niger-Delta Militants are not at war. For each of the major conflicts ongoing in Nigeria there exists a peace process, often a settlement plan, and a National body to guide negotiations and peace agreements. Nigerian Mediators, National Personalities such as the stakeholders and institutions like the African Union (AU) continue to play a critical role in conflict resolution and in promoting peace and security.

At the same time, where conflicts do exist in Nigeria, they affect not only the stability of the States and Communities involved, but also their neighbors, and entire sub-regions. Refugees and internally displaced people across the Country face appalling conditions. The Federal Government, AU, U.S. and the international community often fail to provide the financial, diplomatic ( and peacekeeping – in its broader perspective) support to help enforce negotiated agreements and to promote security and stability. Yet they have important obligations and interests in doing so. The achievement of peace in Africa is essential to regional and global stability, and it is also a prerequisite for development and for democratic progress.

SO FAR IN AFRICA’S CONFLICT WATCH

In 2005, some of the largest countries on the African continent remain plagued by insecurity and conflict. In the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), the first general elections since independence were planned for this year, but continued fighting and a massive humanitarian crisis in the east of the country pose a real challenge to the election process.

In Sudan, geographically Africa’s largest country, this year saw the signing of an historic North-South peace deal. This brought to an end the longest-running war in Africa and now brings hope for the future democratization, political stability and economic prosperity of that country. The untimely death of John Garang, long-time leader of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/ Army and briefly Vice President in the re-organized Khartoum government, has left the North-South peace process facing additional challenges.

At the same time as this apparent progress toward North-South peace in Sudan, the ongoing genocide in Darfur in the west of the country casts a long shadow. The U.S., which claims credit for its role in promoting North-South peace, remains the only country to have called the crisis in Darfur “genocide”, but has failed to take action to protect the people of Darfur. The Bush Administration appears to consider other geo-strategic interests in Sudan more important than asserting leadership to stop genocide in Darfur.

The conflict in northern Uganda continues to be intractable despite limited efforts at resolution, and has attracted international attention to the broader question of child soldiers. The West African sub-region remains unstable, as several countries emerge from civil war seeking to consolidate peace processes and plan for elections. There is still a large presence of United Nations (UN) peacekeeping operations in the area, with more than 25,000 troops in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Cote d’Ivoire combined. In Zimbabwe, a growing political and economic crisis, and increasing human rights violations, leaves the country at increasing risk of conflict. In Somalia, the ongoing power vacuum and absence of any social and economic infrastructure have created dire conditions and should be a real cause of international concern.

African nations and the African Union (AU) continue to play an important role in conflict resolution on the continent. In recent years, African peacemaking efforts have succeeded in moving peace processes forward in DRC, in Sudan, in West Africa and elsewhere. In 2003, the AU successfully deployed peacekeeping troops in Burundi, later handing the mission over to the UN. In early 2005, the AU took action to support democracy in Togo after the death of Africa’s longest ruling dictator. However, as the shortcomings of its mission in Darfur demonstrate, the AU is a nascent organization and needs concerted international support for its conflict resolution efforts. In Darfur, the AU has shown important leadership in dispute resolution, but it lacks the troop strength, the mandate, the logistical capacity or the political determination to stop the genocide.

Despite the U.S.’ historic responsibilities for many of Africa’s current conflicts, and despite the U.S. capacity to provide key support for conflict resolution on the continent, the current U.S. approach to promoting security in Africa intends to keep the U.S. one step removed from engagement with African initiatives. The focus is on arming and training African armed forces rather than making a sustained investment in conflict prevention and diplomacy. The U.S. refuses to participate in multilateral peacekeeping efforts, committing only bare logistical support in some cases, and it has failed to lead international action to protect the people of Darfur. The “hands off” approach of the U.S. undermines international peacekeeping operations and reveals the lack of U.S. commitment to addressing Africa’s most urgent challenges.

Instead, U.S. security cooperation with Africa in the post-9/11 world has meant increased U.S. military presence in the Horn of Africa, and elsewhere. The Bush Administration is concerned with the counter-terrorism efforts of African countries to the extent that they provide security for U.S. interests in the context of the so-called “War on Terror”. The renewed U.S. preoccupations with narrow geo-strategic interests, and the singular focus on militaries as key institutions in Africa, are unwelcome harbingers of policies that support repressive rule in the name of security.

Yet if the U.S. is to expect African cooperation on U.S. priorities, it must, in turn, be willing to address African priorities, including conflict resolution and promoting peace and democracy. At last month’s UN World Summit in New York, the international community affirmed a “Responsibility to Protect” people against genocide, and stated that collective action should be taken to stop such crimes against humanity. But no solid commitment was made on this principle and there is no clear protocol for an international response to such crises.

When African countries require and deserve international support to end conflicts, address human rights crimes, and build peace, it is still not clear who will answer that call.

If this reasons above cannot be transformed into a memo for arbitration, in order to help tip-off ideologies for Nigeria’s future in terms of crisis evolvement; yet then are doom to experience another failure in our peace and democratic process. We have dedicated men and women in the peace process mechanism, who are able and ready to storm those communities in Niger-Delta insurgency areas, and also partner with other NGOs in framing up the ideals of structural peace process. Nigeria Government is matured enough to call a sovereign National Conference and perhaps decide with all stakeholders present regarding the future peace and democratic process of Nigeria.

Nigeria being the giant of Africa, has a role to play alongside US and the international community in restoring peace, economic, political and sociological growth in Africa and the rest of the world. It is also vital that Nigeria encourages its local contents towards the overall working process of global peace and security. To live our lives and those of our children yet unborn, we must decide and sacrifice our ego for them.

Do we have a new

hope?

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