Speaking honestly and forthrightly is often frowned upon in regional politics. Being too explicit or realistic, for example, is often seen as ‘unhelpful’ or, even worse, as sabotaging the ‘art of the possible’. Being an Idealist, in contrast, is synonymous with being progressive and enlightened. A common symptom of political idealism, especially over the last twenty-five years, has been to create an organization or initiative and then worry about defining its everyday purpose, form and function at a later point in time. “Build or create it and they will come” isn’t an unfair way to describe this approach. Take the African Union’s African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA), for example. In theory, it is a regional mechanism designed to prevent, manage and resolve conflicts in Africa. In truth, it remains nothing more than a construction site. The fifty-four member-states of the AU, whose headquarters continues to be largely financed by the European Union, have not really taken ownership of the ‘site’. Nor have they fleshed out one of the APSA’s main elements – the African Standby Force (ASF). Yes, the truth may be ugly and in ‘bad taste,’ but the reality today is that the APSA is only being taken seriously by those who make their living from it. » More
The M23’s recent abandonment of its armed struggle has renewed hopes for peace in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). However, it also underlines a major problem that has characterized peace negotiations over the past decade – namely their primary focus on the “noisiest” actors whose actions aim to shock the collective international conscience. For peace to be sustainable, greater efforts are needed to localize peace initiatives.
From the battlefield to the negotiation table
On 5th November 2013, the Head of M23, Bertrand Bisimwa declared that the organization would henceforth end its armed revolt in the eastern DRC and pursue its objectives through political dialogue. This change of approach can be explained by four factors. First, the M23 experienced some important losses on the battlefield after the United Nations bolstered its MONUSCO stabilization mission with an intervention brigade that possesses a robust mandate to neutralize armed groups. Ground was also lost to the Forces Armées de la République Démocratique du Congo (FARDC) after it was strengthened, restructured and made more capable of going after M23 rebels. In addition, diplomatic pressure and suspension of development aid, mainly by the United States and European Union, prompted Rwanda to decrease its backing of the M23. Finally, the appointment of Mary Robinson as UN Special Envoy for the Great Lakes Region and Russell Feingold as US Special Envoy for the Great Lakes and the Democratic Republic of the Congo and their diplomatic engagement has undoubtedly played a part in moving the warring parties from the battlefield to the negotiation table. » More
New Threats in Africa Mean New Questions for UN Peacekeeping: Interview with Major General Patrick Cammaert
New types of UN peacekeeping brigades could compromise the United Nations’ basic principle of impartiality and put UN personnel, their families, and other organizations at risk, said Major General Patrick Cammaert, the former military advisor to the United Nations Department of Peacekeeping Operations and former Eastern Division Commander to the UN Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Mr. Cammaert said that although the UN’s first “intervention brigade” helped the Congolese army defeat the M23 rebel group in early November, “there are a lot of questions to be raised before we can say this is now the recipe for the future.” » More
If asked how China, the United States, Japan and other Asian countries might engage with each other more constructively, it is doubtful that the first word that would come to mind would be “Mongolia.” And if then asked what mechanism Mongolia would use to further mutual comity and understanding, it is unlikely that ‘Khaan Quest’ would be mentioned. Yet there are compelling reasons to justify both answers. Military-to-military diplomacy is an important form of statecraft and its utility in Asia remains obvious.
This past summer marked the 10th anniversary of the Mongolian Armed Forces’ Khaan Quest exercises, which among other activities brings militaries from around the world to share their best practices in multinational peacekeeping operations (PKO). This focus may at first appear narrow, but for three reasons the impact of Khaan Quest is potentially positive and significant.
Reason #1: Khaan Quest has symbolic value in a historically fractured and suspicious region. Indeed, it is a symbol, in the words of Mongolian President Tsakhia Elbegdorj, of “mutual respect among nations . . . and a vivid example of how countries can collaborate despite differences in forms of government, social and economic systems.” » More
The United Nations military mission in Liberia (UNMIL) is no small endeavor. It is one of longest UN missions in sub-Saharan Africa, one of the largest, and one of the most widely supported—with 42 countries contributing military forces and 35 contributing police personnel.
After ten years, though, the need for armed troops has decreased, and the number of foreign soldiers has shrunk to around 5,000. By 2015, the end of the current drawdown phase, there will still be about 3,700 military personnel. In contrast, while the current police presence holds at 1000, there are plans to increase the number of officers to 1700.
The questions to be asked are: why, after ten years with no significant outbreaks of violence, do so many troops need to remain? And,why is the number of international police increasing? » More