John Campbell

Africa in Transition

Campbell tracks political and security developments across sub-Saharan Africa.

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How to Stabilize Northern Mali

by John Campbell
March 15, 2013

Nigerian soldiers patrol in the northern city of Gao, Mali February 9, 2013. (Francois Rihouay/Courtesy Reuters).


Lori-Anne Theroux-Benoni, writing for the Institute for Security Studies from their office in Dakar, has written succinct analysis of the different approaches to peacekeeping employed in Africa. She contrasts the seeming inactivity of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in the Congo (MONUSCO) when M23 rebels overran Goma in November 2012, with the dynamism of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISO) moving against al-Shabaab.

She notes that UN operations have traditionally been contingent on the consent of the parties involved, impartiality, and the non-use of force, except in defense of the mandate and in self-defense. The UN has been adjusting these principles to reflect intra-state conflicts where civilians may be deliberately targeted, but there is still work to be done. The African Union’s Constitutive Act, by contrast, authorizes forceful intervention in a member state in the event of war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide, or at the request of the state government. The AU calls its operations “peace support,” not “peace keeping,” as the UN does.

Hence with respect to northern Mali, Theroux-Benoni suggests that the initial “peace support” efforts should be undertaken by the African International Support Mission in Mali (AFISMA) with robust UN-organized financial and logistical support. A UN peacekeeping force would take over only when conditions were ripe. So, she argues credibly that the UN and AU mandates should be seen as complementary, and that both have a role to play in Mali. However, both the UN and the AU would require significant financial and logistical support from UN member states, which has so far been slow to finance the UN’s humanitarian appeal for the region.

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