Mobilizing Multinational Military Operations in Africa: Quick Fixes or Sustainable Solutions?


Professor Tony Chafer, University of Portsmouth
Professor Gordon Cumming, Cardiff University
Dr Roel van der Velde, Cardiff University
Ahmed Soliman, Research Fellow, Horn of Africa, Chatham House
Dr Elisa Lopez Lucia, Université Libre de Bruxelles; University of Portsmouth
Chair: Janet Adama Mohammed, West Africa Programme Director, Conciliation Resources

Peacekeeping missions which have sought to address evolving forms of conflict and instability on the African continent – led by the United Nations, African Union and European Union – have frequently been overstretched.

Across regions including the Sahel, the Horn and West Africa, the issues of violent extremism and criminality – often set against a backdrop of collapsing or severely weakened central states – have led to the mobilisation of a diverse set of new collective responses.

These include notable African-led efforts such as AMISOM in Somalia or more recently the G5 Sahel, where France have played a pivotal role in initiating new and more ad hoc approaches to coalition-building.

As existing multinational missions in Africa continue to evolve on the ground and while new collective opportunities increasingly present themselves, it is critical for policymakers to understand how far such efforts reflect meaningful long-term solutions to the challenges of conflict and insecurity.

At this roundtable event, participants will reflect on how such missions become mobilised and legitimised, the extent to which they can be defined as ‘new’, and whether they represent a truly sustainable means to tackle the issue of conflict in Africa.

This roundtable is held in partnership with Cardiff University and the University of Portsmouth and is supported by the Leverhulme Trust.

Read more on Chatham House

Kabila co-opts the opposition to prolong a family dynasty

The highly contested elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) are now over and Joseph Kabila Kabange handed over the presidency to Félix Antoine Tshilombo Tshisekedi on January 24.

Tshisekedi has been quickly recognised officially by the United States, Kenya and all the 16 Southern African Development Community member states to which the DRC belongs, among others.

Much more significantly, the internal and potentially divisive position adopted by the Catholic Church’s National Episcopal Conference of Congo has been undone because six of the eight Catholic bishops in Tshiskedi’s Kasai region have now accepted the electoral outcome, arguing that, however flawed, this is a step towards democracy and social progress for all.R

But these developments highlight the contradictions and lessons learnt from the past in at least three important aspects.

The first is that Africa is having to contend with the cohesion of elite, hereditary “republican” dynasties, which are expanding and consolidating. 
This was manifest in the temporary collaboration between the families of the late Laurent-Désiré Kabila and the late Étienne Tshisekedi wa Mulumba and now in the consensus reached between Joseph Kabila and Félix Tshisekedi.

This new-found relationship is unequally balanced, with Kabila controlling the instruments of the state, including an important 300 majority of the 500 legislators in the National Assembly, complemented by Tshisekedi’s inherited national mass support and legitimacy.

The test of the collaboration will lie in how they can reach mutual agreement and common positions on the fundamental problems confronting the state, such as governance, domestic and foreign policies, management of the political economy, security and even the selection of alliance partners.

But the ultimate challenge to the new-layered hereditary dynasty is that each partner is inheriting each other’s baggage as well as being expected to respond to the expectations of each other’s constituents.

One of the early issues is Kabila’s understood intentions to run for office again in 2023. This makes it is unlikely that Kabila and his allies, such as the losing presidential candidate, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, will go out of their way to strengthen Tshisekedi’s position and enable him to become independent of them.

Something symbolic about this fraught collaboration occurred during the inauguration. Kabila’s handlers had tightened the visible body armour on Tshisekedi to such extent that he couldn’t breathe properly and nearly collapsed; it had to be loosened to enable him to complete his inaugural speech.R

The second salutary lesson is the confirmation that, actually, elections do not matter for succession in the DRC. Consider the flawed elections in July 2006, in November 2011, the Catholic bishops conference-negotiated December 2016 extension (on the basis of which Kabila could prepare the country for elections) and the recent December 2018 polls.

In the midst of the most recent electoral crisis, the African Union, at its summit this month, issued a communiqué requesting the DRC to delay announcing the result until the AU could deploy a special intervention and conflict resolution team from its headquarters in Addis Ababa, a request that was simply ignored.

Read more on Mail & Guardian

By Martin R. Rupiya