Issue II: Security Governance

Relational governance thinking has led to the predominance of interdependent security concepts such as human security (defined as the protection of people and communities rather than of states) among the fifty-four AU member states. The emphasis that human security places on protection of groups and communities reinforces the prioritization given to collective interests over those of individuals in relational governance theory. Little wonder that it was not difficult for African elites, through the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and subsequently the AU, to embrace human security and adopt it as the preferred approach to the security of the African continent.[1] As Stephen Bernstein tells us, an idea is adopted when it resonates with a pre-existing norm (Bernstein 2002). Because the majority of African elites are socialized to think in relational terms, it was easy for them to embrace group and interdependent concepts of African security. The AU legalized the group-centred approach to security in its Constitutive Act. Both Article 4(h) and Article 4(i) make it clear that African people as a collective rather than individuals have a 'right to live in peace'.

The attraction of relational thinking in the AU opened the normative space for AU bodies to provide a legal basis for intervention in the internal affairs of a member state under certain conditions. Conditions for military intervention are laid out in Article 4(h) of the Constitutive Act of the AU. The Article gives AU the right to intervene in the affairs of a member state in order to 'prevent war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity'.[2] [3] It is important to note that the AU conditions for intervention are centred on group rather than individual suffering. War crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity are group-oriented acts. They were selected by African leaders from the many ideas in international law and embedded in the Constitutive Act, primarily because they resonate with the prior conception and acceptance of relational governance. In other words, the specification of war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity was not only motivated by a desire to provide clearer benchmarks for intervention, as noted by many observers, but rather, it was also driven by a longing for culturally appropriate ways to manage African security.11

These human security ideas were the first of three new security innovations to be embedded in the African subsystem during the first decade of the twenty-first century. The specific human security ideas were introduced by the Kampala Movement, an initiative of civil society groups that met in Kampala, Uganda in the early 1990s to develop a regime of principles regarding security, stability, development, and cooperation for Africa (Deng and Zartman 2002). At the heart of the human security principles, widely known as the CSSDCA norms, was a conscious effort to redefine security and sovereignty, and to demand certain 'standards of behaviour... from every government [in Africa] in the interest of common humanity' (Obasanjo and Mosha 1992, p. 260). The Kampala Movement demanded that African leaders redefine their states' security as a multidimensional phenomenon, one that extends beyond military considerations to include economic, political, and social aspects of the individual, family, and society. In the view of the movement, '[t]he concept of security must embrace all aspects of society... [and the] security of a nation must be based on the security of the life of the individual citizens to live in peace and to satisfy basic needs' (Obasanjo and Mosha 1992, p. 265).

The human security document was submitted and adopted by the OAU summit in Lome in July 2000. A refined and watered-down version of the CSSDCA document was accepted as the guiding norms and guiding principles of security, stability, development, and cooperation in a Memorandum of Understanding adopted by the AU in July 2002 in Pretoria in South Africa. They have been integrated into all major legal instruments the AU has adopted since July 2000, including the Constitutive Act of the African Union, the Common African Defense and Security Pact, the Protocol Relating to African Union Peace and Security Council, among others.

The relational view of governance has led to the conception of state sovereignty different from the conventional Westphalian model. The AU concept of sovereignty seeks to protect African states from military intervention by non-African states while making room for African states to intervene collectively in each other's internal affairs with or without the consent of the target country (see Bachmann and Gelot 2013). The sovereign's right to govern is conditional upon minimum adherence to and commitment to the principles and laws upheld by the AU. Several mechanisms have been put in place to monitor state behaviour and compliance. Correctional action or intervention can take different forms, including mediation (as in the case of Kenya in 2008), rebuke (as in the case of Cote d'Ivoire in 2010), suspension from participation in activities of African international organizations (as in the case of Mauritania in 2009), and, as a last resort, military intervention (as in the case of Comoros Islands in 2006 and 2007, Somalia (2007) or the Central African Republic (2013)). These interventions were decided upon by consensual decision-making.

The widespread acceptance of conditional sovereignty paved the way for the introduction of Responsibility to Protect (R2P)-like principles in Africa's international system (Powell and Tieku 2005; Welsh 2010). Indeed, the formation of AU and legalization of languages similar to R2P in the AU Constitutive Act is seen as important in the evolution of R2P at the global level (Okeke 2011). The R2P-like language informs various AU decisions, declarations, and legal instruments. Its clearest expression can be found in the Ezulwini Consensus. In the Ezulwini Consensus, fifty-four African governments endorsed R2P and submitted this document to the 2005 World Summit Outcome as the common African position on R2P (African Union 2006). The Ezulwini Consensus reiterated the three pillars of R2P, namely, responsibility of states to protect their citizens, responsibility of the international community to help states protect their citizens, and responsibility of the international community to protect citizens of states that are incapable or unwilling to protect their citizens. There are, however, three important caveats in the Ezulwini Consensus which showed a slightly different understanding of R2P than the conventional view outlined in either the report of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS) or the report of the UN World Summit in 2005. First, the Ezulwini Consensus sought to shift to regional organizations the power to decide when, where, and how to intervene, contrary to the argument put forth by the original R2P report. The R2P report unequivocally argued that the UN Security Council is the best placed institution to authorize intervention.

The Ezulwini document, however, claimed that the UN General Assembly and Security Council are often far from the scenes of conflicts and may not be best placed to undertake a proper appreciation of the nature and development of conflict situations. The collective wisdom of members of the AU is that regional organizations are the best placed institutions to make the appropriate assessment and should be 'empowered to take actions in this regard'. Second, the Ezulwini document warned powerful states in the international system not to use R2P as an excuse to embark on regime change, noting that, 'it is important to reiterate the obligation of states to protect their citizens, but this should not be used as a pretext to undermine the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of states' (African Union 2006).

The enforcement by the allied coalition of the no-fly zone over Libya in 2011 has served as a recent reminder for many African heads of states and officials of just how quickly the pretext of protecting civilians can become a full-blown regime change agenda (Bachmann and Gelot 2013). This has been a contentious topic of discussion at the annual meetings of the two councils, the African Union Peace and Security Council (the AUPSC and the UNSC), and against the background of tensions surrounding management and leadership in crises in Libya but also Cote d'Ivoire, Mali, and Central African Republic. In 2014, the UN Office to the African Union (UNOAU) and the AU Commission's Peace and Security Department tried to clarify the complementary role that the two organizations can play in a Joint Framework for an Enhanced Partnership in Peace and Security.

Third, though the Ezulwini Consensus and the original R2P report converged on the idea that intervention by regional organizations 'should be with the approval of the Security Council', an interesting subtle qualification was inserted in the Ezulwini Consensus which challenges a core principle in international law. The Ezulwini Consensus is emphatic that the approval of the UN Security Council is needed for intervention by regional organizations, 'although in certain situations, such approval could be granted "after the fact" in circumstances requiring urgent action'. Controversially, the consensus suggested that, 'In such cases, the UN should assume responsibility for financing such operations (African Union 2006, p. 6). The language used here in the document was meant to encourage the UN to accept and even institutionalize a practice started by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and later replicated by the AU, whereby a regional organization can intervene in conflicts without UN Security Council approval but later seek not only UN authorization but also to pressure the UN to keep the peace that the regional organization has imposed. This practice was employed by ECOWAS in Liberia and Sierra Leone, and the AU adopted the same strategy in Burundi, Comoros Islands, Sudan, and Somalia.

Moreover, the language in the Ezulwini Consensus is a subtle attempt by AU member states to make the UN share with regional organizations the primary responsibility for maintaining peace in regional contexts. The UN Charter, however, is unambiguous on the UN's primacy in peace and security matters in the world, including on the African continent. A more blunt case in favour of making regional organizations such as the AU take the lead in peace and security matters on the African continent was made in an AU PSC communique issued by the AU Peace and Security Resolution on AU-UN cooperation and the report of the Chairperson of AU on the same issue released prior to the January 2012 UN Security Council debate on AU-UN cooperation. The move to challenge the UN as the sole international organization with authority to promote and maintain peace in the world has angered some powerful members of the UN Security Council. As Susan Rice put it during the January 2012 Security Council debate on AU-UN cooperation, UN-regional 'cooperation cannot be on the basis that the regional organization independently decides the policy and United Nations member states simply bless it and pay for it. There can be no blank check, politically or financially' (Rice 2012). Her opening remarks went to greater lengths to indicate that the UN is not and should not be made 'subordinate to other bodies or to regional groups, schedules or capacities' (Rice 2012).

Concerns expressed by the United States, Britain, and France made the Security Council members insert in Resolution 2033, which was only adopted after much debate, language reflective of Article 54 of the Charter of the United Nations which requires regional and subregional organizations to keep the UN Security Council fully informed and to manage in a coordinated way any peace and security-related activities undertaken in their region. These disagreements and turf battles have led the AU leadership to call for the amendment of the UN Charter to allow regional organizations to take a lead role in peace and security issues in their regions.[4]

  • [1] The Organization of African Unity was created in 1963, and was replaced in 2001 by theAU. For the process through which human security was selected as the preferred definition ofcontinental Africa security, see Tieku 2004; Deng and Zartman 2002.
  • [2] The article has been amended to include intervention to 'restore peace and stability' and inresponse to 'a serious threat to legitimate order'.
  • [3] For a discussion of the importance of the specification of war crimes, genocide, and crimesagainst humanity, see Powell and Tieku 2005;Weiss 2004.
  • [4] See speeches by the African group during the 2013 debate on relations between the UNand regional organizations.
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