January 2007 - n° 693
The somewhat unconvincing results of most crisis resolution efforts in Africa, and the mixed results from current development assistance projects, suggest that systems better adapted to present-day realities need to be thought out. A French interministerial team is working on a tool for crisis resolution and development as a long-term solution: a civic development service. Based on French experience in youth training, but also schemes currently in hand in Africa, the aim is to allow the youth of Africa to become, or become once again, what it should be: the continent’s number one asset.
Fifty years of keeping or restoring peace in Africa have not given any guarantee of the required effectiveness. However, these missions remain the only way to avoid the collapse of the rule of law across huge areas of the globe. This is the case for Africa, where UN interventions will be indispensable until the Africans can solve their problems themselves.
On 3 July 2006, the French Senate published a report by the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Armed Forces Committee on the management of African crises, summarising the French position in this area and setting out the fundamentals that will determine French doctrine in the years to come. In a context marked by an assertive African Union and the European Union’s growing involvement, this document explains France’s change of course in its relations with a continent which has greatly changed since the end of the Cold War.
The African Union Mission in Sudan (AMIS) was set up in Darfur just two years after the creation of the African Union (AU). Initially intended as a 100-strong observation mission, it increased progressively to 3,000 and now numbers over 7,000 yet has been unable to prevent the degradation in the security situation seen in recent months. The operation has been less than a complete success but the failure stems largely from the inability of political negotiations to arrive at an inclusive agreement. Relations between the EU and the AU are not what they might be but there are possibilities for improvement.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is going through a critical period in its young political life. In a latent or open state of war since 1994, the DRC has recently held the first free and democratic elections on its territory for more than 40 years. The results published on 29 October 2006 confirmed Joseph Kabila as president of this country that covers an area the size of the whole of Western Europe. The UN Mission in the DR Congo (MONUC) has provided support to the nation since 1999. Faced with potential unrest during the democratic transition phase, it sought help from the European Union. The latter agreed to deploy a European force for a period of four months. As its mandate ended on 30 November, it is appropriate to draw initial conclusions concerning the achievements of this European mission, especially relating to the coordination of its operations with the UN. While the EU task was more to provide support in an area where the UN was seriously deficient (quick response forces) than to act in full collaboration, it none the less remains an interesting stage in the development of a synergy between these two organisations in a large-scale operation.
For some years France has been moving towards a multilateral approach in its security and defence policy in Africa, by favouring a European framework. France would like its RECAMP programme (Reinforcement of African Peacekeeping Capabilities), the chief vector of its own policy, to evolve as one of the elements of ESDP (European Security and Defence Policy) in Africa. For its part, the European Union (EU) has drawn up a concept for the reinforcement of African capabilities in the field of crisis prevention and management. One of the aims of this concept is to help coordinate the efforts of member-states in this area. Integrating RECAMP with the European concept depends on the willingness of the Africans as well as the member states, and also on the EU’s ability to absorb the different ‘pillars’ of RECAMP on an institutional basis, and to mobilise the financial resources (European Concept for Reinforcement of African Capabilities, para. 66, 7 July 2006).
A new oil scene is emerging in Africa, thanks to the rising price of petroleum products. Many players, American, European or Asian, are competing to dominate this scene, given fresh impetus by recent discoveries. This competition risks compounding the perverse effects of black gold so often observed in weak states: distorted economies, generalised corruption, damaged environments and human rights abuses. On the other hand, a number of international initiatives are encouraging more responsible behaviour amongst mining companies and states involved in the extraction process, with a view to making them contribute more effectively to development. This article attempts to clarify the prospects opened up by the encounter between these two contradictory movements.
Prior to 1994, South Africa’s diplomatic isolation prevented it from exerting any influence; the Pretoria regime had to content itself with limited geopolitical objectives, dominated by concerns about the security of its borders and of its white ‘populations’. The new South Africa has resolutely turned its back on this legacy. The end of apartheid and the emergence of the ANC mark the return of Pretoria to both the world and African stages. The new regime often presents itself as a mediator in conflicts in sub-Saharan Africa and presses for reform of the Organisation of African Unity (OAU), now the African Union (AU). It is also deeply involved in the wide-ranging political discussions associated with the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD) and the ‘African Renaissance’. South Africa now has a solid presence in international organisations; it has taken on the role of advocate for multilateralism, and pleads Africa’s cause in all international forums. This wide-ranging activism is viewed with suspicion by certain African nations, who are quick to see in South Africa the stirrings of domination. There are even signs of irritation amongst the major Western powers. And then there is of course the gap between ambitious plans and their implementation.
The first summit between the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the countries of Africa was held in Beijing between 3 and 5 November 2006, attended by 48 delegations, including 24 heads of state. This summit marks the return of China to the African continent after a degree of political withdrawal at the very beginning of its modernisation process that dates back to 1978. China’s aim is to develop long-term Sino-African relations as part of a global strategic partnership. This is accompanied by a spectacular economic initiative in Africa and marks the conclusion of a cycle that began with the publication of a white paper on China’s African policy (11 January 2006) and has been punctuated by a series of high-level visits.
Just after the revolution in 1949, China became interested in Africa and began exporting its pro-Third World ideology to both newly independent countries and those still under colonial domination. China supported Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco at the Bandung Conference in 1955, and established diplomatic relations with Egypt on 30 May 1956. During the 1960s, an era marked by Sino-Soviet rivalry, Beijing gave its support to separatist movements. Following several decades of this ideological war, economic war has now taken over. China is Africa’s third largest trading partner after the United States and France, and Sino-African trade reached $50 billion in 2006.
While China’s presence in Africa is frequently commented upon, for the time being India’s role in the Dark Continent does not arouse the same interest. Nevertheless, New Delhi has also been particularly active in recent years. Its strategy has two principal facets: energy supplies and diplomatic influence.
The first wave of decolonisation saw African countries and Israel establishing relations on the basis of shared diplomatic missions. These links evolved significantly, reflecting international events and Israel’s emergence as a major power in the Middle East. Its new stature, confirmed by the Six-Day War (1967) and that of Yom Kippur (1973), together with the echoes of the Cold War on the continent, put an end to this mutual attraction; a notable exception to this is South Africa, whose relationship with Israel has, however, long been overrated. It is only since the 1990s that a more normal situation between African countries and Israel has started to emerge.
The Democratic Republic of the Congo EUFOR (EUFOR DRC) marks the first German military engagement as a European framework nation in Africa. 2006 saw the publication of a new white paper on the security policy that will replace the preceding Weissbuch zur Sicherheitspolitik that dates back 12 years. In the context of its presidencies of the G8 and the European Union, Berlin will include Africa among its priorities. Now is the time to re-examine the German approach to peace and security in that continent. Berlin is aware of the inescapable need for a common response in the face of the long-term global issues raised by a continent undergoing profound social and demographic changes. Like Paris, it is participating in the definition of concepts designed to implement the European Union’s African Strategy of December 2005. However, as far as the peace and security aspects of this strategy are concerned, some ambiguity in the Franco-German position remains.
For the first time in the history of humanity the ageing of the population will hit virtually the entire planet in the course of the twenty-first century. A phenomenon of such magnitude cannot but have unimaginable consequences. Man will never be the same again, for men have yet to learn to grow old together.