Keeping the Peace in Africa: Why "African" Solutions Are Not Enough [Abstract]

Ethics & International Affairs, Volume 22.3 (Fall 2008)

Since the early 1990s, a variety of African and Western governments alike have often suggested that finding "African solutions to African problems" represents the best approach to keeping the peace in Africa. Not only does the empirical evidence from post-Cold War Africa suggest that there are some fundamental problems with this approach, it also rests upon some problematic normative commitments. Specifically in relation to the problem of armed conflict, the "African solutions" logic would have at least three negative consequences: it would undermine the UN; it would provide a convenient excuse for powerful Western states that wished to avoid sending their own soldiers to peace operations in Africa; and it would help African autocrats fend off international, especially Western, criticism of their policies. After providing an overview of the constituent elements of the "African solutions" approach, this article sets out in general terms the central problems with it before turning to a specific illustration of how these problems affected the international responses to the ongoing war in Darfur, Sudan. Instead of searching for "African solutions", policymakers should focus on developing effective solutions for the complex challenges raised by the issue of armed conflict in Africa. To this end, Western states in general and the P-3 in particular should give greater support to conflict management activities undertaken by the United Nations, develop clearer guidelines for how these should relate to regional initiatives, and facilitate the efforts of civic associations to build the foundations for stable peace in the continent's war zones.

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Read More: Humanitarian Intervention, Africa, Sub-Saharan Africa

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