African Peace Facility: African solutions to African problems

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Soldier greeting children

A policeman on patrol in Somalia is greeted by children (AMISOM). © UN Photo/Stuart Price

In essence, the creation of the EU grew out of efforts to transcend internal divisions and promote peace. The African Union (AU) was also given a clear mandate to promote peace when it was established in 2002. To do this, it developed a specific architecture known as the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA). As part of this initiative, various bodies were given a role in maintaining peace in Africa, including a central council and eight Regional Economic Communities such as ECOWAS (West Africa) and SADC (Southern Africa).

African solutions

In 2003, the AU invited the EU to support its peace efforts, and in response, the EU established the African Peace Facility. The continent's ownership of its own issues was paramount: the APF would provide African solutions to African problems. The reason why the EU answered this call is that peace in Africa is crucial for Europe's security and prevents migration. Moreover, peacebuilding is essential for sustainable development.

The APF not only focused on peacekeeping operations, but also supported APSA in its operations, namely conflict prevention, conflict management using means such as mediation, post-conflict reconstruction, and specific themes such as terrorism and piracy. Finally, the APF also supported an Early Response Mechanism. This enables the AU to intervene in principle within ten days if a conflict threatens to get out of hand. Conflict prevention and management are also among the options (see box).

Armed soldier behind earthen wall

A Ugandan soldier from the peacekeeping operation AMISOM is fighting against terrorists near Mogadishu (Somalia). © UN Photo/Stuart Price

Fourteen peacekeeping operations

Since 2004, 14 peacekeeping operations have taken place in 19 countries, often in a hostile environment and amid a sensitive political context. Nevertheless, many operations achieved a significant outcome. For example, the most expensive mission - AMISOM in Somalia - was able to stabilise a derelict state from 2007 onwards and to offer prospects. (see box).

The APF also developed crucial commitments for European security in the Sahel (fighting terrorism, international crime, and human trafficking), in the Lake Chad Basin (fighting the jihadist movement Boko Haram), and in Gambia (preventing violence during the transition from an authoritarian to a democratic regime). In Burundi, it was possible to discourage violence and mass violations of human rights, although the impact remained rather limited.

APF: Success stories

  1. Terrorist groups such as Al-Shabaab plunged Somalia into total chaos in 2006. The APF peacekeeping mission AMISOM began working there in 2007. Today, there is stability to a certain degree, while state structures have been rebuilt, roads connect the capital with regional capitals, elections were held in 2017, and the country is experiencing slight economic growth. In addition, operations are gradually being transferred to Somali security services. Funding from the EU proved crucial in this remarkable transition, whose total price tag was 1.94 billion euros.

  2. After South Sudan gained its independence, a bloody internal conflict erupted in 2013. The warring parties reached a peace agreement in 2015, and the APF CTSAMVM mission is monitoring compliance with that agreement. To do this, it has 12 teams crossing the country to detect violations of the agreement: fighting between soldiers, attacks on civilians, recruitment of child soldiers, and so forth. The teams talk to local people and organise workshops, where necessary, to explain the peace agreement in detail. The approach is clearly paying off.

  3. Sierra Leone saw an intervention as part of the Early Response Mechanism. The APF supported the electoral process in 2018, focusing mainly on ensuring constructive dialogue between political parties. This undoubtedly contributed to the peaceful running of the elections, but it did not resolve all the tensions. After the elections, there were powerful opposition parties in parliament that had to learn to work together, and the APF was able to prove its worth here too.

Attendees follow workshop

A workshop on the peace agreement in Southern Sudan. © UN Photo/Isaac Billy

Generating its own funding

No less than 93% of the total APF budget of 2.68 billion euros was spent on the peacekeeping operations. About 6% went into capacity-building (including the peace architecture, among other things) and 1% into early response.

The AU is working hard to secure its own funding, including by means of a levy on imports, which should cover 25% of the costs of peacekeeping operations. The AU also cooperates with other partners such as the UN and NATO, as well as with individual countries such as China, the USA, and Turkey.

Overall, the APF has achieved some remarkable results. The EU and the AU cooperated in the spirit of good understanding, with the AU leading the operations at all times. The downside was the often time-consuming procedure (tenders, etc.) for launching a mission, and this is why an Early Response Mechanism was established in 2009.

Somalian police agents during training course

A training course for Somali police in the context of AMISOM. © UN Photo /Tobin Jones

European Peace Facility

The APF will be succeeded by the European Peace Facility (EPF) in 2021, which will not focus exclusively on Africa, but on the entire world. It will be a Europe-led instrument that is no longer tightly linked to the African peace architecture and the AU. The EPF will be able to support individual countries directly.

Whatever happens, Africa remains an important partner in helping to ensure peace and security, with scope for capacity-building by the EU. What is more, the experience gained from the APF will also be taken on board in the EPF. After all, there can be no European security without international security.

Belgium and the APF

For the moment Belgium contributes to the APF through the European Development Fund, the EU instrument for cooperation with the ACP countries (Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific). Our country also donated additional amounts, including 0.6 million euros for a peacekeeping mission in the Central African Republic.