By Dr Suleiman Walhad*
TORONTO, 16 April 2023 (IDN) — The United Nations Organization was set up in 1945. The world had just come out of a bloody war, often dubbed the Second World War. But the world has always been at war, and it could have been the umpteenth war. It was, however, the second biggest war in Europe, although they dragged many other nations into the frying pan.
Nevertheless, the United Nations was created soon after the end of this great Second World War to become a forum where peace is assured, international rules and regulations and standards set and agreed upon, and collective actions to confront issues of international nature and conflicts between and among nations of the world taken.
But the world is the world. It always has problems and whenever one is solved another one crops up somewhere else and today the world, in addition to dealing with wars in various parts of the globe, must also grapple with climate change, trade wars, serious breakdowns in great power cooperation and hence unwarranted competitions, health pandemics and, indeed, financial meltdowns in many parts of the world.
The United Nations Organization did succeed in many of the tasks for which it was set up and failed in many. The UN helped defeat colonialism, set fundamental human rights platform, helped create international trading rules and dispute resolution processes and, indeed, helped create various peacekeeping operations across the globe.
It had its own setbacks and failures during its existence, and these involved peacekeeping operations. In the Balkans, the UN, despite setbacks, succeeded in helping set up peace, development and general reconstruction. It also succeeded in helping settle the Cambodian crisis and helped East Timor emerge as an independent country.
The UN, however, generally failed peacekeeping in Africa. None of the various conflicts with the involvement of the UN was successful, although it may have helped split two African countries of the continent, perhaps on the urging of some great powers—the Sudan and Ethiopia, where South Sudan and Eritrea as new countries respectively emerged.
Its failures in the continent include, among others, the DR Congo, where the organization was involved from the beginning of that poor/rich country from the early sixties and where it still maintains peacekeeping forces since 1999. It is where the UN lost its second Secretary General, the renowned Dag Hammarskjold, who was awarded a post-humous Noble Peace Prize.
There is also the Sahel belt, where the UN maintains peacekeeping forces, in a seemingly endless cycle of violence in countries like Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger, and the Sahrawi Republic. In north and northeast Africa, the dilemma of Darfur in Sudan, South Sudan and Libya still continues and in west Africa the conflicts of Liberia, Sierra Leone, and the Gambia are simmering under the ashes, although there seem to be some semblance of peace at present. In East Africa, violence in Somalia and Ethiopia seems to be unabated and continue.
All these countries share one common feature. They are either rich in natural resources, whether these are oil and gas, gold, uranium, diamonds, and other minerals and/or they have geostrategic significance. Is the UN failing because its hand is being forced not to push for peace and development in the continent by unknown under hands? It would have to explain this, itself!
The Horn of Africa States, is perhaps, where an African Mission, AMISOM, supported by the UN was installed in 2007 and remains todate in the country under a different name ATMIS. It appears to be going nowhere. Indeed, it appears to being entrenched.
The UN Secretary-General, António Guterres was recently in the region, in addition to other issues, perhaps, also to discuss with Somalia to extend their mandate beyond 2024, when it expires, as the war on imported religious terror in the country intensifies.
The people and not the installed government, unhappy with the inactions of the UN and failure of the African Peacekeepers in the country, and indeed, the large army of the country, have take on these terror groups, on their own.
Why is there a need for peacekeepers in the region if they cannot install peace and if there is no peace to keep, in the first place? They appear to be only window-dressing while the wounds still fester underneath and hence absorb a significant portion of the aid and financial help of other countries to the country and the region.
Perhaps the UN and the African Union should go back to their drawing boards and revisit the matter. It would be more logical to have the region find its own way than continue on the current path. The people of the region are, indeed, capable of finding solutions for their problems, if there were no foreign interferences like those of the United Nations and/or its surrogate, the African Union, which appear todate not to have been successful in the region after some four decades of civil strives and other issues.
The United Nations and its sister world bodies like the World Bank and the IMF were designed over seven decades ago and may not completely represent and/or reflect the world infrastructure of today. There were, indeed, great powers of those times that were victorious in that Second World War, but their powers have waned, and other nations have become strong since then, both militarily and economically, and want to sit around the table.
Perhaps the failures of the UN in Africa are related to this dichotomy, wherein the UN is still working under the domination of some countries as opposed to balancing among the multitude of countries in the world of today and especially among those who have similar military and economic capabilities. This competition among those old and emerging powers is one of those factors that impact the Horn of Africa States region.
The Horn of Africa States enjoys a geostrategic location, a long coastal belt and waters of some 4,700 km, stretching from southern Red Sea to the northern Indian Ocean. It sits astride the Bab El Mandab, a stretch of some 28 km of water that is important for global commercial shipping. Some 15 to 20 per cent of global shipping pass through these waters from the Suez Canal to the northern Indian Ocean.
Perhaps the African Mission in the region under its different names and sponsored by the UN is to protect that shipping and not the region itself. Building the region’s own security and defense forces, including naval forces, would have been more efficient and less costly than maintaining foreign forces in their tens of thousands in the region.
There are, indeed, mercenaries and arms dealers who benefit from the continuing civil strivings in the region. Indeed, their business is the business of profit making, which of course, is at the expense of the region.
Why are institutions like the UN and the AU, which have the capacity and wherewithal to install peace in the region, stalling the process of helping the region secure itself using its own forces? How could a county, like Somalia, which is denied purchasing and/or importing its own defense equipment, defend itself from terror groups.
These AU peacekeepers came in 2007 as AMISOM. Today they are still around as ATMIS. Perhaps it is time these UN/AU forces were repatriated to their home countries and replaced by local regional forces consisting of militaries of the region only under regional arrangements within their own national budgets. They would do a better job, if they were not under the UN and/or African Union emblems.
At least foreign economic interests and/or mercenary and arms dealers’ businesses would be severely curtailed. Regional forces would not have vested economic interests of others at heart, as other foreign militaries would have—serving foreign interests.
The visit of the UN Secretary-General to the region is significant. At least it draws attention to the region again. It is his second visit to the region. Obviously the first visit did not achieve anything as the violence, poverty, weak governance, and effects of climate change remain the same. Would this visit change anything? This remains to be seen.
Only those who help themselves in the first place generally succeed. It is doubtful that the visit of the UN Secretary-General, however a goodwill, it may carry, would change one iota of the situation in the region and in Somalia in particular, unless the region worked itself out of this decades-old quagmire.
*Dr Suleiman Walhad writes on the Horn of Africa economies and politics. He can be reached at email@example.com. [IDN-InDepthNews]
UN Photo/Sourav Sarker | Secretary-General António Guterres meets a family of internally displaced people at a camp in Baidoa in southwestern Somalia.
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