Has the African Union (AU) embraced the responsibility to protect (R2P) in its Constitutive Act? Has it been successful in implementing R2P? This study, by the Institute for Security Studies, assesses its efforts to promote peace in Africa and to deal with emerging crises. It concludes that the AU is committed to R2P, although it is too early for a definitive judgment, since the institutions that the AU has developed to change attitudes need to be given an opportunity to work.
The chairperson of the African Union Commission, President Alpha Oumar Konaré, has advocated the importance of moving away from a culture of non-intervention to a culture of non-indifference. The AU has adopted a much more interventionist stance through its legal frameworks and institutions. The AU Peace and Security Council (PSC) was established in 2004 through the Protocol Relating to the Peace and Security Council of 2002. Furthermore, the Constitutive Act of the African Union (2000) enshrined a responsibility to protect in the document. The PSC can assess a potential crisis situation, send fact-finding missions to trouble spots and authorise and legitimise AU intervention in internal crisis situations.
The AU has taken an active, interventionist stance with regard to conflict situations in Burundi, Darfur and Somalia and is actively involved in supporting other peace operations on the continent. Given the youthfulness of its institutions, the AU is far from being able to operationalise an effective R2P regime, even though it has made a significant effort to conduct peace operations. The limitations of its fledgling institutions have been exposed in, for example, the complex humanitarian situation in the Darfur region of Sudan.
Nevertheless, with the adoption of the legal provisions of the Constitutive Act, for the first time in the history of Africa, the AU has the authority to intervene in internal situations in any state that may lead to atrocities against minority groups or communities at risk. To reinforce these provisions the AU is:
Having a principle enshrined in the Constitutive Act and making sure that countries live up to it are two entirely different things. The AU will need to reorient political leadership on the continent and take decisive action, without which the challenges surrounding the implementation of R2P will not be met.
Author: Dr Tim Murithi
Source: Murithi,T., 2007, 'The Responsibility to Protect, as Enshrined in Article 4 of the Constitutive Act of the African Union', in Conflict Prevention and the âResponsibility to Protectâ in Africa?, ISS Africa, African Security Review Vol 16 No 3, South Africa
Size: 11 pages (131KB)