Africa Peacekeeping Getting Crowded As Business Increases

Written by D.A. Barber

Peace is good for business. Just ask anyone who owns an oil field in Africa.

China began deploying soldiers to a U.N. peacekeeping force in South Sudan in September to help guard their beleaguered oil fields, and Frontier Services Group, led by former Blackwater founder, Eric Prince, is on the scene at the request of the South Sudan government to help repair state-owned oil facilities ravaged by civil war.

With so many peacekeeping missions underway to advance business, national reconciliation and dialogue in sub-Saharan Africa, it’s starting to get difficult to keep track of all the players in region.

“Peacekeeping is…becoming a more crowded field, involving diverse actors and even parallel missions,” U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said Dec. 16, underscoring his inquiry to address peacekeeping operations issues.

There has been an explosion of U.N. peacekeeping operations in Africa, said John Campbell, a U.S. ambassador to Nigeria from 2004 to 2007, “In other words, it’s the ‘flavor of the month,’” he told AFKInsider. Campbell is a senior fellow for Africa policy studies at the New York-based Council on Foreign Relations.

Currently, there are UN peacekeeping operations in Central African Republic, Mali, Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia. Last weekend, fighting took place in several locations in the Central African Republic between anti-Balaka members and peacekeepers.

“Historically, international peacekeeping operations have strictly been U.N. operations, but we have also have seen regional initiatives,” said Mark Schroeder, vice president of Africa analysis at U.S.-based global intelligence and advisory firm Stratfor. “And the African Union is a great example,” Schroeder told AFKInsider.

The African Union-UN Hybrid operation in Darfur was established in July 2007 and since then there have been 212 fatalities.

African Union-UN Peacekeeping

Peacekeeping cooperation between the African Union and the U.N. has been crucial, U.N. Secretary-General Ban said during the Dec. 16 Security Council debate on U.N.-African Union partnerships. Ban urged the Security Council to work more effectively to prevent, manage and resolve conflicts in Africa.

Todd Moss is chief operating officer and senior fellow at the Center for Global Development, a U.S. nonprofit think tank based in Washington, D.C. that focuses on international development.

“When you’re talking about peacekeeping, you’re talking about an external force that’s got some international legitimacy that’s supposed to come in and help enforce an agreement that has been made, and to play some kind of policing role,” Moss told AFKInsider.

There is increased support for African-led peace operations and their transition into U.N. peacekeeping operations, “as we have seen in Mali and the Central African Republic,” Ban told the 15-member Council.

What exactly is the mandate of peacekeepers, particularly when peacekeepers are introduced into an area where there’s no peace to keep? That has been a hot topic of thought and discussion, Campbell told AFKInsider.

The UN has been working closely with the African Union and other partners recently in Sudan and South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and the Great Lakes region, the Central African Republic, Burkina Faso and Somalia.

According to Stratfor’s Mark Schroeder, Somalia is a case of African Union regional peacekeeping in league with neighboring and foreign countries with interests in the region that branched off into a “hybrid” operation.

“Specifically, Ethiopia, Kenya and the U.S. kind of got together and created the African Union mission in Somolia. But then they roped in the U.N. to eventually pay for it,” Schroeder told AFKInsider. “That’s been a great example of that ‘crowded nature’ (how crowded the peacekeeping field has become).”

Peacekeeping in the Congo

What’s been happening in the Congo over the last couple of years is another example of how crowded peacekeeping has become in Africa, Schroeder said.

While U.N. peacekeepers are restrained by their mandate — what the Security Council says that they can do — the African Union peacekeepers don’t have that particular restraint, Campbell told AFKInsider.

“The biggest peacekeeping force is still the U.N. force, but since last year when there was the introduction of the ‘Rapid Intervention Force’ involving troops from South Africa, Tanzania and Burundi that was kind of a hybrid operation where it was a coalition – a unilateral intervention,” Schroeder said. “But it was a lot more aggressive than the U.N. forces in the Congo were willing to be. And once they achieved their objective of degrading the M23 rebels in Eastern Congo, only then did they get back to cooperating with the UN.”

With peacekeeping becoming such a crowded field, U.N. Secretary-General Ban recently launched an inquiry into peacekeeping operations to address some of the challenges from mandates to accountability and the role of Special Political Missions and U.N. Police.

“This is actually a cluster of issues that the Secretary-General is wrestling with,” Campbell said. “There’s also been a certain amount of criticism of U.N. peacekeepers in terms of behavior and I think this inquiry will also be looking at that.”

Campbell said the criticism stems from allegations that the peacekeepers – who are almost never from the country they are serving in — engage in “looting, pillaging and so forth on the side.”

The U.N. is also studying the handover from the African Union to U.N. operations with recommendations expected in March 2015.

“These models have definitely gotten more complicated,” Moss told AFKInsider. “Because you’ve got these difficult situations like Mali and you want to try to find some kind of mechanism where you have external oversight with a combination of local and foreign forces.”

Troubled Regions

With the proliferation of militant groups, security has become increasingly fragile in the Sahel – the territory extending from Mauritania to Eritrea that includes the hotspots of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Sudan.

“The security situation in the Sahel continues to be impacted by the crises in Libya, Northern Nigeria, Northern Mali and the Central African Republic,” U.N. Special Envoy for the Sahel, Guebre Sellassie, said Dec. 11 in her year-end briefing to the U.N. Security Council. ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) has allegedly established training camps in the Libyan desert, she said.

More disturbing, Sellassie warned that deadly attacks targeting UN “blue helmets” were intensifying in Northern Mali and along the border with Niger.

“The Sahel region continues to face multifaceted challenges to peace and development,” she acknowledged.

The U.N. Security Council announced Dec. 15 it was extending its mission in Liberia, recognizing that tackling the Ebola outbreak has slowed the Liberian government’s efforts to advance governance reforms.

On Dec. 16, Global risk analytics company Verisk Maplecroft launched its sixth annual Legal and Regulatory Environment Risk Atlas (LRERA) which enables companies to identify and compare potential risks to investments in 173 countries.

Of the top 10 countries presenting the highest levels of risk, five are in sub-Saharan Africa with Somalia ranking No. 2 worldwide, Central African Republic ranking No. 4, Eritrea No. 5, DRC No. 6 and South Sudan No. 8, according to Maplecroft.

Over the past year, there has been a focus on Somalia’s lagging economy, political violence and piracy of commercial ships.

The fear is Somalia’s business insecurity could slow industry interest in neighboring East African countries, where gas reserves are being developed off the Mozambique and Tanzania coast, while oil production is ramping up in Uganda and Kenya.

But some reports indicate that conditions are improving thanks to peacekeeping assistance and Somalia’s efforts towards holding democratic elections in 2016. In fact, Somalia is now encouraging international energy companies to conduct oil exploration with plans to expand the port at Mogadishu to accommodate oil development, according to Abdulkadir Abiikar Hussein, director of oil and gas exploration for Somalia’s Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources, in a BBC News interview.

Meanwhile, since new violence broke out in South Sudan a year ago, the country’s warring factions have yet to reach a comprehensive peace agreement.

That violence prompted China to join the U.N.’s South Sudan peacekeeping force in September to help protect Chinese workers and oil installations where China’s state-owned National Petroleum Corp. holds a 40 percent stake in a joint oil field venture and a 1,000-mile export pipeline to Port Sudan. Prior to the latest fighting, Sudan accounted for 5 percent of China’s crude oil imports.

“China has had a trend towards a degree of greater participation in international security operations and it has tried to kind of test its place in sending various units to places where it has economic interests – South Sudan being a good example,” Schroeder told AFKInsider. “They’ve also sent naval forces to participate in counter-piracy patrols off the coast of Somalia.”

Former Blackwater CEO Doing Private Equity In South Sudan

The private firm Frontier Services Group is in South Sudan, being paid $23 million from South Sudan’s Ministry of Petroleum for transportation and oil field maintenance services. Founded in 2013 by former Blackwater CEO, Eric Prince as a “private equity fund,” the new firm now operates in more than a dozen African countries with $100 million from Chinese investors to help develop African infrastructure.

Frontier has no security or training contract, but does provide aviation-based logistic support, including aerial gas and oil surveys, according to the company.

“(Eric Prince) still has his connections; he still has his experience and know-how and may be trying to fill a gap in countries where there is emerging economic interest,” Schroeder told AFKInsider.

South Sudan’s oil production provides nearly all the government’s revenue produced by China National Petroleum Corp., Malaysia’s Petroliam Nasional Bhd. and India’s Oil & Natural Gas Company. But oil output plunged by roughly a third when violence erupted during a power struggle within the ruling Sudan People’s Liberation Movement when the oil companies evacuated some of their workers.

Schroeder believes that the unwillingness of the South Sudan government to share the spoils of oil production is a leading cause of concern in Juba.

“And these are historic grievances that were only papered-over when South Sudan was united in that bid for independence from Sudan,” Schroeder said. “And then that unity unraveled soon after that and we still have yet to see any genuine willingness to reconcile in South Sudan and cooperate.”

New Conflict Risky For Business

There are new risks emerging that have less to do with political disputes, yet have the same potential for initiating unrest.

According to the annual risk assessment released Oct. 30 by analytics firm Maplecroft, there are some 32 farming-dependent countries worldwide that are at risk for conflict or civil unrest as climate change hastens food insecurity, including agriculture-dependent Sierra Leone and South Sudan. The report also notes that the rise of the extremist group Boko Haram in Nigeria may be linked to population changes based in a drought in West Africa a decade ago.

“Five million more people have become food insecure since the last reporting period. The number of children affected by acute malnutrition in the Sahel also increased from 5 million in January to 6.4 million today,” U.N. Special Envoy for the Sahel, Guebre Sellassie said Dec. 11.

Oil price slump will hurt economies more than Ebola

The global oil price slump “is expected to impact Africa’s economies far more severely than the 2014 Ebola epidemic,” according to Maplecroft’s latest country-specific oil and gas reports.

In the wake of the falling oil price crisis, the firm is updating its oil and gas Country Risk Reports for all current or emerging oil and gas producing countries in sub-Saharan Africa, including Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Congo, Gabon, South Africa, Ghana, Tanzania, Mozambique and Kenya.

“In certain oil countries, (some) political peace is bought by sharing the oil goodies, and when they get squeezed you can see a rise in at least tensions, if not necessarily conflict,” Moss told AFKInsider.