Africa’s contribution to UN’s peace-keeping action

UN peacekeepers Ivory Coast © Luc Gnago - Courtesy Reuters

At the beginning of the 1960s, African countries contributed to the deployment of ONUC, the United Nations Operation in the Congo. Since then, some 40 states have provided military personnel for peace-keeping forces.  West Africa, especially the English speaking countries, has been most committed. This participation shows both the will of Africans to play a significant part in peace-keeping on the continent, and also the economic interest in the 1,000 dollars every month that the state receives for each UN soldier. Some of these countries have had a positive influence on peace agreements or solutions to crises in Africa.


Western countries are ready to support African armies in ensuring the security of the continent, under the direction of the United Nations and in agreement with regional organizations, but they are not ready to commit their troops directly. The West Africa is the most heavily involved region. ECOWAS has been present in Liberia (1990), Sierra Leone (1997), Guinea-Bissau (1998), Ivory Coast (2002) and now in Mali (2013). The African Union (AU) has been very active in Burundi’s political crisis (2003) and in Somalia under the auspices of IGAD[1].


In 2003, Nigeria, Ghana and Senegal, Benin, Burkina Faso and Niger provided 70% of African peacekeepers. The interest of West Africa in peacekeeping is linked to the endemic political instability in some countries in the region. This is also the case of East Africa that provides between 20 and 30% of peacekeepers. North Africa contributes between 10 and 15% and South Africa about 10%. Central Africa region, affected as it is by conflict and instability (Chad, CAR, Congo Brazzaville, Cameroon) sends less than 1% of peacekeepers on UN missions. By contrast, in the Great Lakes region where rebellions and conflicts abound the contribution to peacekeeping operations is significant. Rwanda became one of the main suppliers to the UN with 4,686 troops in June 2013. Uganda and Burundi currently provide 73% of the 15,000 soldiers deployed by the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM). Southern Africa is contributing 10% of the African contingent while Northern Africa, despite its military force, only contributes 15 to 20% (Egypt and Morocco).


English-speakers are the most numerous on peace missions, even when the mission is taking place in French-speaking countries such as DR Congo.  On the other hand, in Sudan the Rwandans are significant players. This hinders communication with the people.  The small number of French-speakers may be related to the lack of professionalism of their armies.


From the early 1990s, Africa has continued to absorb most of the UN peace efforts because its security situation has been deteriorating for nearly three decades.  Of about 60 UN peace-keeping operations since 1948, nearly half have been deployed in Africa and of the 16 currently being conducted 7 are taking place in Africa. On April 30, 2013, these seven operations involved approximately 62,400 peacekeepers, three-quarters of the UN forces.  While the average female participation in 3%, since 2008 African countries have allocated 5% of their posts to women; their participation to peace operations is greater than on any other continent.


Source : La note d’analyse du GRIP par Bakari Traore

[1] IGAD, InterGovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) formed by eight-country of Eastern Africa: Sudan, Eritrea, Ethiopia,  South Sudan, Somalia, Uganda, Kenya. 




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