The African Union

Summary – African Union

            This summary will cover the broad mission details of the African Union with particular emphasis on conflict resolution and peacekeeping. It should be stated that before 2002, the African Union was an intergovernmental institution called the Organisation of African Unity. For clarity, both titles and organizations will be referred to as the African Union (AU) in this summary. Sarah Ancas’ (2011) publication on the effectiveness of regional peacemaking in Southern Africa will be used to bolster general descriptive information found on the AU’s official website.

Before the advent of the current AU as we know it, the group was formed to aid liberation movements in Africa in an attempt to end an era of colonialism and apartheid (AU, 2016). Even if member-states still feel the lagging effects, this particular vision can be seen as a success as Africa is mostly free of colonialism and apartheid conditions. Leading up to 2002, the norms and interests of Africa shifted which in turn brought about the AU in its modern form.

The vision of the AU is that of: “An integrated, prosperous and peaceful Africa, driven by its own citizens and representing a dynamic force in global arena” (AU, 2016). The mission of the AU is to achieve greater African unity, to defend sovereignty, to foster political and socio-economic prosperity, to respect democracy and human rights, and to promote peace, security, and stability on the continent (AU, 2016). Being comprised of sovereign member-states, the AU acts and is organized much like other intergovernmental organizations (INGO) with multiple parties, commissions, and institutions to aid the overall mission. Similarly to the UN, the AU does possess judicial systems of law (AU, 2016). The remainder of this summary will focus on the AU and peacekeeping on the African continent.

Since its inception, the AU has had a steady hand in peace relations through the creation of the Peace and Security Council (PSC) (Ancas, 2011, p. 134). However, there are numerous other INGO’s as well as the UN that operates in conflict areas within Africa. As such, Sarah Ancas states, “a whole variety of organizations clamor to get involved” when speaking of the often clunky operations of peacekeeping in Africa (Ancas, 2011, p. 138). This chaos has manifested in activities relating to the conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo, for example. Inconsistent security support, the special interests of outlying groups and nations, and ineffective voter ballot support has led to a continuation of conflict and war crimes being committed within the fighting (Ancas, 2011, p. 146). However, in the spirit of cooperation, the AU does coordinate with the UN in a two-tiered conflict management system (Ancas, 2011, p. 131). This system often sees the AU as the ‘first-responder’ with the UN providing support from the top level in the form of advice, logistical and economic support, as well as material and human resources (Ancas. 2011, p. 132).

Peacekeeping operations and cooperation with other organizations, despite the setbacks listed above, do continue to occur, and maintenance of peace remains a strong focus of the AU. Recently, the conflict in South Sudan continues to flame, and there is substantial pressure on the PSC to cobble together an international force of African members (AU, 2012). Similarly to South Sudan, the AU also has involvement in the conflict that continues in Mali (AU, 2012). Conflict and impasses in  Africa are numerous causing the effectiveness of the AU to be questionable. However, it does continue to operate with a broad mission to ease and unify the many nations of Africa but still respect national sovereignty. Coordination with the many organizations involved in Africa is chaotic, and peacekeeping is not consistent. However, the AU does try to foster a sense of cohesion and partnership in the missions of peace it undertakes.


African Union’s Peace and Security Council Tackles Situations in Mali; Sudan and South Sudan : Commission Chairperson assures the three Member States of AU support. (2012). Retrieved July 24, 2016, from’s-peace-and-security-council-tackles-situations-mali-sudan-and-south

Ancas, S. (2011). The effectiveness of regional peacemaking in Southern Africa – Problematising the United Nations-African Union-Southern African Development Community relationship. African Journal on Conflict Resolution Afr. J. Conflict Res., 11(1).

AU in a Nutshell. (2016). Retrieved July 24, 2016, from

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