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Between reactive and proactive interventionism: The African Union Peace and Security Council's engagement in the Horn of Africa

Tim Murithi


This article will assess the interventionism which the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) has fostered in the Horn of Africa region with particular reference to the Sudan, Somalia, Djibouti, Eritrea, and Kenya. Ten years after the establishment of the AU and eight years after the operationalisation of the PSC, the Union has adopted a stance that can be defined as ‘interventionist’ as far as peace and security issues in Africa are concerned. This article will assess whether this interventionism has been predicated on a coherent AU policy towards crisis situations, or whether it can be best described as ‘reactive interventionism’. This article will thus elaborate on the notion of reactive interventionism. With the onset of more pronounced intra-state conflicts between the period of the 1990s and the present, it has become evident that a policy of intervention is necessary to stem the proliferation of complex emergencies. This is particularly evident in the Horn of Africa. Concomitantly, the PSC has been considerably more engaged with situations in the Horn than in other parts of Africa. This article will argue that while the PSC’s interventionism is laudable, the cases of Somalia and Sudan reveal that it has not been backed up by a genuine commitment by AU member states to ensure and conduct robust peace operations. This reveals that the PSC is beset by a ‘reactive’ form of interventionism which in many respects is a function of the absence of a proactive and preventive culture of crisis prevention within the AU system and its member states. This article will argue that the PSC needs to make the transition from reactive interventionism towards more proactive interventionism. The article will identify some of the obstacles and challenges that need to be overcome at the strategic level of AU decision making and at the tactical and operational level of implementation in order to ensure that proactive interventionism becomes entrenched in the modus operandi of the PSC and other organs of the AU system.

African Journal On Conflict Resolution, 12(2) 2012

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eISSN: 1562-6997