UN Peacekeeping in Africa: From the Suez Crisis to the Sudan Conflicts (review)
In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Reviewed by
Adebajo, Adekeye. 2011. UN Peacekeeping in Africa: From the Suez Crisis to the Sudan Conflicts. Boulder, Colo.: Lynne Rienner Publishers. 270 pp.

Adebajo’s book is an historical narrative and an excellent delineation of the key issues and actors involved in United Nations peacekeeping efforts in Africa during the last half century. In the first chapter, the author repeatedly states the key problem as lack of cooperation among the three principal actors whose collaboration and cooperation are indispensable. These actors are the permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, regional African organizations, and African nations involved directly or indirectly in violent conflicts. Adebajo defines success as restoring peace and stability after ceasefire, disarmament, demobilization, and rehabilitation. He cites examples where such cooperation led to success (the Suez crises) and where the lack of it led to failure (Congo).

Chapter two is a detailed historical account of the birth of the U.N. peacekeeping missions that emerged out of the necessity to deal with the Suez crisis. It is a good example of how the alignment of the interests of the most influential nations (the United States and the Soviet Union) led to a peaceful resolution. The focus of the chapter is on the games that the great powers play and the domestic or regional sociopolitical dynamics and how they influence the outcomes of U.N. peacekeeping missions. It is clear from the author’s assertions that the primary goal of collaborative action was not peace and stability in the region, but the protection of the interests of the big powers. The interest of the United States was to keep the Suez Canal open, and more importantly, to secure for itself and its Western allies the oil that is vital to industry. By contrast, the interest of the Soviet Union was to threaten that access by sowing seeds of discord among Western allies and aligning itself with leftist regimes in the region.

Like chapter two, chapter three begins with a detailed historical account of the conflict in the so-called Great Lakes Region of Africa. The author correctly points out that successful resolution of conflict is contingent upon the convergence of interests of the actors before the introduction of armed U.N. peacekeepers; however, while he repeatedly refers to Western interests, he does not clearly identify them. These interests were, and still are, Western access to the enormous natural resources of the region, especially those of the Congo. The author indicates that the United States wanted to stem the spread of communism; however, it is not the spread of communism per se that was important, but the threat that such a spread poses to these natural resources and markets. Similarly, the interests of [End Page 91] African nations are not clearly delineated. Undoubtedly, Egypt cooperated during the Suez Crisis because the solution ensured its control of the canal coveted by England, France, and Israel. An important question is why did the United States and the Soviet Union cooperate during the Suez crisis, but not during the Congo crisis? The author does not provide an answer, except to mention in passing that it was a “marriage of convenience.” A possible explanation is that they found it helpful to divide the region into respective satellite states to each other’s satisfaction and thus avoid violence.

Southern Africa (Angola, Namibia, Mozambique) is the subject of chapter four. Here again, reference is made to the interests of Western powers. It is implied that for Western powers and their regional ally, apart-heid South Africa, the goal is the containment of communism and, for the African nations involved, political independence; however, by that time, the Soviet Union had collapsed. Why, then, did the United States insist on linking the independence of Namibia to the withdrawal of Cuban troops from Angola? The answer appears to be that Angola was already by this time a potentially big oil producer, sharing a border with the Congo. The author does not appear to realize that Western interests are almost invariably economic, even when described as strategic or stemming the influence of communism. In contrast, if the interests of African leadership contenders in each nation (e...


pdf