Charles W. McClellan - Africa's First Peacekeeping Operation: The OAU in Chad, 1981-1982 (review) - Journal of Military History 67:1 The Journal of Military History 67.1 (2003) 311-312

Africa's First Peacekeeping Operation: The OAU in Chad, 1981-1982. By Terry M. Mays. Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2002. ISBN 0-275-97606-8. Photographs. Appendixes. Notes. Bibliography. Index. Pp. xiv, 192. $64.95.

Given the Organization of African Unity's (OAU) recent demise and the continuing debate about the efficacy of international peacekeeping, this book is timely and instructive. Mays's set objectives are: (1) examination of the foreign policy goals of Nigeria, the United States, and France as they related to OAU military involvement in Chad; (2) examination of the factors contributing to the mission's success; and (3) a discussion of lessons learned from the experience. Mays understands that his is "the first comprehensive review" of this event; time and additional documentation may shed new light on the matter. Besides interviews with a handful of African officials, Mays uses broadcast transcripts and newspaper accounts extensively to develop his case. While well researched, the work is repetitive in its presentation; surely one hundred pages would have been sufficient.

Chad's civil war began in 1963 and soon featured Libya's Muammar Qaddafi backing northern rebels in support of his own foreign policy interests. Chad's concerned neighbors, particularly Nigeria, did not want instability on their borders or refugees on their soil. Mays documents Nigeria's efforts to broker a peace settlement in the conflict and her willingness to contribute soldiers to a peacekeeping force. Although a settlement was signed, not all parties accepted it, and Nigeria's overly assertive tactics were viewed by some parties as partisan. Former French colonies in West and Central Africa were suspicious of Nigeria's intervention in a sister territory.

The United States also disdained Qaddafi's presence in Chad and his talk of "unifying" Islamic neighbors, but was content to let France handle the situation. President Reagan was more proactive, endeavoring to increase pressure on Qaddafi in Chad while the Americans confronted him in the Gulf of Sidra, but by this time the French under Mitterand were less interventionist than before. The conjunction of these various interests gave rise to an OAU force in which Nigeria was a major participant along with Zaire, financed and supported logistically by the U.S., France, and Great Britain.

The politics that created the OAU force reflected rivalries among various African governments and their heads of state. While most African nations supported the mission, most lacked the resources to be actively involved. Mays asserts clear mission objectives: supporting peacekeeping (a separation of the forces while negotiations continued) rather than peace-enforcement as some Chadian factions desired. The OAU steadfastly refused to be drawn into the conflict, asserting its true neutrality and noninvolvement.

In that context the OAU mission was successful; the foreign policy objectives of Nigeria, the U.S., and France were all basically achieved, and the lessons learned from the mission have been subsequently instructive. On the whole, Mays has done a good job with his materials, laid out his thesis [End Page 311] clearly, and provided strong argument, even if some, I suspect, might disagree with his conclusions.


Charles W. McClellan
Radford University
Radford, Virginia

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