Having sat through numerous debates and discussions on ‘peacekeeping’, I have always been surprised and disappointed that this costly and failed approach to security and stability is, for some very (not so) strange reason, still being advocated and encouraged.
The truth is that without sustainable peace, Africa will never see real development and prosperity. Economic development and stability is ensured by good governance, law and order, and the application of sound policies. But if the policies and approaches are wrong, no amount of strategy and tactics can provide peace and stability.
Ending a conflict or war can only be assured when the state has the political will and the military might—and will—to engage the enemy. This must result in the enemy or threat being decisively beaten, and begging and pleading for mercy to save it from complete annihilation. This requires a strong and capable deterrent force with strong military policies in place.
If a government cannot negotiate from a position of total strength, it is merely giving the adversary time to rebuild and rearm its forces and continue the conflict. Besides, the terms of negotiation must be dictated by the government and not by the enemy or threat. Indeed, it must be an unconditional surrender or nothing at all. During negotiations, the enemy or threat must be subjected to intense intelligence scrutiny to ensure that the call to negotiate was not a deception measure aimed at reducing pressure on the crumbling threat forces.
A well-trained, well-equipped, well-led and disciplined armed force, correctly postured and able to rapidly project decisive force, is a significant deterrent to an armed adversary. So why have some African governments decided to demilitarise their armed forces and instead turn them into ‘peacekeepers’?
The mere thought of ‘peacekeeping’ when and where a conflict or war is raging is nothing short of idiotic and suicidal. But in order to remain politically correct, and in the good books of the UN and those governments driving the (failed) peacekeeping approach, this new form of ‘un-warfare’ has taken hold in some African governments whilst emasculating their armed forces.
Simultaneously, it has expanded the current and future market for ‘peacekeepers’ and other ‘partnership forces’ to enter fragile and troubled countries—the results of which, to date, have been catastrophic, disgraceful, and disastrous to say the least. The numerous scandals created by these forces have simply added to the already tarnished image of the ‘peacekeeping’ and ‘partnership’ approaches.
Besides, if peacekeeping was such a valuable tool in the arsenal for halting the spread of conflict and war, why aren’t these forces standing between the warring parties in Nigeria, Libya, Cameroon, Niger, Burundi, and so forth? And if they are there, such as in Mali, South Sudan, Somalia—why aren’t they keeping the peace?
Sadly, many African governments have allowed themselves to be cajoled and hoodwinked into training their armed forces for peacekeeping missions—a euphemism for demilitarising and emasculating the armed forces. Soldiers have now become ‘peacekeepers’ and ‘nation builders’ and time and money is spent on irrelevant ‘free’ training programmes supposedly aimed at keeping the peace and building nations—especially where there is no peace and governments have become fragile or failed. Soldiers have become quasi-policemen as opposed to fighting men who can and will fight to annihilate armed opposition or enemy forces.
The demilitarising of African armed forces has had serious knock-on effects such as a lack of intelligence gathering capacity—especially HUMINT, an inability to fight to decisively end conflicts and wars, a neglect of doctrine development and training, the neglect of essential combat equipment along with the procurement of unsuitable equipment, a watering-down of essential combat skills, the acceptance of bad advice, and so forth.
This, however, suits those powers who have encouraged a mission diversion to ‘peacekeeping’ as they are guaranteed that African governments and their armies will be required to call for foreign help when the wheels fall off. And fall off they will—and are.
Anyone who dares criticise the farce of ‘peacekeeping’ is shouted down and viewed as a warmonger. It is, after all, not politically correct to criticise a failed approach that gives violent and murderous threat forces—viewed by many in the West as ‘moderate terrorists’, ‘pro-democracy fighters’ and ‘freedom fighters’—the advantage. Also, ‘human rights’ have overridden common sense as national armies are expected to show tolerance and understanding to the very people trying to kill them, murder and terrorise the populace, destroy infrastructure, and collapse the government.
The ‘peacekeeping’ mantra has become a dangerous cancer that is eating away at the combat effectiveness of African armies—and it is subsequently endangering the populace, destroying societies, and eroding the stability of states.
For Africa to survive in an ever-increasing turbulent environment, be independent, and ensure the safety and security for its people, the concept of ‘peacekeeping’ needs to be given a very serious rethink.
Perhaps the time has come for African governments to stop demilitarizing their armed forces and instead redefine their missions—away from peacekeeping and towards enemy and threat identification, deterrence, targeting, and annihilation.
After all, that is what the armed forces are supposed to do—isn’t it?