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United Nations in Africa Essay

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Updated: Jan 21st, 2020


The post-colonial Africa faces massive challenges including desertification, extreme poverty, epidemics, and never-ending regional conflicts, which affect the continent’s economic development.

The UN, as the world’s premiere institution that promotes international collaboration, coordinates all manner of assistance to help African countries overcome these problems.

Its operations extend from arbitrating in regional conflict to achieving peace, promoting democratic governance, promotion, and protection of human rights, and supporting social and economic development in the African continent.

The UN was set up in 1945 following the Second World War with the aim of bringing to halt regional conflicts through peaceful resolution and mediation. It entails several auxiliary bodies to put through its undertakings.

There are presently 192 affiliate nations, with each being autonomous state in the world other than the Vatican City (United Nations Cyberschoolbus Country at a Glance).

From its administrative centers around the world, the UN and its specific outfits settle on essential and organizational matters in normal conventions held right through the year. The body has six major organs with the UN Security Council being the organ charged with the responsibility of promoting peace in the world.

After independence, several African nations plunged into civil unrest and the UN has been the international body mostly involved in exercises to ensure warring factions reach peaceful agreements.

In this regard, the UN serves as an important institution for promoting peace and protects human rights in conflict zones by working closely with Africa’s regional cooperation mechanisms.

Presently, there are six UN peacekeeping missions in various African countries including the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia, Sudan, and Mozambique. United Nations peace exercises have been positive and gainful alternatives for dealing with some conflicts and humanitarian predicaments (Anyidoho, 13). T

he greater part of the 35 mediation exercises carried out by the UN over the past five decades have been of great significance in ending regional conflicts, enhancing social equality, and protecting human rights.

United Nations Operations in Congo, UNUC

To carry out their mission effectively, peacekeepers in conflict torn areas must rely on intelligence information about the security situation of area prior to their mission, as was the case with the United Nations Operations in Congo dubbed UNUC.

This was a UN international relations military unit in Congo that was instituted following the United Nations Security Council Resolution 143 of July 14, 1963. From this period, the name was changed to Opération des Nations Unies au Congo (Washington CRS Report for Congress 12).

Within the UNUC, a Military Information Branch (MIB) was established with the responsibility of protecting the UN personnel, running specific security operations, and monitoring the security of the region.

Until 1960, Congo was a Belgian colony but in 1960, Belgian proclaimed that it was handing Congo her independence within a period of five months. However, Congo was unprepared for independence within the stipulated five months.

Nevertheless, Congo declared its independence on 30 June 1960 with Patrice Lumumba as the president and Joseph Kasavubu as the vice president. The Belgian commander-in-chief declined to Africanize the administrators’ units of the armed forces.

As a result, the army staged a mutiny against the Belgian officers who led the Congolese army and attacked the Europeans in general. The mutiny affected the new government’s authority resulting to a crisis.

In response to the crisis, the Belgian government deployed its army on July 10, 1960 to offer protection to Belgians, majority of who lived in the mineral rich Katanga province. However, this was an illegal act since Congo was an independent country and the new government had not allowed them into the country.

The Belgian administration was for the idea that Katanga Province, one of the most productive in the country, be independent. Two days later after the deployment, Congo’s President and the Prime Minister requested for aid of the UN in resolving the matter (Anon).

The UN Secretary-General asked the concerned organ, the UN Security Council, to act on the issue as a matter of urgency in a meeting held on July 13, 1960.

Consequently, the Security Council created an army unit, the UNUC, consisting of about 10,000 troops, to restore peace in Congo between 1960 and 1964.

The military unit’s responsibilities in Congo were fourfold viz. to restore law and order in the country and maintain peace, restore political stability, help in rebuilding the economy and prevent external interference into the crisis.

The force was not allowed to use force unless in self-defense and were to remain neutral in the crisis involving the government in Leopoldville and the self-proclaimed independent government in Katanga led by Tshombe (Washington CRS Report for Congress 10).

However, Lumumba wanted the UN to use force to repress the attempted secession of Katanga province to which the UN declined. He then accused the UN of siding with the Tshombe’s government in Katanga because of the regions rich mineral deposits and instead sought the help of USSR to invade Katanga.

By 1961, various breakaway factions controlled different parts of the Congo with Lumumba’s government getting armaments from Russia. All this time, the UN forces could do nothing as they were required to remain neutral in the crisis and could only use force in self-defense.

However, the eminent danger of a civil war forced the Security Council to allow the use of force to prevent a civil war occurring. The United Nations agreed to provide military support for the attack to reclaim Katanga province (Washington CRS Report for Congress 13).

Following this attack, Tshombe agreed to negotiate with the government over the status of the province. However, the talks achieved little progress forcing the UNUC in 1962 to attack Katanga again, which led to Tshombe fleeing Congo. Consequently, in 1963, Katanga became part of Congo again and in 1964, the UNUC withdrew from Congo.

The UN’s involvement in this crisis was a success with respect to the four objectives set out before the mission began. The Congo crisis did not degenerate into a civil war and by the end of 1963; Congo was politically stable.

In addition, Congo was kept intact with Katanga’s reunion with the rest of Congo and humanitarian crisis was avoided through the UN sponsored medical and food programs.

United Nations Operations in Mozambique

Following the devastation arising from a 14-year civil war, the president of the republic of Mozambique, Mr. Joaquim Chissano and leader of the opposition faction (RENAMO), Mr. Alfonso Dhlakama, signed a General Peace Agreement in October 1992.

The nation’s post-independence civil strife took place from 1976 to 1992 and led to the death of approximately 1 million people (Handicap International). The agreement outlined the modalities for the achievement of peace in the country.

Under the agreement, the United Nations was welcomed to participate in the implementation of the peace agreement by offering technical assistance for national elections and monitor these elections.

The implementation of this agreement was to be supervised by the United Nation’s Supervisory and Monitoring Commission.

On October 9 1992, the UN Security Council approved an interim Special Representative, Mr. Aldo Ajello, to monitor the UN’s activities in the country.

Meanwhile, both of the warring parties undertook specific actions to promote joint mechanism that would monitor the implementation of this agreement (United Nations Department of Humanitarian Affairs).

However, major violations of the agreement forced the Representative to recommend a detailed plan dubbed the United Nations Operation in Mozambique (ONUMOZ) in which Aldo outlined the obstacles in restraining the achievement of the General Peace Agreement.

By December 1992, ONUMOZ, composed of about 8000 military personnel, was instituted to help in the enactment of the harmony accord involving the administration of Mozambique and the opposition faction RENAMO.

The mandate of ONUMOZ was to offer support with regard to military, electoral, political, and humanitarian aspects of the Agreement.

To offer military support, ONUMOZ carried out extensive operations throughout the country to prevent violations of the cease-fire. The ONUMOZ’s military unit that was deployed on November 1993 offered medical assistance and helped in the various engineering projects in the country.

Through ONUMOZ’s assistance, Mozambican Defense Force training centers were established to help in the formation of a new unified army (United Nations Department of Humanitarian Affairs). Another mandate of the ONUMOZ was to promote the electoral process.

Following the lack of agreement on how the elections should be conducted, the Special Representative mediated the consultations between president Chissano and Mr. Dhlakama, which culminated in the establishment of the National Elections Commission on January1994.

With regard to the humanitarian program, UNOMOZ’s humanitarian assistance targeted the post-civil war Mozambican refugees resettling in their original lands (United Nations Department of Humanitarian Affairs).

It was estimated that about 6 million refugees and internally displaced persons resettled during the two years following the implementation of the Agreement. Following ONUMOZ assistance, successful parliamentary and national elections were held on 29 October 1994 and were Chissano inaugurated as the president.

United Nations Peace-building Support Office in Liberia

The United Nations Peace-building Support Office in Liberia abbreviated UNOL was instituted in November 1997 after the conclusion of UNOMIL’s command at the end of September of the same year. UNOMIL was the United Nations Observer Mission in Liberia that had been running since 1993.

UNOL was led by an envoy of the Secretary General and was basically the first UN post-war maintenance organization (UNOMIL). Since its inception, the UNOL focuses on supporting the government of Liberia to promote peace, democratic development and promote national reconciliation following the civil war.

The UNOL also facilitates post-conflict peace-building initiatives and coordinates international assistance for re-building of Liberia following the prolonged civil war.

Civil conflict in Liberia took away more than 250,000 lives and resulted in a full collapse of law and order (The United Nations Statistics Division). Many civilians were displaced, both inland and beyond the nation’s borders. There were about 850,000 expatriates in the next-door nations (Human Rights Watch Africa).

Warfare commenced towards the end of 1989, and by the beginning of 1990, quite a lot of hundred deaths had taken place in conflicts involving government troops and opposition rebels of the National Patriotic Front of Liberia, NPFL. A previous government officer, Mr. Charles Taylor, led NPFL.

As of the beginning of the war, a sub regional association, the Economic Community of West African States, embarked on a number of ideas directed at a diplomatic agreement. The UN shored up ECOWAS in its labors.

Some of the help that UN offered was instituting of an ECOWAS observer unit, enforcing an arms restriction on Liberia and providing a Special Envoy to help in negotiations involving ECOWAS and the groups in conflict (UNOML).

Following ECOWAS’s negotiation of a peace accord in Benin in 1993, the UN Security Council instituted UNOMIL. All parties tasked UNOMIL with shoring up the enactment of the Benin peace accord, particularly falling in line with and unbiased enactment of the accord.

UNOMIL became the initial UN international relations exercise carried out in collaboration with a peacekeeping exercise previously instituted by another association.

Holdups in the enactment of the tranquility accord and restarted warfare among Liberian splinter groups made it unworkable to conduct polls in early 1994, as pre-arranged.

In the upcoming months, some complimentary tranquility accords, adjusting and shedding light on the Benin accord was bargained (Johnson). With the truce in effect, the UN effectively monitored the July 1997 polls.

Mr. Charles Taylor emerged as the winner. He was sworn in, instituted as a new administration, and declared a course of action of ceasefire and national harmony.

In this respect, UNOMIL’s main aim was attained. UNOL came in after UNOMIL and by way of complete back up by the Security Council, it made possible the endorsement of national ceasefire and first-rate administration and assisted in drumming up global back up for the enactment of restoration and growth agendas.

The UNOL instituted an integration and rehabilitation program for the combatants deserting the rebel groups. The integration programs consist of vocational training, agricultural sector training, and formal education where the demobilized fighters would be rehabilitated.

The integration and rehabilitation programs are funded by the UNDP in partnership with the African Development Agency.


The United Nations, through its various programs, promotes peace in conflict areas and plays a crucial role in facilitating international assistance to countries experiencing conflicts.

In Africa, apart from promoting peace, the UN supports economic and social development and protects human rights through various humanitarian initiatives.

From the involvement of the UN in the ensuring regional stability in many African countries and the promotion of post-war reconciliation like in Liberia, it is evident that the UN is a crucial body that can help the post-colonial Africa overcome its challenges.

Works Cited

Anon. “Can Africans keep their own peace?” Web.

Anyidoho. “Political Control and Guidance of Peace Support Operations in Africa: A UN Commander’s View” Ghana Armed Forces.

Grey-Johnson. “Beyond Peacekeeping; The Challenge of Post-Conflict Reconstruction and Peace building in Africa” (2006) (1) UN Chronicle Online Edition. Web

Handicap International. 2010. Web.

Human Rights Watch Africa. Web.

The United Nations Statistics Division. “World Statistics Pocketbook and Statistical Yearbook, 2008.” Web.

United Nations Department of Humanitarian Affairs, Landmine Clearance Unit Report on Mozambique. Web.

United Nations Cyberschoolbus Country at a Glance. Web.

United Nations United Nations Observer Mission in Liberia UNOMIL (September 1993 To September 1997). Web.

Washington CRS Report for Congress. “Copson RW Democratic Republic of the Congo: Peace Process and Background”.

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