As of this writing, the sad conflict in Ethiopia’s Tigray area is still going on. As a result, about 400 thousand people are suffering from acute hunger, and ten times that amount require assistance – not to mention the lives that are being put in danger as a result of the war.
The conflict, which is essentially a power struggle between local Tigrayan leaders and the national government, shows few prospects of ending soon. In such situations, coming up with a compromise solution is challenging.
Meanwhile, the country with the second-largest population in Sub-Saharan Africa and the most impressive recent economic success story (measured in terms of sustained growth rates) is now in grave danger, at a time when COVID-19 adds to the dangers of large camps for displaced people and weakened public health care systems that could result from warfare.
The United Nations must consider deploying a peacekeeping mission if and when it would be effective in monitoring and cementing a future power-sharing agreement for the country’s northern area, where fighting is currently raging.
U.N. Even when forces are tiny, weakly equipped, and present largely in observation roles, peacekeeping is a bargain, and it is often a success. They can act as a set of objective eyes when minor crises or infractions threaten to escalate into major issues. They can relate party behavior to future aid availability, providing financial incentives for players to cooperate. They can utilize personal ties and pressure, with the right commanders and envoys, to persuade ordinarily reluctant or easily irritated leaders to step up their efforts to make a peace accord work.
On the African continent today, the United Nations has six deployments. Many of the 57 successful missions in Africa since 1960 have yielded long-term consequences. Others, to be sure, have struggled to meet their goals and have been chastised for poor planning and administration. When United Nations soldiers are present, however, the chances of a peace agreement staying are often greater than 50%.
Indeed, Georgetown University Professor Lise Howard presented research at a Brookings event this past February indicating that since the end of the Cold War, UN forces have fulfilled their mandates and exited with a two-thirds success rate (11 of 16 completed missions).
Namibia, El Salvador, Cambodia, Mozambique, Eastern Slavonia/Croatia, Guatemala, Timor-Leste, Burundi, Sierra Leone, Cote d’Ivoire, and Liberia are among the 11 countries on the list.
The United Nations now has missions in Mali, the Democratic Republic of Congo, the Central African Republic, and South Sudan in Africa. In addition, the cost is reasonable. Today’s dozen global missions cost a total of $7 billion per year, with the United States contributing $2 billion. The first figure represents 1% of the Pentagon’s annual budget, while the second figure represents what the US Department of Defense spends on various costs in a single day. Furthermore, Africans are mostly responsible for maintaining peace, as they provide the majority of the troops for these operations.
Even if a true peace agreement cannot be reached, it may be practicable and useful to deploy a small peacekeeping force to escort, defend, and monitor food convoys in order to avert widespread starvation as a result of this tragic and pointless war.
Africa requires a few success stories, and Ethiopia was one of them until recently. All of that is now in jeopardy. If a new United Nations mission can help with humanitarian relief and conflict resolution in the Horn of Africa, the Biden administration should not hesitate to embrace it.