Efforts by industrialized countries to train troops from Africa in peacekeeping are welcome but cannot substitute for those nations deploying their own forces to the continent, the senior United Nations peacekeeping official said today.
Writing in the International Herald Tribune, Under-Secretary-General Jean-Marie Guéhenno pointed out that in the last decade more than 6 million Africans have died directly or indirectly as a result of conflict. "What is happening now in Darfur is, in some ways, just the latest episode of a story of poverty and conflict that stretches back across much of the continent for almost half a century."
He cited a recent Oxford University study which found that peacekeeping offers by far the best return on donor investment when compared to a range of other interventions, from sanctions to development assistance.
Peacekeeping is surging across Africa - with wars cooling in Burundi, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Liberia, Sierra Leone and even Sudan, Mr. Guéhenno noted. The UN now has around 50,000 peacekeepers deployed in eight African operations - double the figure of five years ago, and there has been a corresponding drop in the number of war deaths.
He welcomed pledges by the Group of Eight industrialized countries to train 75,000 peacekeepers, initially from Africa, for operations on that continent and possibly beyond.
But he also warned that peacekeeping should not become a purely regional affair. "The danger is that peacekeeping in Europe, for example, will get the full benefit of Europe's economic strength, while Africa, where the world's worst wars are being fought, will get much less."
Evidence of this has already emerged, he said. The DRC, where millions have died, is 200 times as large as Kosovo, yet that province in the heart of Europe "has a larger peacekeeping force that is better equipped, better supported and backed by an aid effort that is, per person, several hundred times more generous than the one that feeds Congo."
Helping Africa to keep the peace by training 75,000 peacekeepers "will be a solid beginning, but not yet the whole solution," he said.