Embracing State Security: The Peace and Security Norms and Structures of the Organisation of African Unity 1963-1993
Citation: Nash, K. ‘Embracing State Security: The Peace and Security Norms and Structures of the Organisation of African Unity 1963-1993.’ In Grilli, M. and Gerits, F. (Eds). (2020). Visions of African Unity: New Perspectives on the History of Pan-Africanism and African Unification Projects. Palgrave Macmillan.
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Abstract: This chapter examines the reasoning behind particular peace and security norms at the advent of the OAU and the implications of these norms for the institutions and policies of the OAU. When the OAU was created in 1963, African leaders chose norms that prioritized sovereignty, territorial integrity, existing borders, and the sovereign equality of African states. These decisions were based on concerns about continuing intervention by former colonial powers, mistrust amongst African leaders, and a desire to shore up African legitimacy in the international system. These norms manifested in a conflict management policy that sought the peaceful resolution of disputes and strict non-interference even in the face of atrocities or de-stabilizing conflict. The decision to codify a policy of non-interference and effectively prioritize the state over individuals was an assessment by African leaders about the most pressing threats against Africa and Africans and conceived security as being achieved through the protection of sovereignty.
The result of prioritizing state security was a weak institutional framework to manage conflict on the continent. African leaders created the Commission of Mediation, Conciliation, and Arbitration to resolve conflicts between African states, but it was never fully funded or resourced and largely fell by the wayside. In its place, the OAU relied on ad hoc committees, which had limited success in facilitating agreements, but they were often only formed after a conflict had reached a crisis point and typically facilitated temporary solutions that did not address the root of the conflict. While the OAU approach to conflict management was largely ineffective and eventually changed, it was a reflection of the continental norms and was conceived after considering the most urgent security concerns faced by the region at the time.