The AU works on several fronts to primarily strengthen peace, security and democracy in Africa, raise the standard of living and education on the continent, improve health and infrastructure, develop agriculture and strengthen trade between African states and with the outside world.
The AU sees conflict resolution as a prerequisite for development in Africa, and it is in this area that the Union has received the most attention. AU is trying to build a common security system that will also have a preventive effect.
For this purpose, the AU Peace and Security Council was formed in May 2004, following the model of the UN Security Council. It consists of representatives from 15 Member States elected by the Executive Council. The representatives are elected for two or three years. Decisions are made by a two-thirds majority.
The Council’s tasks include conflict prevention diplomacy, peace mediation, assisting in the disarmament and demobilization of combat forces, interventions, post – war reconstruction assistance and humanitarian and other disaster relief operations.
The Peace and Security Council has a mandate to intervene in armed conflicts on the continent. Among other things, it can send observers and peacekeepers to conflict areas where a ceasefire has been concluded. It can also intervene in areas where there are “serious circumstances”, ie where war crimes, genocide or crimes against humanity are committed. Observers and soldiers can also be sent out to prevent riots or similar violent situations in a Member State.
The Council is organizing its own permanent All-African Task Force. It should have been completed in 2010, but as a large part of AU’s other planned activities, it is still in the planning stage.
An advisory group of “wise men” has been attached to the AU’s Peace and Security Council, five prominent Africans who will help prevent and resolve conflicts.
According to zipcodesexplorer, the AU regularly holds a Ministerial Conference on Security, Stability, Development and Cooperation in Africa (CSSDCA). The conference will debate and develop common ideas and values on how the Union’s peace and security work should be conducted.
The newborn AU took its first decision of importance in July 2002 when it rejected Madagascar’s newly elected government under President Marc Ravalomanana. The AU considered that the Malagasy government had been appointed in violation of the country’s constitution. Madagascar was suspended for the time being from the AU. It was not until a year later that Madagascar rejoined the Union after Ravalomanana won a new election in 2002.
In February 2003, the AU gave its support to a peace agreement in Côte d’Ivoire, where civil war broke out in the autumn of 2002. South African President Thabo Mbeki had the AU’s mission to mediate between government forces and rebels in the country. One month later, the AU unanimously condemned the coup in the Central African Republic and suspended the new regime from the forthcoming AU summit.
In April 2003, the AU decided to send a 3,500-strong peacekeeping force to Burundi to monitor the peace agreements reached at the end of 2002. This was the AU’s first military intervention. The soldiers would monitor the ceasefire and the disarmament of rebel groups and prepare for a UN force that would arrive later. In October, the operation was in full swing, and it ended in June 2004 when the UN mission in Burundi took over. The majority of AU soldiers then joined the UN force.
Despite some shortcomings, AU’s efforts in Burundi were successful. When the UN came, there was a fragile peace in the country, except in the capital Bujumbura, and it had become easier to reach out with humanitarian aid. However, the operation was more expensive than expected and the donors donated less than AU had thought.
In 2004, the AU began its operations in Darfur in western Sudan. Since February 2003, there has been a civil war between two rebel groups and the Sudanese government with a support militia. Systematic attacks on the civilian population had led to a major humanitarian catastrophe with tens of thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of dead, up to two million refugees and a looming famine. With the help of mediators from, among others, the AU, the warring parties were able to agree on a ceasefire in April. AU was commissioned to monitor the ceasefire and sent 80 observers and 300 soldiers to the region. The force was also mandated to protect civilians from attacks.
A proposal by the AU to strengthen the operation in Darfur with 3,300 peacekeepers, police and other personnel was accepted after much hesitation by the Sudanese government in October 2004. The UN expressed its support, but the AU stressed that hundreds of millions of dollars were needed for the operation. The EU promised to cover at least half of the costs. By March 2005, the AU had been able to send about 1,900 men to Darfur. At the same time, the UN could only agree on humanitarian action in Sudan.
In the autumn of 2004, the President of Somalia, Abdullahi Yusuf, asked the AU to assist with a peacekeeping force to ensure security when the country’s government and parliament move to the capital Mogadishu. For some time now, the government and members of parliament have been in Nairobi, Kenya, as the warring militia groups in their home country have made it too insecure for the new rulers. The AU was in principle positive about helping Somalia, but emphasized that the organization could not say how many soldiers it could contribute, when the force could be completed or how the operation would be financed. The AU therefore turned to the UN and the EU with an appeal for money to the peacekeeping force. Under the rapidly changing conditions in Somalia, the regional cooperation organization Igad first planned to send a peacekeeping force to the country, but before the forms for it or its financing could be solved, AU took over the planning. In February 2007, the UN Security Council authorized the AU to send a force to Somalia, and a first troop of Ugandan troops arrived in March on a six-month mandate that has since been extended regularly. The AU force, named Amisom, was for a long time severely understaffed and underfunded, but in 2012 consisted of over 17,000 men, mainly from Uganda, Kenya, Burundi, Djibouti and Sierra Leone. The budget for this year was close to half a billion US dollars, mainly from the EU and the US.
In February 2005, the AU condemned in sharp terms a change of power in Togo that took place in violation of the country’s constitution and described it as “a military coup”. Togo President Gnassingbé Eyadéma had died, and the military had made sure that his son, Faure Gnassingbé, succeeded him. According to the constitution, the Speaker of Parliament would have taken over until general elections could be held. Togo was expelled from the AU, which called on member states and the outside world to impose sanctions on the new regime. Following regional and international pressure, the new president was forced to resign three weeks later. Thus, Togo was welcomed back into the AU. Many observers considered that the Togo case could be seen as an example of how AU’s pressure method can work.
In 2008, the AU sent an armed force to the Comoros to help the country’s army put down a revolt on the island of Anjouan.
Mauritania was suspended from all activities within the AU both in 2005 and 2008 after military coups, but in both cases regained its membership after holding elections that were judged to be sufficiently democratic.
Following a new coup in 2009, Madagascar was once again suspended from the organization. The country regained membership after a new, elected president took office in early 2014.
When the rebel movement Séléka took power in the Central African Republic in 2013 with the help of weapons, the AU quickly decided to suspend the country from its activities. The rebel leaders were banned from traveling to other AU member states and their financial assets were frozen. The AU also refused to recognize Séléka’s leader as legal president. When the situation in the country became completely chaotic in the autumn of 2013, and observers began to talk about the risk of genocide, the AU, in cooperation with France, sent a peacekeeping force. Initially, 3,500 African soldiers were stationed in the country, but the ambition was said to be to increase the effort to 6,000 men.
In July 2013, the AU decided to exclude Egypt after legally elected President Mohammed Mursi was ousted by the military. The country was allowed to re-enter in June 2014 after holding new presidential elections. For the same reason, Guinea-Bissau regained its membership, which had been withdrawn since a military coup in 2012.