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       The history of Africa has been replete with conflicts. Conflicts have ripped through the continent such that in Africa today, crisis in human security has emerged. The resultant effects are increasing internal conflicts, frustrated aspirations and rising social tensions. Other effects are the displacement of people from their societies, value systems as well as loss of governments and institutions. The need to rid the continent from the scourge of conflicts and crises necessitated the birth of the Organization for African Unity (OAU) on 25 May 1963 (Obasanjo, 2005).

       The initial OAU mechanism for crisis management in Africa was the Commission for Mediation, Conciliation and Arbitration (CMCA), which came into effect in 1964. However, the post Cold War era brought about a new political stability and social economic development. Thus, the OAU attempted to change its mechanism for crisis management by adopting the Mechanism for Conflict Prevention, Management and Resolution (MCPMR)         in 1993 (Lemarchand). This mechanism was found to be deficient in some areas especially, the power to interfere in the internal affairs of member states. This was amongst the reasons for the transformation of the Organization into the African Union (AU)    in 2004 (Imobighe, 2003:67).  Today, Africa is plagued by conflicts most of which are intra state in nature. Thus, the regional organisation, AU has its hands full of crises requiring resolution. These conflicts and crises which occurred mostly in Sub-Saharan Africa have been protracted, thus posing serious challenges to the AU. 

       The drift by some African States into unmitigated chaos became a constant source of worry to many leaders in the continent and the international community at large. The series of conferences and summits held across the continent reflected this. It was at an Ordinary Summit of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government in 2001 that the Constitutive Act of AU was adopted by 53 member states of the OAU in Lome, Togo           (Salim, 2002:18). Furthermore, the desire for a stronger organisation that would be capable of handling the numerous conflicts that plagued the continent provided the initiative that paved the way for the birth of the AU. This process began in Sirte, Libya in September 1999 during an extraordinary summit of the OAU (Salim, 2002:23).

The AU, thus aimed at achieving greater unity and solidarity between the African countries and its people, defending the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of its member states. It was also to accelerate the political and socio-economic integration of the continent; and promote peace, security and stability on the continent (Constitutive Act of the AU, Article 4).

The Constitutive Act of the Union was then to enter into force 30 days after the deposit of the instrument of ratification by two-thirds of the member states of the OAU. Consequently,      the Act entered into force on 26 May 2000 after Nigeria deposited its instrument of ratification with the OAU Secretariat on 26     April 2000; being the thirty-sixth member state to do so (Constitutive Act of the AU, Article 4).

At its inception, the AU in a bid to realise collective security in the continent set out certain principles to guide the union. The principles and values informing the African Collective Security Policy include, inter-alia, the principles contained in Article 4 of the Constitutive Act of the AU.

       The indivisibility of the security of African States is made such that the security of one African country is inseparably linked to the security of other African countries, and the African continent as a whole. Accordingly, any threat or aggression on one African country is deemed to be a threat or aggression on the others and the continent as a whole. These threats are then brought to the immediate attention of the Assembly of the Union or the Peace and Security Council (PSC) for decision and action as appropriate, in conformity with the AU principles and objectives (Constitutive Act of the AU, Article 4).

       Conscious of the inadequacy of the clause of non-interference in the affairs of member states, a new clause in the Constitutive Act of the AU expressed the right of the Union to intervene. This is in pursuant to a decision of the Assembly in respect of grave circumstances, namely war crimes, genocide and crimes against humanity. The clause resulted from experiences gained in previous conflict management attempts in the continent under the OAU.

       The AU has been involved in the management of the Sudanese, Ethiopia-Eritrea and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) crises among others in Africa. However, with the eventual transformation of the OAU into AU, crises management and peace support operations remain a process.  This in the opinion of many still requires extra efforts on the part of the organisation. Salim Ahmed Salim, a former Secretary General of OAU succinctly made the point when he declared:

…with the creation of the mechanism for conflict prevention, management in Cairo in 1993, a view and significantly different vision emerged in one continent. The creation of that mechanism signified a change from the position of “don’t interfere” to one “collective concern” for the peace, security and stability of the people of our continent. The doctrine became what happens to my neighbour is my responsibility also”. Since then, the issue of internal conflicts has become a matter of continental concern (Constitutive Act of the AU, Article 4). 

The management of conflicts and crises by Africans has thus presented an opportunity on the emergence of the AU. Though the AU is still new, the expectations of Africans in the ability of the organisation to manage conflicts and crises, is indeed very high. It remains to be seen if this optimism can be translated into effective conflict and crises management which would lead to successful conflict resolution.


       The African continent has been synonymous with conflicts even before the formation of the OAU and now AU. This situation cannot be divorced from historical factors surrounding the formation of nation states in Africa prominent among which was the partition of the continent by the European powers at the Berlin Conference of 1884 to 1885. This conference was to change the course of events in Africa. It brought people with different and antagonistic ideologies together under single states without putting in place mechanisms to ensure harmonious existence among them. This was the starting point of recurrent conflicts and crises in Africa.

        In the Post Cold War era, African conflicts and crises have been largely intrastate except the Ethiopia-Eritrea conflict and that of the DRC (Salim, 2002:33). They have also been too frequent that the AU appears overwhelmed. The recurrence of conflicts in the continent has become a factor for the assumption that AU mechanisms for conflict management are perhaps deficient in some respects.

        If the AU must improve on its mechanisms for conflict management and peace support operations, the challenges confronting the organisation need to be identified with a view to working out a better approach. It is in this context that this research examines the issues and prospects of AU crisis management.



       The following under listed are the objectives of this research:

(1)   To discuss the AU mechanisms for crisis and conflict management in Africa.

(2)   To discuss the challenges of the current AU conflict management mechanisms.

(3)   Examine the prospects of enhancing AU mechanisms for crises management in the continent.

(4)   To suggest possible ways on how best to improve the AU mechanisms for crises management.


       The importance of this study is appreciable in the fact that:

(1)   The AU Secretariat staff and policy makers would benefit from it as it presents viable prospects to address issues raised.

(2)   It will also contribute to the existing body of knowledge on crises management by the AU in Africa.

(3)   It will serve as reference material for further research in the area of crises management.


       This research covers events in Africa regarding conflicts  from 2000 to 2008. This period provides room for assessing the efficiency of AU mechanisms for crisis management from her inception to date.


       The study faced with some limitations. This arose from the inability of the researcher to interview key individuals who are stakeholders in crisis management under the auspices of the AU. However, a few interviews of past officials of the AU and some diplomats as well as military personnel who had participated in AU Peace Support Operations (PSOs) assisted in the attainment of the research objectives.


       This study answered the following research questions:

(1)   Is there any significant relationship between AU mechanisms for crisis management and crisis management in Africa?

(2)   Are AU mechanisms for crisis management in Africa effective?

(3)   Are there challenges and prospects of AU mechanisms for crisis management in Africa?

(4)   Are there other measures that could be adopted by the AU to make its mechanisms for crisis management more effective in the continent?


       The study tested the following hypotheses:

(1)   HO  - The AU mechanisms for crisis management is not faced with challenges in managing crisis in Africa.

(2)   HA  - The AU mechanisms for crisis management is faced with challenges in managing crisis in Africa.