Africa has been plagued by conflict in the second half of the 20th century and the start of the 21st. 65% of states in Sub-Saharan Africa have experienced an armed conflict since independence with the number of conflicts rising from only one in 1964 to a height of eighteen in 1992 before falling back to single figures. This may be exaggerated as the data set counts conflicts as where there were 25 battle deaths in a year – a very low threshold. But while some of these conflicts may have been very small, Africa has also had its share of the most horrific conflicts since the Second World War, most notably the Congolese civil war which up to 2006 had caused an estimated 3.5million deaths, and the Rwandan Genocide (not always considered a conflict) that may well have killed up to 800,000 people.
Despite (or perhaps because of) this history, the 50th Anniversary Solemn Declaration by the African Union (AU) in 2013 declared “We pledge not to bequeath the burden of conflicts to the next generation of Africans and undertake to end all wars in Africa by 2020”. Ending all wars is a high minded principle and a desire to do so is regularly espoused by politicians but is it actually achievable in Africa – and by the ambitious date of 2020?
 Straus, Scott, ‘Wars do end! Changing patterns of political violence in sub-Saharan Africa’, African Affairs, 111/143, March 2012, pp.179-201, http://afraf.oxfordjournals.org/content/111/443/179.full.pdf+html pp.183-4
 Coghlan, Benjamin et al., ‘Mortality in the Democratic Republic of Congo: a nationwide survey’, Lancet, vol 367, 2006, pp.44-51 http://conflict.lshtm.ac.uk/media/DRC_mort_2003_2004_Coghlan_Lancet_2006.pdf p.49
 Verpoorten, Marijke, ‘The Death Toll of the Rwandan Genocide: A Detailed Analysis for Gikongoro Province’, Cairn,info, pp.331-367, http://www.cairn.info/revue-population-english-2005-4-page-331.htm
 African Union, ‘50th Anniversary Solemn Declaration’, au.int, 26 May 2013, http://summits.au.int/en/sites/default/files/50%20DECLARATION%20EN.pdf p.5
The Solemn Declaration did not just highlight the goal but also that it would be achieved through three techniques: by 1, addressing the causes of conflicts – economic and social disparities, strengthening judicial systems to ensure accountability, and reaffirming collective responsibility, 2, preventing emerging sources of conflict such as piracy getting a foothold, and 3, engaging in conflict prevention.
Africa has been building the African Peace and Security Architecture to address these causes of conflict. It has created the Peace and Security Council that facilitates the AU’s response to crises; it can engage in actions from humanitarian assistance to military intervention if there are particularly grave circumstances such as genocide. When it does authorise action, this action is coordinated by the AU commission. When it comes to peaceful resolution of conflict, the AU has a ‘Panel of the Wise’ made up of former presidents and others with lots of influence and moral authority who use preventative diplomacy to try to resolve conflicts.
 African Union, 2013, p.5
 Williams, Paul D., ‘The African Union’s Conflict Management Capabilities’, Council on Foreign Relations, October 2011, http://i.cfr.org/content/publications/attachments/IIGG_WorkingPaper7.pdf, p.7
 Ibid, p.12
Having a system is useless if it is not sufficiently funded to fulfil its objectives, at the moment the AU does not provide sufficient funding for peacekeeping.
Moreover, reaction does not prevent war - just shortens it and reduces the intensity. The Panel of the Wise is one method of attempting to stop conflict before it becomes really violent but external mediators can only do so much in preventing conflict; most needs to come from the parties in conflict.
 Williams, 2011, p.12
Conflict in Africa is slowly being ended. In 1992 there were 18 conflicts in Africa; by 2009 this had been halved to 9. But a decline in the number of conflicts is not the only positive trend in African conflicts: there has also been a decline in the size of wars. They have changed from wars between two organised armies to being small scale insurgencies. In 1984 the conflicts were on average causing more than 20,000 battle deaths per year, but by 2008 only around 1,000. Even the number of incidents of genocide and mass killing has been going down from 9 in the 1980s to five in the 2000s. Ending war might therefore be considered to be ambitious but it is not against the trend and not inconceivable.
 Straus, 2012, pp.183-184
 Straus, 2012, pp.189-191
At that rate, war in Africa is not going to be ended by 2020. Moreover, progress in the past does not mean that the progress will continue into the future.
The African Union has been taking a much more active stance in preventing and resolving conflict. Since 2003 responsibility for peace in Africa has been with the Peace and Security Council. This body has authorised AU interventions in Somalia, Sudan, Burundi, and the Central African Republic. The African Union is not the only organisation engaged in peacekeeping; the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) has also been actively engaged in peacekeeping, having been deployed in numerous conflicts since the 1990s, most recently in Mali where they took part alongside French forces in defeating an Islamist insurgency.
The AU is also boosting its collective capacity to respond to crises creating the African Standby Force made up of five regional brigades of 4000 soldiers. This force, when complete, will enable rapid deployment anywhere in Africa so helping to prevent crises becoming full scale wars.
 ‘Peace and Security Council’, peaceau.org, 23 July 2013, http://www.peaceau.org/en/page/38-peace-and-security-council
 News24, ‘Ecowas urges members to send troops to Mail’, 23 October 2013, http://www.news24.com/Africa/News/Ecowas-urges-members-to-send-troops-to-Mali-20131023-5
 Cilliers, Jakkie, ‘The African Standby Force An update on progress’, Institute of Strategic Studies, March 2008, http://africacenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/The-African-Standby-Force-An-Update-on-Progress.pdf
Increasing the number of peacekeeping missions does not always mean that the result will be peace; clearly if there is a need for peacekeeping or even more so combat troops then peace has broken down. The United Nations has almost 70,000 peacekeepers deployed in Africa ,yet new conflicts and crises keep erupting; in 2013 there were new conflicts in Mali, South Sudan, and the Central African Republic. In the case of Southern Sudan this is despite there being 7500 UN peacekeepers in the country.
 Raghavan, Sudarsan, ‘Record number of U.N. peacekeepers fails to stop African wars’, Washington Post, 4 January 2014, http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/record-number-of-un-peacekeepers-fails-to-stop-african-wars/2014/01/03/17ed0574-7487-11e3-9389-09ef9944065e_story.html
What is War? The AU’s declaration does not define it. Ending all conflict is ambitious, ending only inter state war in Africa on the other hand is not. The vast majority of conflicts in Africa have been internal. The only true inter state conflicts have been the wars between Israel and Egypt, the Eritrean-Ethiopian war, the Uganda-Tunisia war, and the Second Congo War. None of these are ongoing. The only conflicts that might count as inter-state that might be considered ongoing are the situation in Western Sahara and border clashes between the Sudans. Western Sahara might be considered to be frozen with very few deaths as a result of it and the Sudan conflict is in large part a result of the border being new.
 Wikipedia, ‘List of conflicts in Africa’, accessed 10 January 2014, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_conflicts_in_Africa
Fiddling around with what is considered to be a war is not resolving the problem of conflict in Africa. The most devastating conflicts have been internal conflicts – if we want to end war in Africa we need to prevent these conflicts from occurring too.
War and conflict between groups is in human nature. As Hobbes famously wrote “the life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short… Nature should thus dissociate and render men apt to invade and destroy one another”. Although the motives have changed, conflict has been a constant throughout human history. The first militaries were created around 2700 BC but conflict between societies almost certainly occurred before this. Pledging to end all war is high minded, but it is unlikely to actually succeed in overturning human nature.
 Hobbes, Thomas, ‘Chapter XIII of the Natural Condition of Mankind as concerning their felicity and misery’, Leviathan, http://oregonstate.edu/instruct/phl302/texts/hobbes/leviathan-c.html
 Gabriel, Richard A., and Metz, Karen S., A Short History of War, 1992, http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/gabrmetz/gabr0002.htm
While we know that so long as there has been recorded history there has been war, we do not know that war is a part of human nature. Indeed there is some evidence that it is not. Research by Abo Academy University has found that primitive societies – tribes that don’t rely on agriculture or domesticated animals – don’t have group conflicts; violence is almost exclusively between individuals. As these societies are a good analogue for society before what we term civilisation arose it is likely that war is a result of civilisation not human nature.
 BBC News, ‘Primitive human society ‘not driven by war’’, 18 July 2013, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-23340252
In 2012 Africa had the most distinct conflicts of any region with 13 ongoing conflicts. While Africa and Asia have throughout most of the last fifty years had roughly similar numbers of conflicts – approximately 10 per year - Africa has had many more non state conflicts and the number has not declined since 2004 when there were 20 non-state conflicts; in 2011 there were 22. All in all there is little hope of managing to end all these conflicts by 2020.
 ‘Armed Conflicts 2012’, Uppsala Conflict Data Program, 2013, http://www.pcr.uu.se/digitalAssets/196/196101_armedconflicts_2012jpg.jpg
 ‘Armed Conflict by Region’, UCDP, 2013, http://www.pcr.uu.se/digitalAssets/196/196111_conflict_region_2012jpg.jpg
 ‘Non-state Conflicts by Region, 1989-2011’, UCDP, 2012, http://www.pcr.uu.se/digitalAssets/122/122566_non_state_region_2011jpg.jpg
Africa still has many fragile states. The Institute of Strategic Studies Africa identified 26 ‘fragile’ states (meaning they have weak governance, conflict and violence, inequality and poverty) including DR Congo and Ethiopia and forecasts that there will still be 11 fragile states by 2050. This rather implies that war will not be ended by 2050, let alone 2020.
Even in countries that are considered stable events can quickly spiral into conflict. Mali was considered to be democratic and reasonably stable before a coup in 2012: there were multiparty elections in 1992, it held regular elections that passed international inspections, its first president Konaré willingly stood down, there was comparatively good freedom of speech and media. Yet after a coup in 2012 it went downhill to the point of requiring intervention by French troops in early 2013.
 Cilliers, Jakkie, and Sick, Timothy D., ‘Prospects for Africa’s 26 fragile countries’, ISS Africa, p.7, http://www.issafrica.org/uploads/AF_8_14Oct2013V2.pdf
 Whitehouse, Bruce, ‘What went wrong in Mali?’, London Review of Books, Vol.34, No.16, 20 August 2012, http://www.lrb.co.uk/v34/n16/bruce-whitehouse/what-went-wrong-in-mali, p.17
While events cannot be foreseen, fixing fragile states to make conflict less likely is possible. Eradicating poverty is already an international goal and improving governance is a regular concern among donors. The AU recognises that development, democracy and good governance are necessary to ensure stability and peace.
 Cilliers, Jakkie, ‘Towards a Continental Early Warning System for Africa’, ISS Africa, paper 102, April 2005, http://www.isn.ethz.ch/Digital-Library/Publications/Detail/?ots591=0c54e3b3-1e9c-be1e-2c24-a6a8c7060233&lng=en&id=99193, p.2
Within countries it is the state that ensures that conflict does not occur: the state has a monopoly on the use of force so ensures law and order. There is no such hierarchy between states. African nations, as with most other states in the world, believe in the sovereign right of states to manage their own affairs. In the same document as there is a pledge to end war “respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of each of its [AU’s] Member States” is reaffirmed. While states are considered sovereign there is no possible way to create a mechanism to ensure that conflicts do not happen. The AU cannot dictate to its members to ensure they avoid internal conflicts even if the AU knows a conflict is coming as those members are the stakeholders. All that the AU can do is react to ongoing conflicts when it is already spilling out of control and encourage good practice.
 African Union, 2013, p.1
 Williams, 2011, p.9
While the AU cannot completely prevent conflicts from breaking out it is establishing a Continental Early Warning System. This will use publically available information and involve organisations at all levels from international to local to enable the AU, and any threatened states, to take preventive action in the common good. This is linked to regional organisations such as ECOWAS which has its own conflict prevention mechanisms and has the authority to react with peacekeeping, mediation of disputes or other peace building mechanisms.
The AU can also ensure any conflicts that do break out are ended quickly. The creation of the African Standby Force should give the AU the strength to react to crises and prevent conflicts escalating.
 Cilliers, 2005, pp.1, 10
African Union, ‘50th Anniversary Solemn Declaration’, au.int, 26 May 2013, http://summits.au.int/en/sites/default/files/50%20DECLARATION%20EN.pdf
BBC News, ‘Primitive human society ‘not driven by war’’, 18 July 2013, http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-23340252
Cilliers, Jakkie, ‘The African Standby Force An update on progress’, Institute of Strategic Studies, March 2008, http://africacenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2009/07/The-African-Standby-Force-An-Update-on-Progress.pdf
Cilliers, Jakkie, ‘Towards a Continental Early Warning System for Africa’, ISS Africa, paper 102, April 2005, http://www.isn.ethz.ch/Digital-Library/Publications/Detail/?ots591=0c54e3b3-1e9c-be1e-2c24-a6a8c7060233&lng=en&id=99193
Cilliers, Jakkie, and Sick, Timothy D., ‘Prospects for Africa’s 26 fragile countries’, ISS Africa, p.7, http://www.issafrica.org/uploads/AF_8_14Oct2013V2.pdf
Coghlan, Benjamin et al., ‘Mortality in the Democratic Republic of Congo: a nationwide survey’, Lancet, vol 367, 2006, pp.44-51 http://conflict.lshtm.ac.uk/media/DRC_mort_2003_2004_Coghlan_Lancet_2006.pdf p.49
Gabriel, Richard A., and Metz, Karen S., A Short History of War, 1992, http://www.au.af.mil/au/awc/awcgate/gabrmetz/gabr0002.htm
Hobbes, Thomas, ‘Chapter XIII of the Natural Condition of Mankind as concerning their felicity and misery’, Leviathan, http://oregonstate.edu/instruct/phl302/texts/hobbes/leviathan-c.html
News24, ‘Ecowas urges members to send troops to Mail’, 23 October 2013, http://www.news24.com/Africa/News/Ecowas-urges-members-to-send-troops-to-Mali-20131023-5
‘Peace and Security Council’, peaceau.org, 23 July 2013, http://www.peaceau.org/en/page/38-peace-and-security-council
Raghavan, Sudarsan, ‘Record number of U.N. peacekeepers fails to stop African wars’, Washington Post, 4 January 2014, http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/record-number-of-un-peacekeepers-fails-to-stop-african-wars/2014/01/03/17ed0574-7487-11e3-9389-09ef9944065e_story.html
Straus, Scott, ‘Wars do end! Changing patterns of political violence in sub-Saharan Africa’, African Affairs, 111/143, March 2012, pp.179-201, http://afraf.oxfordjournals.org/content/111/443/179.full.pdf+html
‘Armed Conflicts 2012’, Uppsala Conflict Data Program, 2013, http://www.pcr.uu.se/digitalAssets/196/196101_armedconflicts_2012jpg.jpg
‘Armed Conflict by Region’, UCDP, 2013, http://www.pcr.uu.se/digitalAssets/196/196111_conflict_region_2012jpg.jpg
‘Non-state Conflicts by Region, 1989-2011’, UCDP, 2012, http://www.pcr.uu.se/digitalAssets/122/122566_non_state_region_2011jpg.jpg
Verpoorten, Marijke, ‘The Death Toll of the Rwandan Genocide: A Detailed Analysis for Gikongoro Province’, Cairn.info, pp.331-367, http://www.cairn.info/revue-population-english-2005-4-page-331.htm
Whitehouse, Bruce, ‘What went wrong in Mali?’, London Review of Books, Vol.34, No.16, 20 August 2012, http://www.lrb.co.uk/v34/n16/bruce-whitehouse/what-went-wrong-in-mali
Williams, Paul D., ‘The African Union’s Conflict Management Capabilities’, Council on Foreign Relations, October 2011, http://i.cfr.org/content/publications/attachments/IIGG_WorkingPaper7.pdf
Wikipedia, ‘List of conflicts in Africa’, accessed 10 January 2014, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_conflicts_in_Africa