, Volume 90, Number 4

Thomas G. Weiss and Martin Welz

The United Nations (UN) and the African Union (AU) have collaborated in building a viable African Peace and Security Architecture and have worked together in a number of armed conflicts over the past decade. Examples include the peace operations in Burundi and Somalia, and the hybrid peace operation in Sudan’s Darfur region which is perhaps the most prominent illustration of this collaboration. Although the UN Security Council authorized the intervention in Libya, which was approved by leading regional organizations (the Arab League, the Organization of the Islamic Conference and the Gulf Cooperation Council), it was opposed initially by the AU although the three African states in the Security Council voted for it. Relations cooled as a result and have grown colder still as the UN snubbed the AU and its initial efforts to engage in post-conflict stabilization in Mali. While the AU sought to prove itself as a capable security provider and partner on the continent with its operation AFISMA, France’s Opération Serval and the UN’s peace operation for Mali, MINUSMA, bypassed the African Union. This article explores the underlying fault-lines between the two organizations by examining interactions between the UN and AU since the latter’s launch in 2002, but focusing on the Mali case. The fault-lines emerging from the analysis are different capabilities, risk-averse vs risk-assuming approaches to casualties, diverging geopolitics and leadership rivalry.

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