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Peacemaking missions of the United Nations have changed substantially since their inception in the 1940s. Early “first generation” peacekeeping missions were aimed to terminate armed conflict. Military observers would be placed between opposing armies, with consent, pending political settlement of their dispute. Peacekeeping missions monitored truces and cease-fire and provided buffer zones while political negotiations were pursued. So-called “second generation” peacekeeping missions which date back to the late 1980s, are far larger in scope, addressing underlying causes of conflict and aiming for permanent peace. To traditional military assignments and monitoring elections, overseeing the reform of the judiciary, creating new police forces, providing humanitarian relief, repatriating refugees, reestablishing agriculture and public infrastructure, and promoting free press and independent radio stations.

This shift in UN peacekeeping has many ramifications. It raises questions of sovereignty and of UN involvement in domestic affairs. The issue of consent among all the parties also becomes central, especially as that consent may decay over the course of these extensive missions. The administration and management of complex second- generation peacekeeping missions have an important impact on the outcome of these missions. The DCR project has studied some of the implications of second-generation peacekeeping and evaluated some peacekeeping missions in its series Managing Arms in Peace Processes. The DCR Project’s Virginia Gamba frames the project’s findings within the basic distinction between first and second-generation peacekeeping. As the notes in her introduction to Managing Arms Peace Processes: Training, “Before and since the Cold War, the main objective of international community when taking action has been the maintenance and/or recovery of stability. The main difference between then and now, however, is that then, the main objective of global action was to maintain stability in the international arena, whereas now it is to stabilize domestic situations”.


At the end of this unit you should be able to: 

  1.  Discuss the character of peacekeeping missions; 
  2. Distinguish first generation from second generation peacekeeping;
  3.  Discuss disarmament in relation to peacekeeping missions; 
  4. Assess the effectiveness of UN peacekeeping missions. 


3.1 Orientation and Training

The changes in peacekeeping generate serious challenges in conceptualizing the overall peace missions and the role of the United Nations. The conduct of missions will differ substantially depending upon the orientation of mission members towards consent of the use of force. Stephen John Stedman contributes the article “Consent, Neutrality, and Impartiality in the Tower of Babel and the Frontline: UN Peacekeeping in 1990s” to the CDR volume, Managing Arms in Peace

Processes: The issues, Stedman notes a distinction between different nations’ approaches to peacekeeping Countries with considerable pre-1989 peacekeeping experience (such as Finland, Sweden, and Norway) “maintain an approach to peacekeeping today that mostly echoes the concerns, concepts, and idiosyncratic doctrines the United States and France – had little pre 1989 peacekeeping experience contributed to the humility of these contributors”. When nations participating in peacekeeping missions are in agreement, as in missions for E1 Salvador and Mozambique, the missions have been relatively successful. When participating nations have disagreed, as in missions for Somalia and Bosnia, this has contributed to their failure. As Stedman writes, “When key contributing states differ on such issue as the importance of consent, the efficacy of forces, and the need for impartiality and neutrality, the result is likely to be an incoherent and ineffective peace operation”.Those differences are also reflected in the handling of the training of peacekeepers. The DCR Project found immense disparity in the resource and training standards throughout the world. Military members of a peacekeeping force need training not only for military combat, but also to control crowds, administer humanitarian relief, validate the compliance accords, negotiate, manage refugee flows, disarm and demobilize combatants, establish and administer the rule of law, interact with civilians, and coordinate their efforts with those of other actors. Civilian members of peacekeeping missions also require special training although what is available is varied, generally inadequate, and involves no joint training with military personnel. The latter fact may contribute to a lack of cooperation on the field, regardless of challenges facing peacekeeping missions.

3.2 Disarmament 

The disarmament component of UN peacekeeping missions is also receiving substantial attention. Successful disarmament has important post-conflict implications – not only for recurrence of armed conflict between militias, but also for the availability of weapons for other conflicts or for criminal activities. Nonetheless, according to the DCR Project, in many missions “the establishment of short-term peace took priority at the expense of disarmament”, notes Virginia Gamba in the introduction to “ regional Peacekeeping in Southern Africa”.

While disarmament may include many straightforward tasks – organization of cantonments, registration, collection and control of weapons, observation and reporting of compliance, and investigation into violation – it is rarely a straightforward process. The most significant element in a process of disarmament is the continued consent of the parties. Fred Tanner contributes the article “Consensual Versus Coercive Disarmament” to the DCR project. Tanner notes that while consent to peacekeepers may encounter refusal at the tactical level as they try to disarm combatants. Tanner identifies these factors that cause consent to erode. First is the security dilemma. If combatants fear that disarming will leave them vulnerable to attack, they may renege on earlier agreements. Second, economic concerns are an issue, particularly if disarmament can be used to bargain for greater concessions or compensation in the form of land, tools, or job training. A third factor is anticipation electoral loss. Those who consented to disarmament initially may go back on their agreement if they see themselves losing in post-conflict elections. Coercive disarmament may be necessary where consent is withheld. Coercive disarmament is not used against aggressors, writes Tanner, “but against non-complaint forces who act with or without hostile intent against the peacekeeping force”. Coercive disarmament brings particular risks, especially that the peacekeeping force will become a de facto party to the conflict.

While Tanner explores the difference between consensual and coercive disarmament, he is also aware that the distinction is often not so clear: “A close look at the various cases of disarmament in conflict resolution indicates that it is neither conceptually nor operationally possible to establish where consensual disarmament stops and where coercive disarmament begins. There is a grey area in between”. Further research appears to be necessary on this issue. As Tanner notes, “Extensive

evaluations of UN peace operation have been unable to provide conclusive answers as to whether missions with coercive authority are more or less successful than operations based solely on consensual disarmament”. Tanner concludes that there is a place for a degree of coercion, or “compel lance”, within an overall consensual framework of a peacekeeping mission:

The strategy of compel lance represents an alternative to passivity and consternation of peace support forces faced with the eroding consent to disarmament programmes. Compel lance is a show of force with the confinement of peace support missions that operate under the strategic
consent of the parties. Thus, enforcement of weapons control is conceivable from the bottom – up, whereas consent must be preserved at any price from top down. Grantees have evaluated several UN peacekeeping operations in great details. ‘The unsuccessful missions in Somalia and the more successful missions in Mozambique and Cambodia provide lessons for future peacekeeping operations.

3.2.1 Somalia

The UN peacekeeping missions in Somalia (UNOSOM 1 and 11) are generally considered unmitigated disasters. Their many goals in peacekeeping, disarmament, humanitarian relief, and political reconciliation – often worked at cross-purpose. For example, the concentration of relief workers and humanitarian aid protected those workers from attack by local armed bands and facilitated food distribution but dislocated the population that came for food and aid and severed their connection with their land, livelihood, and kin. Moreover, declaring General Mohammed Fara Aided a fugitive and offering a bounty for information leading to his arrest was a signal failure. In managing Arms in Peace Process: Somalia, the ACR Project concludes that this action was a political “painful reminder of the memories of slavery and, not surprising, (the bounty offer) bonded Somalia together to resist ‘foreign invasion’.

The sheer size and bureaucracy of the UNOSOM missions also generated problems. The volume ‘Mending Rips in the Sky: Options for Somalia Communities in the 21st century’, edited by Hussein M. Adam and Richard Ford, includes a chapter by Charles Geshekter which summarizes a host of problems and the sour relations they engendered. The UN was hampered by bureaucratic bickering, overt hostility towards Somalis, poor political intelligence, and misguided attempts to rehabilitate warlords into political leaders and then later efforts to imprison them. Somalis wondered if the UN was an occupation force that intended to turn the country into a trusteeship run by foreign experts and young westerners. As few Somalis got UN jobs, many charged that UNOSOM suspiciously resembled the Siyad regime by intercepting funds from abroad. Somalis around Mogadishu viewed the UN’s multinational bureaucracy that was backed by armed forces who fired civilians, as the “New White Warlords”, just another faction siphoning off money. Eventually, even American military officers adopted the Somali view of the UN bureaucracy as a “self-licking ice cream cone”. The UNOSOM missions failed blatantly in their main goals of establishing a central government and a system of law and order – to the detriment not only of Somalia but also of the image of the United Nations in the eyes of the international community. As the DCR Project concluded in Managing Arms in Peace Processes: Somalia, “Not only was the UN unable to restore hope in Somalia, it scurried exist form a stateless society without an organized arm, crushed hopes regarding the ability of the world body to meet credible threats to international peace and security”.

There were some isolated successes. Another study on peacekeeping, ‘South Africa and Peacekeeping in Africa’, edited by Mark Shaw and Jakkie Cilliers of the Institute for Defense Policy, includes an article by Lieutenant Colonel Martin Rupiah on the experience of the Zimbabwean contingent in Somalia for the UNOSOM 11 mission. The contingent felt it had inadequate advance information about many aspects of its mission – everything from the availability of potable water to the diversity of religious belief in Somalia. It also found, however, that prior experience in the Bush war in Rhodesia was highly relevant to the Somalia development. For all the failures of the mission as a whole, the Zimbabwean contingent did experience some successes, and became particularly aware of the dynamic nature of their relations with the local population. At first the local community distrusted it, but each small success on its part engendered greater trust on the part of the community, and the cooperation thereby gained (such as information on bandits, ambush, and mines) became very helpful in its next stage of action.

An account of one particular aspect of the operations of the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) reveals the difficult relations among different national contingents with any UN mission, as well as between any contingent and the local population. In Rupiah’s account, Children in the area where the ZNA operated followed UNITAF (United Task Force, a UN empowered, US led multinational force) patrols begging for food and snacks that were usually part of the ration packs of First World Force. However, for the ZNA, surviving on a workman’s

“rat-pack”, these luxuries were absent. When the children failed to procure any “goodies”, they became aggressive, throwing stones and harassing the patrols continually. In exasperation, it was suggested that the establishment of a school might get the children off the streets and stop them from pestering the patrols. When this idea was broached with trepidation to the Elders Committee, the commanders were pleasantly surprise at the enthusiasm of parents who proceeded to implement the idea with a minimum of delay, much to the relief of the soldiers.

This incident suggests the resentment that may be latent between differently endowed national contingents. It also underscores the importance of good relations and cooperation with the local population. In the instance, the ZNA’s activities were hindered not by committed armed combatants rejecting a peace plan but children throwing stones. The account also draws attention to how little public infrastructure UN troops can expect to encounter when deployed into a situation of conflict
not only roads and bridges, but even schools may be lacking. Regardless to superb efforts at management of complex second-generation peacekeeping missions, such obstacles can continue to obstruct success.

3.2.2 Mozambique

The UN peacekeeping mission in Mozambique, ONUMOZ, is credited with much greater success. That success was built in part on the failure of the UN peacekeeping mission in Angola, where fighting was resuming even as the mission for Mozambique was being planned. In part, it would appear no amount of planning or coordination would have led to peace in Angola. The parties to the conflict there were both committed to and capable of continuing the violence. Nonetheless, the
scale of the fiasco was sharp defeat for the United Nations and had a direct effect on its subsequent engagements.

In ‘Mozambique: UN Peacekeeping in Action, 1992-94’, Richard Synge considers the impact of the experience in Angola on the mission for Mozambique. According to Synge, the failure of UN peacekeeping in Angola persuaded the UN Security Council of the need for a much more substantial and comprehensive mission in Mozambique. Following, “the catastrophic aftermath of the Angolan elections, (the international community) could ill afford a further conflagration in Southern Africa”, notes Synge. “The Angola precedent fed directly into planning for Mozambique”. The ONUMOZ mission was therefore a much larger undertaking that earlier efforts in Angola.

ONUMOZ was successful in many respects, including stopping the parties from returning to conflict, organizing elections, reestablishing a democratic political structure, and resettling refugees and displaced population. The mission’s achievement in demobilization was particularly notable, but here credit goes also to the war-weary nation and to the parties to the conflict. Whose ranks were ready to stop the conflict? Indeed, when demobilization met with logistical or political obstacles, it was often the combatants themselves who insisted on its continuation. They staged protest, mutinies, and riots, demanding immediate demobilization whenever this process stalled. Synge gives considerable credit to the actions of soldiers from both sides of the civil wars, “whose desire to rejoin civilian life was most effective limitation on the parties’ chance returning to war”.  Despite its overall success, however, the UN mission in Mozambique did suffer some shortcomings. One of the greatest was the failure to undertake effective disarmament. Synge notes that, “The collection of weapons clearly had a power priority than other aspects of the peace process, and ONUMOZ units were given neither the responsibility nor means to oversee comprehensive disarmament until demobilization was drawing to a close”. This failure in disarmament had implications not only for Mozambique but for its neighbours as well. “ONUMOZ clearly missed the opportunity to reduce the millions of weapons at large in Mozambican society”. Writes Synge, “Crime levels in Mozambique continued to be disturbing after ONUMOZ departed. The easy availability of AK-47 type weapons fueled a flourishing cross-border trade in South Africa and other countries, with an impact upon security and stability throughout the region”.

The immense size of ONUMOZ contributed to its important achievements – but also ultimately to its failings. The disparity in resources between the well-endowed peacekeeping mission and the nation of Mozambique generated resentment. While Mozambique could not tax ONUMOZ, it did refuse all exemptions requested for non- governmental organizations imports of medicine, seed, tools, vehicles, and computers. Synge also argues that the scale of ONUMOZ may have had a detrimental effect on Mozambique’s capacity to manage its own problems and long-term development needs. Determined to prevent another failure like that experienced in Angola, the UN had crafted a mission that was as far-reaching and comprehensive as possible and that therefore “tended to be invasive and destabilizing to, rather than creative and supportive of, the shaky structures of the Mozambican state and society” Synge notes that from December 1993 to December 1994, ONUMOZ and the international community “effectively displaced the normal functions of government. The short-term priorities of that period diverted attention from Mozambique’s longer-term requirements for social and economic reconstruction and ironically – and perhaps inadvertently – derailed the government’s own efforts to reform and restructure the state and economy. The undermining of the already weak
authority of the state spurred corruption and further weakened the capacities of states agencies”.

In Synge’s assessment, by the end of the peacekeeping mission Mozambique “had increased rather than shaken off its dependence on international financial and humanitarian assistance, and the voice of ordinary Mozambicans were in danger of being drowned out by the agendas of international development agencies”. From his assessment of many discrete components of ONUMOZ. Synge is left with a few fundamental questions on the need for and impact of such a large peacekeeping mission.

One of the most persistently difficult questions to answer relates to the actual need for an operation of the ambitious size, scope, and expense of ONUMOZ, which cost at least $700 million, to resolve the political, military, and humanitarian problems of a poor country with a national gross domestic product of only $1.5 billion. By the time it was withdrawn, ONUMOZ had come to be seen by many as a sledgehammer employed to crack a relatively small nut, and its disengagement was broadly accepted and welcomed by both its paymasters and its beneficiaries.


Peacekeeping missions remain one of the more effective ways of quickly bringing conflicts and warring entities to the peace table and terminating wars. However, this is usually done at the price of human lives, massive financial inputs and time. Sometimes, these missions succeed, often they fail. While extensive planning and synergy is required during implementation, getting the locals to support the peace efforts has remained one of the most difficult aspects of peacekeeping. Somalia and Mozambique presented two cases of failure and success that have been of immense lessons for the UN and the peacekeeping community.


We have examined the United Nations peacekeeping efforts and the kinds of problems usually associated with peacekeeping. We also examined issues of military orientation and training, disarmament and the lessons from the missions in Somalia and Mozambique.


  1.  “Consent is the most significant element in a disarmament process” Discuss.ii) Examine the UN Peacekeeping missions to Somalia and Mozambique. What are the lessons from these missions?


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