Strengths and Limitations of Peacekeeping essay


The world has seen conflict after conflict,ever since human beings wanted to dominate over each other. Themotivation behind the dominance is to exploit the resources in thecustody of the other party. Human conflict dates back to the days ofearly civilization. The effects of conflict could range from minor todire- but never positive. Among the most common effects of modernwarfare, include mass casualties- such as the Vietnamese war-,massive displacement of human beings from their habitats, andprolonged physiological effects of the deadly weapons employed(Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bomb).

Apart from the direct effects of conflict, warcan also lead to unforeseen consequences such as decline in trade,spread in poverty-related diseases and the increase in governmentdependence by orphans, political instability, and loss of patriotism.The severity of these consequences is usually directly proportionalto the duration and magnitude of the conflict. It is for this reasonthat peacekeeping missions come into play to mitigate the effects ofwar.

According to the United Nations (2016),peacekeeping is an important tool used to help countries entangled inconflict to navigate from conflict to peaceful coexistence. Thefunction of peacekeeping missions is to protect civilians, preventcounter insurgency, and counter terror in the event that the missioninvolves conflict with terrorists (Duncanet al, 2008). The UN peacekeepingoperates under a code of ethics that ensures it remains a credibleforce in conflict resolution.

The three basic principles of UN peacekeepingMissions are consent by both parties, impartiality, and non- use offorce except in self-defense or defense of the mandate. The UNpeacekeeping missions have also evolved to include the provision ofhumanitarian aid in their agenda. Thorough humanitarian aid, thepeacekeeping forces can ensure that the civilians they protect willremain alive to see the conflict come to an end. The peacekeepingmissions also involve setting up social amenities such as makeshiftschools and healthcare centers.

UNpeacekeeping Missions have been very active on the politicallyvolatile continent of Africa. Currently, about 80% of UN peacekeepingforce is active in African conflict areas (Renwick, 2015). Theyinclude the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Sudan, and Mali.Most of these conflicts are a result of Islamic fundamentalism. Theconflicts in Sudan, Somalia and Mali are a result of the rising ofIslamist militant groups. The UN is also in collaboration withvarious other regional bodies to help quell conflict especially inAfrican countries. For instance, the UN is currently in collaborationwith the African Union (AU), which is responsible for AMISOM missionin war-torn Somalia. Through the African Union, the UN meets part ofthe budget for the counter terrorism operations of the peacekeepingmission in Somalia. The UN has also collaborated with other regionalbodies such as those in the Caribbean and the Middle East for thepurposes of ending conflict.

Peacekeepingmissions have become a common occurrence in the post-war universe.Their activities have been witnessed in several areas of conflict.However, the question still remains is peacekeeping an effective wayof conflict resolution? This paper seeks to answer the aforementionedquestion by exploring the strengths and limitations of peacekeepingas a conflict resolution tool.

Strengths of peacekeeping in conflictresolution

Availabilityof resources

According to Bellamyand Williams (2013), Peacekeepingoperations are often well coordinated following a long period ofexperience in the field. These operations already have the blueprintand a credible protocol that they base their operations. The chain ofcommand for responding to emergencies is elaborate, the means ofdispatching peacekeeping troops are well thought of, and the fundsused to run the mission are already in place. Peacekeeping missionsdraw their resources from the powerful nations that fund theorganization(Bellamy &amp Williams, 2013).In the case of the UN, the USA, and other developed countries caterfor a bigger percentage of its annual budget. The missions alsoreceive military support from countries that harbor large armiesmilitary forces of highly populated countries such as Korea, India,and Pakistan, make a greater proportion of the UN peacekeeping troops(Bellamy &amp Williams, 2013).In addition, these troops are always available for dispatch intoconflict areas.

A good example of a situation where theresources of the UN worked in its advantage was during the SouthSudan conflict of 2012. The conflict in the world’s newest nationwas between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy turned into arebel leader, Riek Machar. In a span of two weeks, the country’sarmy was split into two- one faction pledging allegiance to thepresident and the other to the rebel leader (Smith, 2014). The UNsprang into action immediately before the conflict could escalateinto something bigger. Within a few days, the UN used its numerousresources to evacuate civilians from the site of conflict.Expatriates from the various embassies in the country were quicklywhisked away using UN resources.

The deployment of peacekeeping troops was alsoa major contributor to the minimal number of casualties suffered inthe short-lived conflict. The troops had better equipment that theSouth Sudanese warring factions because they were drawn fromcountries with well trained forces. Although the conflict went on fora few years, it was not as dire as the previous conflicts that thecountry had experienced.

Peacekeepingmissions are Credible and recognized

Peacekeeping missions draw their credibilityfrom the international organizations that they work for including theUN and the AU. Under the banner of these organizations, warringfactions can recognize them as peacekeepers and not intruders in theconflict. The little causality suffered by the peacekeeping troops isa clear indication of how they receive much recognition in theconflict zones. According to a report by the U.S. GovernmentAccountability Office, GAO (2016), out of the 150,000 troops deployedin various conflict zones in the world by the UN, about 1,500 died inthe line of duty. Peacekeeping operations are also deemed crediblebecause of the principle of impartiality, which is a major drivingforce. Before getting involved in any conflict, both parties to theconflict should agree to the peacekeeping operation. In addition, therole played by these missions in ending previous conflicts alsoincreases their recognition in conflict areas.

Peacebuilding in addition to Peacekeeping

Accordingto O’Neil (2012), ever since the end of the cold war, the UnitedNations upgraded from peacekeeping to peacekeeping with peacebuilding. In the concept of peace building, the responsibleorganization sets up structures to ensure that stability prevailseven when the peacekeeping troops leave the country. Apart fromproviding military support, modern peacekeeping missions haveresorted to the development of democracy and incorporation ofdiplomacy in their operations.

Normally, negotiators from the peacekeepingorganization will approach the parties to a conflict asking them tosettle their differences. In some instances, especially where theconflict is of low magnitude, the international organizations havesent negotiators to quell the violence (Duncanet al, 2008). In some instances,the parties to a conflict have agreed to a peace settlement insteadof going to a full-fledged war. In some instances, the peacenegotiators have talked the warring parties into working together forthe sake of the innocent lives lost in the war for power.

TheSouth Sudanese conflict between President Salva Kiir and former vicepresident Riek Machar saw the involvement of UN peacekeeping forcesand diplomatic emissaries. Among the leaders assigned to draft apeace agreement were East Africa’s former presidents (Sengupta,2015). The UN used the peacekeeping troops to safeguard the civiliansand the peace negotiator to ensure that the long war did not escalateinto something bigger. Through the combined efforts of thepeacekeeping troops and diplomacy, the two warring factions were ableto come to an agreement in 2016.

The UN diplomacy team drafted a peace agreementthat bound the two leaders to work together and stop war. Althoughthe leaders had refused to sign numerous peace deals in the past,they agreed to append their signature of the most recent peaceagreement that saw Salva Kiir retain his presidency and Riek Machartake over the position of vice president. As a result of peacekeepingin collaboration with peace building, the South Sudanese can nowenjoy a stable democracy.

Limitations of Peacekeeping

For a long time now, peacekeeping has receivedsharp criticism for its failure to bring peace in some conflicts thathave been running for a long time. In some instances, the magnitudeof the conflict has escalated despite the presence of peacekeepingtroops in the area of conflict. This inefficacy of peacekeepingmissions is a result of an amalgamation of limitations that will bediscussed herein.

BothParties to the conflict are not willing to negotiate

Just like a mediator to a conflict, the role ofany peacekeeping mission is to see to it that the warring factionscome to a common ground (Winckler, 2015). However, it so happens thatsometimes the warring factions do not want to relent on theirposition. As a rule of the thumb, for there to be a solution to theconflict, both parties should be willing to compromise. During such astalemate, the role of peacekeeping forces usually becomes hard inthat they are trying to bring peace to people who are not ready towelcome peace yet. In other words, the peacekeeping mission isinvolved in a crisis that has no end in sight. Even the newly foundeddiplomacy wing of peacekeeping will find such a situation a hard nutto crack because both parties are not willing to sit on the sametable to see an end to the looming crisis.

An example of a peacekeeping mission thatinvolves parties that are not willing to bury the hatchet is theAMISOM mission in Somalia. The conflict in Somalia involves the newlyelected democratic government of Somalia and the IslamicFundamentalist group, Al-Shabaab (Guha-Sapir &amp Ratnayake, 2009).Ever since the collapse of the Somali government in 1991, the countryhas been in a state of anarchy. Several Islamist groups havecontrolled the country with the most successful being Al-Shabaab. Theinsurgent group has been involved in numerous atrocities such aspiracy in the Indian Ocean, mass murders, and suicide bombings.

The conflict in Somalia arises from the factthat the Islamist group does not want to relinquish its control overparts of Somalia despite the country having a legitimately electedgovernment. On the other hand, the government is not willing toprovide amnesty to Al-Shabaab militants if they decide to lay downtheir arms. This scenario has made it difficult for the peacekeepersbecause they are entangled in a war that is not about to end. Bothparties of the conflict are not willing to compromise their demands.

Hostilityand Lack of Tactical Support from the Locals

According to Beardsley and Gleditsch (2009),most of the peacekeeping effort lack tactical support, hence limitingtheir efficiency in conflict resolution. It so happens that most ofthe troops in a peacekeeping mission trace their origin to foreigncountries. According to the UN statistics, countries that provide thelargest number of troops include India, Pakistan, and Nepal (Duncanet al, 2008). When these foreigntroops go to another country for a peacekeeping mission, the alientopography will limit their potential to perform their mission well.The situation is worse when these foreign troops do not receivetactical support from the authorities in the area of conflict. Quiteoften, the parties to a conflict view the peacekeepers as mereintruders hence do not go ahead to give them the support that theyneed in a foreign land. Without the tactical support from the locals,the foreign troops get a hard time in collecting intelligence orlaunching a counterinsurgency.

This limitation is evident in the peacekeepingmission of AMISOM in Somalia. Most of the troops in the mission comefrom neighboring countries, including Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda, andRwanda (Freeear&amp De Coning, 2013). The percentage of the newlyformed Somali People’s Army in the Mission is negligible at itsbest. In addition, the Somali Army has no experience in tacticalsupport since it is primarily composed of people who were civiliansabout five years ago.

The lack of tactical support from the SomaliMilitary forces the AMISOM troops to conduct their operations withouta blueprint to guide them through the foreign land. Lack of supportfrom the local community, which believes that the Peacekeepers areintruders, has denied the troops access to intelligence regarding thekey settlement areas for the Islamist militants. This limitation hasreduced the inefficiency of the AMISOM troops in Somalia and in someinstances, the consequences have been fatal. In January 2016, theAl-Shabaab militants attacked a camp of AMISOM killing over 200soldiers in an attack that lasted the whole night.

Lackof a standing army for the peacekeeping organization

Most of the organizations that are involved inthe peacekeeping missions lack an army of their own. Instead, theyrely on the good will of member states to advance well trained armiesin these operations. Lack of a standing is a major setback topeacekeeping missions because it makes it almost impossible torapidly deploy troops in the zone of conflict (GAO, 2016). Theorganizations have to contact their member countries to supply themwith troops who will then have to organize themselves into variousplatoons in order before deployment in conflict zones. The wholeprocess of contacting member states to provide troops and organizingthem into groups, could take months. Meanwhile, innocent civilianswill be dying in the hands of the warring parties. The act of drawingforces from different countries, with different kinds of training,always impairs unified command and control.

In the case of the Somalia crisis, unifiedcommand and control is a very big issue. The peacekeeping troops fromEthiopia, Uganda, Burundi, and Kenya do not have a central commandpoint. Troops from different countries are deployed in differentareas of the conflict. They operate in autonomous divisions making itnearly impossible to have a central command point. Decisions made bythe AMISOM need to through the ground commanders of the autonomousdivisions, which creates further delays in the operations.

This mode of operation has also impairedcontrol over the activities of the troops tasked with maintainingpeace. AMISOM has no machinery or monitoring the actions of itsconstituent troops to ensure that operate within their mandate.Reports have hit the newsrooms claiming that Kenyan soldiers underthe banner of AMISOM are engaging in illegal charcoal and sugar tradewith the Islamist insurgents they are supposed to fight (Freeear &ampDe Coning, 2013). Although the Kenyan troops have come out stronglyto condemn the accusation, traces of illegal sugar in Kenya areevidence enough.

ScarceResources and Personnel

Most of the organizations that get involved inpeacekeeping often have other responsibilities that require financialcommitment. In the case of the UN, it makes budgetary allocations forother sectors such as health, education, and climate change. Theamount of resources directed towards peacekeeping and conflictresolution often makes a negligible portion of the UN budget. Thesame applies to the AU. The few resources the organization has arespread over, amid other factors that affect human populationsincluding poor governance, democracy, education and public health.

The wide scope of activities that theseorganizations engage in explaining why there are few resources leftto conduct peacekeeping missions effectively. The number personnelthat these international organizations can commit to peacekeepingefforts are limited by the budgetary allocations for the project. Theequipment used in the mission will also depend on the amount of moneyallocated in the organization’s annual budget.

The Somali conflict is an example of apeacekeeping mission that lacks enough resources to conducting theexercise effectively. Ever since the deployment of AMISOM forces inSomalia in 2013, they have been unable to take control of keyAl-Shabaab strongholds owing to the limited resources they have attheir disposal. The forces are so stretched out that they cannotreach deep into the villages where Al-Shabaab militants conductrecruitment and training exercises. The small reinforcements by NATOforces, in the form of drone strikes, have not done much in aidingthe progress of AMISOM forces. The forces also lack surveillanceequipment to keep an eye on the current activities of the insurgentgroup.


In conclusion, peacekeeping missions draw theirmain strength from the fact that they are affiliated to credibleinternational organizations. The numerous resources and peaceambassadors that join this mission, further increase theircredibility. An example of a conflict that was managed by thecollaboration between peacekeeping and peace building was the SouthSudanese civil war of 2012 to 2015. Limitations of peacekeepingmissions include non- cooperation from the local community, lack ofadequate resources, and lack of a central command center.

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