(Bloomberg) --

The African Union is urging its international partners to overhaul the way they finance peace and security operations to help the continent counter the growing scourges of terrorism, extremism and coups more effectively.

The AU needs “adequate, predictable and sustainable funding” to play a more proactive role in maintaining security, and wants access to the obligatory payments countries make to finance the United Nations budget and peacekeeping operations, said Bankole Adeoye, the continental body’s peace and security commissioner. 

“Peacekeeping is not what we need, it is peace enforcement,” Adeoye said in an interview ahead of a summit between European and African leaders in Brussels this week. Without a shift in how security operations are conducted, the world is signing up to “a lifetime of just protecting civilians and not addressing the solution,” he said. 

Islamist insurgencies have been gaining momentum in several African nations, with West Africa’s Sahel region particularly hard hit. The continent has also seen five coups and one failed putsch over the past 18 months, highlighting the extent of insecurity it confronts. African leaders plan to discuss the power grabs, as well as counter terrorism and violent extremism at a special summit that will likely be held in Accra, Ghana’s capital, in mid-March.

Until recently, the lion’s share of Africa’s international peace and security operations were financed through the EU’s so-called African Peace Facility, which funds forces fighting Boko Haram in Nigeria, al-Shabab in Somalia and numerous extremist groups in the Sahel region. The U.S. has also provided equipment, training and other bilateral support to some African armies. 

With the governments of Mali, Chad and Burkina Faso and other nations struggling to curb extremism, the EU has begun changing the way it funds its military operations. Last year, it established the European Peace Facility, which allows for off-budget bilateral defense deals between Europe and African governments. 

The AU’s peace and security council last week approved a “move by the European Union to provide direct bilateral support to any member state” attempting to combat terrorism and violent extremism, Adeoye said. The AU has also been informed that the European Peace Facility may help support countries in procuring weaponry, he said. 

Adeoye criticized arms embargos that have been imposed against some of the AU’s 55 member states, such as South Sudan, Sudan and Central African Republic, saying they were spurring governments to hire foreign mercenaries to maintain security and illegally deplete their natural resources to raise funds to pay them. The bloc is particularly worried about the use of private military forces and foreign fighters in the Sahel and Libya, he said.

The deployment of contractors working for Russia’s Wagner Group in Mali has led to tensions between its government and Western nations who’ve been funding counter-terrorism missions of their own in the country, which saw military coups in August 2020 and May last year.

Other interview highlights:

  • The AU and UN have begun working on a joint strategy assessment for security in the Sahel.
  • In Somalia, a 15-year-old military task force called AMISOM has been transformed into a new structure called the AU Transition Mission, which seeks to wind down peacekeeping operations and transfer security responsibilities to the Somali government.
  • Ex-Nigerian president Olusegun Obasanjo, who the AU appointed as a special envoy to help broker an end to Ethiopia’s 15-month civil war, is making good progress.
  • The AU intends supporting Obasanjo’s intervention by providing him with a senior adviser, political analyst, defense analyst and mediation specialist.

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