China’s contribution to UN peacekeeping missions in Africa is growing. While China’s foreign aid and investment in Africa has been well documented, less familiar is its key role in peacekeeping in troubled regions.
In Africa, for example, Chinese peacekeepers have served under the United Nations flag in various peacekeeping missions across Africa since the early 1990s.
Over the years, Chinese blue helmets have served in Western Sahara, Burundi, Cote d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia and Eritrea, Mozambique, Liberia, Sierra Leone and Sudan.
It is important to note that the Chinese peacekeepers in Africa have served mainly as non-combatant troops in medical and engineering roles. The South Sudan crisis points to China’s emergent peacekeeping role. After South Sudan became independent in July 2011, China continued to send peacekeeping troops to the UN mission areas in the country.
The African Union is also working to put in place a Common African Defence and Security Policy. One of the components of this policy is a standby brigade to respond to African conflicts within the context of comprehensive peace and security architecture. But progress has been slow owing to various challenges.
Meanwhile the 11th contingent of Chinese peacekeepers in South Sudan is wrapping up its mission. The team of 331 officers and soldiers has been on the ground for eight months and they’ve made a vital contribution to the conflict-ridden country. However the 12th Chinese contingent takes over at the end of March 2013.
China has deployed peacekeepers to several hotspots in Africa. But the mission to Mali is the first where they have a combat mandate. The West African country is struggling to recover from a jihadist rebellion – and it remains volatile and dangerous. Last year, China bolstered the UN mission there by sending in troops.As the African Union struggles to put in place a common African Defence and Security architecture, including a Standby Brigade to respond to African conflicts the big question is: How can China help Africa in her quest to build a self-sustaining conflict response mechanism?
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