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South Africa and the African Peace and Security Architecture

Anthoni van Nieuwkerk, 26 March 2014

This report interprets South Africa’s contribution to the evolution and performance of the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA) of the African Union (AU). It examines the evolution of APSA, provides an overview of the post-apartheid South African government’s Africa policy, and concludes with some insights derived from interviews with South African government officials and analysts. 

The key finding is that the South African government displays paradoxical behaviour regarding APSA. On the one hand, it exercises considerable “soft” power and influence throughout Africa, which the report describes as “peace diplomacy”. To a large degree it also shaped the establishment of the AU and its APSA. On the other hand, South Africa underplays its current presence in APSA decision-making structures and processes, thereby undermining its ability to influence the strategic peace and security agendas of key multilateral bodies such as the Southern African Development Community, the AU and, by extension, the United Nations. Several factors underlie this phenomenon, including a tendency to over-extend the country’s diplomatic role. However, the report suggests that this is because of the South African government’s inability to give effect to a comprehensive national security policy framework that ought to guide its choices and behaviour regarding the African peace and security terrain.

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