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A History of United Nations Missions in Africa

The United Nations (UN) conducts a number of peacekeeping missions throughout the world. Beginning in 1960, the UN began missions in various countries in Africa. While just one mission occurred through the 1990s, turmoil in Africa escalated and the majority of missions were run from 1989 on.

Many of these peacekeeping missions were the result of civil wars or ongoing conflicts in African countries, including Angola, the Congo, Liberia, Somalia, and Rwanda.

Some of the missions were brief while others lasted years at a time. To confound things, some missions replaced previous ones as tensions in the countries escalated or the political climate changed.

This period is one of the most dynamic and violent in modern African history and its important to review the missions that the UN carried out.

ONUC - UN Operations in the Congo

Mission Dates: July 1960 through June 1964

Context: Independence from Belgium and the attempted secession of the Katanga province

Outcome: Prime Minister Patrice Lumumba was assassinated, at which point the mission was expanded. The Congo retained the secessionist province of Katanga and the mission was followed by civilian aid.

UNAVEM I - UN Angola Verification Mission

Mission Dates: January 1989 through May 1991

Context: Angolas lengthy civil war

Outcome: Cuban troops were withdrawn one month ahead of schedule, having completed their mission.

The mission was followed by UNAVEM II (1991) and UNAVEM III (1995).

UNTAG - UN Transition Assistance Group

Mission Dates:  April 1990 through March 1990

Context: Angolan Civil War and Namibias transition to independence from South Africa

Outcome: South African troops departed Angola. Elections were held and a new constitution approved.

Namibia joined the UN.

UNAVEM II - UN Angola Verification Mission II

Mission Dates: May 1991 through February 1995

Context: Angolan Civil War

Outcome: Elections were held in 1991, but the results were rejected and violence escalated. The mission transitioned to UNAVEM III.

UNOSOM I - UN Operation in Somalia I

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