Conceding sovereignty: negotiating Africa’s security architecture

Research output: PhD ThesisPhD-Thesis – Research and graduation external


This thesis assesses the ability of prominent international relations theories to explain the ceding of governmental authority to an international institution in a region where state sovereignty had traditionally been considered a sacrosanct principle. Since its establishment in 2002, the African Union (AU) has utilised the African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA) as its framework for responding to regional conflicts and crises. Through APSA, the AU’s remit includes issues such as democracy and human rights promotion that historically had been considered internal matters for African governments. Furthermore, the Architecture provides the Union with a mandate to intervene on a member’s territory under certain circumstances, such as genocide or war crimes. Using the core assumptions of three theoretical approaches – neorealism, liberalism and constructivism – predictions are formulated across two stages of institution creation and design. The first set relates to the process of preference formation within states, while the second addresses the progression and outcome of negotiations between governments. By using the establishment and design of APSA as a case study to test the accuracy of the predictions, the ability of each approach to explain social reality is assessed. The analysis focuses primarily on South Africa and Nigeria, two of the most influential states involved in the process of creating APSA, though the preferences and negotiation strategies of other states are also considered. An extensive selection of primary and secondary documents is drawn upon, as well as interviews with a variety of participants. The interview sample includes several AU officials and some of the most high-ranking foreign policy actors from the governments of South African President Thabo Mbeki and his Nigerian counterpart Olusegun Obasanjo. Ultimately, the research demonstrates that the interests of influential domestic actors in achieving and consolidating political and developmental gains are critical to understanding the organisational design of APSA. The prevailing international normative environment also bore influence over the institution’s form, as increasing democratisation in the 1990s and a series of catastrophic African conflicts prompted policymakers to rethink security cooperation.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Limerick
Publication statusPublished - 2019
Externally publishedYes


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