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Strategic Communications for Peace Operations: The African Union’s Information War Against al-Shabaab


Journal abstract

Despite widespread agreement that effective strategic communications are a necessary part of complex peace operations, many missions struggle to generate relevant capabilities and implement effective campaigns. This article analyzes the experiences of the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) as a case study of this problem. Specifically, it examines how the United Nations (UN) tried to fill the gap by hiring a consortium of private firms known as the AU-UN Information Support Team (IST) to wage a strategic communications campaign against al-Shabaab. The IST’s goal was to drive, as well as communicate, AMISOM’s success, improve the mission’s media presence, and develop a communications strategy. The IST played an innovative and important function for AMISOM but suffered from several significant challenges that reduced its effectiveness. The conclusion therefore identifies four main lessons from AMISOM’s experiences that could improve strategic communications for peace operations.

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