The director of peace and security at the African Union Commission says 2011 was a challenging year in terms of conflict management.

But, El Ghassim Wane said the continental body made great strides in managing some of the region’s hot conflicts, from Somalia to Libya and the independence of South Sudan.

“I would say that we succeeded in enhancing our operation in Somalia, we have succeeded in helping the Sudanese in organizing a successful self-determination referendum in South Sudan followed by the independence of South Sudan,” he said.

Wane credits the AU peacekeeping mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and the forces of the Federal Transitional Government for what he described as unprecedented progress, including what he called the “forced withdrawal of al-Shabab from Mogadishu.

He acknowledged that some challenges remain to be overcome in Somalia.

“I referred to progress in Somalia, but it does not, of course, mean that the conflict has been fully resolved, far from it.  We are yet to extend further the authority of the Transitional Federal Government.  We need to ensure that the transitional period comes to end in August 2012, and that the steps that have been agreed upon among the Somali stakeholders are indeed implemented,” he said.

Wane said the continental body was also successful in dealing with the conflicts in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt.

The African Union was criticized by some for failing to help bring an early end to the Libyan civil war because of alleged divisions among heads of state who, it was alleged, had personal relationships with deposed Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

“Tunisia is successfully implementing a transition process, Egypt and the conflict in Libya have come to an end, and Egypt and Libya have now embarked on a new transition,” he said.

Regarding Sudan, Wane acknowledged that there are a number of issues of contention remaining between north and South Sudan, including unresolved issues of the Comprehensive Peace Agreement.

“I fully concord with the fact that there is a lot to be done to sort out the post-secession issues and ensure that the two countries adhere to, and implement, their decision of two viable states living side-by-side and cooperating on issues of common concern,” Wane said.

He said the AU High Level Implementation Panel headed by former South African President Thabo Mbeki will be working with the two countries in 2012 to deal with those unresolved issues.

On the Democratic Republic of Congo, and that country’s recent election impasse, Wane said the African Union is appealing to all Congolese to overcome the challenges facing their country.

“Our take is that we need to respect the institutions that are provided for by the constitution of Congo and, if there are complaints, they should be challenged through existing mechanisms and processes.  But, of course, beyond that, there is [a] need for Congolese to work together to overcome the challenges facing their country,” Wane said.