R2P: Security norm vs regime change

02 Apr, 2017 - 00:04 0 Views

The Sunday Mail

Dr Christopher Mushohwe —
In this week’s instalment of the series “The Regime Change Agenda” based on the book by Dr Nyaradzo Mtizira-Nondo, we publish the last part of Information, Media and Broadcasting Services Minister Dr Christopher Mushohwe’s exploration of the concept of the “responsibility to protect” in international relations.


In a dangerous world marked by overwhelming inequalities of power and resources, sovereignty is for many states their best — and sometimes seemingly their only — line of defence.

But sovereignty is more than just a functional principle of international relations.

For many states and peoples, it is also recognition of their equal worth and dignity, a protection of their unique identities and their national freedom, and an affirmation of their right to shape and determine their own destiny.

In recognition of this, the principle that all states are equally sovereign under international law was established as a cornerstone of the United Nations Charter (Article 2.1)(ICISS, 2001).

However, for all the reasons mentioned already, the conditions under which sovereignty is exercised —and intervention is practised — have changed dramatically since 1945.

Many new states have emerged and are still in the process of consolidating their identity.

Evolving international law has set many constraints on what states can do, and opt only in the realm of human rights.

The emerging concept of human security has created additional demands and expectations in relation to the way states treat their own people.

And many new actors are playing international roles which were previously more or less the exclusive preserve of states.

All that said, sovereignty does still matter.

It is strongly arguable that effective and legitimate states remain the best way to ensure that the benefits of the internationalisation of trade, investment, technology and communication will be equitably shared.

Those states which can call upon strong regional alliances, internal peace and a strong and independent civil society, seem clearly best placed to benefit from globalisation.

They will also seem to be most respectful of human rights.

And in security terms, a cohesive and peaceful international system is far more likely to be achieved through the co-operation of effective states, confident of their place in the world, than in an environment of fragile, collapsed, fragmenting or generally chaotic state entities (MV Naidu, 2001).

The AU and R2P

The rise of new insecurities and the shift from the Organisation of African Unity to the African Union also saw the new organisation incorporating and advocating the importance of moving away from a culture of non-interference to one of non-indifference.

The AU drew lessons from the OAU and has thus adopted a much more interventionist approach.

The AU’s Peace and Security Council was established in 2004 with a mandate to conduct peace-making, peace-keeping and peace-building on the African continent.

“Knowingly or unknowingly”, the authors of the Constitutive Act of the AU effectively enshrined R2P in their document.

Article 4(h) of this Act recognises the right of the Union to intervene in a member state pursuant of the decision of the Assembly in respect of grave circumstances, namely war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.

In particular, Article 7 (e) of the Protocol of the AUPSC states that the Council can recommend to the Assembly of Heads of States and Government intervention on behalf of the Union in Member States in respect of grave circumstances namely war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide as defined in relevant intervention, conversions and instruments.

The adoption of these legal provisions gave the AU powers to intervene in internal situations in any state that may lead to atrocities against minority groups or communities at risk.

Thus explicitly stated, the AU has the right to intervene in line with the concept of the responsibility to protect (R2P)(ICISS, 2001).

In reference to Article 3 and 4 (a) and (b) of the Constitutive Act of the AU, the objectives of the Union shall be, among others: To defend the sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence of its Member states and to archive greater unity and solidarity. The national sovereignty of states in Africa gets more considerations than the R2P principal.

Attachment to national sovereignty has arisen from the fact that in the last 10 years, the nature of peace-keeping in Africa has changed somewhat, especially the manner in which peace-keeping missions are driven, funded and compromised.

A cursory survey shows that there has been a distinct shift in the peace-keeping field.

The peace-keeping initiative is now being driven by Western powers that have interest in particular African issues.

This new thinking has led to the UN to renege on some of its duties in peace-keeping and ceding its R2P to either “lead states” or regional organisations to deal with crisis in their respective areas.

African countries’ attachment to sovereignty was a deeply emotional experience during the colonial era, which traumatised many of them, and the emotional pain and repercussions of those experiences are yet to disappear.

During the colonial era, most African states became the victims of Western superiority in the organisation and weaponry of warfare.

Nearly all countries in Africa are former colonies which had to wage protracted wars of liberation to achieve their independence and the collective memories of these protracted wars are hard to erase.

The anti-colonial impulse in their world-view thus survives as a powerful sentiment in the collective consciousness of these nations (Ali A. Mazrui, 1986).

Cases in point were, among others, liberation struggles for Algeria, Angola, Guinea-Bissau, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe.

Thus the AU’s Constitutive Act is, therefore, a compromise between the “old and the new world orders” and should not be viewed necessarily as setting a new direction.

African countries continue to be ringside observers; not members of the R2P project design or implementation team.

The ongoing conflict in the Darfur continues to defy logic despite efforts by the AU and UN to resolve it.

More than five years into the conflict, defenceless civilians in the Darfur continue to be at the fore-front of atrocities unleashed by government forces, rebel groups and the Jinjaweed militia.

With millions as Internally Displaced People, others forced into exiled refugees, all Darfuris wish for is nothing but peace. All they want is an end to the misery.

The AU finds itself handicapped.

Its inability to contain the situation in Darfur includes the restricted mandate of AMIS, vicious rebel activities, lack of adequate logistics, and piecemeal cooperation with the Sudanese government and the political divisions within the AU itself.

The AUPSC stands helplessly watching human carnage in Mali, CAR, Eastern DRC, Libya, Egypt and Northern Uganda.

In the case of the Sadc Protocol on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation’s preamble, it is made succinctly clear that,

“. . . recognising and reaffirming the principles of strict respect for sovereignty, sovereign equality, territorial integrity, political independence, good neighbourliness, and interdependence . . .” are of paramount importance (Gareth Evans, 2008).

Strict respect for sovereignty comes as the first principal of Sadc and this understanding may in future be a hindrance to international efforts aimed at human protection.

It thus remains a challenge in dealing with African conflicts that state sovereignty seems to be competing with human security and the R2P norm.

The contradictory hisses embedded in the AU Constitutive Act and its founding Protocol on the question of non-interference in internal affairs of member states adds confusion to the debate.

The political implications of the R2P agenda are criticised on the grounds that they challenge the traditional and upheld role of sovereign states, especially on the African continent.

Regional organisations such as the AU, Sadc, Ecowas and IGAD are regarded as the sole providers of collective security at the expense of sovereign governments.

In most cases, these regional organisations are sponsored by Western states that are pushing not only for the R2P concept, but their own (hidden) geo–political interests as well.

To reinforce the provision stated above, the AU envisaged the establishment of a 32 500-troop African Standby Brigade by 2010.

This force would cooperate with the UN and other sub-regional organisations (Ramesh Thakur, 2011).

At its 21st Ordinary Session of the General Assembly ended on May 27, 2013, the AU adopted “Vision 2063,” a development agenda to guide the continental bloc for the next 50 years.

The AU leaders once again pledged to set up an emergency military force to quell continental conflicts.

South Africa, Uganda and Ethiopia have pledged troops to the proposed interim force, Ramtane Lamamra, AU security Commissioner told reporters at the AU headquarters in Addis Ababa on May 27, 2013.

Although such overtures by the AU are laudable, the organisation lacks capacity in terms of human and material support. The AU does not have the wherewithal to finance R2P.

A case in point is the genocide in Rwanda and the current conflicts in Darfur, Eastern DRC, Northern Uganda, Cote d’Ivoire, Mali and the Central African Republic. In all cases, the OAU or AU was (is) ill-equipped and under-resourced to intervene and resolve the conflicts.

This effectively means the AU has to mobilise the logistical support as well as funding from the international community to ensure R2P is operationalised. France’s military adventure in her former colonies is covered under the R2P.

Not only does France take her former colonies as her “African Provinces”, but establishes and retains military bases in former colonies and is a major actor in the social-economic and political architecture of those countries.

France has publicly indicated that her forces in Mali shall remain deployed there indefinitely.

It is clear that R2P is led by countries with interests in particular countries.

This thinking has led the UN to de-monopolise peace-keeping and ceding R2P to either lead states, regional organisations or the “coalition of the willing”, led by the US or other Western states, which, in most cases, sponsor lead states (financially and militarily, especially for the African continent)

As the lines between peace-enforcement and war have become blurred, enquiries are being made regarding whose agenda the R2P concept is serving.

In this regard, some observers have likened the R2P to a new form of neo-colonialism.

Adebajo observed that the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Counicl have tended to maintain an ambiguous attitude towards regional organisations by rejecting to fund them and then recognising them while attempting to maintain control over certain missions.

The motion is supported by the fact that some UNSC Member States have continued to show greater interests and willingness to sanctions and deployments of peace missions only in their former colonies or “geo strategic spheres of influence”.

Africa is witnessing the new forms of R2P emerging through Western states’ support of rebels and opposition parties.

Cases in point are the so-called Arab Spring in Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Syria.

This is evidenced by the creation, support and sponsorship of opposition political parties in Zimbabwe, Kenya, Mozambique, and Tanzania, to mention but a few.

Observers agree that some of these missions have provided the opportunity for former colonial powers to interfere in internal affairs of their former colonies, especially against unpopular governments using the newly-adopted and controversial forms of interventions through the R2P concept.

Ironically, Western powers are second to none in jealously defending and safe-guarding their national sovereignty against international encroachments.

Building further on the above argument, command structures, logistics, funding, transport and communication for peace-keepers are often Western-planned, sponsored and implemented.

On its own, the AUPSC does not have the means to deploy peace-keeping forces though it might have the political will to intervene (M Malan and J Gormes, 2004).

However, as mentioned elsewhere, Western states will only intervene where their interests are served or when their very interests are threatened.

The West did not intervene in Rwanda, have not intervened in the Orgaden and Northern Uganda, but are vocal on the Eastern DRC crisis. It can only be assumed that the West is vocal to protect its interests in Eastern DRC, its multi-national companies such as Mwana Africa, Tower Resources, H Oil and Minerals Ltd, Glencore International and Falcone.

These multi-national companies are all based and mining in Eastern Congo (E Rogier, 2003).

There are allegations that Mwana Africa controls the Kilo Moto gold fields in Zani, DRC; French tycoons, Jacques and Alvaro Hachuel, control Mwana Africa, which is also involved in Congo’s blood MIBA diamond concessions in Mbuji-Mayi and the cobalt/copper concessions in the Katanga Province.

Tower Resources, S.A Consortium Petros SA and Devine Inspiration and H Oil Minerals Ltd are said to be laying claim to DRC and Ugandan concessions on Lake Albert.

H Oil Minerals Ltd, a European firm, also operates in Sudan and Angola.

This company is closely linked to Marc Rich, a fugitive Swiss financier who for years appeared on the FBI’s list of wanted criminals on charges ranging from trading with embargoed states, tax evasion, racketeering and arms trafficking.

There are claims that Marc Rich was pardoned by former US president Bill Clinton on Clinton’s last day in office.

The Moto Gold Project is located in the Kilo-Moto Goldfields in the north-east of the DRC.

Kilo Moto is alleged to have been the late President Joseph Mobutu’s private mine, but at various stages involving powerful Western interlocutors; “Belgians Yves de Narvan and Damseau family. Roger Lemaire, A Houston (TX insider). (Private interview: Keith Harmon Snow with Okimo, Bunia, March 24, 2007)”.

Moto Gold Partners in Oriental-Eastern DRC include Semens and Ken Overseas whose director, Tiego Moseneke is alleged to be the shadiest architect of Congo’s troubles.

These multi-national corporations, politicians, mineral-resource magnates, wealth hunters and corporate mafia involvement in DRC conflicts demonstrate the complexities and dynamics of the DRC and the Great Lakes Region conflicts.

The R2P concept then becomes questionable not only on normal grounds, but also on the legitimate use of force considered as the “responsibility” of the international community.

As long as African states and governments continue to receive considerable military and technical assistance and budgetary support from outside (especially the West), their decisions in the field of defence, human security and peace-keeping policies will continue to be dictated from outside.

While it has been accepted in principle by the West that human security is global and a public good, reaching such a consensus with African policy-makers in practice remains problematic.


The deep-seated debate between sovereignty and the R2P has left developed and developing nations fuming at each other.

Developing countries continue to see sovereignty as their legal identity in international law and signifies their capacity to make authoritative decisions with regard to the people and resources within their territories.

Protagonists of the R2P norm contend that in signing the Charter, a state accepts the responsibilities of membership following its signature.

While it is generally agreed that there is no transfer or dilution of state sovereignty, there is a necessary characterisation as responsibility in both internal functions and external duties.

Sovereignty as responsibility has a threefold significance; first responsible for the functions of protecting the safety and lives of citizens and promoting of their welfare.

Secondly, it suggests that the national political authorities are responsible to the citizens internally and externally to the international community, meaning that agents of the state are responsible for their actions, and accountable to their acts of commission and omission.

In terms of the core basic principles of the R2P, the primary responsibility for the protection of its people lies with the state itself, and;

◆ where a population is suffering serious harm, as a result of internal war, insurgency, repression or state failure, and where the state in question is unwilling or unable or lacks capacity to halt or avert it, the principle of non-intervention yields to the international responsibility to protect.

◆ The R2P principles for military intervention are premised on; the just cause threshold, precautionary principles, the right authority and operational principles detailed above.

Questions that arise are: who determines when to intervene? Why proponents of the “R2P”and “sovereignty as responsibility” have not signed the protocol and or do not accept application of the same norm on their states and or nationals, e.g. the United States of America and all P5 member states.

◆ Africa seems to be the testing ground for the R2P. Could this be a sign of the developed world’s love and desire to protect the nationals of their former colonies or a regime change agenda wrapped in the R2P norm?

This Chapter was written on the “OAU/AU Anniversary”, May 25, 2013, as a tribute to all the 32 founding fathers/members of the OAU/AU.

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