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Why the Security Council has failed to break the cycle of conflicts and wars in Africa
Barrister Ajayi, EFG; B.Sc., MBA, MA, M. Intl. Law, LL B, LL M, BL
Conflicts and wars are synonymous with humanity because of PIN; a theory propounded by conflict experts which means the Position, Interest and Needs of human beings who are dramatis personae in conflicts and war situations. Though the Security Council is vested with the onerous responsibility of maintaining international peace and security, this paper is of the view that the success attributable to the Security Council in its primary duty in other continents is satisfactory, but not in Africa where conflicts and wars are endemic. Currently, there are on-going wars Congo, South Sudan and Central African Republic while serious armed conflicts are plaguing Nigeria, Kenya and Somalia. The reasons why conflicts and wars continue to be deep-seated in Africa are internal and external. This paper argues that no amount of intervention by the Security Council would possibly end the unfortunate spiral of conflicts and wars in Africa except Africans puts their house in order to frontally address the incessant conflicts and wars with its harrowing consequences on the people of Africa
The Security Council is the organ with primary responsibility, under the United Nations (UN) Charter, for the maintenance of international peace and security. Article 24 of the UN Charter entrust global peace and security to the Security Council while Articles 41 and 42 respectively empowers the Security Council to adopt measures such as economic sanctions, to sever diplomatic relations etc. and should that be inadequate, may order air land and sea military action.
Conflicts has been described as warfare between opposing forces especially a prolonged and bitter but sporadic struggle, it is a disagreement or clash between ideas, principles or people 1 Conflict means the pursuit of incompatible goals by different people or groups, it could mean armed conflict or deadly one; conflict is synonymous with humanity because people have different positions, interests and needs, yet, they must co-exist.
War is a situation of hostile relations between countries, states or factions that leads to fighting between armed forces, especially on land, air or sea battles 2
Despite the sweeping international instruments (legal) authorizing the Security Council with the mandate to break war globally, the Security Council has not been able to effectively stem the tide of conflicts and wars in Africa - a continent which this writer has tagged “habitat of conflicts and wars” because of the below mentioned reasons:
It is a notorious fact that is beyond controversy that the inability of Security Council to agree timeously and deploy United Nations forces where the need arises, accounts for one of the numerous reasons why conflicts and wars fetters in Africa and why the cycle continue unabated; most often times than not, Security Council members dilly-dally when swift decision(s) is required to frontally confront and address conflicts and wars; as a matter of fact, a war is a situation of emergency which requires fast decision and action so as to urgently end the period of hostilities leading to carnage and destruction of valuables and ultimately to restore peace and tranquility; in other words, the prevarication of the Security Council especially in serious conflict or war times is one of the factors why Africa remains a theater of conflicts and wars. The Rwanda genocide remains evergreen in our memories.
1. Microsoft Encarta Dictionary, 2009
Arising from all the foregoing, if one takes into consideration that only about twelve (12) percent of the global population live in Africa, 3 it seems that Africa has experienced more violent conflict than other continents. African wars have also lasted longer, on average they lasted about eight years while the global average is about six and a half years. 4
The question why Africa has seen more wars has been examined by a number of scholars.
Colonial history and proxy wars throughout the Cold War era are often at the core of the argument.
Lack of willingness to contribute forces and logistics (perhaps because of the cost implications) by member states is another reason why conflicts and wars in Africa escalates and unending; members of the United Nations especially the developed ones who have the economic and military capabilities as well as those with meager resources are patently reluctant to contribute men and materials needed to prosecute African conflicts and wars, by so doing, the conflicts and or wars as the case may be, continue to plague and consume human lives and valuable properties while the Security Council politics of prevarication continues.
The Security Council has not been able to break the cycle of conflicts and wars in Africa as a result of the fact that the rehabilitation and reconstruction of infrastructures after conflicts is handled in a haphazard manner, that is, far from being well addressed. The result of wars and conflicts being the proliferation of weapons, especially small arms, as well as the migration and displacement of large numbers of people (who are neither rehabilitated nor catered for) have all contributed to the spread of armed conflict. In several instances, conflicts that started on a national level have spilled over into neighboring countries or have assumed regional dimensions. Currently, the war in Congo and South Sudan (a state which is just two years old), has overriding negative consequences on East African states especially Uganda and Kenya.
3. African Development Bank Report 2008: Dealing with consequences of violent conflicts in Africa: Population data for 2000, data source: WDI 2007.
4. Data source: Uppsala/PRIO Armed Conflict Data Set
Conflicts and wars continue to plague Africa because military solutions via the intervention forces by Security Council do not resolve most conflicts, there is truism in the maxim to the effect that “you cannot cure an effect without removing the underlying causes”; in other words, rather than adopt military solution, the issues that generated the conflicts and wars need to be tackled and it is only after that, that an enduring peace is realizable. Stated in another way, military intervention can hardly proffer a lasting solution when the root causes of conflicts and wars are not remedied.
It is a settled fact that the aftermath of armed conflicts and wars, there are ruined infrastructures, in addition, there is a fractured political and social cohesion, usually, these important issues are either overlooked or neglected which in turn leads to another round of conflicts and wars. Wars and conflicts are indeed costly and to rebuild the ruins of wars is even more costly, after wars and conflicts, there is mistrust and suspicion by both the victor and vanquished, the cessation of hostilities often times mean that warring parties are in a state of armed neutrality, as a result, the fragile peace in existence is likely to be disturbed by any act and or omission of the parties to the conflicts which serves as a catalyst for fresh conflicts and wars.
The lack of strategic and enduring conflict prevention and management by Security Council is one of the reasons why conflicts and wars persist in Africa; as the saying goes, “prevention is better than cure”. The Security Council rather than focus more on prevention of the outbreak of hostilities invest more on deploying peace keeping forces; in most cases, the damages done as a result of ongoing conflicts and wars would be irreversible; further, the managerial approach to conflicts leaves so much to be desired because most African conflicts are ill-managed which as a result, open new wave of hostilities, although, conflicts are part and parcel of human existence but where conflicts are well managed, issues are settled amicably and a win-win situation prevails, however, for the most part, the prevention and management mechanisms of African conflicts and wars are not well addressed, this unfortunate development precipitates fresh conflicts and wars.
The use of punishment and or pardon are far from been well addressed which leads to conflicts - reintegration, educational employment social equity also are not adequately tackled; discharged combatants and child soldiers needs to be re-integrated into normal
civilian life where they should be provided with education, employment and social equity but unfortunately, these ideals are lacking; the displaced combatants and child soldiers understand only one language, “conflicts and wars” - they are constantly in a state belligerence and most often times, they serve as catalyst for fresh hostilities, after all, it is said that “the devil finds work for the idle hand”; the lack of reintegration and unemployment especially for the displaced soldiers sincerely accounts for why Security Council has not been able to break the cycle of conflicts and wars in Africa.
Conflicts and wars in Africa continue because the peacekeeping operations capacity of the United Nations is overstressed and there is poor implementation mandate by the Security Council as well as poor working methods.
Conflicts and wars involves large financial outlays to prosecute, unfortunately since the early 2000s, many countries of the world who hitherto were wealthy now face serious economic crisis and they are being helped by other countries; in such a situation, the allocation of resources to conflicts and wars in Africa has dwindled drastically which development of course accounts for why the Security Council is helpless. Ironically, at a time when the demand for peacekeepers is growing, the supply of United Nations Blue Helmets has shrunk drastically. In the early 1990s, United Nations peacekeeping expanded exponentially in both size and scope. In addition to serving as a buffer between warring factions, the new operations assumed such diverse responsibilities as disarming combatants, repatriating refugees, instilling a respect for human rights, holding elections and even nation-building.
Some of these tasks have proved exceedingly difficult and controversial. The missions also became much more costly on both human and financial scales. For mostly political reasons, the accomplishments of United Nations peacekeeping operations were minimized and their shortcomings emphasized.
In the wake of the difficulties experienced by the United Nations in Somalia in 1993, however, the Council has largely abandoned large-scale, multifaceted peace operations, replacing them with smaller and more specialized monitoring missions. The figures provide dramatic evidence of this downsizing. In 1993, more than 75,000 Blue Helmets were deployed in United Nations peacekeeping operations; by mid-1999, that number had been reduced to fewer than 12,000. In Africa, the reduction has been even starker: in 1993,
United Nations peacekeeping forces numbered almost 40,000; in June 1999, they had dwindled to less than 1,600. Between 1989 and 1993 the Council authorized ten (10) United Nations peacekeeping operations throughout Africa; over the next five (5) years, only five were established. Whereas there were seven concurrent United Nations peacekeeping operations on the continent in 1993, in June 1999 there were three. 5
That Africa was partitioned and colonized is not a subject for debate, the colonial legacy and allegiance of developed countries to factions in African conflicts continue to exacerbate the conflicts and wars because the said colonial masters are invariably biased and as a result, lend their support (funds, arms and ammunition) to factions of their choice and the unsupported factions also seek external influences; this situation rather than lessen the tempo of conflicts in Africa, has in fact worsen it. Thus external intervention by developed countries in internal affairs of African states is one of the causes of conflicts and wars; too often, whenever a conflict arose, the developed world especially during the cold war era arm different groups and nationalities, the plausible explanation for this development are twofold, one, in a bid to sell the piled arms and ammunition, the East or West also support one group against another on the basis ideological philosophies, that is, wars are supported either because communism or capitalism; the civil wars in Angola, Ethiopia and Mozambique are typical examples.
The pursuit of national interest by members of Security Council is another potent reason why conflicts and wars in Africa remain unabated. Security Council members guide and protect their national interests jealously and by so doing, they would only intervene in African conflicts if there is economic gain(s) derivable in such conflicts. It has been argued that the five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council, who are all nuclear powers, have created an exclusive “nuclear club” that predominately addresses the strategic interests and political motives of the permanent members; for example, protecting the oil-rich Kuwait in 1991 but poorly protecting resource-poor Rwandans in 1994. 6
5. Eric G. Berman and Katie E. Sams; Peacekeeping in Africa, The Growing Demand and Dwindling UN Supply Geneva, United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research and the Institute for Security Studies, 2000, 572pp.
6. Rajan, Sudhir Chella (2006). Global Politics and Institutions. GTI Paper Series: Frontiers of a Great Transition (Tellus Institute)
Since three of the five permanent members are also European, and four are predominantly white Western nations, the Security Council has been described as “a pillar of global apartheid” by Titus Alexander, former Chair of Westminster United Nations Association. 7
The aforementioned facts was why there was no intervention in Liberia and Sierra Leone crisis because the said countries had no natural resource worthy of going after by the developed countries with nuclear power. It is so disheartening to note that despite the colonial heritage between Liberia and United States, during the dark hours of Liberia, the United States did nothing to stem the tide of crisis ridden Liberia until ECOMOG - the West African sub-regional peacekeeping force intervened to end the Liberian debacle.
Another criticism of the Security Council involves the veto power of the five permanent nations. The veto power was adopted at the insistence of the Soviet Union and the United States after World War II. According to the by-rules of the UN, a “no” vote by any one permanent Security Council member is enough to strike down any given proposal. Permanent members often use this veto power to strike down measures that run contrary to their individual national interests. For example, the People's Republic of China, which, in 1971, replaced the Republic of China as a permanent Security Council member, has vetoed sparingly, but always and only on issues relating to Chinese national interests. In another example, in the first ten years of the UN's existence, Russia was responsible for 79 vetoes - more than half of all the vetoes cast during that period - and cast them to dispute the U.S.'s refusal to admit all of the Soviet Republics as member states of the UN. In another example of the use of the veto power to advance national interests, between 1982 and today, the U.S. vetoed 32 Security Council resolutions that were critical of Israel. 8 Due to the immense power of the veto, permanent members often now meet privately and then present their resolutions to the full council, which critics from the Global Policy Forum characterize as a fait accompli. 9
7. Alexander, Titus (1996). Unravelling Global Apartheid: an overview of world politics. Polity Press. pp. 158–160.
8. Mearsheimer John et al (March 2006). The Israel Lobby and US Foreign Policy (PDF). KSG Faculty Research Working Paper Series. Harvard University. KSG Working Paper No RWP06-011
9. Childers, Erskine (2 December 1994). Empowering the Peoples in their United Nations. Global Policy Forum
The Security Council's effectiveness and relevance is questioned by some because, in most high-profile cases, there are essentially no consequences for violating a Security Council resolution. During the Darfur crisis, Janjaweed militias, allowed by elements of the Sudanese government, committed violence against an indigenous population, killing thousands of civilians. In the Srebrenica massacre, Serbian troops committed genocide against Bosnians’, although Srebrenica had been declared a UN “safe area” and was even “protected” by 400 armed Dutch peacekeepers. 10 The UN Charter gives all three powers of the legislative, executive, and judiciary branches to the Security Council. 11 This development of course, is a flagrant violation of the well settled principle of separation of power propounded by Montesquieu and globally accepted as a panacea to the popular saying that, absolute power corrupts absolutely.
Another criticism, posed by alternative-media researcher Anup Shah, is that the five permanent members of the UN Security Council are five of the top ten largest arms exporting countries in the world, 12 by this incontrovertible assertion, the pertinent question that comes to a discerning mind is: How can arms and ammunitions’ manufacturer and exporter support the move to end the conflicts and wars in a continent where they are supposed to derive immense revenue? This writer’s view is in the negative. Naturally, the arms and ammunitions manufacturer and exporter would support war!
In his inaugural speech at the 16th Summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in August 2012, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei criticized the United Nations Security Council as having an "illogical, unjust and completely undemocratic structure and mechanism" and called for a complete reform of the body. 13
10. Deni, John R. (2007). Alliance management and maintenance: Restructuring NATO for the 21st century. Ashgate Publishing. p. 71. ISBN 978-0-7546-0-7039-1 "As Serbian forces attacked Srebrenica in July 1995, the  Dutch soldiers escorted women and children out of the city, leaving behind roughly 7,500 Muslim men who were subsequently massacred by the attacking Serbs."
11. Creery, Janet (2004). Read the fine print first. Peace Magazine (Jan–Feb 1994): 20. Retrieved 2011- 12-11.
12. Shah, Anup. The arms trade is big business. Globalissues.org. Retrieved 2012-06-09.
13. Supreme Leader’s Inaugural Speech at 16th NAM Summit. Non-Aligned Movement News Agency. Retrieved 31 August 2012.
Lack of transparency and timely access by Security Council in African conflicts equally accounts for why the global body saddled with the responsibility for international peace and security has not been able to perform its roles as envisaged under the UN Charter
Lack of familiarity of United Nations and Security Council in African affairs institutional designs, working methods, cultural diversities, and native practices and capabilities is also one of the reasons which accounts for Security Council failure in addressing African conflicts, these reasons hardly need further elaboration because the culture, norms, values and philosophies of United Nations and Security Council actors or parties are diametrically opposed to the African ways of life; these fundamental and structural differences no doubt makes Security Council attempts at breaking or stopping wars and conflicts, a chimerical hope.
Before now, a number of reasons have been advanced as to why Security Council could not break the cycle of conflicts and wars in Africa; the causes of conflicts in Africa are due to a myriad of factors but for analytical purpose, the said conflicts could be categorized into internal and external factors, all the afore-stated reasons discussed before now may be classified as external and are thus closely related to exogenous factors, in the following paragraphs, some of internal reasons why conflicts and wars persists and why the Security Council could not stop them are as follows:
One major cause of conflicts in Africa is the poor economy; Africa is by far the least economically developed of all the continents, this accounts for tension which prepares a fertile ground for conflicts in the region as a result of which groups ventilate their anger against one another, the outcome of which is open conflicts, stated otherwise, as long as the poor state of economy persists in the continent of Africa, no amount of outside intervention would rid the continent of conflicts and wars; added to the foregoing is that though Africa is blessed with abundant resources but unfortunately, the said resources are mismanaged by inept, corrupt and sit-tight leaders.
The poor political pedestal on which most African states are founded is another veritable cause of conflicts and wars in Africa in that there is no manifestation of true democracy based on free and fair election where the electorates have the liberty to choose who shall lead or govern them; this development no doubt is an harbinger to conflicts which
automatically leads to political instability as attested to by the crave for power by dissatisfied majority or minority and its accompanying upheavals.
Beside the above, most African states are malformed and weak; for the most part, the said states were not ripe for independence either politically or economically, thus, the sovereignty secured from the colonial masters could at best be described as “flag independence” which strict senso means that the foundation of the states were structurally rickety, deficient and weak leading to conflicts amongst the entities and groups comprising the African states.
It should be earmarked at this juncture that ancient and deep rooted hatreds amongst the constituent nationalities accounts for one of the causes of conflicts in Africa; before independence, many tribes and groups had fought one kind of war or another, the victor and the vanquished as a result, thus have age-long animosity against one another, such hatreds are inherited and transmitted from one generation to another so much that education and civilization has not been able to obliterate the apathy felt by different groups of people.
The “wrapping” together of incompatible groups and people during the partitioning of Africa by the colonial masters is a veritable cause of conflicts in Africa; it is beyond controversy that harmonious cohabitation and peaceful co-existence would be a pipe dream when people with radically different cultures, values, norms and religion are bounded together all in the name of a nation; this is the situation in Nigeria where the Northern and Southern people are diametrically opposed in terms of language culture and religion; of course, the manifestation of incompatibility is seen in recent kidnapping, bombing and suicide attacks by a religious sect called “boko haram” which means “western education is a sin!”
In the early years of African independence, the struggle for territories and boundary disagreements was a major source of conflict, for example, the conflict between Algeria and Morocco, Somalia and Ethiopia, Nigeria and Cameroon and Morocco and Mauritania are clear examples; even though wars had been fought between the aforementioned countries, the scars of the said wars has not healed to date, there is fragile peace and it appears the concerned countries are in a state of armed neutrality; thus any little disagreement could ignite another round of battle; besides the struggle for territory is the struggle for resources,
till date, most of the land-locked countries of East Africa are struggling to control and or manage the River Nile which is the largest water resource.
The lack of regional power or authority especially “a stand-by military force” that is effective in frontally confronting African conflicts, accounts for festering conflicts in the continent; as earlier stated, the OAU and the AU that replaced the hitherto “toothless bulldog” were grossly incapable of stemming the tide of violence and conflicts in Africa. It is in the light of fore-going that some credit is awarded to the West African leaders who deemed it fit to form ECOMOG that played the badly needed role of stemming the human carnage that bedeviled Liberia and Sierra Leone in the past decades.
The military factor in African politics also accounts for conflicts in the continent because power hungry soldiers who seize power through the barrels of guns, this situation leads to coups and counter coups where for tribal reasons, different sections of the populace feel marginalized leading to tension and conflicts. It is indeed disheartening to note at this time and age, soldiers who crave for power still plan coups and ethnic militia are still ravaging Africa, the recent case of Mali is a sore-thumb that should be roundly condemned by all lovers of democracy, ditto the grave development in Egypt.
The debt burden, struggle for scarce resources and unequal trade relations between Africa and developed worlds accounts for a reasonable percentage of conflicts in Africa in that most countries owe huge debts to the developed world, the interests on these debts keep accumulating and most of the debts are rescheduled, by this development, the economies of most African countries are in a state strangulation, nay, there is outright mismanagement of borrowed funds leading to tension and conflicts between different groups and nationalities.
At this juncture, it is pertinent to add that the support of developed countries for inept and corrupt leaders as well as the inherent inability of the populace and civil societies to hold their leaders accountable for public funds is a source of conflicts and wars in Africa.
Perhaps the most important source of conflicts in Africa is lack of democracy and rule of law, all the advantages associated with democracy and rule of law are anathema, the dividends of democracy are so near, yet so far away, this development without an iota of doubts, leads to incessant conflicts and wars in Africa.
Having highlighted causes of conflicts in Africa, the following are proffered as solutions to the malaise; one is the Ghandi’s style of “struggle for truth” (satyagraha) and non-violence (ahimsa) on the part of government and the people, this embody transparency especially in government circles to the effect that, a public office should be seen as that of a “servant leader” and not as a ready avenue to get rich at the expense of the masses or the electorate, who were supposed to be served.
Almost all Africans have one religious persuasion or another to the effect that it is inculcated in almost everyone that there is a supreme being, this notion should be capitalized upon and used by government and the people to quench the embers of conflicts, not only that but also, the regional union, AU should be strengthened economically and have a stand-by intervention force fully equipped to nip intra African conflicts in the bud before they fester and attract the attention and intervention of developed worlds who are always at the beck and call, because of their national interests.
Added to the foregoing is the need for creation of institutional structures such as public complaints commissions (ombudsman) where divergent public opinions could be aired and which would produce avenues for people to ventilate their angers not through arms and ammunition but via dialogue, this would no doubt go a long way to preventing conflicts rather than resolving conflicts which is indeed costly.
In order to stem the tide of conflicts in Africa, dispute resolution mechanisms should be put in place such as conflict diagnosis, management, settlement and resolution which encompasses negotiation, mediation, conciliation and problem solving approaches.
At the individual level, education should be prioritized so as to change the perception and misconceived ideas, adjunct to that is civilization so as to appreciably alter the orientation of masses and erode whatever bad indoctrination they might have been adversely exposed.
At the group level, a culture of tolerance and mutual respect for others should be the focal point so that different groups constituting the state can have a sense of accommodation and imbibe the culture of peaceful co-existence and cohabitation.
At the national level, the building credible and durable institutions which will balance the rights and obligations of groups and individuals is a sine qua non, of particular attention is
building of infrastructural facilities that would ease tension daily experienced by the masses, this includes but not limited to provision of basic necessities of life such as food, shelter education, medical care, transportation and making employment opportunities available, there is truism in the maxim to the effect that the “devil finds work for the idle”, stated otherwise, if masses of the people are gainfully employed, there is less likelihood of actively taking part in conflicts and wars.
Above all, as hitherto earmarked, the institution of sound democratic structures and rule of law is a sure way to curbing violence and conflicts; true democracy and its appendage of rule of law are not negotiable, if an enduring peace devoid of rancor and conflicts is to be a dream come true, in Africa.