Africa must re-think the principle of non-interference
Publish Date: Apr 13, 2008
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Almost all the headlines carried by media houses are about the possibility of power sharing between Kenya’s President Mwai Kibaki and Raila Odinga. This was a result of the disputed December 27, 2007 elections, which the opposition believes were rigged by Kibaki’s party.

The headlines are also centred on Zimbabwe, where the 84-year-old president Robert Mugabe’s ZANU-PF has ordered for a recount of the votes, while Morgan Tsvangrai of the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) says the recount is illegal.

Similar headlines are running about the war between Islamists and government troops in Somalia. As the African Union (AU) looks on, Ugandan troops are sacrificing their lives to bring calm in Somalia.

In Darfur, thousands of people are dying in what the media deem as genocide, with little concern from the rest of Africa.

To understand and find solutions to some of the problems Africa is facing, Africans must reconsider their strong belief in the doctrine of sovereignty. This doctrine, coupled with its twin, non-interference in the internal affairs of another state, is a major contributing factor to the suffering of Africans.

The Darfur plight came about partly because the AU-member states believe they will be interfering in the affairs of a sovereign state. Interfering is necessary, but it should not necessarily be overt and militaristic because there are other types of interference which are not easily detectable.

The AU and the United Nations (UN) both engrained in their charters these two doctrines. Without the principles of peaceful co-existence in their charters, these two bodies would continuously be troubled by states that want to make raids into the territories of others. So, nations should respect international borders and the sovereignty of nations.

International law, however, recognises certain instances when this sovereignty can be dispensed with. It sets out occasions when one country may be justified or even allowed to cross into the territory of its neighbouring country.

Such was the case when the UN gave an American-led coalition permission to go to Iraq and drive its army out of Kuwait. It is again this right, which is supposed to have its limits, that initially allowed then president, Julius Nyerere, to help Ugandans uproot Idi Amin.

The genocide in Rwanda in 1994, for instance, where over 1,091,000 people were massacred (The New Vision Monday April 7, 2008) by primitive forces, could have been averted if other African states intervened, regardless of Rwanda’s sovereignty.

The victims were killed for their ethnicity and political inclinations and because Africans felt they would be interfering with the affairs of Rwanda.

Look at Kenya where the bloodiest political crisis has happened; a post-election spasm of rigging and ethnic slaughter that killed at least 1,200 people and over 300,000 were displaced. Why didn’t African leaders condemn the way the results were declared?

African politics, for example, is shaped by the same contradictions. A leader rigs elections, jails his opponents, torments his rivals and makes enemies in the process.

Why can’t African leaders rise at the AU meeting to condemn these acts? The answer lies in their lack of democratic constitutional transparency.

Some Africans always want to play it safe by siding with super powers. Such leaders should know they are just tools of convenience. The super powers will get rid of them as soon as they cease to be of help. However, the recent action taken by the Comoran forces, backed by the AU forces, to oust rebel leader Mohammed Bacar of the Comoran Island, should be commended.

We need to emulate Nyerere, who did not fall for the concepts of Adam Smith, the pioneering western economists or Lenin’s eastern counterparts, but delved deep into traditional values to promulgate African socialism.

He was the vanguard of African liberation. He undertook human resources and financial costs. as a leader of the African Frontline States, he struggled for the liberation of countries like Mozambique and Uganda. Nyerere also put enormous effort elsewhere on the continent.

Wake up Africa!

The writer is a journalist

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