Focus on Africa’s last line of defense against Western imperialism

Nov 25, 2023

Obal says NAM was formed during the Cold War, as a group of States that did not seek to formally align themselves with either of the confronting blocs, but sought to remain independent or neutral. 

Daniel Obal

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@New Vision

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By Daniel Obal

The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) is the biggest political forum after the United Nations, composed of 120 Member States from all parts of the globe. 

Currently, there are also 18 states and 10 international organizations holding an observer status on the movement.

The Movement was formed during the Cold War, as a group of States that did not seek to formally align themselves with either of the confronting blocs, but sought to remain independent or neutral. 

It was officially founded in 1961, at the Belgrade Summit, drawing on the principles (also known as Bandung Principles) agreed on at the Afro- Asian Conference held in Bandung, Indonesia in 1955 that up to date still serve as the purposes and objectives of the policy of non-alignment.

In the beginning, the Movement, its actions, and endeavors constituted a key factor in the processes of political decolonization, which then led to the achievement of the freedom and independence of many countries and people, and to the growth of not only African Nationalism but the formation of new States in the Global South, which states later became part of the movement.

Throughout its history, the Movement has played an important role in strengthening international peace and security, within the framework of its permanent quest for establishing a more peaceful and prosperous world. 

It persistently calls for strict adherence to the norms and principles of international law and has provided major thrusts in the areas of disarmament, better economic well-being, social justice, and environmental sustainability.

By administrative design, NAM does not have a formal constitution or permanent secretariat, and its administration is non-hierarchical and rotational. 

Decisions are made by consensus. The Summit Conference of the Heads of State and Government of the NAM is the highest decision-making body of the Movement. The Summits are held every three years. 

At each Summit, a new Head of State formally becomes the chairperson of the NAM and assumes that position until the next Summit.

The chair is responsible for promoting the principles, and activities of NAM, while the Foreign Ministry and Permanent Mission in New York of the Chair's State assumes administrative responsibility. 

The next – XIX Summit Conference of the Heads of State and Government of the Non-Aligned Movement will be held in Kampala, Uganda under the theme: “Deepening Cooperation for shared global affluence from the 15th – 20th January 2024. Several Preparatory Ministerial and Senior Officials Meetings will precede the Summit.

At the Kampala Summit, the Republic of Uganda will take over the chairmanship of the Non-Aligned Movement from the Republic of Azerbaijan and will hold the presidency from 2024- 2027. 

President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, President of the Republic of Uganda has been an active champion for the Independence and neutrality of countries of the Global South on matters that would otherwise be considered divisionary. 

He has also called upon Western nations to not interfere with the internal administration and governance of the countries of the global south. 

In effect, within the African Continent, the President has emphasized African Solutions to African Problems. Consequently, over the years, in recognition of his role in integration both at the regional and continental level, he was named the African Union Champion for Political Integration.

The timing of this XIX could not have been any better. Globally, the war between Russia and Ukraine has led to untold suffering and divisions. Its adverse effects have been felt near and far, with the developed and low-developed nations, the rich and the poor drinking from the same pot a disrupted social, economic, and even political lifestyle. 

The situation has been exacerbated by the Israel-Palestine question over Gaza. 

In all these aggressions, alliances by the self-appointed global policemen have served to fuel the war. It's this same kind of alliance that even made World Wars 1 & and 2 inevitable. 

The United Nations as the Global anchor of peace has had little to do. Its double standards, unfair representation (at least for Africa and Global South) in the Security Council, and the rather stultified and manipulated negotiations and resolutions have only served to advance the no-good interests of the powerful world policemen who derive great incentives from the existence of wars the world over. 

The Global South has always acted as shock absorbers whenever these policemen fuel mayhem. While Africa has been battling with its own peace and security concerns, the actions of the West and the ongoing aggressions have fueled several unconstitutional changes of government, notably in Western Africa. 

African nations including the African Union have had to find themselves aligned, sometimes even with the godfathers of these instabilities for fear of losing financial and economic support. 

Through their proxy, Bretton Woods institutions (the World Bank (WB) and the International Monetary Fund), the West has trapped and usurped the autonomy of several African and Global South Nations. 

The trend is worrying, despite the clarity on the tactic being used, our nations have continued to demonstrate an untamed appetite for the consumption of these loans with strings attached all over. 

This, is a result of an absence of formidable Global South Financial Institutions, the unwillingness to share resources among our nations, and untamed spending. 

Even then with vivid clarity, African Nations, led by the African Union have continued to solicit monetary gains from the rather selfish Western establishment. African growth, peace, and development have over the years had to rely largely on the ill-faceted support of the West.

For Instance, the then the European Union through the Peace Facility heavily funds African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), which has transformed into the African Union Transition Mission in Somalia. 

In 2016/2017, the European Union cut its funding by over 20% because it wasn’t in their interest, and no longer fashionable to be spending heavily in the Horn of Africa under the guise of new security frontiers and demands to combat terrorism elsewhere, the journey to peace and stability in Somalia faced a setback, the over 22,000 African Union Mission strong men and women went months without pay thereby affecting their morale and ability to sustain their gains. 

There then can only be one conclusion, whilst some of these Western supports are plausible, they are not predictable, consistent, and sustainable. 

Is then, the Non-Aligned Movement and the South-to-South Triangular Co-operation the golden bullet for a sustainable & and efficient guarantee for stability, growth, and development of the Global South Nations?

Earlier this year, Uganda hosted Africa’s Second High-Level Forum on South-to-South Triangular Co-operation convened by the African Union’s Africa Peer Review Mechanism Continental Secretariat. By design, South-to-South Triangular Co-operation (SStrC) offers a strategic opportunity for Global South Nations to build resilient and sustainable national financing ecosystems for growth and development. 

Within this framework, the developing countries within the global south share resources amongst themselves to support critical aspects of development. Often than not, with at times support from Northern Partners. 

Notable examples of development initiatives in this aspect are the Intra-Africa humanitarian and financial support, such as Uganda’s road construction endeavours in the Democratic Republic of Congo, President Museveni’s school-building initiatives in the Chato area of Tanzania, the Chinese generous support to developing nations in Africa, support by the Arab Republic of Egypt to Uganda’s Nile Basin Communities through the Egyptian Agency for Partnership and Development among others. 

When countries from the global south finance their own development, they remain alive to existing realities and the spirit of shared partnership. As the Non-Aligned Movement Heads of States convene early next year, two areas of focus need to be explored. 

On the face of it, is the issue of debt entrapment of its member states. As the second biggest world organization after UN, can the NAM member states adopt a policy of collective debt default to force the Bretton Woods Institutions to restructure or totally cancel unproductive loans? Unproductive loans remain some of the greatest threats to Africa’s and by extension, the global south's political and economic independence. 

In 2017, the Canadian Authorities supported their own firm’s seizure of one of Tanzania’s new commercial planes before its delivery by the manufacturer over debt-related issues. Initially, Canada had supported its company, Barrick Gold’s exploration with total disregard to the rampant abuses and documented fraud the company had occasioned which had resulted in the over $100 billion loss to Tanzania’s government. 

President John Magufuli challenged all these two instances and successfully saved his country. This is proof that collective action, and inaction by our nations under the NAM could save our debt-stricken countries. 

Venezuela successfully explored these initiatives and saw several of its unproductive loans either restructured or written off. 

Following the World Bank’s threat to freeze financial support to Uganda and the USA’s threat to withdraw funding in the aftermath of Uganda’s enactment of the anti-homosexuality law aimed at safeguarding societal morals, President Museveni guided on the need to shun foreign loans and funding due to the great risk to national sovereignty they impose and advised on restructuring of expenditures and a lean towards global south for financing. 

The second item the summit must occupy itself with, is the question of involvement of the youths in championing the principles of NAM. 

Uganda’s Presidency of NAM will undoubtedly feature an increased participation of the youths in important financing frameworks for humanitarian and financial development. In Uganda’s chairship of NAM, the African Union finds an opportunity to strengthen and consolidate its relevance, in an era when the efficacy of multilateral institutions is under scrutiny.

The writer is the Special Presidential Aide/Envoy on youth of the President of the Republic of Uganda

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