The AU & NATO – Who is more irrelevant?

Jul 04, 11 The AU & NATO – Who is more irrelevant?

Posted by in International

Within the NATO alliance, US Defense Secretary Robert Gates warned of a “dim future” for NATO if they do not step up and do their share of the fighting. Strong words from a powerful figure, but in Libya NATO is proving its capability in protecting civilians quite well, whereas the organisation that should be taking a lead role in this, the AU, has proven nothing but its ability to remain completely detached from the strategic reality in Gaddaffi’s former country. The ICC have issued warrants for Gaddaffi’s arrest, alleging war crimes carried out under his orders. Not implausible given the good Colonel’s insistence on being supreme military overlord of his forces and widespread accounts of loyalist forces being ordered to target civilians. The AU, in its infinite wisdom, have decided to reject this warrant. Aside from this making zero sense from a moral perspective and enabling Gaddaffi an effective “get out of Libya free” card, the AU is simply adding to its already-established marginalisation away from the Libyan issue. Secondly, when the AU propose a peace plan that does not have the explicit mention of Gaddaffi being removed from office, do they honestly expect the rebels, who have been fighting and dying for precisely this one thing, to accept it based on the goodwill of African politicians so far removed from the reality of Libya? It is almost as if the regional organisation is intentionally making poor decisions so as to be marginalised (Libya was the AU’s largest financial backer) from the process and avoid having to make any concrete policy choice which might incriminate them further down the line. Certainly contributing zero military assets to the No-Fly Zone would have done this already, but perhaps the AU is simply trying to make sure that it is not considered seriously at all in international politics. It is entirely likely that Gaddaffi will be removed from office eventually by NATO forces, or more likely the rebels who are now preparing for a major offensive into...

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Anton Hammerl: Fire the Minister of DIRCO

May 20, 11 Anton Hammerl: Fire the Minister of DIRCO

Posted by in International

The news world is buzzing with the death of Anton Hammerl, a South African photojournalist who was shot in the stomach in Libya by loyalist troops and then left to die. The Department of International Relations and Cooperation then not only failed to inform his wife of his death or very-apparent danger, but assured her for six weeks that he was completely fine. The betrayal of a South African in a very dangerous situation for the sake of pandering to Libya is completely unacceptable, and Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane should be sacked because of it. If it weren’t pandering, the only other plausible reason for such horrendous mismanagement would be sheer incompetence, in which case the same punishment should apply. If you are overseas working or stuck in a conflict zone and you get abducted or wounded, there are only two organisations which can protect you: The sympathetic media and your government, or more specifically your ministry of foreign affairs. When Hammerl’s potential death was raised by the media, they were doing their part to raise attention and put pressure on the Libyan government to come clean about his condition. The media in this case did the right thing, and did it to the best of their knowledge. It didn’t help that DIRCO blatantly lied to them (specifically the Star newspaper) a week ago assuring Hammerl’s safety, but ultimately they went with what they had and performed the crucial function of making sure nobody forgot that there was a South Africa in presumably dire straits while in Libyan captivity. DIRCO, however, failed dismally. When you are injured and/or captured in a foreign warzone, your ministry of foreign affairs, through local diplomats, are supposed to apply pressure on the local authority responsible to firstly assure the individual’s well-being and safety, and secondly to negotiate their release (or extradition if it is a criminal matter). South African diplomats at the highest levels have been keenly-involved in the Libyan crisis, including a presidential visit to Gaddaffi. The Loyalists...

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French and UN Involvement in Africa

May 09, 11 French and UN Involvement in Africa

Posted by in International

France has recently made headlines for its involvement in Ivory Coast. Involvement some have accepted as correct because of its apparent motivation. France, together with the United Nations (UN), argued that intervention in Ivory Coast was based on the UN and international community’s mandate to maintain international peace and security. The way the intervention was handled, however, questions the same principles of the mandate. The manner in which the UN and France carried out the mandate in Ivory Coast brought even more devastation. The two ordered airstrikes on the Presidential palace in Ivory Coast. This order is disturbing because it was clear that the intention was to kill President Laurent Gbagbo and his ambassadors. However even more disturbing is the French involvement not only in Ivory Coast but in a majority of its former colonies. Scholars have taken interest in this interest, particularly because of France’s involvement in the post-independence era. There are a number of reasons why France is still fully involved in Africa, particularly in its former colonies. The centrality of these explanations is based on protecting France’s interests and maintaining power in the region. The involvement is maintained through institutionalization such as control of the financial institutions in its colonies. France and its former colonies have bilateral agreements of which many are not defined but they exist, they are termed “special relations”. The secrecy of these agreements or relations is the root to the mystery of the French involved in Africa. The special relations were meant to allow continuity of the French rule Africa. The French dominance however was not only contained in its former colonies, former Belgian and Portuguese colonies wanted to join the francophone family. Though Liberia was neither a French, a Belgian nor a Portuguese colony it too was interested in being part of the family. Golan discovered that in fact France did not give independence to its colonies in practice and in theory. Rather De Gaulle made a very vague statement to the French colonies. He promised...

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Responsibility Too

Apr 04, 11 Responsibility Too

Posted by in International

From the day Col. Muammar Gadaffi opened fire on his protesters, the Libyan crisis has been an uncanny, almost-perfect example of the Responsibility to Protect (R2P) framework in action. Originating from major conflict areas of the 90s, R2P involves the role of the international community when a state’s responsibility to protect its population is not met. Where a state is unwilling or unable to protect civilians, it abrogates sovereign rights and responsibilities, which fall to the intervening states. R2P consists of six criteria. Questions around the just war, prospect of success and proportionality criteria have been deferred to those African Scene contributors with expertise in strategic studies. The intention of R2P should be to stop human suffering through multilateral operations supported by regional bodies and victims. From my international law and BBC-watching perspective, I have focused on intention, last resort and authorization. Last Resort: Military operations to implement the R2P framework must be an ultima ratio in that all non-military options must be explored first. Alternatively, there must be reasonable grounds to believe lesser measures will not be successful. This means intervening forces may use force as a measure of first instance, if they believe non-military options will be ineffective and, similar to Article 41, you can brush over last resort if needs be. However, true to the last resort requirement of R2P, UNSC Res. 1970 (2011) in most aspects is an unremarkable Article 41 resolution including travel bans, asset freezes and a new sanctions committee. What makes this resolution shiny and new for me is the referral of the Libyan crisis to the prosecutor of International Criminal Court (ICC) for an investigation into crimes against humanity as well as the fact that the referral garnered unanimous support from states not party to the Rome Statute, whereas the Darfur referral was made without the vote of the United States and China and after years of conflict along with a commission of enquiry There were concerns around the Libya ICC referral because, at the time, it seemed to...

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The African Court takes its first steps

Apr 01, 11 The African Court takes its first steps

Posted by in International

The African Court on Human and People’s Rights published its first binding ruling yesterday (30 March 2011). In February, the Commission received complaints from the Egyptian Initiative on Personal Rights (EIPR), Human Rights Watch, and Interights, alleging multiple human rights violations by Libya following the unrest and requested that the Commission order “provisional measures.” The Commission took the case to the Court which was unexpectedly quick in ruling on the application.  A unanimous and binding order was made to the government of the ”Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya”, requiring that it refrain immediately from action that would result in further loss of life and breaches of human rights. The Libyan government was also summoned to appear before the Court within 15 days to explain what has been done to implement the order. Although one might remain sceptical as to the reality of the ”binding” nature of the order and the extent to which the African Union, never mind Gaddafi, will act to ensure its implementation, this is nevertheless a very exciting development for a variety of reasons. For one, this is of course the Court’s first substantive ruling. Although the order itself  is not of significant jurisprudential value, that the Court took decisive action in such a short period of time is remarkable. Seeing the cooperation between the Commission and the Court is also rather promising. If the order is any indication of the development of a decisive and responsive African Human Rights system, a mechanism may well be under construction to counter the perversely politicised interests that have dictated ambivalence, inaction or inappropriate action when things get sticky in the region.  Of course even a highly effective and strongly-enforced Human Rights system is no panacea to the ills of poor governance, economic underdevelopment, societal strife and political oppression. However, the African Court and Commission stand in a position to harness the African Union through the rally of rights where political consensus is difficult to achieve.  Although signatories to the Court’s jurisdiction remain...

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