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Conflicts in Africa: Is the West the problem or the solution?

21.07.2019
Article from AFRIC Editorial
Several parts of Africa have undergone major conflicts which in most cases has threatened their peace and stability. The hot bed of these conflict are found in the Central African Republic, eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, South Sudan and Darfur. Statistics reveal that over half of African countries were affected by conflicts by January 2000 and more than half of worldwide conflict incidents were witnessed in Africa in 2014. This increase in conflict has often called for intervention from the western world, however, the bone of contention is whether their intervention helped solve the problems which led to the crisis or rather fueled the impasse.

The political and military interventions of the West in Africa dates as far back as 1945 which was the period of the Cold War and stretched up to the present due to the global war on terror. Africa has traversed and is still undergoing various conflicts notable the Ethiopia-Eritrea border conflict which today has been seemingly redressed by the new Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, civil wars in the DRC, Sudan, Liberia, Chad and the Central African Republic.

Burundi and Cameroon are at the brink of genocide and such possibility also extends to the DRC in the Kivu and other regions. Other countries especially Nigeria, are experiencing outbreaks of ethnic and religious violence.

Reports indicate that close to 20 African countries are involved in conflicts or are facing post-war conflict and tension including: Ivory Coast, Chad, Niger, Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Togo, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Somalia, Sudan, Uganda, Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Rwanda, Algeria, Angola, Zimbabwe and currently Cameroon.

The upsurge of these intra-state conflicts in Africa has brought many of its economies to near collapse while creating humanitarian concerns. This has however attracted international concern from countries such as the US, France, UK, the Soviet Union, China, Cuba and other former colonial powers.

Foreign Intervention in Conflicts in Africa

The launch of the global war on terrorism in 2001 increased the political and military presence of foreign countries in the continent.

This was favored by Chapter VIII of the United Nations (UN) Charter, which confines the role of regional organizations to ‘the pacific settlement of local disputes’ as well as ‘enforcement action’ under Security Council authorization.

This means that the AU can only take action in external conflicts with the approval of the UN Security Council implying that regional organizations on the continent cannot assume military action even against states without UN Security Council endorsement.

This has greatly limited the powers of regional bodies on one hand and encouraged the participation of foreign countries in conflict resolution. However, some African leaders have expressed worries over the intervention by the Western powers in the internal affairs of African countries.

A glaring example is that of President Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe who strongly opposed what he considered Western imperialism in Africa indicating that Western powers cannot dictate their policies on Zimbabwe. Similarly, it is believed that the former Libyan leader, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi was an enemy to the West as a result of the fact the he refused them the chance to meddle in the affairs of Libya.

Consequently, the intervention of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s in Libya in 2011 that led to the overthrow of Muammar Gaddafi were largely condemned by African leaders. In addition France’s intervention in the conflict in Ivory Coast in 2011 that helped depose Laurent Gbagbo was also not very much appreciated.

Western powers have been constantly accused of intervening only in the affairs of economically viable African countries. This became glaring when the international community observed without any interference how Tutsis were slaughtered in what is now known as the Rwandan genocide. It was considered that they had no political and economic interest in the country reason why the conflict was of no interest.

However the struggle for control over the numerous natural resources in the continent is a critical element in all of the conflicts in Africa and this is worsening the already existing tensions.

None the less, the West has been very instrumental in resolving and reducing the devastating effects of some conflicts. In June 2019, the government of Switzerland agreed to mediate dialogue between the Cameroon government and separate fighters to bring an end to conflicts which have paralyzed part of the country. French forces were very instrumental in forcing back Islamists who took control of northern Mali in 2012 and also deployed thousands of troops to end crises in the Central African Republic.

The UK has also played a significant role in combating Islamist terrorists in Somalia, since 2009. Special Air Service and the Special Reconnaissance Regiment were deployed to Camp Lemonnier to conduct counter-terrorist operations against Islamist terrorists in Somalia and they also worked with US to observe and target local terror suspects.

 

It is also true that Africa still is heavily dependent on these countries to financially support the fight against terrorism and handle humanitarian crisis brought about by the conflicts. In principle, the costs of AU-led peace operations have been financed by the international community.

Inability to address the root causes of conflict foils resolution attempts

Ending these numerous conflicts in Africa has been a great challenge both on the part of region bodies and the international community. With the relentless efforts made in ending conflicts, so many countries are fighting while others such as Cameroon and the recent case of Ethiopia are fast moving into a civil war.

Many have however questioned the mechanisms used to resolve conflicts. The West are noted for supporting oppressive regimes which in most cases are at war with their very own citizens, this practically makes it difficult to resolve the conflict especially as their actions are in most cases guided by self-interest.

Thus, the inability to identify and solve some of the major causes of these conflicts has made it extremely difficult for the resolution strategies to yield positive results.

Hence, it is important to highlight the fact that there is a great need for Africa to empower regional bodies like the AU to the necessary authority to redress problems facing the continent. And finally, African leaders will have to adopt a proactive approach to conflict prevention to avoid conflicts from escalating before intervention.

Article from AFRIC editorial.

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