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Debate: Foreign intervention in African affairs

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Should foreign countries intervene in African affairs?

Background and context

The African continent has been the location of some of the bloodiest and violent conflicts of recent decades. In Rwanda, for example, there was genocide on an unprecedented scale. In Europe and the USA there has been strong criticism of international organisations such as the United Nations for their slowness in reacting to crises in Rwanda and Somalia. However, from another point of view it could be argued that non-African organisations and former colonial powers (such as France and Britain) have no legitimate role to play in African politics and African conflicts. In this debate the proposition side are putting forward this view – that African conflicts need African solutions, not artificial resolutions imposed by non-African nations and organisations.

Contents

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Regional intervention - Is regional intervention more effective?

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Yes

  • Regional intervention in Africa is often more effective at producing long-term change: Whilst groups such as the UN may be successful in keeping the peace in the countries they are involved in (questionable in itself), once the soldiers leave, their philosophy leaves too. By having regional groups intervene, we can be sure that the influences they have in the country will not leave once the troops have, as regional politics will ensure that progress after peacekeeping is continued.
  • Africa does not have a unified body that can react to crises: Only neighbouring countries in Africa are able to respond to crises in time to sort them out before they can become international incidents. A case in point was during an uprising in the kingdom of Lesotho (Southern Africa), where South Africa sent in troops and was able to stabilise the country and restore the rightful ruler, thus preventing what could have degenerated into the civil wars we see elsewhere on the continent.

Interventions led by regional African hegemonies are effective at resolving conflict:

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No

  • The effects - even of regional blocs – on many despots in Africa has been shown to be nil: As evidenced in Zimbabwe, the president Robert Mugabe has consistently thumbed condemnation from those neighbours who have voiced disapproval at his regime. The influence works both ways as well, and many politically powerful - if corrupt and warring – countries force their neighbours to condone their acts. An example is how cronyism in SADEC, as well as Zimbabwe’s powerful role in the organisation, has led to many African nations condoning the human rights abuses in the country.
  • Neighboring countries in Africa have only increased the problems of their African neighbors during crisis: We have seen in places such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, that many countries, such as Zimbabwe are involved in the war to procure the diamond mines and other resources in the warzones, and thus have a greater vested interest in fuelling the wars, over resolving them. Non-African countries do not have such vested interests, so may be more suitable in their interventions.
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Understanding conflict - Does the international community have an inadequate understanding of the conflicts at hand in Africa?

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Yes

  • The unique situations and power organisations present in many of the African conflicts are only well understood by the countries involved and their immediate neighbours. A one-size-fits-all international response fails to take notice of these circumstances, meaning that diplomatic negotiations or mediation by these international countries often disintegrate. African leaders also tend to have greater credentials when dealing with each others’ affairs through forums such as SADEC, whereas foreign intervention cannot expect the same levels of trust and co-operation from African countries.
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No

  • The “unique understandings” of African politics is often no more than cronyism, or dictators ensuring each others' continued power. In these cases, an impartial international intervention is far preferable. In other cases, this “unique understanding” means that in places such as the DRC, the surrounding countries have aligned themselves to different sides in the war, escalating it, rather than solving the problem.
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Independence - Is independent self-regulation in Africa valuable for its own reasons?

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Yes

  • It is important for the development of democracy in Africa, that African countries be seen to be successfully pursuing and encouraging it themselves: Many African leaders still carry colonial resentments that make foreign intervention difficult or impossible – A case in point being president Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe. Leaders such as this will be willing to listen to African approaches to a problem, whilst foreign ones, however well – intentioned, will be automatically distrusted.
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No

  • We need to be careful that the 'intervention' is justified: Whilst many countries may be democratic only in name, it is generally the role of the international community to determine whether violating the sovereignty of another country is justified. It would be a big mistake to assume that this could be determined by the countries closest to the “despots”, as they would probably be the least impartial people in determining whether a country is in need of “intervention”. Many conflicts that are ongoing have been started or sustained on the belief of neighbours that it was the “moral” thing to do.
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International will - Is the international will to intervene in conflicts in Africa low anyway?

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Yes

  • Most of the powerful international countries and organisations (US and UN) are loath to become involved in the sort of “peacemaking” (instead of peacekeeping) that is needed in African countries: It will require the active and direct participation of infantry and other elements of armies to fight the sorts of guerrilla wars going on in the DRC. The current trend away from this sort of military action (As in Kosovo), is ill suited to dealing with the African problems. African countries, by contrast, have already illustrated that they are willing and able to become involved in this capacity, as evidenced in the DRC.
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No

  • Regional infantry forces are ill-suited for effective interventions: Just because the intervening country used infantry or tanks instead of negotiation or aerial bombardment (Kosovo), doesn’t make it any more likely to restore peace. On a global scale, Vietnam is the classic example of how using infantry to intervene in a guerrilla war is a futile exercise. On an African stage, the infantry intervention by neighbouring countries has only increased the death toll, not the success at ending the war.

Motions:

  • This house would keep its own peace
  • This house doesn’t need the UN/ USA
  • This house would solve its own problems
  • That African conflicts need African solutions

In legislation, policy, and the real world:

See also

External links and resources:

Books:

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