Regionalism, Immigration, Global Disorder and Insecurity in 2023: The Future Challenges

Bola A. Akinterinwa 

2023 was a watershed in international relations since the end of the Cold War because the incompetence of the international community to objectively address the truth and justice, on the one hand, and reducing threats to global security, on the other hand, was made manifest. 

The reopening of the Russian Embassy in Burkina Faso after more than thirty years of shut down in 1992 is noteworthy. President Vladimir Putin of Russia made known his plans during the Russo-African Summit held in Saint Petersburg in July 2023 to re-open the Russian Embassy in Ouagadougou. The plan was fulfilled last week with Russia’s ambassador to the Côte d’Ivoire, Alexei Saltykovi, announcing that he would head the new embassy until President Putin accredits a new ambassador. In the words of His Excellency, Mr. Saltykovi, Burkina Faso is ‘an old partner with whom we have solid and friendly ties.’ The reopening of the embassy in 2023 makes the year a landmark in Russian-Burkina Faso relations and the widening of the entrance door of political influence to Russia. France and the Western world are not happy about this. France has promised to fight back. These are some of the international questions raised in 2023.

Another critical issue raised in 2023 is the approval given by Pope Francis to all Catholic priests worldwide to bless queer couples seeking God’s favour, in other words, to bless same sex couples. The approval has generated much international controversy, particularly within the Catholic Church itself. As a result of the controversy, the Vatican had to make a clarification that such blessings should not be conducted with any church rites that offer the impression of a marriage. Pope Francis also added that pastoral charity requires patience and understanding. Consequently, Catholic priests should not become judges ‘who only deny, reject and exclude.’

And perhaps more interestingly in a statement signed by Lucius Ugorji, Archbishop of Owerri, and Donatus Ogun, Bishop of Uromi, anyone requesting for a blessing which is a prayer or plea, usually delivered by a Minister, has a desire to live according to God’s Commandment.’ Consequently, those in irregular unions are invited never to lose hope but rather to ask for God’s Grace and mercy while remaining open to conversion. There is therefore no possibility in the Church of blessing same sex unions and activities. That would go against God’s law, the teaching of the church, the laws of our nation and the cultural sensibilities of our people.’

Regionalism and Insecurity 

Apart from the foregoing, there were four notable critical issues in 2023: regionalism, immigration, global disorder and insecurity. For Africa, and particularly for the ECOWAS region of Africa, regionalism was an issue in light of the gradual carving out of a new sub-region from the West Africa region. Mali, Burkina Faso, and Niger Republic have come up with an Alliance of Sahel States, mainly in reaction to France’s mainmise of their countries, and partly in reaction to ECOWAS’ controversial policy of non-acceptance of unconstitutional changes of government in Africa.

On immigration, many Africans and Community Citizens of the ECOWAS made strenuous efforts to migrate to other regions of the world, especially to Western Europe and America. Many of them migrated through illegal routes, claiming political reasons and therefore seeking asylum. Most unfortunately, however, they have not always been friendly received. In fact, the United Kingdom came up with a new policy aimed at cutting down on immigrants by making it more difficult for any British citizen to file for their relations. The new rule is that any British seeking to sponsor a family to join him or her in the United Kingdom must earn a minimum wage of £38,700 Sterling with effect from 2024. The current minimum threshold is £18,600. Thus, the new minimum threshold has more than doubled.

Besides, foreign students can no longer sponsor their dependants, unless they are PhD students as from 2024. The British government increased the Immigration Health Surcharge from £624 per annum to £1,035 per year. What is noteworthy here is that ‘of the over 260 occupation codes, only a dozen have minimum salary threshold of over £38,700. The numbers of skilled workers entering the UK has grown exponentially in recent years… The government believes that the new changes will reduce net migration by 300,000’ ( 

The issue of migration is intertwined with the issue of security in policy formulation. Member States of a regional grouping always want to protect their identity and cultural values. Such protection is largely a function of guaranteed security. It is in the attempt to ensure security at the home level that policy measures are taken to keep threats 4000 miles far away. In fact, the incumbent British Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, has made ‘stopping the boats’ one of his legislative priorities.’

When the British Minister and Home Secretary announced on Monday 4 December 2023 their plan to curb immigration abuse as well as cut net migration, the need for security was a major rationale but not openly expressed. Five measures were taken. First is to stop the overseas care workers from bringing dependants to the UK and requiring the social care firms in England to provide services regulated by the Care Quality Commission. This first measure clearly shows the non-desire of migrants. 

On the one hand, the global community is talking about globalisation in which integration of global economies is underscored. On the other hand, the economic agents are unwanted in many of the countries advocating globalisation. As a result, a new dimension is being given to the notion of globalisation with the diplomacy of sending those seeking asylum in the UK to Rwanda under a special agreement. The British Home Secretary, James Cleverly signed a new treaty with Rwanda in spite of the UK Supreme Court’s declaration of the deportation scheme as unlawful in November 2023. Under the deportation scheme, asylum seekers who arrived in Britain and without relevant documents since January 1, 2022 ‘would have been deported to Rwanda, about 6,400 km (4000 miles) away, where their claims would be assessed. Sending each asylum seeker there would cost on average 169,000 pounds ($210,208).

The UK Supreme Court considered in declaring the deportation scheme unlawful that Rwanda was unsafe for asylum seekers and that the deportation policy would breach British and international law. In order to defeat the court’s declaration, British lawmakers have voted the Safety of Rwanda bill with the ultimate objective of preventing migrants from trying to reach Britain’s southern coast on small boats. 

In essence, several European countries are currently considering sending asylum seekers and refugees to Rwanda in Africa. And true enough, Nigerians want to check out of Nigeria but their desired hosts are hostile. Emphasis is being placed on skilled workers or refugees for possible consideration for admittance. The truth is that the quest for a truly united global community is now a fantasy. Using regionalism to foster global growth and development can be helpful to global governance but not to the extent of having political unity devoid of exploitation of resources of other countries.

Indeed, the United Nations Charter provides in its Articles 51-54 for regional agencies and their roles in the maintenance of international peace and security. For example, Article 52(1) specifically provides that ‘nothing in the present Charter precludes the existence of regional arrangements or agencies for dealing with such matters relating to the maintenance of international peace and security as are appropriate for regional action provided that such arrangements or agencies and their activities are consistent with the Purposes and Principles of the United Nations.’ Paragraphs 2 and 3 of the same Article 52 further demand that the constituted agencies make ‘every effort to achieve pacific settlement of local disputes through such regional arrangements or by such regional agencies before referring them to the UNSC.’

Most unfortunately, however, regional organisations that have been empowered under the UN Charter to help maintain global peace and security as instruments of global governance, have failed to prevent or control the many crises in international relations in 2023. The very case of Israelo-Hamas conflict is very interesting because it raises the unending Israelo-Palestinian conflict and the truism of Israel’s don’t care attitude about international humanitarian law.

Without any whiff of doubt, 2023 was a year of order and counter-order amounting to disorder. While 2022 witnessed Russia’s special military intervention in Ukraine or what the NATO countries described as Russian invasion of Ukraine, 2023 witnessed the Hamas reactive attack on Israel on October 7, 2023 and Israel’s further response and total disregard for international human rights by seeking to wipe out the entire Hamas community. 

Apart from this, there was also the deepening of efforts at development of nuclear capability, thus raising fears of possible use of nuclear weapons in the foreseeable future. For example, Iran continued in 2023 to increase the production of enriched uranium, with the purity levels attaining 60%. This means that Iran is almost at the level of production of nuclear weapons. Britain, France, Germany and the United States, all of which are signatories to the Iran Nuclear Deal, have condemned the uranium enrichment. As they put it, ‘the production of high-enriched uranium as having no credible civilian justification… These decisions …represent reckless behaviour in a tense regional context.’ Additionally, consistent with the vow of the North Korean leader, Kim Jong Un, to build more nuclear weapons, as well as introduce high-tech weapons in anticipation of any US hostility, North Korea has succeeded in uranium enrichment and it si already acting as a nuclear power since the North Korea-United States attempt at rapprochement failed in 2019.

The Future Challenges

First and without doubt, the issue of same sex image has the potential to engender a very serious confrontation between most African countries and the Western world for one reason. The developed world wants to impose its unwanted culture of LGBT. Most African countries have adopted religion as a way of life and are most likely to accept to be crucified than accepting same-sex marriage. In Nigeria, for instance, a law has been promulgated against same-sex marriage. Anyone found guilty of engaging in same-sex activity risks a 14-years jail. Some developed countries have threatened to sanction African countries that refused the same-sex culture which the West considers as a human right but which other more civilised people kicked against because of its aspects of ungodliness.  The issue of same-sex marriage is likely to remain a major irritant in international relations in the foreseeable future.

Secondly, international insecurity has the potential to also deepen for reasons of unfairness and injustice, and more importantly, because of political determination of some countries seeking nuclear power status like the Nuclear Weapons States. Iran and North Korea are two countries with which the US-led Western world has disagreements. As both countries are determined to acquire a nuclear power capability, not simply because of legitimate self-defence, but particularly because of the fear and arrogance of the nuclear powers who rightly or wrongly are believed to be nursing the idea of aggressing them one day, they have resolved to disregard whatever international regulations preventing them from developing nuclear weapons and not simply development of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

It is useful to recall that when the non-nuclear proliferation treaty was being negotiated in the 60s and early 1970s, China and France withdrew from the discussions because they wanted to complete their own nuclear development agenda. It was after the successful development of their nuclear projects that both countries decided to come back and sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. In fact, many countries have been assisted, including Israel, by the United States, to acquire nuclear capability contrary to agreed rules. The policy attitude of the Nuclear Weapons States, which are also the Five Permanent Members of the United Nations Security Council, is to prevent any other country from developing the capability. The reason often given is that others cannot be trusted or that they do not have the capacity to manage disaster that may result from nuclear accidents. Most unfortunately, however, the procedure for producing nuclear weapons for war is not different from the processes of uranium enrichment or development of nuclear energy for peaceful uses. Consequently, the development or enrichment of uranium for whatever purposes is a matter of choice. In essence, the struggle for greater self-assertion, self-preservation and determination to acquire nuclear capability is not likely to abate in the foreseeable future. And in the event of any harassment by the more powerful countries, the less powerful countries like North Korea and Iran cannot but be pushed into the use of nuclear weapons.

Thirdly, Africa’s relationship with Israel and the West is likely to lose its warmth in the near future as a result of the new environmental conditionings. South Africa’s membership of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) has necessarily drawn South Africa closer to Russia, to the detriment of the United States, an arch rival of Russia. The United States has accused South Africa of providing military assistance to Russia in its war effort against Ukraine. The West is not happy about this. 

Additionally, on March 2, 2022 the United Nations General Assembly voted on a resolution to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The resolution not only ‘demands that the Russian Federation immediately cease its use of force against Ukraine and to refrain from any further unlawful threat or use of force against any Member State,’ but also ‘demands that the Russian Federation immediately, completely and unconditionally withdraw all of its military forces from the territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders.’ Seventeen African countries abstained from the vote condemning Russia. Only Eritrea from Africa joined Belarus, North Korea, Russia and Syria to vote against the resolution. A total of 141 countries out of a total of 193 Member States of the United Nations took part in the vote. 35 Members abstained from voting and out of these abstaining 35 countries, 17 are from Africa and South Africa was among.

In explaining South Africa’s position, President Cyril Ramaphosa said the resolution ‘did not foreground the call for meaningful engagement’ between Russia and Ukraine and ‘does not provide the encouragement and international backing that the parties need to continue with their efforts.’ Even though UN resolutions only have political weight and do not have mandatory legal weight, the mere fact that 17 countries stood up to confront the United States who said after the voting that any country that henceforth votes against US foreign policy interests would be sanctioned, clearly suggests that Africa is now increasingly showing non-acceptance of puppet diplomacy.

Again, more recently, on 29 December, 2023 South Africa accused Israel of genocidal attacks in Gaza and therefore filed a case against Israel at the International Court of Justice. South Africa asked that the case be heard next week. According to the South African government, it is ‘gravely concerned with the plight of civilians caught in the present Israeli attacks on the Gaza Strip due to the indiscriminate use of force and forcible removal of inhabitants.’ More importantly, South Africa argued that ‘furthermore, there are ongoing reports of international crimes, such as crimes against humanity and war crimes, being committed, as well as reports that acts meeting the threshold of genocide or related crimes… have been and may still be committed in the context of the ongoing massacres in Gaza.’ And perhaps most importantly, South Africa also has it in its 84-page document that the ‘acts and omissions by Israel are genocidal in character because they are intended to bring about the destruction of a substantial part of the Palestinian national, racial and ethnic group.’

Even though it is Israel that has been named and taken to the ICJ, there is no disputing the fact that it is also the United States that has been indirectly targeted. It is the United States that has been supporting the military recklessness of Israel in the Gaza strip. The United States cares less about Israel’s abuse of international humanitarian law. By taking Israel to the ICJ, the use of veto to disrupt processes cannot easily apply at the ICJ. Even if Israel refuses to respond to the ICJ summons, since it has considered South Africa’s case against it as baseless, there is no way Israel will still not be on record as a promoter of disregard for civilised rule-based international society. Fourthly, regionalism, also referred to as regionalisation, is actually a tool of global governance, designed to be a means of international integration, global growth and development, as well as promoting international peace and security. Regionalism has actually been variously defined and theorised. In essence, regionalism is a conscious policy and a catalytic agent of regionalisation, which is the process of building a region by increasing its regionness with the ultimate objective of peace and security enforcement under the supervisory authority of the United Nations Security Council. However, the extent to which regionalism can foster regional peace and security in the near future is now a matter for debate. Can regionalism survive in the face of increasing national protectionism? Whatever is the case, I avail myself of this opportunity to wish all my readers a Happy New Year and many happier returns of it in the mighty name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

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