Bola A. Akinterinwa
Since 2020, international peace and security has been gradually challenged by regional threats, especially from the continent of Africa. The reason for this cannot be far-fetched: Africa has always been a terra cognita for insecurity, ranging from human insecurity, intra-State civil and military unrest, to agitations for ethnic separation and true democracy. In 2018, public protests against the government of President Omar al-Bashir, asking for return to true democracy, led to his removal as President of Sudan. He was then and still now under the International Criminal Court’s warrant of arrest. Coup-making in Sudan began in 1958 and has not ended. The brutalities perpetrated under President al-Bashir eventually led to the carving out of South Sudan from Sudan. But the struggle for peace and security in the country remains.
As noted by the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights, ‘Africa comes second (after Asia) in the number of armed conflicts per region with more than 35 Non-International Armed Conflicts (NIACS) taking place in Burkina Faso, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, Somalia, South Sudan, and Sudan.’ What is noteworthy about this observation is that the Geneva Academy has also noted that ‘western powers and/or neighbouring countries are intervening in the NIACS that take place in Burkina Faso, Mali, Mozambique, Nigeria, and Somalia. CAR is on the top of the list with several NIACS involving multiple armed groups.’ The operational word in this observation is ‘intervening.’
Why is it that Western powers are always intervening in the NIACS taking place in many African countries? Article 2(7) prohibits interventions in the domestic affairs of other sovereign States. The Article stipulates that ‘nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the UN to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any State or shall require the Members to submit such matters to settlement under the present Charter, but this principle shall not prejudice the application of enforcement measures under Chapter VII.’ NIACS are not matters for collective security or for application of enforcement measures. They are matters strictly falling under domestic jurisdictions of Member States. Unwarranted interventions of powerful countries are part of the threats to the maintenance of global peace and security. Many current international questions clearly point to this.
Current International Questions
Africa’s policy of no compromise with unconstitutional changes of government in Africa has become a major threat to regional peace and security in the continent. True, the African Union wants to promote democracy and democratic culture in Africa by banning coups d’état in all ramifications. However, this policy has also been silent on sit-tight African leaders who manoeuvred and changed their national Constitutions by manu militari. It is most unbelievable that the African Union, in general, and the ECOWAS, in particular, are fighting military coups and are, at the same time, condoning constitutional coups. A coup is a coup, for as long as it involves change of government by manipulation, by fraud. It is not only a coup by use of force. If there is a change of government compelled by the wishes of the people governed, it is a people’s coup, implying that there should be a basis for the discussion of permissible coups. But this cannot be so for the sit-tight leaders who have now become new political fashion designers in the governance of Africa.
And perhaps most disturbingly, civilian coups-making appear to have become the new fashion in government-succession, especially in Francophone Africa. The African Union is seeking to protect elected incumbent presidents, but the civilian populations are vehemently protesting against them for bad governance, chronic corruption, and protecting post-colonial interests to the detriment of the national interest. This is one genesis and dynamic of the deepening threats to global peace and security that now has a very bleak future.
First is the issue and place of democracy in the conduct and management of peace and security: how far can the quest for and protection of democracy help the management of conflicts? Can democracy, in the current global dispensation, prevent international insecurity and national instability? These questions are necessary because one major dynamic of regional insecurity is the issue of democracy and war as dynamics.
The July 26, 2023 coup d’état in Niger Republic ousted President Mohammed Bazoum. The Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) used the need to protect democracy as a pretext to condemn the coup and to issue a 7-day ultimatum at the First Extraordinary Session of the ECOWAS Authority, held on July 30, 2023, to the military junta. Abdourahamani Tchiani, who led the junta, declared himself the President of the National Council for the Safeguard of the Homeland of Niger. The ECOWAS asked the coupists to reinstate President Bazoum who was put under house arrest or face an ECOWAS military intervention.
The Authority of Heads of State and Government recalled the need to respect the principle of zero tolerance for constitutional change of government as enshrined in the ECOWAS and African Union Protocols and other instruments. The ECOWAS Authority also resolved that ‘only official acts of President Bazoum or his duly mandated officials will be recognised by ECOWAS.’ This resolution is quite significant from the perspective that there are now two de facto governments in Niger Republic. France, the former colonial master, and the United States, both of which have military bases in Niger Republic, as well as the ECOWAS, still recognise the ousted government of Mohammed Bazoum. On the contrary, Mali, Burkina Faso, Russia and many others support the Tchiani-led military junta. Thus, Niger Republic is consciously or otherwise now playing host to international conflicts of interests.
In this regard, the ECOWAS has called for the immediate release and reinstatement of President Bazoum. It rejected any letter of resignation that might have been purportedly signed by him, and warned that, ‘in the event the Authority’s demands are not met within one week,’ the Authority will ‘take all measures necessary to restore constitutional order in the Republic of Niger. Such measures may include the use of force. To this effect, the Chiefs of Defence Staff of ECOWAS are to meet immediately.’ In fact, the ECOWAS ordered the closure of land and air borders between ECOWAS borders and Niger, no-fly zone on all commercial flights to and from Niger. It also suspended all commercial and financial transactions with Niger, placed travel bans on the coupists, froze assets of the Niger State Enterprises and parastatals in commercial Banks, etc. All these measures are pointers to regional instability.
These ECOWAS policy positions can be appreciated against the background of the increasing coups-making in the West African region. Mali, Guinea Conakry, not to mention Guinea Conakry that can be described as the regional base for coup-making, have played host to coups before that of Niger Republic. Consequently, ‘enough is enough’ was the thinking of the ECOWAS which is currently chaired by the President of Nigeria, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Another consideration is the importance attached to democracy in the Republic of Niger. President Mohammed Bazoum was the first to be elected in 2021 in a peaceful election and democratic transfer of power since the country’s independence in 1960. Consequently, the need to prevent any return to the political lulls of yesteryears became a desideratum for the ECOWAS leader.
However, it should be noted that this ECOWAS intention of military invasion is inconsistent with the provisions of the 1978 Protocol on Non-Aggression which requires all Member States to ‘refrain from the threat or use of force or aggression… against the territorial integrity and political independence of other Member States.’ While this provision may not be limited in interpretation to the individual members of the ECOWAS, does it really prevent the regional organisation from engaging in any collective intervention?
Whatever is the case, the domestic environmental conditionings in Nigeria are very hostile to any ECOWAS military intervention in Niger Republic. Francophone West Africa is sharply divided on the matter. For example, Mali and Burkina Faso have expressed open support for the coupists. Not only are the people of Mali and Burkina Faso enjoying Russian collaboration, so also are Nigériens rejoicing over the coup and dancing with the Russian national flags.
The Western powers, led by France and the United States, are aiding and abetting the ousted president of Niger while the Wagner Group, supported by Russia, Mali. Burkina Faso, Algeria are supporting the coupists. By implication, the coup in Niger as a conflict has now extended beyond the shores of Niger Republic. ECOWAS has not been able to restore Mohammed Bazoum to power and has also not succeeded in restoring constitutional order. France is gradually withdrawing its troops. Will France be replaced by Russians in Niger? The Wagner group boss, Yevgeny Prigozhin, has observed that ‘what happened in Niger is nothing other than the struggle of the people of Niger with their colonisers, with colonisers who are trying to foist their rules of life on them and their conditions and keep them in the state that Africa was in hundreds of years ago.’
If the former colonialists want to keep their former colonies in the state that Africa was in hundreds of years ago, what really is there for President Bola Ahmed Tinubu (PBAT) to do or contain recolonization in another form? PBAT admitted in his opening remarks at the extraordinary meeting that the ECOWAS had made ‘diligent efforts through the deployment of various ECOWAS mediation teams, to engage the military junta for a peaceful resolution of the political situation.’ At the second extraordinary meeting, PBAT added that ‘it is essential to evaluate the effectiveness of our interventions and identify any gaps or challenges that may have hindered progress.’ But where is the ECOWAS after the evaluation as at today?
Israel and Gaza: the Great Power Politics
At the international level, the problem is no longer that of unconstitutional changes of government but that of gross violation of international humanitarian law. The Israelo-Gazan conflict has become another major threat to global peace and security. First, there are various reports showing the bombing of hospital ambulances by Israeli Defence Forces, thus prompting international concerns and protests. And yet, the great powers in Western Europe, and the United States have the luxury of telling the world that Israel has the right of legitimate self-defence. Does the right of legitimate self-defence include the disrespect for the protection of innocent civilians or the non-combatants?
There are the reports that Pastor Enoch Adeboye, the General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) in Nigeria who openly prayed for the victory of the Israelis. As he said the prayers in a good will message to the Israelis in a video clip shared on the RCCG’s page, all the members of the RCCG are praying for Israel to have absolute victory in its conflict with the Hamas who is governing the Gaza Strip of the Palestine territory. In his words, ‘hello my beloved brothers in Israel, I want you to know that we are praying for you, that all members of the RCCG all over the world are standing by you at this very critical moment. The Almighty God, the only one of Israel, will give you absolute victory and give you permanent peace from now on in the mighty name of Jesus.’
And perhaps more importantly, Pastor Adeboye prayed that ‘this one will be the war that will be the end of all wars in Israel, that from now on it will be peace and progress, and nobody will ever again disturb the peace of Israel.’ Without any whiff of doubt, there is absolutely nothing wrong in praying for the Israelis except that a Christian ought to pray for all parties involved in any given violent conflict. Selective prayers for one side is unnecessarily partisan and ungodly. The General Overseer ought to be an objective peace maker in the quest for global peace and security especially that the absolute victory of Israel is not even a good pointer to peace and security in Israel.
What is often forgotten in this matter of Israelo-Gazan conflict is the genesis of the conflict and the fact that Israel is on record to have been recklessly killing Palestinians, especially the Gazans, in the past. The world has not been able to caution Israel and stop the abuse of humanitarian rights of the innocent people. As a result, Israel has continued to grow wings, defying UN resolutions, especially the UN Security Resolution 242 of 1967 which demanded Israel’s withdrawal from the occupied territories.
Besides, are the Jews in modern-day Israel the descendants of the biblical Israelis? Are Jews really Christians? Many Christians have frequently referred to Chapter 1: 6-7 of the Book of Amos in the Bible where it is said that Gazans would be punished by God for their recidivist sins. In other words, the current infliction of war by the Israelis on the Gazans is being interpreted as an execution of the Word of God. Perhaps more interesting is the issue of whether the Old Testament should be separated from the New Testament, particularly that the last chapter of the Book of Revelations has it that whoever subtracts from or adds to the contents of the Holy Bible will be divinely cursed.
The point of essence here is the internationalisation of the Israelo-Gazan conflict. As a result of Israel’s reckless disregard for the protection of innocent civilians required by international humanitarian law, many countries are now showing more sympathy for the Palestinians. The likelihood of the Hezbollah joining in an all-out war with Israel in the event the Israeli onslaught of internationally-protected civilians continues unabated cannot be ruled out anymore.
Sinn Féin, of Ireland, has advised that ‘the Israeli ambassador should no longer enjoy diplomatic status in Ireland.’ In the same vein, Mary Lou McDonald, the party president, has also asked that ‘Dana Erlich should be expelled until a ceasefire is announced between Israel and Hamas,’ a ceasefire which the Israeli Prime Minister will not see happen until the release of the hostages. Mrs McDonald has considered that ‘our approach has been ceasefire from the get-go and we’re not outliers in that regard.’ More significantly, she said ‘that is the international law which remains our priority but as Israel turns its face away from that call for ceasefire, as the crisis deepens and the violence becomes all the more intense, clearly, there has to be a consequence here in Ireland. In fact, the Irish Prime Minister (Taoiseach), and the government has noted that ‘Israel is not acting now purely in self-defence, and they are inflicting collective punishment on an innocent civilian population.’
What appears most interesting about the various arguments is the position of Mr. Leo Varadkar, the Irish Prime Minister, who has observed that the way Israel is going about the complete neutralisation of the Gaza cannot guarantee its future freedom and security. This is a truism. It is a truism because anti-Israel sentiments are on the increase: Bahrain has recalled its ambassador from Israel because of the escalating assault on Gaza. Honduras has similarly recalled its ambassador to Israel over the humanitarian situation in Gaza. Turkey and Jordan have done the same thing. Turkey has reportedly ‘written off’ Prime Minister Netanyahu. Chile and Colombia in Latin America have recalled their plenipotentiaries in Israel. This means the number of Israel’s unfriendly countries is on the increase.
The likely and most unfriendly enemy of Israel may be Russia in the foreseeable future. The unfriendliness is most likely to be by proxy, through the hostility vis-à-vis the United States and the NATO. Recall that on November 2, 2023, the Russian President, Vladimir Putin reportedly signed a law by which Russia is withdrawing Russia’s ratification of the global treaty banning nuclear weapons tests. International law permits that. In the eyes of the US Secretary of State, Anthony Blinken, ‘Russia’s action will only serve to set back confidence in the international arms control regime.’ How can the United States be talking about setting back confidence in the international arms control when the United States is not even obligated by the nuclear control agreements? Without doubt, Russia may in the near future open its doors of assistance to African countries in this nuclear sector simply to spite the United States. The objective cannot but be to destabilise the West as a whole.
The perspectives of Russia, as told by the Reuters, ‘Moscow says its de-ratification of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) is merely designed to bring Russia into line with the United States, which signed but never ratified the treaty. Russia will not resume nuclear testing unless Washington does, say Russian diplomats.’ Why de-ratification at this juncture? Is it a warning to pro-Israelis in Gaza? Whatever is the case, Russia is most likely to support the Palestinians through Syria to serve as a counterpoise to the Americans. Russians have alleged that the United States have signed the nuclear agreements but have not ratified them, hence the Americans are not bound by the agreements. Accords normally create obligations for the signatories that have ratified them. US non-ratification of the agreements is another dynamic of global insecurity. The Nuclear Weapons States do not want other countries to acquire nuclear capability. France and China refused to sign the nuclear non-proliferation treaty at the initial stage but later came back to sign it after perfecting their capability. The Nuclear Weapons States, otherwise the P-5, preach the sermons of peaceful use of nuclear development but use theirs for war. This is double standard and uncalled for. Nigeria should take advantage of the eventual withdrawal of Russia from the nuclear accords to invest in the development of nuclear capability for war. This is necessary to be able to respond to the deepening challenges of global peace and security. The manner of management of international current affairs so dictate.