By M.S. Prabhakara
Foreign intervention, as seen in Libya and Côte d'Ivoire, raises important questions about the limits of national sovereignty, an idea that does not seem applicable to nation states like the UNSC members.
The ongoing invasion of Libya by the armed forces of three permanent members of the UN Security Council (UNSC) — the U.S., the U.K. and France — with the support of some other North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) members, with a view to getting rid of Muammar Qadhafi, and the developments in Côte d'Ivoire, where French military intervention led to the arrest and removal from office of President Laurent Gbagbo (and his replacement by Alassane Ouattara, leader of the opposition who won a UN supervised election in November last) raise important questions about the limits of national sovereignty, an idea that does not seem applicable to powerful nation states like the members of the UNSC.
The invasion of Libya was sanctioned by a UNSC resolution (No. 1973), adopted on March 17. Though five of the 15 UNSC members, Russia, China, Brazil, Germany and India, abstained, none voted against it. Two days later, Libya was invaded. Six weeks into the invasion, Qadhafi remains in power despite the massive use of land, sea and air power, and the imposition of no-fly zones in Libyan airspace for Libyan aircraft. In contrast, the French intervention in Côte d'Ivoire attained its objective swiftly.
However, Côte d'Ivoire may yet pose other challenges, and may even revert to a state of civil war, as was prevalent for several years before the elections. The killing of Ibrahim (IB) Coulibaly, a ‘former' warlord who had become a supporter of President Ouattara, by government forces on April 27 could be a pointer to the shape of things to come, and a possible realigning of forces. Referring to himself in the third person in a recent interview to AP, he had said: “IB came to solve the problems, not create problems. IB wants this country to be unified. I don't understand why people say IB wants to take power from Ouattara. What lies!”
With such a deviously ambiguous denial of political ambition in the affirmative, it is no wonder that he has been killed. The examples of Liberia and Sierra Leone, where other actors were active in the 1990s, were relevant in Côte d'Ivoire even before the internal troubles took a serious turn in 2002. As in West Africa, the geographical and cultural disconnect in Côte d'Ivoire, between the north and the south, and the coastal regions and the ‘interior,' persists. The periodic crises and the inability of political parties contesting elections to accept their outcome reflect this disconnect. Even in Nigeria, economically and politically one of the most advanced in the continent, these divides pushed the country into a three-year long civil war in the late 1960s. It was eventually resolved by the political leadership, though international ‘humanitarian' organisations closely linked to mercenaries who were materially supported by former colonial powers, tried their best to split the country into ruinous self-destructing fiefdoms. Even now, these contradictions occasionally flare up, thanks to the very same forces that tried to destroy the federal republic.
Libya is, however, proving to be a tougher nut to crack. Though the invading forces initially said their objective was not the removal of Muammar Qadhafi from power but only to ensure security to the ‘Libyan people opposed to Qadhafi,' meaning those fighting against him located in and around Benghazi, this was qualified quite early during the invasion by the commander of the invading forces that ‘regime change' was not their objective at present. After a sustained reporting of the impending humanitarian tragedy of vast proportions in Misrata, there has been a strategic change in the objective, with the bombing of the compound where Muammar Qadhafi lives in. Qadhafi is yet to be removed, despite the sustained campaign against his government by the Western ‘liberal' media. Dissenting voices questioning this diminishing of national sovereignty by big powers are countered on the ground that the military intervention has been authorised by a UNSC resolution, and is perfectly legitimate.
The argument is that ‘popular' resentment in the form of ‘a mass uprising' against the governments of Qadhafi and Gbagbo was being violently repressed. So, foreign armed intervention to save the people from their own governments and leaders became inevitable. The question who decides that there is indeed a mass uprising that is being repressed with such violence by the very state that is supposed to protect its people becomes irrelevant in an environment where the media and ‘civil society' exert enormous influence in moulding national and international opinion, and something else called R2P.
And thereby hangs a tale. This new and evolving doctrine that has legitimised foreign intervention to remove leaders like Qadhafi on the ground that they have become ‘enemies of the people' was crafted through an ‘international consensus' during the 2005 UN World Summit and has come to be known as the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect (R2P, in the jargon of the new language order). This consensus was manufactured by NGOs networking with the United Nations and other national and international human rights organisations. The website, http://www.responsibilitytoprotect.org/, provides details of the manufacturing of this consensus, as well as of the NGOs and that strange animal, the ‘international community,' somewhat analogous to the ‘civil society' that is making waves in India, that are fronting and driving this process. Indeed, at some points the ‘international community' becomes a euphemism for the UNSC, as in Paragraph 3 of the R2P preamble cited below.
The Preamble drips with moral commitment to protect the ‘people' against their own governments, even if these were to be elected governments. It also raises many questions. For instance, the mechanisms built in democratic polities to remove elected governments that have become oppressive are not even taken into consideration because the state and its elected representatives have become corrupt beyond redemption, unlike the ‘civil society' that is axiomatically seen as immaculate, unstained.
Recognising the failure to adequately respond to the most heinous crimes known to humankind, world leaders made a historic commitment to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity at the United Nations (UN) 2005 World Summit. This commitment, entitled the Responsibility to Protect, stipulates that:
1. The State carries the primary responsibility for the protection of populations from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing.
2. The international community has a responsibility to assist States in fulfilling this responsibility.
3. The international community should use appropriate diplomatic, humanitarian and other peaceful means to protect populations from these crimes. If a State fails to protect its populations or is in fact the perpetrator of crimes, the international community must be prepared to take stronger measures, including the collective use of force through the UN Security Council.
Above all, this very ‘international community' now entrusted with the ‘responsibility to assist the states in fulfilling this responsibility,' to protect their population from genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing, has itself waged war against their own people, committed genocides. The leading member of this ‘international community' readily fits the bill. This is not the first attempt by the ‘‘international community' of this ilk to flout the national sovereignty of less powerful countries.
Following the nationalisation of the Suez Canal in July 1956, Egypt was invaded by a transnational coalition of France, Britain and Israel on the ground that the Canal was an international waterway, and Egyptian sovereignty did not extend to the Canal. Patrice Lumumba in Belgian Congo (July 1961) and Mohammad Najeebullah in Afghanistan (September 1996) were abducted and murdered while they were under the ‘protective custody' of the UN.
Put simply, instrumentalities such as the R2P devised by the ‘international community,' like the ongoing demeaning of the democratic political process in India by positing against it ‘non-political politics,' are yet another weapon being crafted to assist the relentless process of recolonisation under way in many formerly colonised countries.
Source: The Hindu, India