| J. Emeka Wokoro , Towards a Model for
African Humanitarian Intervention, 6 Regent Journal of International
Law 1 (2008).
The ongoing genocide in Darfur and President George W. Bush's
assertion of a "humanitarian intervention" defense to the Iraq war
absent finding any vaunted weapons of mass destruction, the initial
premise for the invasion, continue to fuel the debate on
humanitarian *2 interventions. Ordinarily, this debate hardly arises
if the United Nations, tasked with maintaining global peace and
security and fostering fundamental human rights, has been effective,
rather than sidelined, as it was in face of the butchery in Pol
Pot's Cambodia, Idi Amin's Uganda, and the Rwandan genocide.
Nonetheless, in the face of the genocide in Darfur, and the
significant displacement and destabilization of the region, is there
a legal and moral framework for unilateral African intervention,
collectively or individually? Is the "Never again!" slogan, first
heard after the holocaust and repeated after the Rwanda slaughter,
merely a vacuous expression bound to be uttered in expiation long
after the killing has ended rather than a rousing reminder to
protect the vulnerable?
Since colonialism, African nations have forged a dependent
relationship with the West, relying on former colonial masters for
solutions to their myriad malaises. This dependence begins to
explain their propensity for awaiting international (mostly Western)
resolution and intervention for their conflicts and any burgeoning
crimes against humanity. While an apparent lack of resources for
successful military intervention to halt atrocities might explain
the reluctance of African nations to militarily intervene, it does
not fully account for their failure to explore a range of
non-military options such as rallying international *3 support,
economic sanctions, diplomatic isolation, travel restrictions, or
championing U.N.-sanctioned military action. It also does not
account for their failure to collaborate for effective, albeit
limited, military action.
It is axiomatic that humanitarian interventions track state
interests rather than being impelled by pure altruism or moral
outrage. This paper postulates that if state interest determines
humanitarian interventions, it then follows that Africa's lack of
strategic interest to compel powerful nations to intervene begs an
African response, as the continent careens from one conflict to
another, and as coups and counter coups, dictatorships and imperial
presidencies, and throngs of refugees and internally displaced
persons characterize the African landscape.
Part I reviews the sovereignty/humanitarian
intervention debate; explores the sovereignty concept within the
African construct, from the first continental grouping, the OAU, to
the current AU; and examines the results of the African worldview.
Part II discusses the nexus between state interest and humanitarian
intervention, which results in a dearth of international
humanitarian interventions in Africa. Part III examines the AU and
its modality for intervention, its history of non-interference, and
the unreliability of such missions in the past. Part IV posits a
model of collective African humanitarian intervention, argues for
leadership by the Group of Four, examines the legality of such
interventions under the U.N. and the AU, and concludes with a
discussion on the ripeness of the Darfur conflict for such military
. . .
Darfur's urgent humanitarian scenario demands urgent African action,
especially by the more resourceful Group of Four, who should apply
potent non-military measures, such as economic, diplomatic, and
transportation restrictions, and escalate to military action if the
foregoing measures are futile or as exigency demands.
The apparent paralysis of both the AU and the U.N., the absence of a
strong, committed regional group, such as ECOWAS in Liberia and
Sierra Leone, and the international community's immobility and
apparent inability to translate tough rhetoric into meaningful
action demands that individual African nations, acting individually
or in concert as the Group of Four, lead the effort to halt the
genocide in Darfur and tackle similar humanitarian crises elsewhere
across the continent.
The U.N. Charter and the AU provide frameworks for humanitarian
interventions to be undertaken collectively, when nations can, or
unilaterally, when nations must. It is time, then, for African
nations to take the lead to protect human rights. They must start
not only by *36 establishing the Group of Four described above but
also by revising the Constitutive Act to unambiguously provide for
collective or individual humanitarian intervention when the AU is
immobilized; to eliminate colonial-tinged, state-centric preference
for sovereignty and non-interference; and to shift from a
decades-old political liberation philosophy to a paradigm for the
protection of fundamental human rights.