More than ever as Africa gets entwined in the international system, the international community is becoming increasingly part of Africa’s development. Ever more, the international community includes the ever-growing Africans working in numerous international organizations and diasporan Africans across the world’s capitals whose transmission of billions of dollars annually to Africa have given them immense influence on their homelands.
Most times, the international community is the last resort in resolving Africa’s self-inflicted complications, especially in the face of frightening leadership as we saw in Nigeria under Gen. Sani Abacha and his associates. The reasons vary Africa-wide, but the constantly ringing arguments are feeble political leadership and weak institutions. Against these backgrounds, international pressure to democratize for stability and development are impacted on African countries where threats of coup d’etats, weak economies, fragile underdeveloped infrastructure, and unstable domestic authority structures are strongly prominent.
As Sierra Leone, Liberia and Burundi reveal under such dire conditions sovereignty is eroded and Africans hopelessly suffer, gapping for mortal help in the face deadly unstable domestic authority structures. Under such condition, as the American thinker Francis Fukuyama argues in State-Building: Governance and World Order in the 21st Century, “sovereignty and therefore legitimacy could no longer be automatically conferred on the de facto power holder in a country. State sovereignty was a fiction or bag joke in the case of countries like Somalia, which has descended into rule by warlords.”
In such situations, the “international community,” as Francis Fukuyama contends, “ceased to be an abstraction and took on palpable presence as the effective government of the country in question.”
When ex-Cote d’Ivoire President Laurent Gbagbo refused to cede power after loosing the November, 2010 presidential elections, the international community, sensing more deaths and destruction of properties, helped not only remove Laurent Gbagbo from power but before that cut-off the Gbagbo regime from all Ivorian funds and diplomatic relations, sending his diplomats abroad packing.
The same treatment was rendered to Niger when the military took over power from President Mamadou Tandja. On April 7, 2011, Mahamadou Issoufou, of the Nigerien Party for Democracy and Socialism (PNDS-Tarayya), became President after successful multiparty elections.
Tied to foreign aid, international investments and diplomatic influence, as democratic Ghana and Botswana show and are enjoying, the idea is linked to the international community’s policy of “democracy promotion” in the world. This is part of the international community’s international development architecture. As Nigeria’s elections show, initially elections may not be free and fair, but overtime it becomes better. The April16, 2011 elections in Nigeria was better than the one in 2007.
Whether dealing with African civil wars, post-conflict countries, coup d’etats, post-elections crisis, or political instability, distressed Africans point to the international community for decisive help as countries in Africa’s Great Lake Region show. The assistance is made more critical because of the fact that most African countries depend on international donors for their budget sustenance.
However, increasingly, the African diasporan financial remittances are matching up with foreign financial aids. But the problem with the African diasporan remittances is that it is not organized as a force for political reforms but individuals sending money to families. Sometimes, diasporan groups lobby international institutions and foreign governments for certain actions against definite African situations when need arises. This makes their collective force on African issues, superlatively, frail. So the real force to help change difficult African issues such as building democracy for greater development, rest, in the final analysis, on the international community’s assistance.
But the international community could be a problem in the democratization of Africa. Patricia Daley, a human geographer at Oxford University, argues that what happens in Africa’s democratization process is that if African elites sorely take hold of the democratic process without fully bringing African traditional institutions on board, the elites, mimicking the West, allow the international development community to commandeer the democratic process, who usually do not understand the African sensibilities, and with their lack of control and dearth of knowledge, mess up the democratic process.
Regardless of this, the international community becomes the last card in helping build democracies in Africa. Latest research by political scientists Hein Goemans (of University of Rochester) and Nikolay Marinov (of Yale University) about post-coup d’etats African countries, under immense pressure to survive, is most likely to transit to democratic practices as soon as possible. The successful stories of Sierra Leone and Liberia demonstrate the investigations by Goemans and Marinov.
Entitled “Putsch for Democracy: The International Community and Elections After the Coup,” Goemans and Marinov point out, using most of their data from African coup d’etats and elections, that before 1991 majority of successful African coups installed their leaders in power. The picture changes dramatically between 1991 and 2001 – with most African coup d’etats leading to competitive elections, in five years or less. Niger, the Central African Republic and Guinea-Conakry come to mind. In this sense, Post-Cold War Africa has progressively seen conflict-ridden African states under immense pressure by the international community to democratize through timely competitive elections. Goemans and Marinov characterize this as the “electoral norm.”
In Sierra Leone, rumour had it that military junta Head of State, Brigadier-General Julius Maada Bio, despite promises to hold competitive elections after Sierra Leone’s 11-year-old civil war had thought privately of reneging and transforming himself into civilian President, as Ghana’s Ft. Lt. Jerry Rawlings did. But unrelenting international pressure, in addition to the diasporan Sierra Leonean lobby, forced Gen. Bio to hold on to his public pledge.
The result was Alhaji Ahmad Tejan Kabbah, of the Sierra Leone People’s Party, winning the presidential elections and becoming President in March 29, 1996 – May 25, 1997 and March 10, 1998 – September 17, 2007. For this, post-conflict Sierra Leone is profoundly donor-dependent and over 60 percent of its national budget comes from the international community. In total Sierra Leone receives over US$300m annually in international aid.
Most African countries that depend heavily on international development aid are easily the first to go for competitive elections, after coup d’etat, civil war or political crisis. Goemans and Marinov hypothesis is that since 1990s there have been decline in illegal seizure of power in Africa. In this context, the current African political picture is that coup d’etats (which normally lead to civil wars and political instabilities) is the most important case for toppling African democracies.
Goemans and Marinov explains that their “ … findings indicate that the new generation of coups have been considerably less nefarious for democracy than their historical predecessors.” What is striking in Goemans and Marinov supposition is that “outside pressure” has surely engendered “electoral norms,” that have dissuaded “coup-entrepreneurs.”
One of the success stories of the “electoral norms” is Sierra Leone. Dubbed Britain’s sore “successful humanitarian intervention,” Sierra Leone continues to be held up by former British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, as proof of the success of the “new doctrine of international community” he introduced in 1999. With threats of coup d’etat, weak economy, brittle underdeveloped infrastructure, and unbalanced domestic power structures, the only development card for post-conflict Sierra Leone to play was with the “new doctrine of international community.”
In its struggle to play well with the doctrine of the international community, today, Sierra Leone is one of the fast growing democracies in Africa. Formerly at the bottom of the UN Human Development Index that measures human well-being, Sierra Leone has risen dramatically to the 158th rank out of 167 countries ranked in 2010.
Whether dealing with coup-entrepreneurs, post-conflict actors/groups or political volatilities, the international community, through its famed unrelenting pressure and provision of critical financial aid, has forced various out-of-place African actors/groups to ensure that key institutions of the African state, as Errol Mendes, a constitutional and international law expert at the University of Ottawa, Canada, explains, “are subject to the rule of law and respect the fundamental rights … This means focusing on the imperative of an independent judiciary, a free media, an independent election commission, security forces cleansed as much as possible, and ensuring that forces do not terrorize the people.”
The ability to nurture these democratic tenets in Africa, as Oxford University’s Patricia Daley argues, is how to deal with limitations the international community finds itself in grasping the nuances of traditional Africa values, that are supposed to be lubricant for authentic democratization of Africa.
International pressure or not, significant financial support or not, Ghana, Botswana, Sierra Leone, Mauritius, Nigeria, among others, exhibit that democracy has to be a homegrown enterprise, with the citizens acknowledging its mammoth attributes to their ultimate progress. In this logic, Goemans and Marinov divulge that “democratic norms have a far better chance of taking root in a country if some minimum procedural trappings of democratic government can be maintained over time.”
This makes the delicate work of democracy building and the fostering of development in Africa by the international community sometimes convoluted. In Africa today, as Goemans and Marinov’s research discloses, coup-entrepreneurs, post-conflict actors/groups or perpetuators of political volatilities really “care about the attitude of the international community.” Conversely, the international community as well cares about “the dangers of irregular transfer of power” in Africa.
As an advancement undertaking, as Kofi Abrefa Busia, the late Prime Minister of Ghana and a democracy philosopher, enthused in The Prospects For Democracy in Africa, this makes democracy building in Africa a deeply faithful enterprise that should be driven by Africans’ traditional values. A realistic venture that should be informed by the African facts of fear of coup d’etats, weak economies, fragile underdeveloped infrastructure, and wobbly domestic authority configuration.
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France has sent extra troops to Ivory Coast’s main city, Abidjan, and taken control of its airport.
It comes as fighting continued between forces loyal to the UN-recognised president, Alassane Ouattara, and his rival, incumbent Laurent Gbagbo.
The city’s pro-Gbagbo TV station called for people to mobilise against the French ‘”occupation”.
An adviser to Mr Ouattara said his forces were preparing a final push to depose Mr Gbagbo, AP reports.
France has sent an extra 300 soldiers to Ivory Coast, military spokesman Thierry Burkhard said, taking the total French force to about 1,400.
The airport had been secured by UN troops since Friday, but the French move meant the airport was now able to re-open, Mr Burkhard said.
He said there were no immediate plans to start evacuating foreigners.
More than 1,500 foreigners are sheltering in a French army camp.
They include about 700 French nationals, some 600 Lebanese citizens and 60 Europeans of assorted nationalities, French media report.
‘Lives at stake’
Ivorian state TV, which is controlled by Mr Gbagbo, accused the French troops of preparing a genocide like the one in Rwanda in 1994, when more than 800,000 people were killed.
A strap line on state TV on Sunday read: “[French President Nicolas] Sarkozy’s men are preparing a Rwandan genocide in Ivory Coast. Ivorians, let us go out en masse and occupy the streets. Let us stay standing.”
Mr Sarkozy has called a cabinet meeting for Sunday afternoon to discuss the crisis in Ivory Coast.
On Saturday, heavy artillery fire was heard in Abidjan as the two sides fought for key sites including the presidential palace, the headquarters of state TV and the Agban military base.
Four UN soldiers were seriously wounded when special forces loyal to Mr Gbagbo fired a rocket-propelled grenade at a UN armoured personnel carrier.
The west of Ivory Coast has also seen vicious battles between rival militias and ethnic groups. On Saturday, the Caritas aid agency said its staff had found the bodies of hundreds of people in Duekoue, and estimated that 1,000 may have died.
The killings occurred between 27 March and 29 March in the Carrefour district, which was controlled at the time by fighters loyal to Mr Ouattara, spokesman Patrick Nicholson told the Associated Press.
“Caritas does not know who was responsible for the killing, but says a proper investigation must take place to establish the truth,” he said.
Most of the 1,000 peacekeepers based in Duekoue had been protecting about 15,000 refugees at a Catholic mission there, Mr Nicholson added.
The International Committee of the Red Cross put the death toll at about 800, while the UN said more than 330 people were killed as Mr Ouattara’s forces took over Duekoue, most of them at the hands of his fighters. However, more than 100 of them were killed by Mr Gbagbo’s troops, it added.
Sidiki Konate, a spokesman for Mr Ouattara’s government, said that while some people had been killed in the fighting between the two sides in recent days, there had been no deliberate killings of Gbagbo supporters.
ICRC staff who visited Duekoue on Thursday and Friday to gather evidence said the scale and brutality of the killings were shocking.
Tens of thousands of women, men and children have fled the fighting.
25 March 2011 –As many as 1 million people have been driven from their homes in Côte d’Ivoire in the months-long turmoil stemming from the outgoing president’s refusal to leave office, with violence mounting and his loyalists using heavy weapons against civilians, a top United Nations official said today.
“The deteriorating security situation and the escalation in the use of heavy weapons has had a serious toll on the lives and well-being of the Ivorian people,” Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Atul Khare told the Security Council, ascribing most of the violence to forces loyal to Laurent Gbagbo, who lost a UN-certified and internationally recognized election to opposition leader Alassane Ouattara last November.
“The human rights situation is very grave, with a high number of human rights violations reported,” he said of the violence that has beset Abidjan, the commercial capital, and the western regions as a result of Mr. Gbagbo’s refusal to respect the results of a democratic election that was meant to reunite a country split by civil war in 2002 into a Government-held south and rebel-controlled north.
The massive displacement in Abidjan and elsewhere is being fueled by fears of all-out war,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesperson Melissa Fleming told a news briefing in Geneva today. “This week, we have seen panic in Abidjan as thousands of youths have responded to the call for civilians to join the ranks of forces loyal to Laurent Gbagbo.”
Showing slides, Mr. Khare detailed some of the worst attacks of the past three months, including an attack by pro-Gbagbo security forces loyal using heavy machine guns against a group of women demonstrating peacefully in Abidjan’s Abobo neighbourhood in support of President Ouattara, killing seven and seriously wounding many more.
In another instance Gbagbo loyalists fired several mortar shells into an Abobo market, killing more than 25 people and wounding more than 40 others. In all, 462 people have been killed since violence erupted in September. More than 93,000 people have fled across the western border into Liberia, while up to 1 million others have been internally displaced, Mr. Khare said.
Just yesterday UN peacekeepers, intervening in Abobo where Gbagbo loyalists were raining mortars down on civilians, opened fire, putting the attackers to flight. The 9,000-strong UN peacekeeping mission in Côte d’Ivoire (UNOCI), which has been supporting the stabilization efforts over the past seven years, is mandated to protect civilians.
Earlier this year the Security Council not only rebuffed Mr. Gbagbo’s demand for its withdrawal but also authorized the immediate deployment of 2,000 additional troops and three armed helicopters.
Gbagbo loyalists continue to obstruct UNOCI’s activities by blocking access and attacking personnel, Mr. Khare said. The mission has increased the number of patrols in vulnerable neighbourhoods, is arranging for round-the-clock patrols in Abobo, and is conducting aerial surveillance of Abidjan and the rest of the country. “We believe these measures have prevented further killings,” he added.
He also noted reported attacks by President Ouattara’s supporters, including an alleged assault by so-called “invisible commandos” in which 5,000 people were driven from their homes outside Abidjan.
He warned that an $87 million appeal for aid in Côte d’Ivoire and five neighbouring countries to face a potential major humanitarian crisis was seriously under-funded, “hampering the ability of the United Nations to provide much needed services to those forced to flee their homes.
“Access to those impacted by the ongoing crisis remains a serious concern. It is essential that all sides allow unhindered access for humanitarian actors to reach those in need,” he added.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said today it had received reports, as yet unconfirmed, that an additional 200 nationals of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), including people from Mali, Burkina Faso, Senegal, Guinea and Togo, had been killed in the Guiglo area in western Côte d’Ivoire. ECOWAS supports Mr. Ouattara.
“In general, we are extremely concerned about the worsening situation, particularly given the continuing incitement by the outgoing president Laurent Gbagbo,” OHCHR spokesperson Rupert Colville told a news briefing in Geneva.
The UNHCR office in Guiglo was attacked and plundered on Wednesday and three vehicles, two motorbikes and all office equipment and furniture were stolen. “We condemn this plundering of our premises and reiterate our call to all parties to protect civilians and refrain from any further deliberate targeting of humanitarian organizations,” Ms. Fleming said, noting that vehicles were also stolen from several other humanitarian agencies in the area.
The Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council today decided to send an independent international commission of inquiry to Côte d’Ivoire to investigate the facts and circumstances surrounding allegations of serious rights abuses.
Yesterday, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos voiced serious concern over the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation. “I call on those involved in the violence to respect civilians, including aid workers, and to allow rapid, safe and unimpeded access by humanitarian organizations,” she said.
UN News Service