Nine Spring Lessons for the Autumn: African Leaders Today Imagine That They Are Smarter and Wiser Than Previous Leaders Who Were Colonised Back in the 19th Century. but Watching Events This Spring, It Is Now Easier to Understand How Occupation Happened in Africa

By Wambu, Onyekachi | New African, May 2011 | Go to article overview

Nine Spring Lessons for the Autumn: African Leaders Today Imagine That They Are Smarter and Wiser Than Previous Leaders Who Were Colonised Back in the 19th Century. but Watching Events This Spring, It Is Now Easier to Understand How Occupation Happened in Africa


Wambu, Onyekachi, New African


A forthcoming intercultural conference to which I have been invited to deliver a paper focuses on issues of (mis) translation between the West and Africa. Thinking about such (mis)translation led me to consider the narrative of the West on the so-called Arab Spring, and to contrast that narrative with lessons I have learnt, as an African, from the Spring and Cote d'Ivoire.

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1) The international system is not fit for purpose

The core interests of the five veto-wielding members of the Security Council are always protected--which means no responsibility to protect (R2P), no-fly zones or the like, in Burma, Chechyna, Israel, or Bahrain. The undemocratic Security Council has now also taken it upon itself to establish "democracy" in selected member states.

2) R2P and selective Crimes against Humanity

If any action, even indirectly, by an African government unleashed half a million deaths, the individuals involved would now be at the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Similar Western actions never have consequences apart from hand-wringing and regret. R2P can now be used for selective regime change--as African countries are largely fragile, with regional and minority unrest (particularly in resource rich areas). External powers can now easily fund rebellions. If the state does nothing it faces being overthrown, if it cracks down and its leaders are anti-Western, it's simply targeted through R2P, with sanctions, and war crimes trials.

3) Nuclear weapons

The world is more unstable. North Korea is quietly boasting that Libya made a mistake by giving up its weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). Will Iran now willingly give up its nuclear capacity?

4) NATO as world police

NATO desperately wants an African foothold-after Darfur, now Libya. Will the USA's AFRICOM finally get its African base--in Libya (after the "liberation")?

5) Private property

The Libyan rebels' declaration protected western property rights in Libya but Westerners always freeze assets whenever they fall out with a government.

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