Conflict Prevention, Management, and Resolution: Africa - Regional Strategies for the Prevention of Displacement and Protection of Displaced Persons: The Cases of the OAU, ECOWAS, SADC, and IGAD

By Levitt, Jeremy | Duke Journal of Comparative & International Law, Fall 2000 | Go to article overview

Conflict Prevention, Management, and Resolution: Africa - Regional Strategies for the Prevention of Displacement and Protection of Displaced Persons: The Cases of the OAU, ECOWAS, SADC, and IGAD


Levitt, Jeremy, Duke Journal of Comparative & International Law


I. INTRODUCTION

Over the past ten years the international humanitarian protection regime for displaced persons has been strengthened by, for example, the emergence of protective guidelines for internally displaced persons (IDPs).(1) Ironically, during the same period, many states have in theory and practice failed to respect the norms of various protective regimes.(2) During times of interstate and intrastate armed conflict or mass social unrest (e.g., gross violations of human rights),(3) combatants and other perpetrators have generally ignored universal refugee, human rights, and humanitarian protective norms. This has not only exacerbated Africa's refugee and IDP dilemma, but also resulted in an incalculable number of war crimes and crimes against humanity being committed against civilians, humanitarian workers, peacekeepers and combatants. As a result, African people, and more specifically women and children, have suffered the greatest indignity,(4) and to make matters worse, the international community has yet to forward a viable solution to the problem.

In the absence of the international politics of the Cold War, Africa's geo-political stock has greatly devalued, and its former stockbrokers have not been genuinely interested in finding new ways to proactively re-engage and reinvest. They have simply ignored the need to re-conceptualize the nature of their relationships with African states, which has mistakenly caused many Western policy-makers to be convinced that they have no strategic interests in Africa. Others like the United States purport to have an African policy. During the Clinton Administration one commentator noted that "[s]tripped of its Clintonian rhetorical veneer," U.S. policy toward Africa is "extractive commercial, limited security and selective humanitarianism--remain the cardinal ordinances of US foreign policy towards the continent."(5) It is yet to be seen whether the Bush Administration will adopt a more progressive policy toward Africa. Although U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell claims to have a keen interest in African issues, his designee for Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs will serve as the first indicator of his genuineness. Such policy is in theory and practice cosmetic and instituted to pacify domestic constituencies. This may explain why, similar to the United States, many countries refuse to provide genuine human resources (e.g., peace-keepers and peace-enforcers) to avert conflict and alleviate human suffering in Africa when there is no overriding domestic strategic interest. The cases of Liberia, Somalia, Rwanda, Burundi, and Sierra Leone clearly show that the risks involved with saving African lives in Africa far outweigh the benefits. Furthermore, the case of Kosovo unmistakably demonstrates that, unless people of European descent are threatened with death or suffering on a grand scale the "more civilized" nations of the North, and the international organizations which they control, are reluctant to expend human and tangible resources to save lives. This is especially true with respect to the "Dark Continent," where the international community spent $0.11 a day per refugee in Rwanda and Sierra Leone, compared to an approximate $1.50 a day per refugee in Kosovo.(6) Such disparities lead one to conclude that race and geo-politics are as much determining factors as national strategic interests when it comes to international peace and security, especially as it relates to Africa.

Notwithstanding, perhaps, European and American forces should not be employed for peace-keeping in Africa, but rather provide tangible resources such as logistics, reconnaissance, and communications support to African peace-enforcers, as the records of the former in Africa are at best dismal. On this point, one analyst comments,

   It seems that every peacekeeping operation has had its share of horror
   stories: US soldiers offending Muslim values by skinny-dipping in Somalia;
   Canadians torturing and murdering Somali civilians; Dutch peacekeepers
   `luring Bosnian children into a field to check for land mines by throwing
   sweets into the area'; and UNTAC's Bulgarian contingent becoming involved
   in prostitution and smuggling. … 

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