By Paul B. Abudu, Ph.D. Founding Executive Director African Institute of Strategic Studies Email: [email protected]
The political situation in Liberia has worsened so much so that to find a solution to it has become an international nightmare and all that is left is international dilatory rhetoric, which means talk without action for purposes of delaying. The question is could this situation have been avoided. The timely request by Liberians for a US intervention because of its long historical affiliation with the country went to closed minds in Washington. The US Bush administration did nothing but request that the President of the country Charles Taylor who is the key factor in the current situation departs from Liberia. The President said he was not moving an inch until the US military team arrives in Liberia as requested by him and the people. While people are dying the Bush Administration thought it was politically prudent to send an assessment team to Liberia. This decision was politically motivated because the President wanted to pretend to be doing something so as to take the heat off from him during his trip to Africa. The positioning of US troops on the shores of Monrovia does not serve any practical purpose but just to indicate a process of delaying tactics. It is no solution and should be discarded. It is based on this position of the United States that one has to question once more whether or not Africans should rely on foreign countries to settle their political ethnic conflicts of which they the foreigners have no interest. The US is not part of the diabolical reasoning of the opposition members in Liberia who seek to get rid of Charles Taylor. The US government currently has it own hands full with the situation in Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries in the world. The US government as a result of its foreign policy that calls for preemptive strike against countries that harbor terrorists has no desire or any tangible interest in Africa much more in Liberia. Should Africa therefore continue to rely on the US to solve the problem in Liberia? It is a fool thinking and leads to nowhere but continued bloodshed while waiting for the US Government to take a decision.
There are many current conflicts in Africa and it appears that Africa has lost it. There are other potential conflicts looming in the continent. The most eminent is that in Zimbabwe. Should the African Union take immediate steps to resolve the situation in Zimbabwe NOW or wait until there is abject violence and lost of lives. In countries in which there is no respect or regard for democracy or for that matter rule of law, the president becomes the supreme ruler. How long will Mugabe stay in power is conditioned on how long he lives. It is not conditioned on the constitution. It is conditioned on his state of health. This trend of leadership is prevalent in many other African countries in which the leaders have been in power for over twenty years and counting.
Back to Liberia, thousands are dying and being slayed because of one person and one person only – Charles Taylor. Should this be the case in Africa and for that matter in Liberia at this age of democracy? Why is it that Charles Taylor for the goodness of his people will not voluntarily departs the country and take away the bounty that he has acquired during his tenure as president of the country.
The problem of Liberia began when Master Sergeant Doe overthrow the presidency of Tolbert. Since then, Liberia has not been the same. All that transposed is in recorded modern history of Liberia.
The violent overthrow of Doe who is regarded by his opponents as a native and they as Americo-Liberians brought the ethnic conflict in the open.
With the current stalemate in Liberia, how can it be resolved to avoid further deaths of innocent people. The US is not going to help until Charles Taylor departs; Charles Taylor will not depart until the US troops are on land in Monrovia, the ECOWAS troops are being mobilized and so on and on. Delaying tactics so that the situation could resolve itself, which will only mean the violent entry into Monrovia and killing of Charles Taylor and anyone who stands in their way. Is this what is expected to resolve the political question in the country?
Apparently, it appears that the international community led by the only super power the United States has no respect for dialogue. The only solution to international problems is now either preemptive military intervention or guerrilla warfare. Can’t we find another way to resolve our conflicts?
It should be acknowledged that Nigeria and Ghana have done their very best to resolve the situation. Nigeria has offered political asylum to Charles Taylor and Ghana has held so many meetings between the conflicting parties. The role of the African Union is not clear. It appears that this has been identified as a West African regional conflict and should be settled by ECOWAS. What happens if there is a political eruption in Zimbabwe? Will that be classified as a problem for East Africa or Southern Africa?
When a situation such as this occurs, it calls for leaders of vision which Africa currently and correctly so lacks. Current leaders are afraid to speak their minds and take drastic actions to prevent political upheavals in their neighboring countries or regions. The political uprisings in Sierra Leone, Cote D’Ivoire and Liberia has effected the economy of the region and more so that of Ghana, Guinea and Senegal. These are the countries that have taken thousands of refugees from the warring countries. For this reason, the social economic effect of these conflicts in the region is monumental.
The vision of Dr. Kwame Nkrumah to create an African High Command was, among other reasons to be able, to have a standing African military ready to intervene in crisis of this nature so that Africa should not rely on the West or foreign troops to intervene. In the current conflicts across Africa the French and British have been called upon to assist. This is a shame and disgrace to the total sovereignty of African countries. Africa has liberated itself from colonial and foreign rule and yet depends on them for almost everything – especially economic and military assistance. If the Africa High Command had been established as boldly recommended by Dr Nkrumah there will be no need to be calling on the United States to intervene in Liberia only to be dictated to as to the terms and conditions under which such intervention will take place while thousands of the people are dying on an hourly basis.
While it is prudent and urgent to resolve the situation in Liberia to avoid more death, it is now time for African leaders to revisit the concept for an African High Command. Problems abound in Africa and it is time we have a standby military to take over any peacekeeping immediately the situation arises. In fact not peacekeeping per se but to prevent any conflicts by timely intervention.
In the arena of peace keeping, is it possible for African leaders to develop a concept of conflict prevention as opposed to conflict management and peacekeeping as is currently the case?
Conflicts in Africa, which have been numerous since independence, affected the total fabric of African political, social and economic developments. Most African leaders have no respect for democracy and rule of law. Immediately they are elected to office these democratic norms become their tools of power. Elections are held based on the leaders desire and in most cases elections are ringed. How can a candidate for president obtain 99.9% of the vote in a country?
The result of elections are usually the determinants of conflicts because the loosing party and international observers cry foul play yet the Government pays no attention to the demands of the people. In situations such as this, the opposition parties tend to fight it out. The case of Zimbabwe is a vivid example. Yet nothing is being done about it and Mugabe is still standing tall and intends to stay in power.
The current reality of the conflict in Africa is exemplified by the Liberian conflict of which the end is not known. All depends on Charles Taylor. He maintains that he will not depart Liberia until the US military are in Monrovia and the US government insists that he should leave Liberia before the troops land in Monrovia. Which comes first and who wins. We know that the losers are the poor Liberians who die each day in the hundreds. The stalemate is not helpful to anyone except Charles Taylor. One can foresee his fate coming down to that of President Doe but before this occurs the death will be tremendous and this is what needs to be avoided.
In view of the stalemate, how should the situation be resolved? The recommendation that this writer wishes to pose is as follows:
1. There should be an immediate establishment of a Council to take over the Administration of the country. This step should be taken BOLDLY by ECOWAS and to immediately give Charles Taylor twenty-fours to depart from the country or arrest him. The country should be placed under the political management of the Council. This will not be unprecedended because it is what is happening in Iraq right now under the management of the United States. If this step is taken it will prevent more deaths in the country.
2. This interim Council should compose of Elders and distinguished Liberians either currently in Liberia or are in foreign countries. Membership of this Council should have no without political aspirations;
3. The United Nations should be involved in the establishment of this Council;
4. Immediately this Council is established, Charles Taylor should depart from Liberia to Nigeria for a political asylum but still answerable to any crimes he might have committed while in office against Liberians or in the conflict in Sierra Leone
5. If he refuses to depart, he should be arrested by the ECOWAS
6. The Council with the assistance of ECOWAS, UN and AU should maintain peace and tranquility in the country. International humanitarian assistance through the United Nations should be requested.
7. The Council should review the current Constitution of Liberia and if there are some lapses it should be addressed or corrected;
8. The Council should then call for an open elections in the country based on the Constitutional requirements
9. The Council should hand over to the elected President and Liberia should once more become a free society in which the people will be free to go about their normal businesses
Charles Taylor is the problem and unless he departs voluntarily he should be forced out and in this case be arrested. The world can no longer wait on Charles Taylor while thousands of his countrymen are killed and thousands fleeing to the neighboring countries.
The recommendations made above are legal and will be supported by the international community. During the 1998 OAU summit in Ouagadougou, President Nelson Mandela boldly and wisely stated “ Africa has a right and a duty to intervene to root out tyranny --- we must accept that it cannot abuse the concept of national sovereignty to deny the rest of the continent the right and duty to intervene when behind those sovereign boundaries, people are being slaughtered to protect tyranny”. This is the saying of a wise person and it should be adhered to.
The current concept of “non-interference” in the internal affairs of member countries of the OAU/AU has been a major constraint and should be re-evaluated. This has given dictators in Africa the power to do whatever they wished to the detriment of their people.
The OAU in their Cairo declaration of 1993 stated that the socio-economic situation in the continent remains nonetheless in a precarious state. It remains so in 2003. The situation has worsened. The OAU recognizes during this declaration that apart from external political factors, there are certain internal human factors and policies, which have negatively contributed to the state of affairs in the continent. The OAU stated in paragraph 9 of the declaration as follows:
No single internal factor has contributed more to the present socio-economic problems on the Continent than the scourge of conflicts within and between the countries. They have brought about death and human suffering, engendered hate and divided nations and families. Conflicts have forced millions of our people into drifting life as refugees and internally displayed persons, deprived of their means of livelihood, human dignity and hope. Conflicts have gobbled-up scarce resources and undermined the ability of our countries to address the many compelling needs of our people
The above declaration was made ten (10) years ago and the situation remains the same. African leaders are not bold enough to do what is right even though they are aware of the many mischieves of their colleagues. If African leaders gather as one and call themselves brothers, then they should act as such and stop padding each other on the back.
Having made the declaration stated above, the OAU in the same declaration paragraph 14 stated as follows:
The mechanism will be guided by the objective and principle of the OAU Charter; in particular, the sovereign equality of member states, non-interference in the internal affairs of States………
Based on the above how does the OAU prevent the occurrences of internal conflicts, which they have recognized in paragraph 9 of the same declaration?
In paragraph 15 of the same declaration, the OAU stated, “the mechanism will have as a primary objective, the anticipation and prevention of conflicts”.
Based on the above it calls to question whether or not the OAU does not anticipate the problems in Sierra Leone, the Congo, Rwanda, Cote D’Ivoire and Liberia. Does the OAU now the African Union (AU) not anticipate the looming problem in Zimbabwe and to address it NOW?
The action of the United States for not adhering to the call of the people of Liberia to assist them in their dire need calls for a revisit of Dr.Kwame Nkrumah’s concept for an African High Command. The time for the formation of this African High Command as envisaged by the late visionary leader of Africa Dr. Kwame Nkrumah has arrived. It is time to take “positive action” and make it happen. Such a command under the direction of the African Union, as stated by the Ghana Minister of Defense, Hon. Addo-Kuffour, could be deployed for peacekeeping operations in cases of armed conflict. If there is such a standing African High Command, there will be no delay to deplore troops to Liberia and thousand lives could have been saved. What is the difference between deploying American troops to Liberia, British troops to Sierra Leone and French troops to Cote D’Ivoire and the deployment of African troops to conflicting countries?
There is so much at stage for Africa that the AU should not be part of the problem but should be the vehicle to prevent further blood shed in Africa. It must have tooth and be ready to bite.
SPECIAL NOTE: The African Institute of Strategic Studies (AISS) is a non-profit organization and an independent research institute. AISS is seeking co-sponsors, participants and papers for a Forum on “Strategies for Conflict Prevention in Africa”. For more details send an email to [email protected]