26.05.2017 Feature Article

When Nations Act Unilaterally To End Human Suffering

When Nations Act Unilaterally To End Human Suffering
26.05.2017 LISTEN

In the early 1970s, Pakistan was embroiled in a civil war when the eastern part of the country, then called East Pakistan, tried to break away. The government in Islamabad, a ruthless military junta, came down hard on the secessionists in operations that amounted to a pogrom as it sought to suppress the rebellion which was spearheaded by the Bengalis, the dominant ethnic group in the rebel province.

Meanwhile India, the historic rival of Pakistan, finding itself overwhelmed by the steady stream of refugees fleeing the fighting, decided that it could no longer afford to sit on the fence: it sent its army across the border to help the embattled Bengalis. In short order, the Indian army defeated the Pakistanis and ended the genocide in East Pakistan. The Bengalis proclaimed their independence shortly thereafter and a new nation, Bangladesh, was born.

Also in the late 70s or early 80s, Tanzania under President Julius Nyerere, repelled by the excesses of Idi Amin, felt morally obliged to intervene militarily in neighboring Uganda to end the mad dictator's sadistic and barbaric rule.

Although the unilateral initiatives of both India and Tanzania had questionable legitimacy as they clearly violated the principle of the inviolability of sovereign borders, they ultimately ended up bringing a measure of stability to those parts of and, most importantly, saving millions of lives, especially in East Pakistan. One shudders to think about what would have happened in the rebellious far-flung Pakistani province if the Indian army had not intervened.

The same unilateral approach may be needed in the ongoing genocidal conflicts in South Sudan and the Central African Republic (CAR) since the United Nations cannot be counted on to intervene any more differently than it has always done in the past, namely, the customary authorization of peacekeeping missions. These peacekeeping missions are already in place in the troubled countries, but the slaughter continues unabated. And the reason the slaughter continues unabated is that the peacekeepers lack the mandate and the resources to take on the warlords, who are at the center of the problem.

The warlords, in whatever from they manifest themselves, whether as presidents or militia leaders, must be crushed, but this can only be done with a superior military force that can go in and overthrow them as Tanzania boldly did in the case of Idi Amin.

Given that it is currently bearing the brunt of the refugee crisis in Africa, Uganda should be motivated enough to pool resources with neighbors like Chad, Tanzania, and Kenya in order to form a coalition and put together a potent military force that would go into South Sudan and the CAR, though not necessarily simultaneously, with the sole objective of getting rid of those criminal regimes that are causing so much pain and suffering to millions of innocent people. Such a coalition might even attract the support of liberal- minded Western countries like France.

Certainly, individual nations taking the law into their own hands and initiating military action against other sovereign nations without the blessing of the U.N. would raise eyebrows in the diplomatic corridors of the world; nonetheless, saving human lives and doing what is morally right should always take pride of place over adherence to abstract legal principles. Without a firm resolve by concerned governments to end the bloodletting in the African countries, the nightmarish status quo will become permanent. And this is simply unacceptable in this day and age.

Kwadwo Kyei