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Editorial Last Updated: Dec 29, 2010 - 10:35:42 AM


The International Community And Africa
By Dr. Gary K. Busch 28/12/10
Dec 29, 2010 - 9:50:43 AM

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The world’s press is full of reports that the ‘international community’ has decided on who won the runoff election in the Ivory Coast and expressed its determination to oust Gbagbo as the elected president. It his place they intend to impose Allasane Ouattara, the “Father of the Rebellion” who has been shown to have attempted to rig the results of the election along with his French sponsors and whose victory was declared by an Electoral Commission, without the Constitutional power to make such a declaration, and without any investigation of complaints. The fact that they made this putative announcement in the hotel lobby of Ouattara’s hotel gave the game away. The Constitutional Council investigated the rigging and announced that Gbagbo was duly elected. This was done under the aegis of the Ivory Coast Constitution, Article 38 which states, in part, “The Constitutional Council decides within twenty-four hours, to stop or to continue the electoral operations or of suspending the proclamation of the results. The President of the Republic informs the Nation by a message. He remains in [his] functions. “There is no mention in the Constitution that an Electoral Commission declares the winner of the election.

The best analogy to the international community’s decision on the Ivory Coast election would be to consider why the international community didn’t call for Russian  or Cuban peacekeepers to take over Miami in 2000 to protect Al Gore from the US Supreme Court and its power to decide on the Florida electoral commission’s battles over “hanging chads”.

The Charter of the United Nations specifically bans such actions.

Article 2: The Organization and its Members, in pursuit of the Purposes stated in Article 1, shall act in accordance with the following Principles.

1. The Organization is based on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its Members.

3. All Members shall settle their international disputes by peaceful means in such a manner that international peace and security, and justice, are not endangered.

4. All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.

7. Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state or shall require the Members to submit such matters to settlement under the present Charter

It is difficult to understand how there can be much ambiguity on these principles.

The plain and simple fact is that the French, their European allies and the U.S. are not willing to send their own troops into Africa to kill Africans, especially civilians. They know that if they do so there will be such immense political and racial tension in their own countries as to render this a fruitless exercise. In discussions with the leadership of the U.S. Africa Command, AFRICOM, it was stated baldly. “We are here to train and equip Africans to invade and kill other Africans because the consequences for us to do it are too severe”. They described that if the US troops started to kill Africans there would likely be riots in the ghettos of Detroit, Los Angeles, Chicago and Washington, D.C. for a start. There is some question if the large numbers of Black Americans serving in the US armed forces would not refuse to conduct such activities. The French, too, fear further ethnic and racial riots in the Parisian suburbs, even if the victims in Africa this time aren’t Muslims. There are few French people and fewer Africans who can forget the 800,000 Rwandans massacred under French protection or the 212,000 Southern Cameroonians who died for French colonialism. The European Union may support the French but it will be a rare European country which will send their soldiers to Africa to kill.

So, it all comes down to the Africans being willing to follow ‘international community’ orders to massacre their fellow Africans. The whole notion of an African peacekeeping army is worse than fanciful. It shows a totally misguided view of how African wars are fought. Nothing that is being suggested, planned for, or anticipated matches, even in the slightest, African realities. It addresses virtually none of Africa’s military problems and may perpetuate many which are already in existence.

There are several truths which exist beyond the rhetoric of the engaged; truths which shape African warfare and, thus, peacekeeping. These facts are like gravity – they cannot be ignored or averted by pretending that they don’t exist.

  1. The first truth is that Africa, especially West Africa, is almost totally incapable of fighting wars between or among states. The colonial past of Africa has meant that road and rail connections were developed from the capital (often on the coast) and the interior of the country. Such transport links which exist often fan out from the capital to the hinterland. Very rarely do these transport links extend to a neighbouring country (which might very well have belonged to a different colonial master). The only wars Africa is really capable of fighting are civil wars. When Kwame Nkrumah decided he wanted to attack his neighbour Ivory Coast, he asked his generals how long it would take to prepare the invasion. He was told “About ten years”. They would have to build roads, bridges and depots in order to get there.
  2. A second fact is that African warfare is ‘expeditionary’ warfare. This is a polite way of saying that massed troop formations have no real use as there are few opposing forces of equal size to fight. The troops must pass through jungles, deserts, mangrove swamps and hostile terrain to get to the enemy, often under heavy fire from the bush. The enemy of the peacekeepers is rarely an army battalion of any strength. African insurgents are bands and groups of often, irregular soldiers. Large-scale troop concentrations can sit in a city or town and maintain order, but they rarely can take the battle to the enemy.
  3. African armies have virtually no equipment which will allow them to fight an expeditionary war. This is a war of helicopters; an in and out movement of troops to jungle clearings or remote landing zones or the shooting up of ground formations by helicopter gunships when they can be located. This is how African wars are fought. Except for rented MI-8 and MI-24 helicopters leased from the Ukraine and Russia, most of Africa is bereft of air mobile equipment. They are certainly bereft of African pilots (other than South Africans).
  4. There are very few military aircraft capable of fighting or sustaining either air-to-air combat or performing logistics missions. Either they don’t exist or they are in such a state of disrepair that African combat pilots are unwitting kamikazes. There are very few airbases in the bush which allow cargo planes to land safely when a war is on now that every rebel group has its share of RPGs and mortars. These planes, like the helicopters, are often leased from the Ukraine and Russia and flown by Eastern pilots. There are no fuel reserves at the airports outside most African capitals and there are no repair facilities. There is no air-to-air refuelling. Indeed, except for Denel in South Africa and the airbase in Ethiopia there are no places on the continent which perform aircraft maintenance. There are even fewer workshops which repair half-tracks, Jeeps or tanks. Even Western European armies don’t have sufficient helicopters or heavy-lift capacities. That’s why the US had to ferry almost everything to Kosovo. The Africans have less. If they want to fight a war they have to walk there or paddle there. This lack of transport is critical to moving out the wounded. This takes its toll on the soldiers.
  5. African warfare (with some exceptions like Angola) is largely carried out on the ground with machetes, bows and arrows and axes. It doesn’t start off that way but the pressures of logistic resupply often means that ammunition runs out, mortar shells are expended and the only thing left is traditional weapons. Food has to be foraged or stolen as resupply is not always regular or sufficient. This makes for a chaotic type of combat with heavy civilian casualties. Fighting up close and personal with a machete on a village by village basis is much more dangerous to a civilian concentration.
  6. This is mirrored in the lack of effective battlefield communications. In Africa the phone system doesn’t work in peacetime; why should it work in a period of war? Sending orders and receiving information between the central staff and outlying units is a ‘sometimes’ process. It sometimes takes days to contact units operating far from command headquarters.

These are but some of the realities of African warfare. I have been a tourist in five African wars and will attest to the universality of the above. The notion that ‘peacekeepers’ can change this is fanciful. There have only been two successful African peacekeeping initiatives. The first was when the Angolans went in to Congo (Brazzaville) and the second was the Angolan, Namibian and Zimbabwe battle to save the Congo from the invasion by Uganda and Rwanda. The Congolese War was won, at great sacrifice by Zimbabwe and its allies. The United Nations muscled its way in and ‘unwon’ the war with the introduction of MONUC. The French troops huddled around the centre of Ituri and never left the town. The first day they went out they lost several officers. They never ventured forth again. There still isn’t peace.

The UN initiative in Sierra Leone was equally a farce. The first war had already been won by the application of force by the private army of Executive Outcomes, acting for the elected government. The UN and the ‘world community’ intervened and sent Executive Outcomes home. The war resumed and only the bravery of the Nigerian soldiers in ECOMOG and the Sierra Leonean Kamajors (bow and arrow hunters) saved the day. These were replaced by the British and then another 17,000 UN soldiers. Many of the Nigerians went home, but the punishment of the Kamajors ended by a UN kangaroo court sentencing Hinga Norman and other Kamajor leaders for war crimes because they were too brutal. They saved their country and are now paying the price.

Now the UN intends to extend this catalogue of UN ineptitude and irrelevance to an institutional level. They forget the realities above and ignore that the African states are complicit and active in the wars of their neighbours. These may be civil wars but they engage other African states. The South Africans were heavily involved in the wars of their neighbours (in Angola, Rhodesia, and Mozambique, to name a few). The Libyans, the Liberians and the Burkinabe were up to their ears in the war in Sierra Leone and Guinea. Rwanda and Uganda attacked the Congo. The list goes on. Even worse, countries like France actively supplies equipment and support to wars against the government of the Ivory Coast, Comoros and elsewhere. The British are doing their utmost to assist the overthrow of Mugabe and the Belgians have never stopped meddling in Africa.

It defies belief that there is some benign African or international consensus ready to assist the ‘international community’ in killing African civilians. This is a continent of competing nations with competing external partners. All the pious statements of ‘an African’ solution may sound good to international civil servants and NGOs but they do not correspond with reality.

What you get with such fuzzy thinking is a desperate reality on the ground. In Rwanda, while the French were arming and supporting the Hutu in their bloodbath of the Tutsis, the UN sent in three columns to the capital Kigali. As thousands were being massacred the UN rescued the internationals that were trapped. The nest day they sent in another armed column. This column was surrounded by screaming, frightened Rwandan children whose parents had been killed. The saw the UN flag and thought they would be rescued. The UN peacekeepers did not save a single child. Their task was to evacuate the pets left behind by the foreigners whom they had evacuated the day before. They left the children behind to their desperate fate.

This not what the world is looking for in resolving the Ivory Coast dilemma. Persuading Africans to massacre civilians is not a rational, sane or moral policy. The only way is for the ‘international community’ to stand up to the French and tell them that this time their rapacity, avarice and barbarism will not win. Maybe then a sensible solution can be negotiated.


Source:Ocnus.net 2010

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