The United States of America is infamous for taking up a hard and fast approach to resolving disputes within and against the African States. Most recently, the Western superpower, a member of the Permanent five (P5) in the United Nations Security Council sanctioned Ethiopia to relinquish its move to deport seven UN diplomats on account of meddling with local politics.
This is not new given that, the United States plays big brother on sovereign African Nations without taking cognizance of their sovereignty. Such bullish mentality has continued to prevail even at a time when the global States have claimed to have come to terms with the independence of African states and continental equality on the international forum. In this article, we investigate the justification of the sanctions, the underlying connotations of this threatening move, and what it means to Africa as a continent.
Undermining the African turf
Ethiopia is the cradle of African diplomacy. It is the epitome of African foreign policy and a symbol of pan-African ideology. As we all know, Addis Ababa, the Ethiopian capital is the city in which African fathers set down and proposed a united Africa. It is the historical city of African diplomacy and political dialogue. In Addis Ababa, the African Union heads of States annually sit and deliberate on issues bedeviling Africa. Ethiopia is therefore treated with high esteem for bearing the territorial turf for African dialogue and decision making. Pointing a finger at Ethiopia and threatening its independence is akin to bullying the entirety of Africa.
It is a move that can depreciate the value of African privacy and territorial independence. Where issues of a diplomatic nature affect the core of internal politics, the holding jurisdiction can exercise its power through the doctrine of sovereignty. On the other hand, when exercising its powers as a member of the Security Council, the United States ought to apply restraint and to also take due regard to co-existence and the need to primarily apply a peaceful resolution of dispute than a more hostile one such as threatening sanctions. The Biden administration must firstly probe into the ‘Why?’ such drastic measure was considered by the hosting nation and if such probe was made, whether or not diplomatic efforts were made to encourage the deciding State to decide otherwise.
Should the United States of America sanction Ethiopia?
The U.S does not have any right whatsoever for sanctioning Ethiopia over internal decisions, even where those decisions affect diplomatic privilege. The rationale for this is the simple fact that internal issues ought to be dealt with primarily by the nation hosting the diplomatic emissaries. Where the decision so reached affects international law of the United Nations Charter or public international law, such a decision would be placed under scrutiny before any punitive move is considered. There is therefore a need to strike a balance between exercising punitive measures and respecting the grievance of a hosting nation. In a strict sense, a rushed application of sanctions with an aim to water down the hosting State’s sovereignty depicts an exercise of superior power rather than an advancement of peaceful resolution of a dispute. One would ask whether the same approach would have been applied to an open U.S ally, considering that lately, Ethiopia has been bonding with China.
The instability in the Ethiopian region of Tigray
The volatile situation in Ethiopia’s region of Tigray has prompted Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed to make certain decisions which he thinks can work best in the interests and safety of the people of Ethiopia. In instances of instability and civil unrest, the government may apply its discretion and can even weed out foreign diplomats if they abdicate their diplomatic prerogatives in pursuit of influencing the internal politics of the day. The wars in Tigray have proved to be acts of terror and have led to massive loss of lives and gross violations of international humanitarian laws. The Washington administration opted for calling shots at the Ahmed government citing grievous human rights abuses and blockage of foreign aid. While humanitarian aid under international law should be allowed free passage in the promotion of human rights, the manner of interference should be confined to the aid only. The ‘spillover effect’ into local politics that is infamously associated with aid should be closely monitored for want of maintaining internal political integrity. Thus, faced with this anomaly, any State can be justified to decide on the alternative mechanism that can facilitate an undisturbed resolution of local woes.
African solutions for African problems.
Since the Colonel Gadaffi civil wars in Libya, there has been a call for African solutions to address African problems. African leaders have been on record stating the inefficiency of foreign interventions. Under the Eluzwini consensus, African States affirmed that Western solutions often worsen African conundrums at best and are a subtle perpetuation of neo-liberalism at worst. A close introspection of the intervention by the United States into Libya did not achieve the conflict resolution goal and peace-fostering aim that it intended. It created a viable recipe for polarization amongst the Libyan citizenry. Whenever wars break out in Africa, African leaders now fear the imposition of conflict resolution policy by superpowers under the guise of the United Nations Charter.
While the peace-keeping mandate under international law is primarily owned by the United Nations Security Council, the African Peace and Security Council and the African Union General Assembly are better positioned to fully appreciate the nature of the African problem and proffer prescription for its remedy. What therefore needs to be done is the promotion of the independence of African States and the respect of their sovereignty and territorial integrity. This will be effective for post-conflict assessment and for measuring how well the African States can single-handedly and without foreign coercion, can deal with their crisis.