Author: Sâ Benjamin Traoré
Assistant Professor of Law at the Faculty of Governance, Economics and Social Sciences of the Mohammed VI Polytechnic University, Rabat (Morocco).
The ongoing Ukrainian crisis has shown profound divisions among African countries. The UN General Assembly’s voting on 2 March perfectly captures such a division. Resolution A/RES/ES-11/1, titled “Aggression against Ukraine”, was adopted by a vote of 141 in favour and 5 against, with 35 abstentions. Of these 35 abstentions, 17 were African states including Algeria, Angola, Central African Republic, Congo, Equatorial, Mali, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe. This figure represents almost half of the abstaining states. Eight African countries did not even submit their votes (including Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Morocco, and Togo) and Eritrea voted against the resolution. All in all, almost half of the African states did not vote in favour of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) resolution. The split between African states in the voting also reflects the divide in public opinion about the Ukrainian crisis across African countries. While the West has shown unfailing support for Ukraine, Africa and the rest of the world have adopted a more ambivalent position. The significant number of African abstentions has raised international concerns, especially in the West. This voting attitude of African states abstaining remained almost the same during the adoption of the UNGA resolution on humanitarian assistance to Ukraine on 24 March. South Africa had proposed a rival resolution that was not eventually discussed by the UNGA. On 7 April, more African countries abstained and many other voted against the resolution suspending Russia from the Human Rights Council. It is also well-known now that African countries have not adopted sanctions against Russia despite the avalanche of sanctions adopted by western countries.
Being, by definition, a middle ground position, abstention may have different meanings specific to the abstaining state and a particular circumstance. Hence, one must avoid hasty conclusions. Abstaining in a voting process does not say all about the views of a State regarding a particular situation. In abstaining, a state expresses its willingness not to block the adoption of a text but, for reasons of its own, decides not to endorse it. Nevertheless, in the face of what is undoubtfully a blatant violation of the prohibition of the use of force in international relations, this voting attitude by African counties on Ukraine appears surprising – if not shocking. It seems at odds with Africa’s usual zero tolerance for acts of aggression which stems from its anti-colonial and anti-domination history. Is the neutrality stance taken by the abstaining African states choosing the side of “the oppressor” – to paraphrase late Archbishop Desmond Tutu? Besides what was exposed during the voting process of the UNGA resolution, anyone attentive to the trends in African media and social media have noticed the deep divisions among Africans regarding this ongoing Ukrainian crisis. What explains that?
These questions are critical because what is at stake is the use of force in international relations. The prohibition of the use of force between states is generally considered – to use words of the International Court of Justice – a cornerstone of the international legal order. Beyond its political meaning in this Ukrainian situation, this attitude of African states has a potentially crucial legal significance. Anyone familiar with recent controversies over the use of force regime in international law knows that states’ practice – silences, inactions, or lack of condemnation – have fueled different interpretations as to whether the non-use of force regime is shifting from a strict understanding toward a more liberal and expansive approach. Although this is not a new debate, it has regained an unprecedented interest following 9/11 and the so-called global war against terrorism. Some powerful states with the support of some international lawyers allege that current practice has moved in a new direction that permits, for instance, anticipatory or preventive self-defense. They also contend that states may now use force against non-state actors on the territory of other states without their consent (as many did in Syria for instance). However, these claims can only stand if there is evidence that “the international community as a whole” has accepted this rule shift from a restrictive to an expansive approach. This is a basic methodological requirement when evaluating the modification of an international norm with such a status. In such a context, although silence and inaction do not automatically amount to acquiescence, states’ reactions to each instance of the use of force by other states become highly critical in the assessment of their legal views regarding an alleged turn towards a more expansive interpretation of the rule prohibiting the use of force in international relations (This is extensively? discussed by Tladi and Corten).
This essay explains the most plausible reasons for the abstentions by African states and why they do not necessarily shift their position on the prohibition of the use of force. It further highlights why it is vital that African countries reaffirm their principled attachment to the prohibition of the use of force in international relations.
Explaining Africa’s abstentions and reservations
International law does not impose an obligation on states to vote in a specific way irrespective of the matter at hand. This is a logical corollary of state sovereignty. States are free to vote against, in favour, abstain or not even take part in a particular vote. This conclusion might not hold in some domestic contexts where the country’s foreign legal and policy frameworks may require a specific voting attitude on some issues. For instance, it has been argued that South Africa or Namibia should have voted in favour of the UNGA resolution under their foreign policy. Be it as it may, any such violation of domestic laws and policies remain a domestic matter and brings no international responsibility. At any rate, states’ voting behaviours in international forums are complex, and various parameters come into play (see here). In general, voting patterns of most global south countries at the UNGA are shaped by the political interests of the day. For instance, non-alignment during the cold war was a general positioning attitude. After the cold war, “development partnerships” have played an essential role in allies’ strategies in voting patterns of most global south countries (see here). In that regard, the rise of China’s presence in Africa and the increasing Russian “return” in many African regions – think of CAR, Mali and, Libya, Guinea, Sudan, for instance – have also influenced the positioning of many African countries in voting on dividing issues between western countries and Russia or China.
However, irrespective of these structural voting patterns, African countries have generally shown voting consistency on issues of great interest to them, such as decolonization, political independence, and territorial integrity and, the use of force in international law. The closeness of the ties of the abstaining African states with Russia, it is argued, explains their voting attitude regarding the ongoing Ukrainian crisis. However, too much should not be made of this argument, for many abstaining countries – such as Senegal or even South Africa – have even closer ties with western countries. Moreover, as pointed out above, Africa’s firm stances on some issues such as self-determination, territorial integrity and use of force transcend this classical voting strategy. Therefore, it becomes apparent that the reasons for the abstentions and Africa’s timid stances on Ukraine lies elsewhere. To avoid conjecturing the meaning to attribute to states’ voting attitudes, it is crucial to scrutinize the explanations they have provided themselves. In that regard, it appears that the actual content of the draft resolution was the first and foremost source of doubts and reservations that led to these abstentions. In addition to that, one must also factor in other contextual considerations on the increasingly degraded image of the West in Africa. These considerations are largely relayed on social media by ordinary Africans but also perceptible in the narrative of many abstaining states.
Substantial discontent with the text of the resolution
Firstly, many abstaining states have expressed discontentment with the resolution’s content and its adoption process. The resolution was overwhelmingly Western-sponsored. Many African countries feared that its content was not well balanced and that it did not contribute to the de-escalation of the situation. For instance, in its statement explaining the vote, South Africa considered that the text does not address the root causes of the conflict and that “the text in its current form could drive a deeper wedge between the parties rather than contributing to a resolution of the conflict”. South Africa further explained that it was “expecting a UN resolution that foremost welcomes the commencement of dialogue between the parties and seeks to create the conditions for these talks to succeed”.
Moreover, while “emphasizing” its commitment to the “principles and the objectives of the United Nations”, Algeria justified its abstention by the imperative necessity to “join all the other efforts and diplomatic calls aiming at de-escalating the current situation and adopting dialogue”. Zimbabwe’s explanation of the rationale behind its abstention is along the same lines. For Zimbabwe, this is a very complex situation that is deeply rooted in the history and geopolitics of that region. It further explained that the resolution “poured more fuel to the fire, thus further complicating the situation”. Looking back to how many African countries have positioned themselves regarding the Ukrainian crisis in the past, one can observe a significant level of consistency. In effect, since 2013, during the UNGA meetings, many African countries repeatedly stressed the complexity of the situation and the need for a “balanced position” that looks at the deep causes of the Ukrainian situation. Many of them had already abstained during the adoption of other important resolutions of the UNGA concerning the protracted conflict in eastern Ukraine (see, for instance, here).
Moreover, the perception by some African countries – be it from the text or the general circumstances of its adoption – of an open opposition between the West and Russia reignited a cold war ambience with a non-alignment reflex by African countries. Non-alignment was expressly put forward by Uganda, the incoming chair of the non-aligned movement. Similarly, in a statement released after the vote, the Senegalese government justified its abstention by the “principles of non-alignment and the peaceful settlement of disputes”. To put it in a simplistic way, many African countries consider that there are deeper reasons why the Ukrainian crisis exploded. They point out the existence of an internal armed conflict in Ukraine since 2014. In their view, the oversimplification of the issue by the West complicates the matter and does not contribute to the resolution of the conflict. In that sense, South Africa’s President observed that “the war could have been avoided if NATO had heeded the warnings from amongst its own leaders and officials over the years that its eastward expansion would lead to greater, not less, instability in the region”. Hence, the argument of complexity of the issue and the non-alignment stance seems to have also motivated a non-participation in the vote by African countries. Morocco, for instance, did not take part in the vote. In a Communique, the government indicated that its non-participation in the vote should not result in any wrong interpretation. The country reaffirmed its firm attachment to territorial integrity and non-use of force to solve international disputes.
There is a vast feeling– especially in public opinions and ordinary citizens – around the duplicity of western states when it comes to respecting international law. The perception is that the western zealotry over Ukraine – and not for other situations of blatant violation of international law – is troubling, shocking and nothing short of hypocrisy and double standards in international politics. This reason might not have appeared clearly in the official explanations of votes for obvious diplomatic reasons. Nevertheless, this feeling is overwhelmingly relayed in public opinions across Africa. As a matter of fact, governments, in many instances, do care about public opinions when positioning themselves regarding an international crisis. References are made to violations by some western countries – and lack of strong reactions thereof – of fundamental rules in Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, and Syria. It is also worth mentioning that in Africa, there is a general sentiment of injustice concerning the situation in Palestine as most western Israel allies have turned a blind eye on the Palestinian situation. It is well-known that Africa has always embraced the Palestinian struggle for self-determination as its own.
President Putin has made the same western hypocrisy-based argument to justify Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. One might therefore wonder if the African version of the accusation is simply a duplication of “Russian propaganda”. Russia is often accused of influencing public opinions in Africa. Similarly, although todays’ Russia is not the Soviet Union that had assisted many liberation movements in Africa, it is often contended that historical ties remain and explain some sort of African sympathy towards Russia. Moreover, Russia is credited with the perception of non-colonialist power in Africa. In addition to that, there is often a favourable prejudice towards Russia in African public opinions due to the assistance of the former Soviet Union in combating and dismantling colonialism and self-determination in Africa. Nonetheless, it will be a big mistake to think that Africans are being manipulated by Russia and are not genuinely capable of exposing structural western hegemony. In recent months, French authorities have made such an infantilizing conclusion regarding the growing opposition to French military presence in West Africa and the Sahel region.
The double standards and western hypocrisy argument was even put forward by some African state officials and largely relayed in debates in some national parliaments regarding the Ukrainian crisis. On 24 March, during the adoption by the UNGA of the resolution on the humanitarian situation in Ukraine, South Africa’s ambassador, Mathu Joyini, expressly referred to unlawful uses of force in the past by some powerful states, including the United States military action in Iraq.
True, the argument is met with some criticisms. It has been labelled as “whataboutery” that cannot justify the Russian invasion, for two wrongs do not make a right. However, the assertion that selective condemnation, selective indignation, and different treatments of similar violations profoundly affect the legitimacy of international law is beyond dispute. When other states take liberties with fundamental principles of international law without facing the same reactions that Russia is facing, it gives the legitimate impression to Africans – and the rest of the world – that compliance with international law is only for some states and not for western states. As rightly pointed out by Ralph Wilde, the underlying presupposition behind the condemnation by the very states that frequently violate the use of force prohibition is “that compliance with international law is only for people they oppose, not also for themselves”. It becomes particularly relevant to expose such a duplicity regarding other ongoing blatant violations of fundamental rules of international law with the complicity of many western countries. Are there good violators and bad violators of international law? At the systemic level, this “western exceptionalism” when calling out international law violations builds the perception of instrumental legality and has contributed to the erosion of fundamental norms and principles.
Lastly – and closely linked to the previous point – some reactions in Africa regarding the ongoing crisis amount to emotional reaction to structural humiliation. As brilliantly theorized by Baddie, humiliating the weak, the impoverished, and the non-powerful has been erected as a paradigmatic trait of international politics. Baddie’s concept of the humiliated recalls Fanon’s “wretched of the Earth” and the second-class humanness it implies. Fanon argued that the patience of the humiliated would inevitably run out. Indeed, western hegemony coupled with enduring neoliberal international politics has led to massive inequalities, impoverishment, and lack of agency for Africa and Global South countries, and their populations. As a matter of fact, this structural humiliation has a racial dimension. This has now translated, especially among young African generations, into disdain for the western-dominated international order. Its legal principles are no longer considered us universal and worthy of trust as they never deliver for Africans. Military restraint – especially by powerful states – international cooperation for development as well as human rights, the very premises of the UN system, are perceived as false promises. For the new generations of the “humiliated”, there is nothing to expect from the UN and its rules and principles (as a student told me recently during a workshop organized last week on the use of force in Ukraine).
Moreover, international humiliation also manifests through the injustices in the UN’s decision-making system. Africa’s longstanding call for reform of the UN Security Council – see, for instance, the Ezulwini Consensus – has remained inaudible and never taken seriously. The question arises now for many Africans whether there is any added value in the UN collective security system for Africans. After the voting on the Ukrainian resolution some African countries expressed their concerns over the decision-making process that led to the draft resolution. They explained that their abstention is also due to the lack of consultations and deep engagement with them during the drafting process of the resolution. Not engaging meaningfully with African states in the drafting of the resolution might have been perceived as typical arrogance, lack of consideration (and non-transparent as indicated by South Africa). Yet, the precise content of the resolution did matter for many African countries. As rightly stressed by Professor Dire Tladi, the resolution’s content could have been better elaborated. Some states abstained legitimately because the resolution missed the opportunity to strongly reaffirm the commitment of all states – especially the most powerful that have been using force unlawfully over years – to put an end to the repetitive violations and the weakening of the regime of use of force in international law.
Calling out international humiliation is no longer the business of some rare African revolutionary leaders disliked by the West as it used to be. It has been strongly expressed in recent years including in the context of the COVID pandemic, whose management at the international level has been another prototypical instance of (vaccine) humiliation. Macky Sall – the Senegalese President who is far from being a champion for speaking out loud against the West – called for « sincere cooperation » with Africa based on « mutual confidence » and « mutual respect », suggesting, a contriario, that these values in international relations with Africa are currently lacking. Similarly, last year during the Dakar International Forum on Peace and Security, President Ramaphosa echoed the same feeling of humiliation in the management of the pandemic and insisted on the importance of “African lives” in the COVID turmoil. The scandalous episode of baseless travel bans over the rise of the Omicron variant was felt like another instance of humiliation, patronizing and disrespect. In recent years, other heads of state in Africa, such as the King of Morocco, have expressed similar concerns over western inability to genuinely understand the African continent. Africa’s embracement of the BRICS initiative and its increasing engagement with China over the last two decades is evidence of the willingness to overturn western hegemony in African affairs.
The ongoing Libyan catastrophe has also triggered considerable resentment across Africa. Many Africans see NATO’s 2011 intervention, especially the regime change in Libya, as blatantly unlawful. The AU and all-important African Stakeholders were kept aside and have almost no say. The catastrophic consequences of Libya’s deliquescence unfold on the entire West African region with a bloom in violent extremism. Populations in West Africa generally consider this was caused by NATO. Leaders of Sahel countries, such as the former head of state of Burkina, Roch Kaboré, have often expressed the same feelings. In such a context of enduring western hegemony and recurrent humiliation, many Africans see Russia’s war in Ukraine as resistance to western expansionism. The debate at the South African parliament is a perfect illustration of that state of affairs. With such resentment, some consider that anything that can challenge the western world is welcome. This is particularly so because the “humiliated” dream about dismantling western domination but feel powerless to put it into fact. Since the beginning of this crisis, I have heard countless times, more or less: “they (meaning western countries) think they are always powerful to abuse us, now they must try with Russia, with Putin, and we will see what happens”.
A worsening effect of the feeling of humiliation is Ukrainian refugees’ “white privilege” compared to others fleeing the same conflict. Reports have been made on the discriminatory treatment African migrants have been subjected at the borders of many European countries, while fleeing the hostilities in Ukraine. The discrimination continues within many Europeans countries where Africans fleeing Ukraine are not given the same rights as Ukrainian refugees. This can only recall the inhuman treatment European countries have been giving to African migrants at their borders and refouling them to die in the Mediterranean Sea over the last decade.
A lot of the above amounts to resentment and “reaction”. But no legal system is workable without some level of legitimacy that gives its subjects the perception of impartiality capable of encouraging general adherence. Nonetheless, because principles must prevail and still guide emotions and resentment, I firmly believe that African countries must reaffirm principles, especially in this context because the issues at stake have long been cherished by Africa in its international relations.
Let us not throw the baby with the bathwater.
The conflict in Ukraine appears to many Africans, to a large extent, as a bloc opposition i.e., Western expansion vs Russian reaction. Many Africans do not want to show signs of allying with the West for probably good reasons. However, showing neutrality or “indifference”, denouncing double standards legalism, western hypocrisy is not antithetical to condemning the unlawful use of force by Russia in Ukraine unequivocally. Africa’s historical ties with the Soviet Union – brandished by some Africans – is a terrible reason to suggest sympathy for Russia’s unlawful use of force. First, because Russia is not the Soviet Union and many Africans trained in the Soviet Union were based in the Soviet Republic of Ukraine. Assuming that the historical ties argument was a valid one, there would be no specific reason why the historical support of Africans should benefit Russia nowadays and not Ukraine. Second, whether in the past or the present, ties with Russia are not enough to override and wipe aside principles. Africans cannot apply double standards in dealing with the very situation in which they condemn western double standards. Even assuming that Russia was an ally – which is not the case for many African countries right now – as the old mandé proverb goes, “tchin fô Teri yé o té téri ya sa” (which translates as: telling the truth to a friend does not kill friendship”). More importantly, beyond this general point, there are at least two reasons Africa must not lose sight of the importance of expressing their legal views and condemnation of Russia’s unlawful use of force in Ukraine.
Firstly, as a matter of principle, Africa abhors aggression. This should be the case regardless of who the aggressor is. Although most African countries were still under colonialism and therefore absent during the adoption of the UN Charter, the prohibition of the use of force in international relations is probably one of the UN principles unreservedly endorsed by all of them when assessing international sovereignty. This long standing firm stance against aggression in international relations is deeply grounded in Africa’s troubling history. Africa’s history is made of aggression for religious, economic, or political reasons. Aggression by foreigners, colonial ravage, terror, and subjugation. In June 1936, when Emperor Selassie went to Geneva as the first head of state to address the Leagues’ Assembly, it was to stand against aggression. He then made a memorable call to the Leagues of Nations for help to repulse the Italian 1935 barbaric aggression. The League was dithering in inaction, and he was probably one of the only world leaders at that time that strongly believed in the necessity of collective security. Aggression is not only immoral, but it is evil, His Majesty said. He added that assisting in combating it is a duty for any civilized nation; it is a struggle for collective security and “international morality”. Selassie did not get the requested assistance of the League, and the rest is history…
Africa’s struggle for the outlawing of aggression has been persistent and unreserved. Africa knows too much about what aggression is and what it brings. The few African countries and liberation movements represented in the Bandung Conference in 1955 stressed the “imperative nature” of the principle of non-use of force and peaceful settlement of international disputes. Therefore, it is no coincidence that newly independent African states have shown the same rigour and vigour in endorsing the prohibition of the use of force and aggression and their support to the UN collective security system. When in 1960-1961, Congo’s Prime Minister Patrick Emery Lumumba insistently relied on the UN to help stop what he called the Belgian aggression, he was indeed reaffirming UN principles and using the system not because he was naïve about its ability to save his country from aggression but rather because he strongly believed this principle must be canonised. Africa’s constant stance against aggression manifested throughout time and international contingencies. Together with the non-align group, African countries played an instrumental role in the adoption in 1970 of the resolution on friendly relations between states, which solemnly reaffirmed the UN Charter’s principles and the resolution on the definition of aggression. These two resolutions were adopted without a vote. In 2010, the criminalization of aggression was adopted in Kampala, with African delegates siding with the strictest interpretations of the non-use of force in international relations. While historically, this stance against aggression was politically justified by colonial aggression, African states have solemnly prohibited aggression even in their mutual relations. This appears clearly in the Constitutive Act of the African Union while reaffirming their right to live in peace – the principle of peaceful coexistence of all states. On these grounds, many other African countries voted for the UNGA resolution on 2 March. For most of them, it was not about taking side with the West but firmly recalling principles that they cherished. For instance, Rwanda and Tunisia made it clear that they voted in favour of the draft resolution in support of the values of the UN Charter. Niger was also a co-sponsor of the February 25 draft UN Security Council resolution Russia vetoed. Ghana, Kenya and Gabon made similar statements insisting on principles over any other consideration.
The second principled reason that must guide Africa’s positioning vis-à-vis the Ukraine situation is the importance of the principle of territorial integrity to African countries. The question African states must ask themselves is what value territorial integrity has to them and whether they are ready to give up on it. This is highly relevant because Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine is a blatant violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity. However, since the wave of African independence in the early 60s, African countries have shown a firm attachment to their territorial integrity. Territorial integrity is a right inherent to states’ sovereignty and independence. It protects states in making their territory inviolable by other states, as frequently recalled by the International Court of Justice (See for para.80 of the Kosovo Advisory Opinion). This means that any unlawful use of force against a state is also a violation of its territorial integrity. It also implies territorial stability and protection against the modification of their borders, especially when such modifications are pursued under the political agenda of another state. Despite the artificial character of the colonial border and in the absence of an agreement on a federal state, the newly independent African states thought renouncing the intangibility of borders at that time would have created a messy situation impossible for the new and fragile states to handle. This is precisely the reason why, despite being a colonial construct in the African context – that some see legitimately as an obstacle to African Unity – the principle of territorial integrity was embraced by newly independent states in Africa. It was vital in the context of decolonization marked by persistent threats from within and abroad to dismember or impair the national unity of African States. As it is well-known, countless threats against national unity in the context of decolonization came from former colonial powers willing to divide and still rule. OAU and the now AU have therefore sacralized the principle. Rightfully, the importance of this principle is reflected in statements made by some African countries after their votes in favour of the UNGA resolution on Ukraine. However, the sharper articulation of the critical character of territorial integrity for African countries was eloquently expressed by the representative of Kenya at the UN Security Council.
As Africans, we must ask ourselves these questions: would it be acceptable today that, for instance, France decides to recognize an Azawad republic in Mali based on the argument that Tuaregs and other inhabitants of northern Mali have been discriminated against for years and deserve independence? Would it be acceptable that France intervenes militarily to protect supposedly “the Azawad people” after deciding to recognize such an entity as a state? Or would it be acceptable if Rwanda was to intervene in the eastern DRC to protect people from “Rwandese ethnicity” allegedly and go further to support them in creating a “new state” in eastern DRC? Although purely hypothetical, these examples are not without merit. France is often accused of supporting the Azawad liberation movement, and Rwanda is accused of supporting armed groups in eastern DRC. Similar situations exist across the continent, and I can list them repeatedly. I am aware of the limits of the analogy with the Ukrainian situation. Nonetheless, the similarities are pretty striking, and the answer to these questions would be a firm NO in Africa! I cannot see, therefore, why that answer would be different when it comes to transposing these principles to Ukraine. It is highly important for African states to express their disagreement with ALL those who trample these principles. South Africa’s most recent statement during the adoption of the UNGA resolution on humanitarian support to Ukraine is welcomed. South Africa insisted that it “empathise with the people of Ukraine” and that “war and the use of force is never a solution to international disputes, irrespective of which countries are involved”.
The impressive number of abstentions by African states during the adoption of the UNGA resolution on the situation in Ukraine does not have the legal meaning of acquiescing or supporting the violation by Russia of the rules governing the use of force in international law. In addition to a significant number of African votes in favor of the resolution, most of the abstaining countries have recalled the fundamental character of the non-use of force rule in international relations. The attitudes of the abstaining states lie in other legitimate concerns, as this paper argues. In light of ongoing international debates and controversial expansive state practice concerning the use of force, it is critical that African states reaffirm the sacrality of the prohibition of the use of force in international relations.
A few days ago, I was asked by the African Institute for Research in Economics and Social Sciences – at UM6P Rabat – to discuss the lawfulness of the use of force against Ukraine. At the end of my presentation, a Bachelor student in either international relations or political science – I am not too sure – raised her hand to ask me a question. She asked: why should African countries put their faith in the UN collective security system, which was basically built up in their absence and continuously does not care about their views and only works for powerful states? She suggested that there is nothing to expect from the UN and that the system’s collapse could even be an excellent opportunity for radical change. No need to detail my daunting answer here. Of course, this is not the first time I have been asked this very good question, and it is my strong belief that world governance needs a RADICAL change! One thing that I told her, however, was that if the UN collective security system collapsed and if there was one single thing that Africans should bend and immediately extract from the ruins and debris of the system, it would be the prohibition of the use of force in international relations.
While waiting for the fundamental change that Africans are legitimately calling for, it is in the interest of Africa and African states to defend the preservation of the rule prohibiting the use of force in international relations. While it is legitimate to refuse manipulation by some of their western partners, African countries must nonetheless not shy away from expressing their legal views regarding the illegal use of force in Ukraine. Those who have no military arsenal, no weapons of mass destruction, no culture of aggression, in short, those “who have invented neither gunpowder nor the compass”, – to paraphrase Aimé Césaire –, those who have always suffered from aggression …are certainly not the ones who can rejoice with its “liberalization”.
About the Author:
Sâ Benjamin Traoré is an Assistant Professor of Law at the Faculty of Governance, Economics and Social Sciences of the Mohammed VI Polytechnic University, Rabat (Morocco). He holds a Doctorate in Law from the University of Neuchâtel and an LLM from the Geneva Academy of International Humanitarian Law and Human Rights. His academic works cover various subjects ranging from Public international law, the law of international organizations, the use of force in international law, human rights, international humanitarian law and Business and human rights. He is the author of a book on The Interpretation of United Nations Security Council Resolutions (Helbing, Basel, 2020).
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