By Stephen Nyoni
One of the issues that delayed the formation of the Organisation of African Unity was the concept of State Sovereignty through non-interference. Interestingly, this concept that generally beckoned on the conditions by which states would intervene in the affairs of other states on reason of human rights violation, lack of government control, abuses of citizens by the regimes or other reasons that states would give; became the bedrock of the formation of its successor the African Union – institution that bolstered non-indifference instead of the former.
By the late 90’s it became obvious that regimes left to themselves where more destructive than productive particularly for their own people and eventually for neighbouring states and regional groups that would have to bear the burden of refugees and constantly blocking out armed elements that flee state action in their own countries.
Still today, their remains no consensus on what would justify action by an independent state to intervene in the affairs of an ‘equally’ independent sovereign state. Given the complexity of domestic issues in most countries, the resources to venture on such a foreign policy is often less likely. Similarly the prevalence of democratic republics makes war or any other similar form of military action less favourable for regimes whose existence depends on a public vote.
How then can states and regimes be kept from acting with impunity especially against their own citizens? How can third generation values such as the right to peace and development be emphasised when the bedrocks of democracy such as freedom of speech and the right to assembly are still frowned upon in most developing states?
There seems to be a modern method of foreign intervention devised by the West that looks at the internal issues of a state. I have termed this method as INTRAVENTION.
Often regimes that are characterised by oppressive behaviours are coupled with a serious lack in the delivery of basic services and a significant incapacity to protect the citizens from several abuses including those propagated by agents of the state themselves.
The most recent, which has actually been effective in unseating dictators that have held on to power for several years, with tenures characterised by constitutional changes to increase terms of office, rampant rigging during elections and increased levels of corruption and pilferage; has been through the use of the people themselves.
These methods border on those recommended by Gene Sharpe in the elaboration of conflict theories. In which the mobilisation of the masses leads to the advancing of the popular opinion that has for long been oppressed but that gets unearthed by certain sharp changes in the already difficult economic system. Except, in stepping briefly away from Sharpe’s theory, in some (most actually) cases citizens act with violence or riot as opposed to nonviolent movements.
The instigating factor has differed in various states where this system of mass action has taken place; from the sharp rise in fuel prices to shortages in basic commodities such as bread. These conditions that have been coupled with existing pressures, government’s failure to justify various misappropriations and abuses as well as dwindling favourability in the international community.
It’s the last element that seems to not occur by coincidence. One would rightfully ask why is it that the only time that regimes have faced significant resistance from within is when they seems to be a drop in the favour points with states that drive the international agenda. Often, oppressive governments have been able to survive the tide of internal pressures for as long as the necessary portions of the international community – is appeased in whatever way – more seasoned international relations experts often familiarise themselves better with the operations of these systems. However, the moment a regime losses favour with international powers, its seems almost automatic that simultaneously, its people gain more conscious of the problems that they have actually been facing for the last 30 or so years in some cases.
Taking into consideration the implications of having a rocky relationship with the international ‘masters’, one would argue that it is the enforcement of measures such as sanctions that exacerbate the already existing tensions to breaking point, but it remains quite ironic; especially, how citizens gather the initially non-existent impetuous to counter the bullets, teargas and water cannons; the brute force of a regime whose aim is to curtail all forms of dissent.
Could it be that in some cases, what seems like the revolutions of the peoples are actually a form of international intervention that makes use of the opportunity of dissatisfaction among locals? Could it be that the reason most countries that have undergone this form of regime change fail to come up with a replacement to the fallen powers is because the movement was not in their hands in the first place? That if the movement was genuinely people driven, they would have been led by a known leadership with a goal beyond merely removing a regime? And that even if this was their main goal (it is an extremely significant goal; people must enjoy the right to choose their own leadership), they must therefore have means to return to governable conditions once the regime has fallen?
It is obvious that as weapons become more and more sophisticated, the world is urging towards resisting the need for violent actions. Africa has pledged to ‘silence the guns’ on the continent; despite it being home to a number of leaders that must constitutionally not be in office. It has become obvious that military action complicates rather than solves problems of an economic or social nature.
The modern foreign intervention mechanism – INTRAVENTION – seeks to mount effective changes whether it is in policy, state systems or regimes through the people themselves. There are no military ‘boots’ involved in these actions; only the efficient use of modern technologies to spread the need for urgency in the citizens to take action whenever the smallest window of opportunity presents itself. In no time, the initial cause of unrest is forgotten with individuals finding more benefits from the chaotic situation than they would in a system of law and order. As such, this social action includes elements of looting, unjustified violence, damage to public property and in some cases armed resistance against the police.
It would be less coincidental if at all the states that have encountered similar situations where not in conflict with their international partners. The line is thin however, in identifying which is which between movements that have been genuinely led by the people for the people and those that seem to have a significant outsider influence.
Gone are the times when militaries will come into a country and seek to override its security and install peace, liberal systems and institutional order. It seems more likely these days that the people themselves just need some catalytic external power before they realise that they have reached their breaking point. It is almost impossible to turn back at this point and it takes really experienced statesman craftsmanship to save a country from obliteration at this point. Especially because several other interests of MNC’s, natural resources, warlords and other non-state and state actors become close to being secured.
The modern developing state must as such be on the look to strike a balance between local and international factors if it seeks to avoid being victim of the modern foreign intervention method. I call this method INTRAVENTION; THE PROCESS BY WHICH FOREIGN PARTIES (OFTEN SUPERPOWERS) EFFECT DOMESTIC CHANGES IN SOVEREIGN STATES BY SUPPORTING AN ENVIRONMENT OF REVOLUTION BY CITIZENS OF THE TARGET COUNTRY.