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Reviving Pax Africana: A Vision for Africa's Post-Ukraine Global Order

Analysis - 4 October 2022

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has upended the world order. Adekeye Adebajo, Senior Research Fellow at the University of Pretoria's Centre for the Advancement of Scholarship, provides an African vision for a new international order. He argues that Africa must develop a new Pax Africana for effective governance, regional integration and socio-economic development. This article is part of several in our latest Ukraine Shifting the World Order series.

"The Revolt Against the West" between 1945 and 1960 saw 40 African and Asian countries gain their independence. These countries had a combined population of 800 million, over a quarter of the global population at the time. From the Western-dominated system inherited from the 1648 Treaty of Westphalia, these states created a cosmopolitan international system. The post-colonial global order should therefore be seen as the Global South's rebellion against the injustices and indignities of a Western-imposed international system - a  "global apartheid" - that discriminated against its citizens through five centuries of slavery and colonial rule. 

The "Revolt Against the West" was not just a political movement, but also an intellectual one.  Freedom fighters from the Third World employed liberal Western idioms of self-determination to overthrow an unjust international order. The death knell was finally sounded on the notorious European legal concept of colonial territories being declared terra nullius. Since these territories were inhabited by "native savages" in an era of a perverse Western mission civilisatrice - a term describing the essence of French colonial policy - they could be seized by and carved out among, European colonial powers. 

The very system of international law was also derived from a Christian Western diplomatic tradition. Southern states therefore largely entered an international community in which many of the rules had already been set. As Australian scholar Hedley Bull noted: "the governments and peoples of Asia, Africa, and Oceania, who were subject to these rules, had not given their consent to them. The international legal rules were not only made by the European or Western powers, but they were also in a substantial measure made for them". Intervention and sovereignty are thus two sides of the same coin. Western intervention had colonized much of the Global South bringing them under European "sovereignty". To protect their autonomy after gaining independence, Southern countries felt they needed to ward off further Western interventions. After 1945, many looked to a rules-based United Nations (UN) to preserve their territorial integrity. 

The Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 cast a long shadow over these norms of international law. During the March 2022 UN General Assembly special session on Ukraine, 52 governments from the Global South failed to support Western sanctioning of Russia's invasion of Ukraine. At the UN Human Rights Council a month later, 82 Southern states refused to support Western efforts to suspend Russia from the body. Both incidents were clear signs of continued Southern skepticism about Western inconsistency in applying international law. This was especially true in light of the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, launched without UN Security Council (UNSC) authorization. 

Given this rapidly evolving geo-strategic environment, Africa must develop a new Pax Africana to preserve its sovereignty and security, enabling the continent to pursue effective governance, regional integration and development strategies in a post-Ukraine world.  

Security decolonization

From the Sahel to the Horn, Africa continues to be wracked by violent extremism fuelled by socio-economic inequalities and poor governance. To promote effective security decolonization in a post-Ukraine era, the continent must prioritize human rights to curb conflicts and consolidate popular participation in decision-making. South Sudanese scholar and diplomat Francis Deng coined the notion of "sovereignty as responsibility" in 1996 and became known as the "intellectual father of the Responsibility to Protect". While serving as the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for Internally Displaced Persons and as the UN Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide, he worked to convince African governments to protect populations at risk and to manage diversity more effectively. Deng observed that in domestic disputes, relatives and elders have traditionally intervened even without being invited to do so. This is consistent with the African Union's commitment to "non-indifference" and sanctioning of putschist regimes in Togo, Egypt, Mali, Guinea and Burkina Faso. 

The US, France and Russia continue to launch damaging military interventions across Africa. Africans must thus urgently return to Kenyan intellectual Ali Mazrui’s notion of Pax Africana arguing for a "continental jurisdiction" to keep meddling outsiders far from African disputes.

Africans must thus urgently return to Kenyan intellectual Ali Mazrui's notion of Pax Africana arguing for a "continental jurisdiction" to keep meddling outsiders far from African disputes. 

Mazrui urged Africa to distinguish between illegitimate foreign interventions and inter-African interventions - backed by the UN - which represent a more legitimate form of "racial sovereignty". In pursuit of Pax Africana, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) intervened in Liberia, Sierra Leone, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea-Bissau and Mali; the AU deployed peacekeepers to Burundi, Darfur, and Somalia; the Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS) sent troops to the Central African Republic (CAR); while the Southern African Development Community (SADC) intervened in the eastern Congo and Mozambique. But these regional bodies still lack adequate funding and logistics. Africans must therefore strengthen their military capacity and work closely with a reformed UN in Africa. 

Nigeria and South Africa account for about a third of Africa's economic might, leading much of its peacemaking initiatives over the last three decades. Africa’s political and economic integration rests heavily on the shoulders of these two regional Gullivers who have both collaborated and competed with each other in a complex relationship that is Africa's most indispensable. Abuja and Tshwane (Pretoria) cooperated to build the institutions of the AU, and both countries have sought to give Africa a stronger global voice. During its tenure on the UNSC in 2019/2020, South Africa worked strategically with Russia and China - its BRICS partners - to counter Western actions in the DRC, Darfur, South Sudan, and Abyei.

However, it is important to highlight that it is Russia that is challenging French interests in countries such as Mali and the CAR (rather than Nigeria and South Africa). Abuja was rebuffed in Mali in 2013, while Tshwane suffered a humiliating military withdrawal from the CAR in the same year, both at the expense of France. This suggests that local African powers are still incapable of mounting an effective challenge to even a fading Gallic hegemon. The US continues to seek to contain Russia and China in Africa. But Russia cannot compete with Beijing, Washington, and the EU when it comes to investment, trade and aid on the continent. Moscow’s economic activities are narrow, largely focused on extractive sectors. Russia is also nowhere near establishing military assets like America's $100 million drone base in Niger. Its $20 billion annual trade with Africa is a mere 10% of China’s own commerce with the continent which stood at $254 billion in 2022. Like France, Russia suffers from a folie de grandeur in trying to act as a revived superpower competing with the US for global influence. Both Moscow and Paris are clearly now second-rank powers, compared to America and a rising China. Neither has the economic clout to sustain a major military role in Africa over the long run. 

If Pax Africana is to become a reality, an anachronistic UNSC must be expanded to bring in African powers like Nigeria and South Africa, as well as others such as Brazil and India. After eight decades of the same five veto-wielding permanent members, the world body's most powerful organ is no longer fit for purpose, and certainly does not reflect the contemporary world. Its legitimacy has thus become threadbare. Consistently strong African representation in the Security Council would ensure that Africa's views are taken more seriously on continental security issues, if not always adhered to. About 85% of UN peacekeepers are deployed in Africa in 2022, while 70% of its resolutions are related to the continent. Perversely, France, Britain and the US have typically written all the Security Council resolutions in 12 out of 14 African cases, as if maintaining neo-colonial spheres of influence on the continent. African and other Southern regional powers must thus seize these pens from the hyperactive Western trio, and ensure that they become pen-holders on cases relating especially to the continent. Russia's increasing military pressure in countries such as the CAR and Mali could also reduce this Western dominance of African cases on the Security Council, with Moscow blocking Western-backed UN sanctions against the military junta in Bamako in January 2022. 

Africa's regional bodies must further be strengthened with the help of regional hegemons like Nigeria and South Africa. African armies from Uganda, Burundi, Kenya, and Ethiopia continue to pursue Pax Africana with praiseworthy operations like the 20,000-strong AU mission in Somalia, but remain heavily reliant on EU and US funding and logistics. While the African Union has sometimes used strategic partnerships with the UN and the EU effectively, due to the pan-continental body's financial and logistical weaknesses, some of these external partners - France, Russia and the US - have also employed this relationship to pursue more parochial agendas.

Africa's regional bodies must further be strengthened with the help of regional hegemons like Nigeria and South Africa.

The 15 immediate post-Cold War years (1992-2007) saw two activist African UN Secretaries-General contributing to much of the current global security architecture. Egypt's Boutros Boutros-Ghali’s 1992 An Agenda for Peace provided the conceptual framework for conflict management efforts over the next three post-Cold War decades. Along with his Ghanaian successor, Kofi Annan, both massively increased the deployment of UN peacekeepers around the globe, led important conceptual debates on humanitarian intervention, and established international transitional justice tribunals in Rwanda and Bosnia, as well as the UN Peacebuilding Commission and the International Criminal Court. 

Political decolonization

The concept of political decolonization in the form of the principle of non-alignment was an approach employed by the newly independent Third World. It sought to balance between the two Cold War ideological power blocs, and prevent being drawn into their military confrontations through proxy wars that sometimes involved efforts to support or topple regimes. The Bandung Conference of 1955 represented the Global South’s efforts to create new norms of intervention in the global governance regime to regain the sovereignty of Asian, African, and Caribbean countries from Western imperial powers. The clarion call was for universal collective security and universal sovereignty. Bandung sought to support the decolonization of the Third World, foster global peace, promote economic and cultural cooperation, and end racial discrimination and domination. Members were urged to abstain from collective defense arrangements with great powers and avoid becoming embroiled in superpower blocs. The now 120-strong Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) was established in 1961 and required members to shun military alliances such as NATO, as well as to avoid signing bilateral security treaties with great powers. Non-alignment, however, did not advocate passive but "positive" neutrality, pushing Southern states to contribute actively to strengthening global governance institutions like the UN. Three figures stood out: India's Jawaharlal Nehru, considered the intellectual father of "non-alignment"; Egypt's Gamal Abdel Nasser, the leader of Pan-Arabism; and Ghana's Kwame Nkrumah, champion of Pan-Africanism.

Non-alignment, however, did not advocate passive but "positive" neutrality, pushing Southern states to contribute actively to strengthening global governance institutions like the UN.

Nehru pushed strongly for the creation of the NAM, advocated nuclear disarmament and used the UN to support Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean's decolonization efforts. He regarded non-alignment as an insurance policy and a way of exercising restraint on hegemonic dominance of the global order by either the superpower bloc or China. Nasser strongly backed the use of force in conducting wars of liberation, consistently supporting Algeria's independence struggle against France between 1954 and 1962, as well as liberation struggles against racist white minority regimes in Southern Africa. The Egyptian also bought arms and received assistance from both East and West. 

Nkrumah supported military interventionism to promote Africa's independence, backing liberation movements with training and other material support. He also proposed the idea of an African High Command as a common army to ward off external intervention, and help to support the continent's liberation struggles. The Ghanaian leader championed non-alignment, sending Ghanaian troops to the UN mission in the Congo in 1960 to protect the country's sovereignty from the Cold War machinations of Belgium, the US and the Soviet Union. When China invaded Indian territory in 1962, Nkrumah criticized Britain's supply of arms to Nehru as threatening the principle of non-alignment. 

Within the UN, the Global South played an important role as part of the G77 and China on sovereignty and intervention (i.e. decolonization and sanctioning of apartheid South Africa). These states established new concepts of global governance in areas related to self-determination (Western Sahara); decolonization and the right to use force in wars of national liberation (Algeria, Guinea-Bissau, and Southern Africa); and racial discrimination (declaring apartheid in South Africa to be a "crime against humanity"). The unspoken Afro-Arab pact of the Cold War era involved the Africans supporting the Palestinian struggle against Israel, in exchange for the Arabs backing Black Africa's struggle against white settler rule in Southern Africa. 

The NAM, however, struggled to maintain unity among such a large and diverse group, and the Global South often had deep divisions. Africa and its Southern allies must now reform non-alignment for the future battles between US-led and China-led blocs. The foreign military bases of the US, France and China in Africa - and the Russian military presence - must therefore be dismantled. The continent should, however, still support the rules-based international order, condemning wars of aggression in Ukraine as it does in Iraq. 

Economic decolonization

The final strategy Africa must promote in a post-Ukraine world is economic decolonization, implementing effective regional integration (with intra-regional trade at a paltry 16%), and reversing global trade inequalities in order to gain greater leverage for the continent in Western-dominated institutions such as the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the World Trade Organization (WTO). Africa and its Global South allies have sought unsuccessfully over the last seven decades to restructure the international economic system, calling for a transfer of technology and resources. An OPEC-driven call for a New International Economic Order (NIEO) from the 1970s also failed to achieve self-sufficiency by increasing intra-regional trade, building infrastructure, and promoting industrialization. 

Nigeria's Adebayo Adedeji, regarded as "the Father of regional integration in Africa," led the establishment of regional bodies in West, Eastern, Southern, and Central Africa, as head of the UN Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) between 1975 and 1991. His ideas are still relevant today, consistently arguing that Africa could not achieve economic development as long as it did not develop national self-reliance radically to transform the continent’s inherited largely mono-crop colonial production structures. He called for agriculture-led, infrastructure-focused socio-economic transformation to precede and accompany economic development and growth. He argued that economic growth must be accompanied by social justice and equity, with the end goal being the creation of an African Common Market. 

Many in the developing world view WTO trade accords as unbalanced and damaging, retarding southern industrialization and regional integration efforts. 

Adedeji further opposed the neo-classical liberal policies propounded by the World Bank and IMF which imposed massive cuts in health and education spending on African governments from the 1980s. He cautioned against Africa's unsustainable external debt of $250 billion which remains a major challenge in 2022 at $417 billion. There is a widespread belief in the Global South that rich countries have buried the WTO’s 2001 Doha developmental agenda in favor of their own more parochial interests. Many in the developing world view WTO trade accords as unbalanced and damaging, retarding southern industrialization and regional integration efforts. The EU's Economic Partnership agreements (negotiated between 2002 and 2016) are often castigated by African negotiators as representing the mercantilist and heavy-handed European bullying tactics of forcing African markets open in sensitive sectors, removing non-reciprocity clauses protecting African infant industries, and damaging regional integration efforts across the continent. Climate change continues to ravage Africa - as recently evidenced by devastating floods in East and Southern Africa, and continuing drought in the Sahel - amidst unfulfilled pledges of an annual $100 million in assistance from the heavily-polluting rich world. These are the battles for which Africa will need to devise new strategies. 

Concluding reflections

The same solidarity that helped the Global South achieve political decolonization at the UN has not been able to reverse the economic inequalities built into the continuing system of "global apartheid". Powerful Western governments continue to block reforms at the World Bank, the IMF, and the WTO. Nearly eight decades after their creation, an American still heads the World Bank, while a European directs the IMF. Africa must work with China, India, Brazil and Indonesia to reverse international inequalities in order to establish a more equitable global economic system. The presence of Nigeria's Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala as Director-General of the WTO could be used to promote reforms. Beijing's $18 trillion economy is, in 2022, larger than that of all 27 EU countries combined (at $15.7 trillion), and China is due to overtake America as the world's largest economy in the next decade. Africa must thus find ways to use Beijing's leverage - as its largest trading partner at $254 billion and builder of a third of its infrastructure - to pursue its own economic goals and craft better deals with Western governments and investors. EU countries may also be forced to look to Algeria, Egypt, Nigeria, Ghana, Mozambique, and Tanzania to replace Russia's 40% of their gas supplies. 

Finally, an important aspect of hegemony is a "gatekeeping" role in which regional gatekeepers fence off their region to keep external powers out of their neighborhood. Could Nigeria and South Africa - with the help of countries like Algeria and Ethiopia - formulate an African "Monroe doctrine" that keeps American, French, Russian and Chinese militaries out of Africa? As the French presence becomes widely discredited across Africa, as America's extensive military presence in Africa is increasingly questioned domestically, as Russia is weakened by sanctions, and as an increasing Chinese military presence threatens its lucrative economic ties on the continent, there may eventually be an opportunity to promote a genuine Pax Africana: a peace created, cultivated, and consolidated by Africans themselves.

 

Copyright: Amanuel SILESHI

 

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