Africa sees threat to international law in Syria crisis

Updated - December 04, 2021 11:13 pm IST

Published - September 13, 2013 12:48 am IST - ADDIS ABABA

Senior officials in the African Union Commission (AUC) have welcomed Russian President Vladimir Putin’s proposal on sequestering Syria’s chemical weapons, viewing the Russian intervention as a crucial defence of the United Nations Charter and international law.

In view of Libya’s descent into chaos after a NATO-led mission in 2011, African diplomats and leaders are wary of western interventions in the continent.

The AUC is yet to issue a statement on the crisis, but Egypt, Tunisia, South Africa and the Forum for Former African Heads of State and Government (or African Forum) separately opposed U.S. President Barack Obama’s threat to use military force in the troubled West Asian nation.

“Africa embraces the spirit of non-alignment and is committed to resolving crises through peaceful means. In that sense, the Russian proposal offers a clear chance of a political resolution,” said a senior official seeking anonymity as the Chairperson of the AUC was yet to comment on the matter.

Last week the African Forum, a caucus of 43 former African heads of state and senior diplomats including former Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, former South African President Thabo Mbeki and former Secretary General of the United Nations Kofi Annan, issued a strongly-worded statement against unauthorised western intervention in sovereign countries.

“As Africans we remain acutely conscious of the elaborate disinformation campaigns in which major powers engaged… to propagate falsehoods to justify their armed interventions in Iraq and Libya,” the statement read, “We are directly interested in a law-governed rather than an arbitrary system of international relations, imposed on the world by those who exercise military and other might.”

“The African Union Commission shall soon make its position on Syria public. It is likely to be along the lines of the statement of the African Forum,” said Ramtane Lamamra, the AUC’s Commissioner for Peace and Security over the telephone.

Privately, African diplomats expressed frustration with what they see as a trend of western military engagement in developing nations. Even in the instance of Mali, where the French intervention this January was hailed as a success, diplomats said that French troops were on the ground before the African Union was informed. “If we are serious about building institutions, the West cannot behave like bullies who intervene every time they see a fight,” said the diplomat.

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