South Africa’s call for UN Security Council reform: an explicit BRIC countries’ backing forthcoming?

Formed as a replacement for the beleaguered League of Nations, the United Nations (UN) celebrates its 70th anniversary in 2015. Since transition, membership of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) grew from 51 to today’s 193.

But the decision-making Security Council (UNSC) composed of 15 member-states (of which ten are non-permanent while five are permanent), remains largely unchanged.

The United States (US), China, Russia, France, and Britain (the Permanent Five or P5) wield veto power, and influence much of the UN’s work of maintaining international peace and security.

Proposals for reform continue to emerge because the UNSC still mirrors the post-WW II’s outdated global order, and excludes the say and input of majority member-states constantly on its agenda today.

This article seeks to explore South Africa’s renewed call for reform of the UNSC that includes at least two permanent seats for Africa. In so doing, the article looks at whether Pretoria’s position is or will be explicitly supported by BRIC partners (Brazil, Russia, India, and China)?

More specifically, will Russia and China ever openly endorse South Africa’s (or any BRICS country’s) bid for a permanent seat with veto power privilege?

These questions shall be answered in the context of the current state-of-affairs: BRICS solidarity demonstrated by the launch of the New Development Bank; BRICS voting patterns on UNGA/SC resolutions concerning Russia’s incursion in Ukraine; and implications of the ‘precedent’ set by Moscow for Beijing’s engagements in the East and South China sea disputes, and controversial Tibet and Taiwan territories.

The article concludes that Moscow and Beijing will soon be endorsing South Africa’s and other BRICS partners’ bids for UNSC permanent seats but without necessarily giving away veto power – a complement or extension of some P5 countries’ (waning) global influence.

That said, Pretoria and other hopefuls will have to settle for a limited reform (i.e. an expansion without alteration or abolition of veto power) first or risk lessening their chances of occupying any. Such a transformation could be seen as a means to an end, not an end in itself.

BRICS THREE: UNAMBIGUOUSLY FOR REFORM

South Africa’s campaign for reform of the UNSC is not new. Reforming the Council, for South Africa, means assuring the African continent representation by at least two permanent members.

The principal rationale behind South Africa’s current campaign has been the fact that most (about 70%) of the UNSC’s issues and discussions are about the African continent, and it would be realistically imperative to have African voices represented as part of the decision-making structure.

Professor Albert Venter reminds us of South Africa’s re-admission into the international community after the milestone democratic elections of 1994. Following tumultuous years of isolation as an apartheid state and the pariah of the world, Venter writes, South Africa’s new democratic government almost “immediately joined the chorus of the non-aligned states [and] the poor ‘South’ in calling for the restructuring of the Security Council, especially with regard to including more permanent members”.

South Africa’s first democratic president, Nelson Mandela, called for the reform of the Council, which the ruling African National Congress (ANC) endorsed having emerged out of an undemocratic apartheid system.

According to Venter, democratic South Africa had all the intention of pushing for reform of the Council from the onset. For instance, former president Nelson Mandela addressed the UNGA in 1998 and had this to say:

“…the [United Nations], including its important Security Council, must itself go through its own process of reformation so that it serves the interests of the peoples of the world, in keeping with the purposes for which it was established.”

Today, under the leadership of President Jacob Zuma, South Africa has reinvigorated its campaign to realize Mandela’s international ideal of a reformed, representative, and democratic UNSC, after years of relative inertia on the matter during the Mbeki Administration marked by quiet-diplomacy.

South Africa served as a non-permanent member of the Council on two occasions (2007-2008 and 2011-2012) and played a critical role in voting on various resolutions. Notable among them were – albeit controversial – its decision to side with China and Russia in voting against Myanmar’s (2007) draft resolution on human-rights abuses, and its incongruous approval of resolution 1973 (2011) that led to Libya’s bombing by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).

Despite these controversial diplomatic gaffes occurring during its first and second tenures as the UNSC’s elected member, South Africa still maintains its stance to see the institution overhauled.

In fact, South Africa’s permanent representative to the UN, Ambassador Baso Sangqu, remarked in 2012, that “as an elected member of the Security Council, [Pretoria] was acutely aware of the limitations that come with being a non-permanent member of this body”.

Moreover, Ambassador Sangqu pointed out that the P5 dominate the Council’s work: there is little or no consultation with members of the General Assembly, and resolutions or decisions of the Council are often drafted in small meetings, and come as fait accompli, without the necessary input of elected members and parties directly affected.

In 2013, President Zuma addressed the 68th Session of the General Assembly, and challenged the UN by proposing a target for a reformed, more inclusive, democratic and representative UNSC by 2015, the year in which the world body will be celebrating its seventieth anniversary.

South Africa’s foreign policy is underpinned by, among other objectives, the African Agenda and, as such, its effort to have Africa represented in the UNSC is consistent with the Ezulwini Consensus which represents the continent’s common position insofar as it concerns reform.

This consensus seeks, inter alia, to throw in no less than two African states (to be nominated by the African Union itself) as permanent members of the UNSC with veto power and five non-permanent seats.

Two African ‘power houses’, South Africa and Nigeria are certainly going to gear up for these permanent seats. However, other recognized emerging economies in Africa – Egypt, Algeria, and Libya for instance – who happen to be important resources’ contributors to the UN missions and operations, could contest for permanent seats as well but, hopefully, an AU facilitated nomination process could be helpful in bringing contesting countries into consensus.

It is important to note that Brazil and India (alongside Germany and Japan, collectively known as the G4) have endorsed the Ezulwini Consensus by making “recommendations for an African permanent seat”.

These countries have been advocating for permanent seats (with veto power) for themselves having realized that: “almost 70 years after the creation of the United Nations, reform of the Security Council is long overdue”.

However, they face opposition from the Italian-led coalition group called Uniting for Consensus that is tabling a much more acceptable reform package to the P5: an expansion without alteration to or abolition of veto power.

In essence, India and Brazil, under their unanimous G4 endorsement of Africa’s common position, would support South Africa – their BRICS partner – as one of Africa’s two to occupy a permanent seat.

It’s doubtless, therefore, that South Africa, Brazil, and India will support each other’s bids, considering that in geographical or regional terms, Africa and Latin America respectively are not represented in the UNSC.

BRICS TWO: FOR LIMITED REFORM OR NO REFORM AT ALL?

It goes without saying, the BRICS Three – Brazil, India, and South Africa – are certainly going all-out to realize transformation of the UNSC. But the ultimate power to reform the UNSC lies with the P5, of which China and Russia are part, that wield veto power and, with this, can prohibit any decision/resolution deemed contradictory to their national interests.

Russia and China, it appears, are caught between the paradox of reforming the UNSC and maintaining its status quo. These countries seem reluctant to change the composition of the P5 by according emerging and developing countries permanent seats, with veto power privilege.

However, they continue, although overly rhetorical, to support countries with whom they share ‘mutual and cordial relations’ while frustrating the interests of those considered as adversaries.

Sino-Russian relations draw from (neo)communism as an ideology antithetic to the West. The current state-of-affairs brought China and Russia even closer. And could soon propel them to unequivocally support countries considered as allies for permanent seats – although without granting them veto power – to the exclusion of those seen as threats to their respective regional influence and interests.

Russia deems it important to strengthen the UN’s potential through reform of the Council. Russia’s then President, Dmitry Medvedev, addressed the 64th Session of the UNGA in 2009, and noted that compromise on the formula of UNSC expansion for increased efficiency of its work is of vital importance.

Moscow, according to Alexander Nikitin , is in favour of permanent candidacies of South Africa and Egypt, as well as the G4. But, the hope of South Africa and the G4 of securing permanent seats with veto power is just wishful thinking.

As some scholars of international relations have argued, granting veto power to prospective permanent members may complicate even further the UNSC’s work with the probability of more (negative) vetoes being tabled with an increase in veto-wielders. So, “veto power should neither be expanded nor taken away”, as Nikitin suggests.

It can be argued, therefore, that Russia could soon be (explicitly) endorsing South Africa’s and/or other BRICS partners’ call for reform, although the veto question could be shelved indefinitely.

What is important for Russia at this point in time is to try and strike the right balance: appease BRICS partners whilst strategically denying them of veto power that, if granted, could be the end of Russian global influence.

Russia needs more allies now than ever before since the end of the Cold War. Nikitin notes that: “if the current G4 and Africa Group proposals were realized, the BRICS [countries] would all be represented in the Security Council, and may turn out to be a much greater counter-balance to the Western group (USA, France, UK)”.

Indeed, counter-balancing institutionalized Western dominace on international financial, peace and security matters, is part of BRICS grouping’s raison d’être.

In July 2014, BRICS launched its New Development Bank, to be headquartered in China, which is “aimed at funding infrastructure projects in developing nations…with $100 billion currency reserves pool to help countries [including member-states] forestall short-term liquidity pressures”.

This bank would also provide the Global South countries with, for example, unconditional loans and aid in stark contrast to ‘one-size-fits-all’ conditionalities imposed by the Bretton Woods institutions (the IMF and the World Bank) that left these countries with massive debts still felt today.

BRICS countries seem intent to defend one another in defiance of ‘Western domination’. Earlier this year, Moscow orchestrated a referendum in Ukraine’s Crimean region that led to the latter’s incorporation into Russia. This annexation was met with strong condemnation from the US, which encouraged its Western and European allies to impose ‘tough’ economic sanctions on Russia for its actions.

At the time of this writing, Russia reels under worse economic sanctions, and its continued incursion in eastern Ukraine sees NATO contemplating a possible (military) response.

Notably, BRICS countries’ voting patterns on UN resolutions condemning and criticizing Moscow’s actions in Ukraine signified the group’s growing solidarity.

Moscow solely vetoed a US-sponsored UNSC draft resolution that was aimed at “affirm[ing] Ukraine’s sovereignty and national borders” a day before the referendum on annexation was held.

Thirteen of the UNSC’s 15 members voted in favour of the resolution except Russia’s BRICS partner, China, which abstained. Beijing’s abstinence was either a tacit support for or condemnation of Moscow. But Chinese officials preferred “a ‘balanced’ solution to the conflict within a framework of law and order”.

The BRICS Three plus China abstained from a subsequent (non-binding) UNGA resolution “criticizing the Crimean referendum”, according to Zachary Keck.

For this reason, South Africa and some of its BRICS partners, were hypocritical to have overlooked espoused foreign policy principles: respect for state sovereignty and non-interference in the internal affairs of others.

Whilst the West regarded Russia’s action as a violation of these principles, South Africa, as Elizabeth Sidiropoulos succinctly puts it, maintained that “parties to conflict [in eastern Ukraine] sit together to negotiate a settlement”.

South Africa, thus, favoured a diplomatic solution to the conflict but this, in some quarters, suggested that the country only preferred a neutral position so as to neither hurt its relations with Russia nor erode the credibility of its entrenched foreign policy underpinnings.

So, with the growing BRICS solidarity in sight, not forgetting the group’s joint condemnation of Australia’s suggested intention of not inviting Russian President Vladimir Putin to the 2014 Group of Twenty (G20) Summit, Russia will inevitably have to stickby, and perhaps try to appease, its partners in return of their unflinching support in the future.

Akin to other P5 members’ banal tactics, Moscow could overtly support Pretoria’s bid with or without veto power but certainly without charting the way forward.

It is important to note, as Sidiropoulos wrote, that Russia and South Africa started prioritizing their relations after the latter officially joined BRICS in 2010.

Indeed, the two countries have been meeting more often for bilateral ‘strategic’ interests: South Africa’s President Zuma most recently (September 2014) visited Russia for a meeting to “discuss trade opportunities”.

On the one hand, Moscow seeks to attract trade and investment in a bid to stabilize its economy amidst (crippling?) economic sanctions imposed by the West. And, on the other hand, Pretoria wants “support for establishing the African Capacity for Immediate Response to Crises” in the interim until the African Standby Force (ASF), an institution of the broader African Peace and Security Architecture (APSA), is operationalized.

China is also supportive of engaging in UNSC reform but remains practically unenthusiastic. In 2009, Ambassador Zhang Yesui delivered a statement at the UNGA meeting in which he made known China’s support for “necessary and reasonable reform of the Security Council…to increase representation of the developing countries, particularly African countries”.

But China is also worried about expanding permanent seats and granting veto power to possible candidates over fears of having its growing international influence weakened and always in check.

David Shambaugh wrote that China has “made it clear that it will not countenance [any G4 country] gaining this status [of becoming a permanent member of the UNSC]”. China, therefore, is opposed to the idea some of her Asian neighbours occupying UNSC permanent seats.

Beijing and Washington are known global rivals. And in 2010, President Barack Obama announced, much to the consternation of Chinese leaders, that the US will endorse India’s bid. Addressing the Indian Parliament on his three day visit, Obama said: America seeks an “efficient, effective, credible and legitimate” UN, and “in the years to come, I look forward to a reformed [UNSC] that includes India as a permanent member”.

Some regarded this as a symbolic gesture aimed at reassuring New Delhi of Washington’s support. However, no mention was made of specific timeframes and whether or not this permanent seat comes with veto power because reform decisions rest not only with the US but the UN in its entirety.

Furthermore, Obama’s term in office will soon come to an end and it remains to be seen if the succeeding Administration will prioritize reform of the UNSC.

China has voiced its opposition to the inclusion of India because the latter would keep its rising influence in the region in check, and possibly dilute its global posture. But India could have it easy if it considers China’s proposal: delink its bid from that of Japan to get China’s support.

In addition, China is being cautious towards Japan, for they have been involved in enduring territorial disputes over the islands of Senkaku/Diaoyudao.

Presumably, China doesn’t support the G4, to which Brazil and India belong. But geopolitically speaking, China could endorse Brazil’s separate bid instead of India’s or Japan’s. Because the latter two countries could contrive a way to shift the balance-of-power in Asia under the tutelage of Washington (an offshore balancer) that strives to lessen, if not end, China’s growing global influence.

China will certainly back South Africa’s bid for a permanent seat. From a Sino-South Africa economic relations’ perspective, Pretoria has been the conduit through which Beijing accesses the African market. For this reason, China will therefore stop at nothing to hint on South Africa when endorsing Africa’s common position.

Relations between the two are often described as ‘mutually-beneficial’ in economic terms – that is certainly indisputable. But, as highlighted earlier in this article, pragmatic economic and security considerations often relegate democratic and human-rights matters, for which they are intended to address.

As alluded to earlier, Pretoria’s vote against a Myanmar draft resolution condemning human-rights abuses was a blatant disregard for democratic values codified in South Africa’s Constitution.

And on overlooking Russia’s evident violation of Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, Pretoria (by siding with Beijing) in abstinence, brought into question its professed anti-(neo)colonial/imperial rhetoric.

As for Beijing, abstinence points to a gradual ditching of its Non-interference Policy championed by the Peoples Republic of China (PRC) as part of the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence active since the mid-1950s.

Abstaining under the pretext of finding a ‘balanced solution’ to the Ukraine crisis, China’s decision was informed in part by its regional encounters: the East and South China Sea disputes, and Taiwan and Tibet separatism.

James Holmes offers a valuable insight:that a big authoritarian state resorts to the use of force if and when nonviolent means become indecisive in acquiring territory it regards as its rightful property. Russia’s precedent, therefore, could see China opting to “use force against Taiwan… [and adversaries] in East and South China Sea” territorial disputes in the future.

Finally, Beijing will support Pretoria’s UNSC ambitions because the latter, reportedly over fears of jeopardizing its (economic) relations with the former, denied the Tibetan spiritual leader, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, a visa thrice in five years. The Dalai Lama was due to attend the 14th Summit World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates in Cape Town, South Africa but withdrew his application while it was undergoing due process.

Tibet, like Taiwan, is regarded as a separatists-ruled territory in defiance of one-China policy, and any country that hosts the Dalai Lama risks severing its relations (if any meaningful exist) with China – in this case, South Africa’s biggest trade partner.

CONCLUSION

In sum, it can be deduced from reform proposals that Brazil, India, and South Africa share a common goal although sometimes holding divergent views and positions individually.

Notwithstanding this divergence, Brazil and India will back their close BRICS partner, South Africa, in occupying one permanent seat for Africa.

Should two-thirds majority of the UNGA and the UNSC (with unanimous P5 approval) ever reach a consensus on reform, South Africa will definitely secure a seat because of not only having good bilateral ties with China and Russia respectively but also because it is a global role player in multilateral bodies like the G20, the AU, and the UN for example.

But reform is exceedingly elusive, and if endorsed, Pretoria would only be backed rhetorically for now. After all, any P5 member can single-handedly override any decision to its disliking irrespective of an overwhelming support by member-states.

To be a formidable force against western pre-eminence, BRICS group will have to not only play a critical role in international commercial matters but also ensure that it keeps up with the West’s military and security dominance.

Moscow and Beijing can improve the BRICS group’s overall clout if their partners are integrated into the UNSC. All P5 members could agree to a limited amendments to the UN Charter as long as the veto power question is shelved.

For South Africa and Africa, as well as Brazil and India (in the G4), securing permanent seats with veto power, will prove twice as hard compared to expanding the UNSC as proposed by Uniting for Consensus coalition.

Strategically, a group of states can advocate for and acquire permanent seats first, and then campaign for veto power or its elimination. Neither Russia nor China is prepared to approve of any reform package that bestows relative power to real and perceived rivals.

With everything said, radical transformation will not happen anytime soon because even if any P5 country’s political, economic, or military power wanes, as in the cases of France and Britain, veto power seldom becomes obsolete – as said, it is a complement or an extension of available power or the lack thereof.

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Tshepho Mokwele is a graduate of International Relations from South Africa and writes in his personal capacity.
@Tshepho_Mokwele on Twitter.

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South Sudan: What Needs To Be Done…

South Sudan Civil War Adversaries Sign A Ceasefire Agreement. Photo by AFP

South Sudan Civil War Adversaries Sign A Ceasefire Agreement.
Photo by AFP

The world’s youngest country, South Sudan, is dominating international news for nearly sliding into an escalated civil war. Prior to July 2011 independence, South Sudanese were entangled in a decades-long civil conflict in Sudan. This conflict culminated in the secession of South Sudan after painstaking mediation processes by the international community.

Two and a half years later, the people of South Sudan awake to yet another conflict that threatens to undo the slight achievements made to date. This conflict emerged as a result of the ‘power struggle’ between President Salva Kiir and his former deputy, Riek Machar.

President Kiir had his entire cabinet, including Machar, dismissed in mid-July 2013; and offered no logical explanation for their sacking. However, reports claim that he was overly intolerant of criticisms members of the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army (SPLM/A) continue to level against him; some of whom were fired on accounts of corruption.

Shortly after being sacked, Machar — as reported by the BBC News — explicitly made his intentions clear that he “will challenge President Salva Kiir for the leadership of the ruling party” in the build-up to the 2015 election. This was what Machar had previously hinted. Critics, like Machar, accuse Kiir of trying to eliminate political rivals in a bid to consolidate his grip on state power.

With that said however, tensions between the central government of South Sudan and rebels intensified after allegations surfaced that Machar masterminded a battle that erupted among presidential guards on 15 December, said to have amounted to a ‘coup attempt’, according to Kiir.

Subsequently, the country became severely divided along the ethnic/tribal lines. The Dinka and Neur groups to which Kiir and Machar respectively belong started exchanging targeted attacks and reprisals. That’s when a political quagmire took a turn for the worse – conflict assumed an ethnic dimension.

By the time of writing, the battle-related death-toll estimate according to the UN stand at only a thousand (1000), while the International Crisis Group put it at ten-thousands (10 000) since mid-December 2013. Disturbingly, mass graves were discovered by the UN in South Sudan’s towns of Juba and Bentiu. In addition to these, more than 100 000 civilians are said to have fled to neigbouring countries; some 490 000 internally displaced; while over 70 000 currently occupy the UN bases in South Sudan.

Following weeks of fighting, warring parties signed a cease-fire agreement (on January 23)to halt all hostilities and prepare for what promises to be lengthy and crucial political negotiations hosted by the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) and backed by the African Union (AU) as well as the UN.

Now..,there are pertinent sticking-points that need careful consideration if South Sudan’s ‘all-inclusive’ political dialogue is to yield peace and defeat the odds sliding back into conflict. Simply put, for negotiations and post-conflict reconstruction/development to bear any fruits, both parties’ needs have to be met; incompatibilities be eliminated or, at least, political compromises be made, so as to inhibit the likelihood of conflict resumption.

Before delving much into these sticking-points, it must be emphasised that Kiir’s misdeeds under his rather despotic style of leadership must be at the core of political negotiations if durable peace, stability and prosperity are to be achieved.

Firstly, President Kiir may have powers constitutionally bestowed upon him to ‘form and dissolve a government’, but his move to dissolve the cabinet was seen as politically motivated in some quarters. Although it is within his right to dissolve the cabinet, issuing a presidential decree (calling for Machar and allies’ dismissal) amid confrontations did not only arouse suspicion but also authenticates the view that Kiir cannot tolerate disparagement, especially within the ruling party’s ranks.

Upon its establishment under Resolution 1996 (2011), the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) was installed primarily to: provide good offices, advice, and support to the Government of South Sudan; promote popular participation in political processes; guarantee confidence building; and establish capabilities to prevent, mitigate, and resolve conflict among other objectives. Initially, the mission comprised 7,000 peacekeeping troops and recently, it was expanded to 12, 500 as accorded by Resolution 2132 (2013).

It can be argued, therefore, that Kiir blatantly disregarded the mandate of UNMISS; or could this have been another missed opportunity by the UN to heed early-warning signs of an impending conflict and avert its outbreak? The practice of preventive diplomacy by the UN has gained momentum since the 1990s genocide cases of Bosnia and Rwanda.

Perhaps UNMISS was put in place to preserve peace and prevent the (re)emergence of interstate turmoil between Juba and Khartoum over their outstanding issues. Instead, an intrastate turbulence between Kiir and Machar took everyone by surprise – alas, even UNMISS couldn’t act proactively to quell a power-struggle that bred a full-scale confrontation between ethnic groups.

It is surprising that, in the wake chaos, Kiir adopted a hardline stance towards the UN. Prior to the signing a cease-fire agreement, he accused UNMISS of acting like “a parallel government” and backing the rebellion by Machar and cronies. As to why Kiir never conceived this in his mind when UNMISS military personnel entered his territory remains unclear. Or could it be that he expected the UN to work like a parallel government to the detriment of civilians?
The UN like IGAD and the AU seldom take sides (but remain neutral) when involved in conflict prevention, resolution, and management efforts. However, this goes against the backdrop of the perennial nature of influence wielded by ‘powerful countries’ in cases of intervention. These countries are usually (mis)construed to be spearheading interventions in pursuit of their own geopolitical objectives (or national interests).

The least Kiir can now do is cooperate with the international community for one noble reason: the UN is bound by international law to intervene where grave human-rights violations systematically occur – precisely what South Sudanese have been confronted with since the outbreak of conflict.

IGAD, as a regional body to which South Sudan belongs, is currently spearheading concerted international efforts with the AU and the UN to restore peace and stability in that country. Thus, political willingness from the warring parties is of great significance here.

This brings me to the second sticking-point. Whilst accusing UNMISS of siding with the Machar faction, Kiir ignored Uganda’s unilateral deployment of troops to his country.

Uganda’s foreign ministry spokesperson defended his government’s role in South Sudan, referring to it as critical and consistent with ‘regional efforts to resolve South Sudan’s security situation’. However, calls for his country to withdraw its ‘biased’ troops suggest otherwise.

If Ugandan troops are operating in South Sudan outside the ambit of any recognised regional/international framework then this will jeopardise mediation efforts.Is it because of Uganda’s stature as a not-so-powerful country that the international community has remained somewhat mum?

Worse than South Sudan, the Central African Republic (CAR) is gripped by a protracted internal conflict that was instigated by the Seleka rebel coalition group which seized power through a coup ousting Francois Bozize in March 2013.

Michael Djotodia, the rebel-turned-president, ascended to state power after Bozize fled the country with fear of being persecuted. CAR has been plagued by conflict ever since; compelling Djotodia to table his resignation amid heightened tensions between the country’s Muslim and Christian religious militia groups. Djotodia is now succeeded by the interim president, Ms. Catherine Samba-Panza, who promises to return the country into stability.

When the UN Security Council authorised the deployment of African-led peacekeeping troops in CAR, France insisted on contributing about 1,600 troops to boost the African forces there. Though authorised by the UN, many of us are still predisposed to the think that French involvement in CAR is not entirely altruistic. France, as often alluded to, still maintains relations with its former African colonies and perpetually gets involved in interventions whenever Francophone countries spiral into internal conflicts.

So, if Uganda’s role in South Sudan was never warranted, then its troops must immediately be withdrawn irrespective of whether they are supporting the central government or rebels. Nation states must not meddle in other countries’ internal affairs willy-nilly; instead, they must work under recognised regional/international frameworks.

Failure to see Ugandan troops’ departure from South Sudan risks stirring the warring parties back to the battleground. What we certainly know is that, despite the signing of a cease-fire agreement with negotiations nigh, there will be reports on scattered skirmishes signaling the appalling extent to which South Sudan is fragmented in just a few weeks after the conflict erupted.

Therefore, involving individual countries would only deepen clashes with the possibility of causing regional/proxy wars in this sense: every country with strategic interests in South Sudan would either side with the government or rebels – with the purpose of either changing the regime or preserving the status quo. It is therefore desirable for interventionists to enter other countries’ territories under the umbrella of organisations like the UN and the AU.

The last sticking-point is that, the warring parties were applauded for signing a cease-fire agreement which came into effect on January 24, 2014. But Kiir’s government had eleven (11) of Machar’s loyalists detained for allegedly attempting to overthrow the government during the mid-December confrontations.

While the signed agreement calls for parties to ‘undertake every effort to expedite the release of the detainees’ (albeit no specific time-frame was stipulated), the government insists on having them investigated as per the country’s judicial processes. I am of the view that, should these detainees not be released, conflict might resume.

The pro-Machar loyalists might protest for the immediate release of their allies and protests, as we all know, can lead to a chain of events especially in a country as fragile as South Sudan. Certainly, negotiations wouldn’t be fair if one or the other faction is under-represented or not represented at all, right? This is why the UN Secretary-General, Mr. Ban Ki-moon, called for the detainees’ release and their involvement in comprehensive peace-talks.

Though still very early to make projections about the post-conflict South Sudan, Machar will not simply abandon his ambition of running for president in the 2015 elections.

In addition to the call for detainees to be released, Machar may, at least, demand that the dismissed cabinet members be reinstated or at best, push for his own return as vice president (if not president) if an inclusive government is anything to go by. In any case, these wouldn’t bode well for Kiir’s expectations because of his deep-rooted distrust towards (real and perceived) political opponents.

The IGAD-led mediation process will only succeed if the explored sticking-points are taken into consideration. For peace and stability to be fulfilled, structural remedies for these root-causes of conflict in South Sudan must effectively be employed.

For instance, promoting  national-identity over ethnic/tribal identity schism; doing away with political intolerance (particularly within the SPLM/A), (re)building trust and confidence among government officials and the people of South Sudan; upholding justice by bringing those accountable for battle-related deaths to book; and equitably distributing the country’s wealth among citizens.

Twitter:  @Tshepho_Mokwele
Personal Blog: Tshepho Mokwele Online

This article was first published on News24 Voices.

Kyoto Protocol Successor Treaty Needs Powerful States’ Backing

By Tshepho Mokwele.

Climate change effects are increasingly becoming evident everywhere and the international community is getting down to brass tacks to establish a successor treaty to the Kyoto Protocol. The envisaged international treaty is unlikely to hold water, should the principal carbon emitters shun or not join it.

With carbon dioxide concentration in the atmosphere reaching a milestone of 400 ppm (parts per million) and climate change-related disasters manifesting themselves globally, the planned treaty is set to be finalized by 2015 and take effect in 2020.

Indisputably, the international community is in a race against time to curb further carbon emissions. On the other hand, mankind is becoming more aware of what the nature and extent of global warming’s extreme weather conditions can be but inaction still worrying.

The Kyoto Protocol’s successor needs key emitters

Akin to the Kyoto Protocol, the intended international treaty on climate change might not live to our expectations if key emitters are not to be covered. In a concerted effort, Parties to the UNFCCC adopted the Kyoto Protocol in 1997; which came into force in 2005 as a binding legal treaty to compel and encourage countries to cut their greenhouse gas emissions.

The first commitment period (2008-2012) expired, with the modest success due to – among others – non-participation of chief economies accountable for the largest proportion of carbon emissions. Hypothetically, the second commitment period (2013-2020) is in force but still, key polluters are unwilling to make concessions and join hands in combating a common problem.

With over 190 signatories, the Kyoto Protocol thus far lacks the critical involvement of countries that have not signed and ratified and/or withdrew from the pact. Notably, the United States (US) and China have long dug their heels in and refused to join the Protocol due to long-standing differences on climate change. Other noteworthy countries that are currently not bound by the agreement include (but not limited to): Canada, Japan, Russia, Brazil, Belarus, India, and South Sudan.

Certainly, national interests ought to be dominant in international relations; and domestic forces largely influence and at times dictate every country’s foreign relations and decisions. This applies to any international agreement, and a treaty on carbon emissions is no exception.

Climate change as a global phenomenon seeks effective international response or proactive engagement. In eliminating carbon emissions countries may have to slash the their main sources of carbon emissions, primarily the driving forces of economic growth and development through industrialization.

Some of the abovementioned countries and top carbon emitters are reluctant to exhibit their leadership qualities by taking the initiative in spearheading climate change mitigation efforts. Then, how likely are we going to see them join (if not lead) the international community ahead of the 2015 pact?

From the Durban climate talks in 2011 to Doha in 2012, and leading to the Warsaw gathering this year, our representatives are adamant that the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action instigated treaty will be in place and on time, so as to limit the rise in the earth’s temperature to 2°C – a threshold climate scientists argue would exacerbate climate change implications.

Bonn, Germany, is currently hosting climate talks and one of the pondered issues has to with the pact design. Precisely, how (and by whom) are carbon emissions cuts plans/targets going to be drawn or draft?

Should governments independently sketch their own carbon emissions standards as they deem fit or should the international community take precedence and assume responsibility in that regard?

The envisaged treaty must contain in it, overarching terms and emission targets that are mandatory to but harmonious with country-specific plans. Industrialised, developed and developing countries must all be provided for, in relation to their carbon emissions amounts. If countries are to draw their own plans, implementations may very well be controversial and we might just have an ‘old wine in a new bottle’.

The climate change blame-game we’ve seen during the previous years between and among countries should not vitiate nor overshadow negotiations and positive decisions leading to the 2015 pact. Equally important, these countries should not attempt to sway the international community’s decisions in their favour; it would be an injustice to other less-affluent countries adversely affected by climate change.

A turning-point in Sino-American relations is that the two countries have committed themselves to a joint climate change effort they hope would aid their respective countries in reducing carbon emissions.

Briefly, it is commendable to witness the world’s two largest economies and emitters taking action pertinent to the global endeavours to overcome climate change. On a bilateral level, the US and China plainly want to rekindle their old relations as exemplified by presidents Barack Obama and Xi Jinping’s recent and first ever meeting for a two-day summit.

It is on a multilateral level that these countries should engage more, particularly with regards to climate change. Nonetheless, the US-China partnership on climate change is perhaps just what everyone wanted to see; and probably a breakthrough towards a vigorous climate treaty on the international front.

To be all-inclusive, the nature and scope of the expected treaty should be such that every country on this planet is – absolutely or relatively – aligned to its mandate, satisfied with its proviso and willing to uphold it’s latter and spirit.

Increased public awareness of climate change impacts

In light of countless climatic catastrophes, public awareness on climate change repercussions seems to have peaked. Extreme weather events continue to ravage the rich and powerful countries; the poor and weak countries, with the largest segment of the world’s population remain utterly the most susceptible.

In the recent past, the US experienced catastrophic events that sparked some media frenzy on whether such disasters could be ascribed to climate change or not. The Oklahoma tornado and Hurricane Sandy are cases in point.

From a layman’s perspective, every destructive climate event owes its occurrence to climate change. Most reports argue that climate change is not responsible for tornadoes and hurricanes. Yes, the is no causal link between quasi-climatic events (Hurricane Sandy and the Oklahoma twister) and climate change. Puzzling climate science, isn’t it?

Importantly, the mere fact that people in the US and elsewhere attributed the disasters of that magnitude to climate change suggests an increased level of awareness. No one continent is immune from climate change effects. We are aware of chronic droughts, melting glaciers and rising sea levels, as well as extreme storms among others.

Given this fundamental understanding, critical individual responses – complementary to international efforts – should be underway. On an individual level, reductions in electricity usage, safe disposal of garbage, the use of public transport and reforestation have always been touted as means to limit greenhouse gas emissions.

Developing and less affluent countries (most African) are at risk because climate change-related disasters come with utter destruction of property and extensive loss of life. Africa ravaged by conflict simply cannot afford to be plagued by severe weather events.

Action against climate change must not continue to be deferred; damage caused to the atmosphere is irreversible. The future is still in our hands.

This article first appeared on News24 Voices

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