Sunday, April 15, 2012

African Union: An Effective Cure or Western Caricature?

By Christina French
Christina French, a third year student at Albany Law School, is the Editor-in-Chief of Albany Law School's Journal of Science and Technology. She works at New York State United Teacher as a Law Clerk for the Office of General Counsel.
This paper was prepared for the International Law of War & Crime Seminar, Fall 2011 semester.
Ms. French has also been published by the Center for Judicial Process. (See, e.g., The New York Court of Appeals: Analyzing the Status of Workers’ Rights in New York, March 23, 2012.)

The divisive nature of the African continent dates back to the colonial era and decolonization of the 1950s and 1960s. Artificial borders resulted in artificial states and today internal armed conflict is in all likelihood, the primary impediment to the political, economic, and social development of contemporary Africa. In its search for unity, a regional organization such as the African Union may be Africa’s only hope for ending conflict in the divided African nation-states. This paper will address whether the African Union can effectively resolve internal conflicts as a necessary step in African development.

In order to maximize colonial control, colonialists drew artificial borders within African States without any understanding or interest in the ethnicity and tribalism that existed there. This did not pose a problem so much when the colonialists were there, acting as a centralizing government, providing a central police force, and for some, representing a common enemy. However, when the colonists left, there was a power vacuum.

Rather than returning to pre-colonial status, African states maintained the colonial power structure and merely replaced white imperial leaders with black African leaders. The maintenance of the status quo both in terms of borders and in large part, the leadership, created a situation in which conflict management in Africa was more likely to be within states than between states. In fact, the deadliest post-colonial conflicts were within African states. Conditions of civil unrest demanded that any attempt at conflict management, required an understanding of what was causing the internal conflicts more urgently than an understanding of the causes of external war. In other words, the African “situation” required a different response from the international community.*
* Citations to references in this introduction are available in the paper.
To read the entire paper, open HERE.