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Uganda’s military intervention in South Sudan under international law

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Is there foreign policy principle justifying Uganda’s military intervention in South Sudan civil war and under whose authority could the exercise be carried out?

By Kuajien Lual Wechtuor

April 18, 2014 - International law’s non-intervention doctrine has not only been a comprehensive but `the United Nations General Assembly describes the intervention as dictatorial interference in the political independence and territorial integrity of the sovereign state´ and has been an important principle especially for `liberal statesmen and moralist with commitment to universal human rights.`[1] The international law sanction and prohibit the intervention with the exception of the right to humanitarian intervention, the “responsibility to protect” but subject to and preceded with unanimous authorization. It’s morally believed that the intervention does not itself justify military intervention rather peaceful intervention following certain conditions followed. The responsibility to protect should exert political, economics and peace but military intervention as the last option. I argue that this foreign policy is building up a new exception which I call collusion intervention. A kind of partial or random agreement concluded orally by the two state presidents, which give only one country rights to interferes with political independence and territorial integrity of invited country, which is necessitated due to power consolidation and political greedy. This debate would develop itself into a kind of exception to nonintervention principle on further arguments, owing to the fact that, UN has not such illegal intervention been punished, neither condemned nor pushing for an end to Uganda’s illegal army deployment. Thus AU, if not UN might have wants indirectly creating new principle in exception of its own constitutive Act to save the future of its dictatorship member leaders, or otherwise, UN and AU are losing senses.

The responsibility to protect from humanitarian intervention stem from ICISS report and its created term 2001 dated back to the 1990s broad debate on the idea of the right to humanitarian intervention, ´the raison d’être of both ICISS and the responsibility to protect´.[2] International politics has been shake by heinous violations the world experience and fall the need to incorporate this exception to non-intervention foreign policy. The justification for this concept are as example of bitter human suffer in the two World War, Cold War conflicts and the geopolitical rivalry between US and Russia, international passiveness in Rwanda (1948), NATO’s decision to bomb Kosovo (1999), the debacle in Somalia (1993) and the powerlessness of UN troops in Srebrenica (1995) believed as kind of lack of capacity to respond since these were likely threats the international peace and security.[3] These comes the type the UN peace keeping mission and later auxiliary AU peace keepers’ arrangements for establishing long lasting peace. In the UN and AU provision, the responsibility to protect against the threats to international peace and security is incorporated on basis of preventive diplomacy, peace keeping/making and post conflict peace building. All in all, the union tries to do with the responsibility to prevent and address the root and direct causes of international conflicts and other manmade crises that put populations at risk, respond either with coercive measures or rebuilding measures.[4]

It’s questionable why Uganda interfered in South Sudan domestic politics? There is misunderstanding of interest or conspiracy to pursue ethnic cleansing in the part of Uganda and South Sudan autocratic president’s inexperience on foreign policy. But on the other hand, it is complicated by a lack of legal and political commitment in the international community to combat the sovereignty violation and the loss of thousands lives perpetrated and perpetuated by Ugandan army, which used banned cluster bombs. It is a pure absurdity in the international politics whence contrasting the application of foreign policy principle, “non-intervention doctrine” in the international law and the case of the African double faced nation, Uganda military intervention in South Sudan’s internal affairs on the alleged collusion between the two countries to interfere with South Sudan political independence and territorial integrity but not applicable to Uganda. The responsibility to protect concept defined that, “when a government does not fulfills the basic principle of modern state of providing protection to its citizens, then the international community can assume the responsibility to protects.[5] Kiir must admit his failures. Uganda and international community mean different things like sky and earth. Hence, the former does not hold proofs to provoke human rights violations and genocide threats to legitimize her military invasion on South Sudan. Her dirty and dangerous hand of violence in international arena violates the principle of nonintervention and the international law’s proportionality and the last resort for military measure.

However, neither UN nor AU as the international community had prior authorization to Uganda or prior request from South Sudan (the member state) to seek intervention into his internal affairs.[6] And, neither did UN nor AU protect South Sudanese from being subjected to IGAD member geopolitical interest due to international politics of anarchy within UN or AU. Simply watching flying airplanes bombarding using UN banned weapons and heavy armed ground force killing civilians and mass destructions. UN has positive and eligible intervention because the intervention to protect principle only work in peaceful manner, unless otherwise, UNSC authorized the use of force unlike ugly multiple and ill defined intervention and motivation by Uganda President Yoweri Museveni’s dictatorial personal interest in South Sudan and eluded personal exploitation of Ugandans. Uganda intervention contradicting itself, claiming that it was forced to intervene militarily to protect her interests and genocide but in fact she intervened to pursues the genocide by carrying out mass killing using banned weapons, Gun-shift Alcopters and MIGs bombarding and thousands ground forces against dominantly Nuer, survivors from president Kiir’s Juba Nuer (15th -17th Dec, 2013) massacre and genocide. It is controversial because neither humanitarian intervention sanctioned or supported nor ordered by UN or AU Security Council. Despite the double face IGAD, which half of it fighting proxy war while other half thinks to broker peace, it seem that there is a discrimination to South Sudan by the world bodies because when in fact a doubtful Uganda intervention continue unconfronted or sanctioned by any of the international community, UN, AU or Troika countries. Giving Kiir leverage to the extent that he could bring Egyptian, JEM/SPLA-N & other foreign armies to fight for him, thinking the sovereignty has given him anarchical supremacy to go to heaven & come down as he wants while world is laughing him.

In comparison, take for example, the similar unlawful invasion by Russia on Ukraine’s sovereignty which saw a bitter condemnation and sanction, by western world in particular. On the part of South Sudan, it really shows that there is no considered rule of international relation between and among equal sovereign civilized states which equally prohibited the intervention and the law which contains the value of coordination and consensual legitimacy.[7] It is questionable whether intervening into third world or poorer country is not a violation of a sovereignty and foreign policy principle, whence intervention in Ukraine is an invasion on Ukraine’s sovereignty but no hurry up on South Sudan invaded. Basically, one would wonder to ask, does sovereignty and nonintervention foreign policy connote international relation anarchy discrimination politics? This would better mean absent of international political commitment in South Sudan politics by the western nations or awry interest by the later and poor African Union which is mostly a union of dictators, if Uganda should militarily intervened at will without being restrained or refrains from giving assistance to one party in the South Sudan civil war fought within its territory.[8]

Consequently, therefore, this man ruled law of South Sudan and Uganda fatally paralyzed South Sudan’s rule of law system with much suffering engulfed South Sudan now due to lack of responsible world leaders to caution Kiir’s imposed indiscriminate war. World could see how the foreign forces impacts on South Sudan war, partaking the existing rules and duty to protect deteriorating human rights and the assumption that international political leaders requires to act with integrity, respect, competence and in a public manner accorded with the notion of the rule of law that govern its relations. I may ask question like, can sovereignty change? I question because the sovereignty of individual country can and will not likely change as a result of a change of sovereignty of the other state. What about the international politics or community foreign policy? Hence, on any result that shows the change in the sovereignty of the nation state do not necessarily mean tuning point of the foreign policy of a given international community. However, someone may wonder to see whether deposing the president of South Sudan would result in the discernible high or low shifts of the international community or overthrowing Uganda president in particular, which of course I believe it is not the case. If the international community (AU or UN) in some extent enjoys and relaxes their foreign policy to or by testing a partial oral agreement to serve as an exceptional ground for intervention, thence there shall exist a new theory or foreign policy principle, which would be collusion intervention or an intervention on a mere oral agreement simply on a telephone call to a friend by the president who might seen his leadership fading away.

Consensus is needed on how to approaches these issues to forge unity around the basics international law principles and processes involved. To do the necessary measures, both peace and Security Council must assess the potential situation by sending fact finding missions to the troubled spot in order to legitimize the intervention in the internal crises. In other hand, the member state can request for the intervention from the Union to restore peace and security not directly to other member state. Uganda’s unilateral military intervention into South Sudan’s domestic conflict without any justification, her ulterior motives is ignorant of the UN and AU reform legacy and undermining the common foreign policy principle of the non-intervention doctrine. Moreover, Uganda president Museveni overridingly expanding his horror of terror opportunities for aggressive war against international law owing to lack of prior authorization and hence nothing else than invasion on South Sudan. Furthermore, none from international law doctrines nor UN/AU treaties warrants the arrogant president’s intervention in South Sudan’s sovereignty on the question of whether democracy, the so called elected president Kiir is to be deposed off the power, from which he has originally been elected by the same own citizens to whom he has turned wild against, political or economic interest in the good neighborhood is endanger or two member states can authorizes military intervention as between themselves without Union’s Ok.
The chronic Uganda president’s dictatorial consolidation trying to crown his neighbor, new African (South Sudan) dictator tendency and his suspicious interest in South Sudan oil were only and presumed persuasive elements taken as permissive as ease as outdated the international law by the duo dictators with their group (of dictators) union (AU). Finally, if there is reason to believe the intervention justify, it also matter whether the sovereignty is revelatory to the interest of the head of state without state functional organs or else dictatorship automated the silent. Uganda and non-intervention doctrine does not adequately consider the relationship between international politics and domestic political process in South Sudan. Thence Uganda’s action doesn’t conform to international norms as such to justify her ramifications[9] on the South Sudan’s domestic political sphere that were not envisaged by the foreign policy models. Consequently, the duo must be faced seriously.

Last but not least, let make theoretical comparative study of Russia’s Ukraine with Uganda’s South Sudan invasion owing to the fact that, the international community did not response in the same position. When in South Sudan, unlike Ukraine, coupled with a grave human rights violations those including restriction on freedom of press & association and UN (humanitarians) movements, attacking UN premises and killing of over 150 Nuer (ethnic) civilians under UN peace mission protection in Bor, UPDF bombardment used UN banned weapons, lootings and destructions of properties by foreign forces, extermination of democracy activist leading to insecurity, forceful arrest of individual deem critical to the undemocratic government, denial of access to detainees, detention of civilians in military jails and detention without charge or court appearance.[10] Mostly believed that, a continue present of Uganda’s UPDF forces directly lead to total absent of democracy in South Sudan, the country has been seen with many problems those involve humanitarian disasters and corruption, meaning appointment of foreigners and spending public money on war funding mercenaries and resulting to unemployment and consolidating the dictatorship style which goes back to Nuer massacre (ethnic cleansing) on 15-19th December 2013 Juba. Onecemore, the international community took silent over Uganda aggressiveness while strong war on Russia on Ukraine, where in fact was at least twenty demonstrators died that had cost the former president his job. Uganda interference with South Sudan domestic politics is likely causing regional, if not eastern African war. So do Russia invasion on Ukraine sovereignty to Europeans or all western worlds. As my view point, I would question what justify the international community’s reaction on Russia while not seriously on Uganda whose intervention equally threatens international peace and security. Roughly, I would think that, it is the world leaders’ dissatisfaction with the South Sudan president regarded as unsatisfactory leader to lead RSS that is why we are neglected not even seen on BBC unlike other sufferings.

Non-intervention foreign policy principle and sovereignty of nation state is too vague and controversial, which is easily contravened by simple interest in a pretext of sovereignty, democracy, interest and national threats. This legal doctrine as human rights are as protective against arbitrary of the states and so do with country fallen in its darkest days with the rule of law and human rights constrained by the state of anarchy of the international politics. It is hopeless to the victim of lawlessness in South Sudan followed by the whims of power without clue as a result of a dictate of international politics. The internationally recognized non-intervention principle which has its objective of prohibiting foreign state from involving in other sovereign state’s internal affairs is important concept. Hence strengthening fair and defendable foreign policy would restore hope of peace and democracy in the world. State sovereignty is a conditional requirement to any foreign government not simply the head of state is too strong to kill and invite at wills. The international community’s responsibility to protect concept did not qualify Uganda to represents its interest in South Sudan’s internal conflicts nor do the claiming invitation by the authoritative president.

So that UPDF must go out from South Sudan to have a peace and respect to international norms but Museveni can’t get away from the responsibilities of the mass destructions inflicted on South Sudanese. It’s absurd if the world leaders talking that they don’t want another Rwanda genocide happened again, while South Sudan president, with a full support of Uganda president, could kills as much as he is blessed to take a lives of over 20,000. What is legitimacy of Salva Kiir and Museveni if their forces jointly should carried out killing and purported Dinka-SPLA killing over 150 & wounded over 300 Nuer IDPs civilians in the UNMISS resident, Bor 17.04.2014, Jonglei State? Ugandan president claimed that his military intervention is to protect civilians and facilities (genocide), then why didn’t they show up to protect mass killing. Instead their Jets fighters flown to Bentiu to bombs the opposition forces but evil ended up bombing Bentiu’s 2 UNMISS camps. Uganda military intervention, even before Dec.15-17th 2013 Juba Nuer massacre in a present of UN forces and the recent one in UN POC Bor, marked the inability of the world leaders to fight injustice and human rights violations. Had it not been UPDF disproportionate intervention, this mass killing and mass destructions would never happened in South Sudan and the later would be a quite heaven all over the world. President Museveni and Salva Kiir, with his Greater Dinka, with exception of peace loved Dinka (Mama Nyandeng), destroyed the image of South Sudan. But the world leaders must be crazy, if the present of Museveni’s UPDF could perpetuates the mass killing and still as enjoys as the innocent civilian lives risking death. Salva Kiir thinks he has America super power, whence he must deploy Museveni to any corner in South Sudan to pursue ethnic cleansing without getting heat of their actions from the world leaders for the violation of the international norms. UN peace mission would use force if New York authorizes use of force but could think of thousands SPLA and UPDF hundred tanks with its only ten tanks. Why should violators immune over international community, the international community must hold these two presidents responsible for the cost of this war.

Kuajien Lual Wechtuor, Germany, is a researcher on “Human Rights and the Rule of Law (South Sudan)” and prospective PhD researcher on “Non-Intervention Doctrine or Foreign policy principle.” He can be reach by nyatuachlual@gmail.com

[1] Doyle (2006), 1
[2] Garrigues (2007), 4
[3] Ibid
[4] Murithi (2009), 91
[5] Garrigues (2007), 2
[6] UN Charter (1945), Art.2 (4); Constitutive Act of the African Union (2002), Art. 4 (g, h & j); Kioko (2003), 1
[7] Doyle (2006), 5
[8] Schindler (1975), 2
[9] Goodman (2006), 115
[10] United Nation Security Council, ‘Report of the Secretary-General on South Sudan,’ S/2013/366, para.52 July 23, 2013, Website (accessed October 20.2013).



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  • 20 April 14:16, by Thongdit

    Mr. kuajien, the number of causalities we received since incident happened is between 30-28. I am sadden that your information is misleading, we are now in the world of media and such event will be reported on daily bases. could you please verify your claims. that number you claims including wounded is to high to be reported. The attackers looses 4 men including 14 wounded when they were shoot by

    repondre message

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