Africa Must Accept Responsibility

Over the weekend as I thought over the debate over whether the United States should take a more active role in peacekeeping responsibilities in Africa, I simply could not find a way to justify an increased U.S. presence on the continent. I thought of an analogous situation in the U.S., particularly in the late 1980s and 90s, where Black mothers and a few Black leaders were calling for the National Guard to intervene in America's inner cities in order to put an end to gang violence.

In that case you had Black youth fighting Black youth primarily over territory and illegal street business. The situation in Sierra Leone is not that much different especially when the dispute over diamonds is factored in. In my analogy, the U.S. National Guard would be the equal of the United States "peacekeepers". But how does the role of fostering peace in the Black Community fall to the National Guard and how does the responsibility of peace in Africa fall to the U.S. military and even the United Nations for that matter?

The call from Africans for the U.S. military to aid in keeping peace in Sierra Leone, represents a forfeiture of sovereignty and independence that Africans have fought for and which many African leaders still adamantly maintain that they still desire. The civil wars that plague the continent cannot be solved by the temporary armed presence from those in the West.

Military presence only perpetuates a tired cycle that has characterized post-colonial Africa: Civil War, Western intervention and backing of one or both sides, a change in government, Foreign aid and Western planning of the economy, corruption of government funds and foreign aid, the growth of opposition groups and civil war again.

The countries of Africa must individually and collectively decide that they will stop this vicious cycle that really never allows for true sovereignty and independence to take place.
Rather, it gives multilateral institutions like the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and the United Nations a reason to live.

Beginning with Sierra Leone, an all- African peacekeeping force should be established and mediation and negotiation should begin through parties that both sides respect and which do not place any special interest that they may have over the goal of the establishment of peace.

It is a tall undertaking but one that holds more promise than the alternative approach of more U.S. and European influence in a part of the world that has seen the worst that foreign meddling can produce.

Cedric Muhammad

Monday, May 15, 2000