GoJIL Vol. 4, No. 1 (2012)
The Responsibility to Protect and the Role of Regional Organizations: an Appraisal of the African Union’s Interventions
This article examines the dilemmas and opportunities of the African Union, a regional organization, in implementing the responsibility to protect concepts in respect to forceful intervention to prevent or stop the occurrence of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Article 4(h) of the Constitutive Act of the African Union specifically mandates the Union to forcefully intervene in a Member State in such circumstances. Although the African Union has successfully resolved some situations where peaceful negotiations or consensual military intervention was sufficient, there has also been failure by the Union where such means fail or are inadequate. Such instances include the Darfur conflict where peacekeeping was insufficient, and recently in Libya where the African Union openly opposed enforcement of no fly zones to protect civilians. This article is of the view that the African Union's failure to implement Article 4(h) of the Constitutive Act, even in deserving situations, may have been aggravated by the failure to institutionalize the concept of responsible sovereignty within the Union's legal framework and processes. Despite the forceful intervention mandate, there are also provisions that affirm the principles of non-interference. The AU system therefore fails to resolve the dilemma between sovereignty and intervention. Sovereignty preservation remains as an effective legal and political justification for non-intervention by the AU. This has promoted a subsequent trend of greater sovereignty concerns by the Union. Institutionalization of the concepts postulated under the emerging norm of responsibility to protect within the AU framework and processes can contribute to the elimination of the legal and political dilemmas of forceful intervention by the Union.
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