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Did the West interfere in Uganda’s internal affairs?

The cry baby attitude each time the West pulls out the mother hen rule book won’t save the day. Recently, sources in State House told me, when African leaders went to China, they were made to line up and greet Chinese President Xi Jinping in alphabetical order.

COMMENTARY | IVAN OKUDA

Government’s spin masters stirred brouhaha over the European Union parliament’s resolution condemning the state of affairs in Uganda against the backdrop of state inspired violence. The west stands accused of meddling in Uganda’s domestic affairs.

Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) have not been spared tongue lashing by President Museveni who has projected them as appendages of western neo colonial interests largely based on fantasies, unscientific propaganda and shabby intelligence his poorly paid, demoralized and half-baked operatives feed him on. Some of the claims the state has advanced are not worthy repetition in these pages for they are not only unfounded but also dangerously hokum.

The question of non interference or intervention, two terms oft-time used interchangeably albeit loaded with unique connotative and contextual implications, is an age old debate predating the 19th century Grand or Holy Alliance (Prussia, Russia, Austria) formed after the defeat of Napoleon at the call of Tsar Alexander I of Russia and signed in Paris on September 26, 1815 whose spirit was hinged on restraining liberalism and secularism in Europe at the height of debilitating French revolutionary wars.

Thereafter the notion gained monumental currency, securing itself a chamber in the heart of international law as espoused by Article 15 (8) of the Covenant of the League of Nations and the Montevideo Convention on Rights and Duties of States of 1933, which barred, “interference with the freedom, sovereignty or other internal affairs, or the processes of the Governments of other nations.”

In came the Additional Protocol on Non-Intervention of 1936 and onward to the Cold War era when Socialist countries in the Soviet bloc chorused the doctrine of non intervention whose lyrics were music to the ears of colonial powers in the initial decades of the United Nations before the same was embraced by newly independent states.

Accordingly, the principle was laid down in the Friendly Relations Declaration [UNGA res. 2625(XXV) 1970] which includes a section on, ‘The principle concerning the duty not to intervene in matters within the domestic jurisdiction of any State, in accordance with the Charter.’ The UN General Assembly also adopted a Declaration on the Inadmissibility of Intervention and Interference in the Domestic Affairs of States (UNGA resolution 2131 (XX) 1965).

Article 2.7 of the Charter of the United Nations provides that – “Nothing contained in the present Charter shall authorize the United Nations to intervene in matters which are essentially within the domestic jurisdiction of any state…”

Therefore, government and indeed Africa have a point when they protest what in their wisdom, amounts to interference. Their reservation is grounded in international law and history.

The International Court of Justice in its 1986 judgment in the Nicaragua case opined that, “the principle of non-intervention involves the right of every sovereign State to conduct its affairs without outside interference..” adding, “The principle forbids all States or groups of States to intervene directly or indirectly in the internal or external affairs of other States,” and that, “a prohibited intervention must accordingly be one bearing on matters in which each State is permitted, by the principle of State sovereignty, to decide freely. One of these is the choice of a political, economic, social and cultural system, and the formulation of foreign policy.”

Of course, this isn’t a carte blanche for states to commit egregious human rights violations that shock the conscience of civilized nations, in which case international humanitarian law opens the window for intervention.

The test of whether intervention is unjust or not is really determined when and if there is use of, “methods of coercion in regard to such choices,” such as happened in the DRC versus Uganda case where our state was found guilty of interference in DRC’s affairs.

Neither the EU nor the US and its allies have fallen short of this golden standard and therefore cannot be accused of interference in the affairs of Uganda. Interference isn’t a word of art; it is a serious aspect of international law so government officials are misguided in my humblest view, to suggest that there is, “western interference”. Mere commentary and expression of sentiment, which is what a parliament resolution amounts to, cannot be the basis of adjudging interference in so far as resolutions of that nature are politically important but legally impotent.

When all is said and done, African states must embark on attaining self-reliance if they want to avoid lectures on how to run their homes.

The cry baby attitude each time the West pulls out the mother hen rule book won’t save the day. Recently, sources in State House told me, when African leaders went to China, they were made to line up and greet Chinese President Xi Jinping in alphabetical order.

How dehumanizing! As Sudhir Ruparellia says, there is no dignity in poverty. Our leaders cannot be distressed beggars on the global street and expect not to be admonished over their toxic bad manners never mind that those doing the same may not have the moral authority given their own domestic challenges.

Ivan Okuda is a lawyer and journalist with Nation Media Group (U)

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