Will the UN Intervene in Nigeria?Prelude to United Nations Intervention in Conflicts
In a world where there are conflicting interests among different parties and actors, there is bound to be disagreements and sometimes the divide may give rise to a full blown conflict threatening the peace and security of neighbours and if not properly handled, escalate into a sub regional, regional or global crisis. This threat to peace played out in the two world wars in the 20th century. As such the United Nations Organization was established to forestall a repeat of such great wars. It could be said that it has achieved relative success in that regard albeit the continuation of inter/intra state conflicts. In its determination to safeguard the peace, several missions have been deployed in times past and at present. This paper examines the preconditions that may warrant the deployment of a UN peacekeeping force and the legal framework regulating same. It firther examines whether these conditions exist in Nigeria. The paper concludes by recommending a proactive mechanism amongst the members of the Security Council for the prevention of conflict to safeguard the peace through stricter penalties and sanctions rather than wait for the excalation of the conflict before an intervention. It further discloses that the preconditions for an intervention force have not been met in the Nigerian situation.
World history is littered with events that have threatened the peace, security and the continued existence of the human race. Prominent amongst them are World War I (1914-1918) and World War II (1939-1945). In fact, the United Nations Organisation was birthed from the ashes of WW II. From its noble birth, the hallmark of the UN has been the preservation of international peace and security. This is clearly spelt out in the preamble to the Charter establishing the UN, where it is stated:
“We the peoples of the United Nations determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our life-time has brought untold sorrow to mankind…”
The above aspiration is amplified by Article 1(1) of the Charter. The said article is to the effect that the purpose of the United Nations is to maintain international peace and security and to that end… prevent and remove threats to the peace, and for the suppression of acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about a peaceful settlement of disputes.
In fulfillment of the said purpose, the UN has since 1949 embarked on over forty Peace Keeping Operations across the world with one of the earliest being the United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan. There are currently 13 UN missions across the globe as stated on its official website www.peacekeeping.un.org.
What then are the circumstances that will give rise to the setting up of an intervention force by this body of nations? Does the crisis in Nigeria North Eastern Region or the continuation of protests warrant an intervention? This article examines the legal framework and the considerations that will warrant the deployment of a peacekeeping force.
The legal frameworks regulating the establishment of a UN peace keeping mission include the UN Charter, International Humanitarian Law, Human Rights, and Security Council Mandate.
The Charter is the primary instrument which governs the activities of the UN. Signed on July 26, 1945 in San Francisco, it confers on the Security Council the responsibility of the maintenance of international peace and security as provided by Article 24(1). The Security Council is composed of five permanent members: United States of America, Great Britain, France, China and Russia. Besides the five permanent members, the General Assembly elects 10 non-permanent members of the Security Council from time to time. The Council relies on the powers conferred on it by Chapters VI, VII and VIII of the Charter in discharging its functions and duties.
International Humanitarian Law often referred to as the law of armed conflict, also forms part of the legal framework. It is said to be designed to protect persons who do not participate in a conflict. Basically, international humanitarian law guarantees and protects the rights of civilians, victims and non-combatants in a crisis. As such, it is required that UN peace keepers adhere to them, failure of which they could be held liable for crimes against humanity or other war crimes.
Universal Declaration of Human Rights is another fundamental instrument to be adhered to by peace keepers. A breach could also lead to liability personally.
Fourthly, Security Council Mandate is the corner stone for every mission. Without such mandate, a mission cannot be set up. This is in line with the duties and functions of the Council to maintain international peace and security. United Nations peacekeeping operations are deployed on the basis of the Council’s mandate. It should be added that the UN Secretariat plays a crucial role in helping the Security Council determine whether or not a peace keeping mission should be considered. The Secretariat sends a Technical Assessment Mission (TAM) to the conflict zone to ascertain the need to set up a peace keeping operation. The Council then considers the report of the TAM and passes a resolution for the deployment of the mission.
According to the Capstone doctrine www.un.peacekeeping.org/files in consideration of the deployment of a Peace Keeping Mission, the following issues are considered:
• Whether a situation exists the continuation of which is likely to endanger or constitute a threat to international peace and security;
• Whether regional or sub-regional organizations and arrangements exist and are ready and able to assist in resolving the situation;
• Whether a cease-fire exists and whether the parties have committed themselves to a peace process intended to reach a political settlement;
• Whether a clear political goal exists and whether it can be reflected in the mandate
• Whether a precise mandate for a United Nations operation can be formulated.
At this point, it should be noted that the mandate of the United Nations Peackeeping force continues to evolve. It is also paramount that the mission cannot act ultra vires (outside of its mandate) as was seen in Rwanda during the 1994 Genocide www.un.org-historical-background. Furthermore, the missions varies in terms of purpose and duration.
Some of its mandates past and present include the following:
• UNMIL - United Nations Missions in Liberia (2013-2018)
• UNOMSIL - United Nations Observer Missions in Sierra Leone (1998-1999)
• MINUSMA - United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (2013 - present)
• UNFICYP - United Nations Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (1964 – present)
• UNMOGIP - United Nations Military Observer Group in India and Pakistan (1949 – present)
Besides the aforementioned preconditions, it should be mentioned that for a peace keeping force to be deployed the major parties in the conflict must have given their consent. The absence of such consent may affect the mandate of the mission from a peace keeping force to that of enforcement of the peace.
Therefore, for the United Nations to deploy its peace keeping force (usually from member states) the criteria stated above must be met. However it is never a one size fits all approach as each case is examined from the prevailing circumstances and peculiarities. The mandate of a UN peacekeeping force range from but are not limited to disarmament, demobilization and reintegration (DDR) of combatants; mine action; security sector reform (SSR); protection and promotion of human rights; electoral assistance, amongst others.
The Nigerian Situation
It could thus be asked if Nigeria meets the aforementioned preconditions. A close examination of the requirements will find that what is evisaged is a full blown war between a state and another or a state and a rebel group within that state and not just a sectional insurrection like the Boko Haram crisis or a protest against the government, no matter how long. The rebel group in the case of an armed conflict within a state must also be in control of a sizeable portion of the state. Secondly, the warring parties must be dedicated to a peace process and a truce to reach a political settlement.
Ordinarily, the UN can not interfere in the politics of a sovereign state except on occasions of gross violations of human rights, commission of genocide, crimes against humanity or war crimes. Such intervention is however limited to sanctions or prosecution at the International Court of Justice, ICJ(the judicial arm of the UN) and not the deployment of a peace keeping force. Examples of UN targeted sanctions include: diplomatic sanctions, travel bans, asset freezes, arms embargoes and commodity interdiction: www.securitycouncilreport.org.
Challenges to Intervention
There are however constant frictions among the permanent members of the the Security Council, who in pursuance of national interest veto resolutions for intervention and or sanctions. Although there is no clear cut provision for the use of veto power, Article 27(3) of the Charter provides that all substantive decisions of the Council must be made with the concurring votes of the permanent members. The Security Council in a report titled UN Security Council Working Methods on its official website https://www.securitycouncilreport.org/un-security-council-working-methods/the-veto.php states that between 1946 and 2020 there have been 293 vetoes with Russia casting the most, totalling 143. Most recently, on 31st August 2020 the US blocked a resolution on the prosecution, rehabilitation and reintegration of foreign terrorist fighters. On the 5th day of December 2016, a call for an end to all attacks in Allepo for 7 days was vetoed by China and Russia. Similarly, a resolution to refer the violations in Syrian to the International Criminal Court (ICC) was vetoed by China and Russia on 22nd May 2014. Russsia also vetoed a resolution to extend the UN observer mission’s mandate in Georgia and Abkhazia on 15th June 2009.
There is need for these members to put aside selfish interest and come up with more proactive measures to prevent conflict rather than wait or prolong the deployment of a peacekeeping force. To achieve this, stricter sanctions and embargoes should be imposed and implemented against warring parties. The proliferation of arms should also be critically examined. This will forestall the commission of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity. It is yet to be seen whether the P 5, will set aside national interests for the realization of a more secure and peaceful world.
The prevailing circumstances in Nigeria do not create the urgency for the consideration of an intervention force for reasons stated above. Neither the crisis in the North East nor the agitations of the Indigenous People of Biafra IPOB nor the EndSars protests warrant any consideration. These are crisis within the control of the Nigerian state. Government officials and members of armed groups could however be prosecuted at the ICC or be sanctioned accordingly.