By: Emmanuel Tsegay
Since colonial times and even possibly before, our world has been marred by wars and conflicts that killed millions of people. Unfortunately, conflicts were not expected to stop even after the end of the devastating Second World War (WWII) that had claimed more than 75 million lives. This prompted world leaders of the time to establish an intergovernmental organization, one of whose mission was to create a peaceful environment by monitoring and managing conflicts around the globe. It’s called the United Nations.
The United Nations (UN) was founded in 1945 after the Second World War by 51 countries that said they were committed “to maintaining international peace and security, developing friendly relations among nations and promoting social progress, better living standards and human rights.” 1 According to article 39 of the United Nations charter, ” the Security Council shall determine the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression and shall make recommendations, or decide what measures shall be taken in accordance with Articles 41 and 42, to maintain or restore international peace and security.”
The establishment of the UN was certainly a positive development, especially for the states that were disadvantaged and that didn’t have the military capability to defend themselves against the powerful nations. Nonetheless, while at its infancy the United Nations was rendered ineffective in delivering what it was set out to do and fulfilling its mission because it was taken hostage by those that claimed veto power to themselves. To the disappointment of many of the member states, the UN performed poorly in stopping conflicts and maintaining world peace and instead became a tool of destabilizing nations. The cold war era in which the superpower countries of the time: the United States of America (USA) and the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) were on the brink of a nuclear war for geopolitical domination and nations were forced to take sides. The Korean War (1950-1953), the Vietnam war (1955-1975), the Arab – Israeli conflict (1947 – to date), and the three decades long Eritrean war for self-determination (1961-1991) the world witnessed after WWII are but a few of the many conflicts that illustrate the weakness and lack of impartiality of the world body in solving conflicts and maintaining world peace.
“To the disappointment of many of the member states, the UN performed poorly in stopping conflicts andmaintaining world peace.”
Countries resort to war for various reasons. Some fight over territory while others do so over what they consider are “unfair” trade treaties. Most of the conflicts that occurred in modern history, however, were born out of greed: powerful nations invading resources-rich countries in order to advance their economic and geopolitical hegemony. These “powerful” nations often times use “human rights and democracy” as pretext to make their intervention appear legitimate, thus evade international condemnation. The destructive wars of Iraq, Libya and Syria in which untold number of civilians were killed and historical cities demolished are events of recent history that exemplify acts of global greed to plunder resource-rich countries using lofty slogans such as human rights and terrorism as a pretext. African conflicts like those in Angola, Liberia , Sierra Leone , Somalia, South Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, … were also fueled by the desire of the “powerful” to plunder African resources. In the past several decades when terrorism became a global threat, some autocratic leaders viewed the campaign of “war on terror” as a ‘blessing in disguise’ and an opportunity to build up their military by receiving military and financial support from the wealthy and unprincipled west.
“ Most of the conflicts that occurred in modern history, however, were born out of greed; powerful nations invading those with resources- rich countries in order to advance their economic and geopolitical hegemony
This article will explore several events of recent history and assess whether the international community (UN) handled these and other similar cases involving armed conflicts in accordance with the international law enshrined in UN charter and will draw a conclusion.
- Case 1. Back on 19 March 2003 the Bush Administration invaded Iraq on the basis of false claims that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction (WMD). It’s to be recalled that former US President George W Bush, the son of the late George Bush Sr. who himself was the president during the first Gulf war calling on countries to help disarm Iraq of the lethal chemical weapon it never “possessed”. Handful states heeded the call and joined the “coalition of the willing” forces in good faith. Eighteen years have elapsed since the initiation of Iraq war and there is to date not a shred of evidence the Arab country had or was in the process of making WMD. 2 The world was misled and coerced to say the least. The Middle Eastern nation which is known as one of the old civilizations with remarkable history was utterly destroyed, its antiquities stolen, countless of its inhabitants killed and many others abandoned the comfort of their homes and migrated in search of a “better life” (servitude) in the west.
- Case 2. On November 3rd , 2020, the TPLF forces unleashed massive preemptive attack on Ethiopia’s Northern command stationed in Tigray bordering Eritrea which escalated into full blown war and resulted in massive
human and material loss. 3 For clarification to those who don’t have any background knowledge, TPLF or Tigray Peoples Liberation Front, was a rebel movement that played an important role in defeating the brutal Derg régime of Ethiopia using a huge support from the EPLF (Eritrean People’s Liberation Front) in 1991. Unfortunately, this mafia group, whose members hailed from the Adwa district of Tigray region hadn’t liberated itself from inferiority complex and pathologic ethnocentricity it suffers which was the leading cause of ethnic bloodshed seen in the country for three decades and its ultimate demise.
In the year 2018, two years before the war erupted the Ethiopian Parliament (EPRDF) convened to discuss the
country’s future and to figure out means to control the ethnic-related killings that were ravaging Ethiopia like a wildfire and threatening the country’s very existence. It was during that time the ethnocentric TPLF leaders who
were (mis)governing the country in every imaginary manner for over 28 years were ousted from power and
replaced by a government lead by PM Abiy Ahmed Ali, a vibrant, broad-minded and inclusive leader. Shortly
after his election by the EPRDF as Prime Minister, Dr. Abiy Ahmed did something noble and admirable that no
previous Ethiopian leaders had ever done as far as regional conflicts are concerned. To the astonishment of the
TPLF clique and its sponsors and with an overwhelming support and approval by the Ethiopian Parliament the
new Ethiopian government reestablished a long overdue diplomatic ties with Eritrea where both countries signed a comprehensive Peace Agreement which comprised broad areas including economic cooperation and unconditional implementation of the final and binding Eritrea Ethiopia Boundary Commission (EEBC) demarcation ruling which affirmed Badme, the flashpoint of the TPLF-designed war of aggression, was Eritrean. 4
Such peace initiative between these two governments who had been at each other’s throat for 50 years and the subjects of multiple disastrous wars that consumed many lives received strong appraisal by the majority of the people of both countries who viewed it as an opportunity to work and live together as neighbors in peace and harmony and thrive.
“To the astonishment of the TPLF clique and its sponsors and with overwhelming support and approval by the Parliament the new government reestablished the long overdue diplomatic ties with Eritrea where both countries signed a comprehensive Peace Agreement which comprised broad areas including economic cooperation and unconditional implementation of the final and binding EEBC demarcation ruling.”
Dismayed and angry over the loss of absolute authority and the privilege it enjoyed for almost three decades, the TPLF leadership retreated to Mekele, Tigray’s capital where they congregated for two years and had made a preparation to accomplish two objectives: (1) Their first and immediate goal was to overthrow the legitimate Ethiopian Federal Government militarily and regain power. (2) TPLF clique’s second objective was to fulfill its futile dream of creating ‘Greater Tigray’ by invading Eritrea, something it has been obsessed with since its inception (read Greater Tigray Manifesto). In fulfilling such mission extensive preparation was underway including military recruitment, building up its arms capability which included highly sophisticated ammunitions and missiles and hiring propagandists to disseminate false information across the globe. In the days preceding the full-fledged war the ousted and outlawed TPLF leaders openly bragged about their ‘military might’ and assured their followers a total victory in the war against “foreign forces” in a reference to Ethiopian forces who were defending Tigray. These are all documented facts one can access on major reliable and independent Media.
At the height of the war, several missiles were fired towards Eritrea targeting Asmara, Eritrea’s capital, and several other heavily-populated Eritrean cities. 5 This was an act of aggression in clear violation of international law. The aim was to pull Eritrea into an internal Ethiopian crisis and internationalize the conflict. The fact that Eritrea had shown restraint under such provocation was praised by many.
For the sake of peace and to avoid adding fuel to the fire that was raging and complicate matters, the Eritrean government refrained from taking such action, a noble move that should have been commended and not condemned. Governments that still occupy several sovereign states whom they claim are the major source of global threat (i.e. Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Mali, …) have no moral or legal ground and are in no position to stop Eritrea from taking steps deemed appropriate to protect its borders.
“ For the sake of peace and to avoid adding fuel to the fire that was raging and complicate matters further, the Eritrean government refrained from taking such action, a noble move that should have been commended and not condemned.”
These two events have one thing in common: they are forms of war of different scale that occurred at different period of time. The outcomes of war are always unpleasant and painful. Sadly, in any war there will be unintended civilian deaths except in rare cases in which irresponsible governments would intentionally target civilians. There’ll be mass displacement and not to mention the emotional and psychological trauma that will be inflicted on the survivors and the families of the victims. Where these two cases differ revolve around how they were managed by the institution established to solve world crisis. To help assess the situation in both cases better one needs to pay close attention to the genesis and the authenticity leading up to the conflict, and whether United Nations Security Council (UNSC) was fair and impartial in addressing them.
On the first case a sovereign member state was totally destroyed on the basis of perceived threat resulting in the death of thousands of civilians. Heeding to the call by the US and UK governments, many nations participated in this unholy and unjustifiable war of aggression. The sad part is that the world body whose mission was to protect member states from unwarranted acts of aggression on equal footings did not attempt to stop the carnage even after the report of the falsification of Iraq’s possession of WMD was confirmed. This was a clear case of war of aggression that could have been avoided, a war based on perceived threat. The US government using its power and massive influence it enjoys in the decision making as a member of United Nations Security Council managed to silence critics on Iraq war and swept the case under the rag.
In the case of Eritrea, another sovereign member state that was the target of multiple missiles; a country whose territory was still occupied against the 2002 EEBC international border ruling decided to reposition its forces to its sovereign territories and positions that make it border more secure. In this case not only was Eritrea dealing with a real threat of war, including the firing of lethal rockets that was witnessed by Western diplomats, it was also clearly a pure example of self-defense that should have had international support not condemnation.
The question is how did the international community kowtowed by the US manage these two cases? Given the background and events leading up to the conflict and the subsequent humanitarian crisis does one feel a sense of hypocrisy on how they were handled?
In the case of Iraq where the possession of WMD turned out to be a sham, the international community was too soft and did not demand the withdrawal of US troops and the coalition forces from Iraqi territory. Consequently, thousands of civilians were killed and millions displaced. To this day, American soldiers remain stationed in Iraq under a pretext that leaving the country at this juncture would open a door for the extremists.
With regard to Eritrea, a sovereign state which is within its mandate and legal right to counterattack in self-defense, we are witnessing a barrage of condemnation from the self-righteous West to a point of bluntly accusing Eritrea for a made up Axum massacre and other tales of horror in the Tigray region of Ethiopia which all turned out to be pure fabrications.6
So as to further illustrate the hypocrisy of the international community in dealing with and managing world crisis, let’s observe a current incident involving Israel and Palestine. As one might have closely followed the news, Israeli forces destroyed the city of Gaza using excessive force in retaliation to Palestinian’s throwing stones and firing primitive rockets (the rockets shot to Israel by Hamas followed Israel’s excessive use of force) killing many civilians including women and children. 7 The reaction of the international community, particularly US government to the Israel’s attack was swift: ironically and as expected they demanded that Hamas stop firing rockets. As for the Israel’s use of excessive force the US has little to add except to state that the country is within its right to retaliate. When asked if Palestinians also have a right to retaliate Israel’s use of excessive force and the killing of civilians, the US spokesman had no comment and was not willing to elaborate further. In highlighting Washington’s duplicity in its response to the issue the report by Vox went on “President Joe Biden’s decision to publicly condemn Hamas’ attacks while staunchly defending Israel has drawn criticism from progressives within his own party who accuse him of hewing to an outdated approach to the conflict that has long seen the US fail to acknowledge the plight of Palestinians”.8
In summary, according to the western governments who control 3/5 of the veto seats at UNSC, the international law enshrined in UN charter in which a member state can defend itself from real threat comes with certain exceptions: is the country a puppet of the West? In other words, what’s the country’s political alliance? Does the need for intervention help advance the geopolitical agenda of the West in any way?
In the case of Eritrea where the threat of war was crystal clear and the country was directly attacked and has, according to the international law, every right not only to defend itself, but to pursue the attackers wherever they may be an exception was applied. We are seeing certain powers within the United Nations Security Council condemning Eritrea for defending itself from a real threat. These governments with muscle went beyond condemnation and portrayed Eritrea as the aggressor by utilizing fake news of massacres and other crimes created and fabricated by some political NGOs, pseudo journalists and a number of mainstream media that chose to echo lies.
The reason Eritrea was consistently attacked by the West in such manner is obvious: the country follows a system of governance which does not align or ‘tip toe’ that of the West or the East for that matter; a system based on self-reliance, something particularly Western governments find unpalatable and against their capitalist values. It’s primarily for this reason Eritrea has been at the receiving end of the attack by the west for decades, including the unwarranted sanctions, tampering with and blocking the implementation of the EEBC ruling and other political pressures. The other reason that must be highlighted as to why Eritrea has been at the receiving end of malicious attack pertains to the TPLF, a mafia group that has inflicted insurmountable pain and suffering to the people of the region since its inception. To the dismay of its sponsors, the “errand boy” TPLF that tried to destabilize the entire region, including Eritrea and Somalia for decades, in the name of “war against terrorism” and enticed violence between Ethiopians on the bases of ethnicity was humiliated and defeated. For the Western governments who are so consumed with protecting their geopolitical interests at any cost the peace and stability that would come about by removing a criminal group that was the major source of chaos and instability means absolutely nothing.
“For the Western governments who are so consumed with protecting their narrow geopolitical interests at any cost the peace and stability that would come about by removing a criminal group that was the major source of chaos and instability means absolutely nothing. “
The decision by the US State Department to impose visa sanctions on Eritrea as the country was celebrating its hard won independence is ill-conceived, unwarranted and unjustifiable; a desperate move meant to somehow resuscitate and revive the evil force that’s long gone. If there’s anyone who committed heinous crimes in Tigray and other regions of Ethiopia it’s the TPLF and its cronies. Scapegoating Eritrea for crimes committed by others will not bring about a solution to the problems at hand. Addressing the core issue in an unbiased manner, facilitating for independent investigation to the case and bringing the perpetrators of the crimes to justice in accordance with international law is the right path for achieving world peace.
The aforementioned cases are just a few of many which illustrate the absurd duplicity with which world crisis have been managed by a world body that was supposed to protect all member states on equal footing. Today, we are witnessing that a country which declares itself “superpower” flexing its muscle, bullying and terrorizing other nations in the name of democracy or based on false and unsubstantiated allegations at will, condoning and defending an ally’s excessive use of force on civilians without feeling a grain of shame while condemning and threatening another for defending itself from real and documented threat. Article 39 of the UN charter which was designed to bring world peace is sadly being used selectively to serve the geopolitical ambition of the few and the “wealthy” nations at the expense of others. If this is not the worst case of hypocrisy one won’t know what is. And unless and until the world unify and demand for major transformation on how the United Nations manages crisis the prospect for world peace remains bleak and beyond reach.