Foreign interference in Africa remains a persistent destabilising factor, and its effects continue to hold back the continent’s development, officials at the 10th National Security Symposium taking place in Kigali said on Thursday, May 18.
The three-day conference brought together defence chiefs, policymakers, diplomats and academics from across the continent and beyond. With the theme “Contemporary Security Challenges: The African Perspective,” the symposium is an opportunity to deliberate on practical solutions to the current security issues in Africa.
During a panel discussion on the foreign interference on the continent, the African Union Commission Chairperson, Moussa Faki Mahamat, said there is always a foreign hand in any conflict in Africa.
Mahamat said foreign interference not only destabilises the continent, but also makes conflicts too complex to be easily solved.
“There is also the weakness of intra-African solidarity. Very often governments justify their calling upon other forces due to the fact that they are not able to face certain situations. They resort to external forces in order to maintain peace in their territories.”
Rwanda’s Foreign Minister Dr Vincent Biruta, observed that interference is an intervention in a situation without invitation.
“Foreign interference is not a new phenomenon and it is not just about Africa. It has existed in various forms throughout history and it will persist in the years to come,” he said.
Biruta noted Africa has been a victim of foreign interference since the colonial era, through decolonization and after independence at the hands of outside forces that seek to exert control over the continent and exploit its resources.
Quoting the African-American historian John Henrik Clarke, renowned Kenyan law professor and pan-Africanist Patrick Loch Otieno Lumumba, commonly known as \’PLO Lumumba\’ said, “We regained independence by mimicking European governance systems. And he added \”No African country will ever succeed on the basis of those systems.”
Lumumba said Europe was no longer the only one continent interfering in African politics. “There is a new scramble for Africa. And the military bases that you see here, are telling you ‘If you don’t behave, we are going to use force.”‘
“The first transmission of interference is an incompetent, corrupt and ideologically unclear nation,” observed Zimbabwean lawyer and pan-African activist Brian Kagoro. “The second is a structure and bureaucracy in government administration that is beholden to the white gaze or external gaze.”
Kagoro said other channels include religion, international and national organisations and education systems, which, if not controlled, create a disconnect between leaders and the people, the young and old.
Despite Africa having institutions in place, clear procedures and theoretical instruments on how countries can achieve the “collective security of the continent,” Mahamat lamented all these “have not been operationalised.”
This, he said, gives “the leeway to all external forces to interfere in African issues and with, of course, the support of Africans themselves.
Mahamat also pointed out the use of foreign mercenaries in some African countries.
What are the solutions?
“It is not by pointing fingers at others that we are going to solve the problem. We have to question our behaviour,” Mahamat observed.
Biruta noted that Africa can resist the harmful foreign interference, or minimize its impact.
“While some powers may seek to assert their influence based on their own interests, it is ultimately our responsibility to safeguard our sovereignty, define our interests and the path to achieve those priorities.”
He said by strengthening Africa’s capacity to define its own policies and implement them for the benefit of the people is crucial for states to limit interference from foreign powers.
“We, Africans, must stop operating in silos,” Lumumba said. “Rwanda alone will not confront [the foreign powers]; Burundi alone will not confront them. But if we go through the regional bodies and ultimately the African Union, we may indeed succeed in putting away these bulwarks. Africans must smell the coffee. If we don\’t, they are going to continue to interfere.”