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Opinions of Sunday, 24 September 2017

Columnist: Arthur Kobina Kennedy, Dr.

Arthur Kennedy writes: The U.N. and Sovereignty

This week, at the UN, there have been some difficult exchanges about sovereignty.

The President of United States, Donald Trump, kicked off with a speech that repeatedly invoked sovereignty. He declared, "We do not expect diverse countries to share the same cultures, traditions or even systems of government but we do expect all nations to uphold these two core sovereign duties, to respect the interest of their own people and the rights of every other sovereign nation". He continued, "As President of the United States, I will always put America first.

Just like you as leaders of your countries will always and should always put your countries first." As expected, there was immediate and global condemnation of Mr. Trumps comments. The unlikely hero of the backlash was the much maligned and ailing nonagenarian President Mugabe of Zimbabwe. He likened America to Goliath and urged Trump to moderate his tone.

A rebuke to sovereignty from Africa was surprising since African leaders have been waging their own war against the International Criminal Court based mainly on the principle of sovereignty!

Trumps address and Mugabe's response captured a seminal moment in the globalization versus sovereignty/nationalism debate. The occupy Wall street movement, the Brexit vote and Africa's threat to leave the International Criminal Court-- are all rejections of internationalism and the "so-called global elites".

The first two reflect the frustrations of Westerners who believe their governments have stopped listening to them. The British who voted in Brexit were taking their country back. The Africa--ICC fracas has to do with African leaders protesting the end of their impunity against their people.

But Mr. Trumps appeal to sovereignty misses a significant point. Unchecked sovereignty has led to some of the darkest moments in history -- the Armenian massacre, the holocaust, the Bosnian massacre, Cambodia, the Rwanda genocide, and the Congo-- to mention just a few.

The truth is that there are a lot of leaders who do not govern in the interests of their citizens. Indeed the African leaders who are leaving the ICC are doing so, not in the interest of their people but against those interest. At this moment, there is a need to debate whether, in the name of sovereignty, African leaders can loot their countries' resources and force impoverished youth to cross the Sahara and the Mediterranean in search of opportunities, in a journey that leads more to death than dough/money.

Internationalism has been good to the less fortunate. It helped to speed up decolonization. It has helped many during global disasters. The people of Africa need global institutions to hold their leaders to account. Therefore we must resists calls to sovereignty, from Trump, Mugabe and others.

Indeed, Trump sounded like a chartered member of global incorporated while talking about the need to deal with Kim Jong Un while Mugabe sounded the same while invoking climate change. As President Macron said, "We are in very specific moment. We have a lot of global challenges: climate, migrations, terrorism and for that, we do need multi-lateralism"

Let us say, "D'accord !" to the French President, for the sake of Africa.