See No Evil, Hear No Evil, Speak No Evil: Signs of Changing Times

By Gift Mwonzora*

Africa continues to grapple with emergent conflict situations such as the recent CAR, South Sudan conflict, Lesotho (August 30, 2014 botched coup) and Mali crisis. The situation raises the question of Africa’s capability and commitment to solve its own problems. How long should Africa continue to outsource solutions? Why can’t African countries find specific home grown solutions within the realm of their borders, without necessarily going across borders to shop for solutions? Why do we rely on large foreign military contingencies in our African conflicts, case of the overshadowing presence of the French military in Mali can attest.

In recent years there seems to be a marked shift amongst the African political leadership from the see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil–syndrome (Welch, 1991: 538) towards active military intervention and involvement of various states. Do the regional and continental interventions of institutions such as SADC, ECOWAS (regionalization of international security) (Williams, 2007:254) and the AU, reflect Africanness in solving African solutions? It is also mind boggling why African states are seemingly moving towards the adoption of what Alexander Wendt has termed a Kantian culture of anarchy (Williams, ibid), whereby states view each other as allies or friends and will then work in unison in seeking to address common security challenges especially by resorting to military action. A case of Zimbabwe’s unjustified intervention in the DRC crisis is a clear case example.

Re – thinking Military Interventions in Africa

Perhaps it is also convenient to ask whether another African state’s military intervention to help another state in conflict warrants the tag of being labelled an African solution. A clear misuse and arbitrary abuse of names of regional groupings such as SADC in unjustified military interventions in member states is so apparent in South Africa’s (1998) intervention in Lesotho under the guise of promoting and preserving ‘democracy and stability’. Whether Kenya’s military intervention in Somalia (fighting Al Shabab) is constitutive of an African solution or the solution will come from the Somalis themselves, is yet to be seen. One can recall when Zimbabwe had a protracted political conflict in the period 2007 to 2009, the former South African president Thabo Mbeki made it categorically clear that a solution on the Zimbabwean crisis was supposed to come from Zimbabweans themselves. In the words of scholar Richard Joseph (2013:2), ‘ex­ternal forces cannot rebuild nations in the absence of do­mestic forces able to cohere to pursue such an objective’.

One might ponder on whether the external military intervention in the (1998) DRC crisis created a better, truer and free society, judging from how the Zimbabwe, Rwanda and Uganda‘s military adventure(s) in the DRC has become shrouded in conspiracy theories over the motivations of such. The question in the offing is whether such solidarity was an African way of solving a crisis. This introspection is more plausible given the various geo – political and economic interests (resource plunder and looting) which seem to have overshadowed the will to pursue the Responsibility to Protect (R2P). Did this military adventure help in solving an African problem through African solidarity or rather inflamed it?

African Heads of State Military Adventurism in Troubled Spots

Undeniably, most African heads of states have spoken with double tongues when it comes to proffering solutions for African related problems. Here in lies a paradox. Most African leaders engage in irrational personal choices rather than in collective citizen choices in pursuing a mix of both military domestic and foreign policy.

Africa therefore needs to go beyond the rhetoric and narrative about African brotherhood and candidly look each other straight in the eye. With sound critical leadership the ‘crises’ in South Sudan and that which obtained in Zimbabwe would have been averted. Oftentimes, Africa is replete with a problem of African leaders treating way ward leaders with kid gloves under the banner of African solidarity and respect. Yet, millions will be dying and suffering from man – made crisis. African leaders like Museveni has been blamed for military adventurism in countries such as Burundi, the Central African Republic (CAR), the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda, Somalia, and South Sudan (Opalo, 2014). Given the split of opinion and interests amongst IGAD member states in the context of the stalled negotiations between Salva Kiir and Riek Machar on the South Sudan political impasse the sincerity of African leadership’s actions in solving African conflicts is questionable.

Maybe the time for African-led solutions to African problems is not yet ripe.


Joseph, R (2013) Discordant Development and Insecurity in Africa: Foresight in Africa: Top Priorities for the Continent in 2013, Africa Growth Initiative.

Welch, C.  Jr., (1991) ‘The Organisation of African Unity and the promotion of human rights’, Journal of Modern African Studies, 29(4).

Williams, P. D. (2007) From non-intervention to non-indifference: the origins and development of the African Union’s security culture. African Affairs, 106 (423), pp.253-279.

* Gift Mwonzora ( is a PhD Candidate specialising in Political Sociology at Rhodes University in South Africa. His main areas of interests include political parties, party systems, conflict and peace building, transitional justice mechanisms, elections, democracy and democratisation and development especially in Africa. All views expressed in the AfSol blog are solely the views of the authors and do not in any represent the views of the IPSS or APSP. For more information on AfSol Blog, please contact

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