Washington Should Beware of U.N. Peace Monitors in South Africa

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Washington Should Beware of U.N. Peace Monitors in South Africa

October 13, 1992 4 min read Download Report
Thomas P.
Contributor, The Foundry

(Archived document, may contain errors)

10/13/92 342


South Mica may W on do brink of civil ww. The on-again-off-again multipaV nago&doas Ara post- apathaid South Africa = now off. On September 27, the Inkaft Freedom Pwy of Zulu Odd Mangosuthu Buthdlezi dropped out of negotiations with the government and Nelson Ma n dela's African .National Congress. In the fim ofroutine Inkaft-ANC violeiice, Buthelazi clahns that h*aha will stay away ftern the negotiating table until the ANC's AK-47-kaded military arm, Umkhonto we' Sizwe, is disbanded. Meanwhile. South Africa suffer s 300 politically motivated killings each mouth. N South Afirica, erupts into fidl-scale violeace, the United States could find Itself under tremendoin pzessura to participate in, or own W4 a United Nations peacekeeping operation them. Participation in suc h a U.N. force, similar to the one now in Yugoslavia, would not be in the U.S. nationali interest. To avoid this pw4ca- ment, Washington slumld resist pressuring die South African govartment into accepting increasing international intervention into its int e rnal affairs. This intervention to dam consists of 65 or so U.N.-sanctioned peace monitors. By the ad of October, a fifty- member U.N. delegation will be in fWl form in South Africa. The European Community also is providing -fif- teen or so monitors, unde r U.N. supervision. These monitors are on a mission to-define potential aca of vio-, lance. If violence breaks out, they are to determine who is responsible. Despite their good intantions, the peace monitors actually could encourage more violence in South A ftica. Some -South Afticari. activists using or contemplating violent political tactics probably view the admission of U.N. and other peace monitors as a "defeat" for the South African government. The South Aftica of *e past widmly parded its sovereignty, opposing any intervention into its internal affairs. This perception a I'vic- tory" may incite radicals to increasing levels of violence, in the hope of maintdning. or even increasing, the number of peace monitors. Violence as Political Weapon. Or the pea c e monitors may be ineffective. South Africa's political nagotia- dons have foundered partly because far too many SouthAfricans view violence as a potent political weapon. This, was demonstrated tragically an September 7, when 40.000 ANC sympathizers.march e d in CiskeL ostensi- bly to protest this quasi-independent homeland's lack of democracy. A group of ANC radicals among this crowd, however, were intent on overthrowing Ciskei's military ruler, Oupa Gqozo. Even if this attempt failed, the ANC was hoping to provoke a violent confrontation, win international sympathy, and put the South Amcan governmem which supports Gqozo, on the defensive. Gqozo's overzealous security forces killed 29 demonstra- tors in successfully defending Ciskei. Ile fact that South Afri c an President F.W. de Mark gave the ANC significant concessions soon after the Ciskei massacre was not lost on the ANC radicals, who have not yet given up the armed struggle. Sensing do Mark's weakness, the ANC has not ruled out further protest marches on o therhomelands. Some within the ANC would like to forcibly occupy South -Africa's. Parliament building. These tactics are guaranteed top ". - more violence. Meanwhile, elements within the government's security forces have their own plans to continue iiacit ing violence.

Given this potential for increased violence, it is likely that there will be pressure to dispatch more peace moni- tors to South Africa, regardless of their effect. The mechanism for doing so is in place. U.N. Security Council Resolution 772, passed last A ugust, authorizes Secretary General Boutros Boutros-Ghali to deploy an unspeci- fied number of peace monitors to South Africa. Some Security Council members already have sought to send 400 U.N. peace monitors to South Africa. All that is needed is the Sou t h African government's permission. So far, the South African government has welcomed a "reasonable"number of peace monitors, but not as many as 400. -Unprecedented Intervention. De Klerk is in a weak position to resist demands that South Africa accept add i - tional peace monitors, having already sanctioned an unprecedented intervention into its internal affairs. In this respect, the South African government has crossed the Rubicon. The U.S., however, must not pressure South Af- rica into accepting more peac e monitors. In fact, the U.S. should even avoid pressuring de Klerk into keeping the current peace monitors if they are unwanted. There are two reasons for this: 1) peace monitors cannot re- verse the political dynamics fueling the violence; they may, in f a ct, be used politically by one side against the others; and 2) if things were to get out of hand, and the U.N. had to launch a major peacekeeping operation -in South Africa, the U.S. would be pressured to take the lead to finance it and possibly provide m i litary support. This may prove to be unwise, given the potentially intractable nature of civil conflicts in South Africa. How- ever, if Washington repeatedly has pushed South Africa to accept a greater international involvement in its inter- nal affairs, i t will be in a weak position t& shun such a peacekeeping effort for South Africa. To be sure, the U.S. has interests in South Africa. Washington would like to see a peaceful dismantling of apartheid and a stable transition to democracy. These interests, h o wever, in no way warrant a major U.S. finan- cial and military commitment to a U.N. peacekeeping operation. South Africa may never reach the point where such a commitment is asked for. Yet the potential exists. Therefore, the U.S. should establish a recor d of detach- ment from the international community's increasing pressure to get involved in South Africa's internal affairs. The, U.S. should respect the South African government's prerogative to reject-this involvement. And it should refuse to pressure So u th Africa one way or another on accepting peace monitm. This will ensure that the tables will not be turned on Washington if South Africa spins out of control. Internationalizing South Africa's conflict may be, in the long run, a sure way to Americanize i t.

Thomas P. Sheehy Policy Analyst



Thomas P.

Contributor, The Foundry

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