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Military interventions in African conflicts : the Southern African Development Community coalition of the Willing's military intervention in the Democratic Republic of Congo, 1998-2002.

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This study focuses on the premise that national interests of governments are the primary motivating factors that inform decisions on military interventions. Military strategy remains a principal tool in the attainment, pursuance and safeguarding of these interests. Military intervention is the last resort to a series of options that begin with and continue to inform the dynamic: diplomacy, policing, reliance on alliance action and finally, deterrent or pro-active military action. Military interventions in the 20th century have been undertaken at the multilateral, regional and sub-regional levels in given conflicts by a range of actors. Scholarly questions have been asked about the rationale behind the respective governments’ decisions to undertake these interventions. In the case of this study, which focuses on the SADC coalition of willing nations’ military intervention in the Congo conflict, questions have centred on the following: What was the rationale and motive that led governments of the three countries to undertake the decisions for military intervention in the Congo? Was the intervention an altruistic act by the intervening governments seeking to stop aggression of an ally or was it driven by the personal quests by leaders of these intervening countries to secure their share of the DRC mineral wealth? Or, was it merely a case of the three governments intervening as a coalition in pursuit of their varied interests? What was the strategy that this coalition adopted in pursuit of the member countries interests? It is this attempt to explain and determine the rationale and principal factors that informed the three countries’ decision to intervene in the conflict and the military strategy adopted to safeguard these interests that serve as the focal basis for this study. In trying to answer its key questions, this study uses historical and qualitative approaches in collecting and analysing data not only from both primary and secondary sources but also interviews with participants (some off the record as still serving). Thus, the findings of the research would be analysed critically within the framework of the core objectives of the study, which seek not only to identify and establish how the interests of the governments that intervened in the DRC conflict were the primary motivating factor that informed their decisions on military interventions, but also to ascertain the extent to which the SADC coalition’s military strategy became a principal tool in the attainment and safeguarding of these varying interests as well as how that strategy was utilised as a mechanism for the translation and development of these varying interests into common ones among the intervening countries. Lastly, the study seeks to offer policy suggestions on the execution of future military interventions in African conflicts, particularly at the SADC sub-regional level. Whilst literature on military interventions seems to be informed by realpolitik, with the notions by Barry Buzan (and others) that strong states take decisions to intervene when their geostrategic and economic interests are served, states can also militarily intervene for humanitarian purposes. Using the realist paradigm as a theoretical tool of analysis, the study noted that military intervention can best be understood in terms of the power and interests of particular nation states acting individually or collectively as a coalition using the brand of a sub-regional, regional or even international organisation with or without the mandate of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). An analysis is made on the scholarly legal debates surrounding the decision to intervene by the SADC coalition. The study generally established that the claimed interests that motivated the decisions by the respective governments were generally based on the political, economic and military/security dimensions. A critical evaluation of these respective interests of the interveners show that their interests shifted in regards to the levels of importance (that is primary and secondary level) at the initial stage of the intervention and during the intervention period. The coalition’s military strategy became a tool for attaining, securing and safeguarding of these respective interests. As part of the strategy, the SADC coalition’s Mutual Defence Pact acted as a political and legal guide in the promotion of complimentary and common interests of the interveners. Despite formulating such a military strategy, the unexpected longevity of the intervention impacted on the intervening countries’ logistical capacity to sustain the war effort. An initiative by the DRC government to enter into bilateral business ventures with the respective SADC countries and its awarding of mining concessions to the same was meant to be part, arguably, of sustaining the military intervention. However, this war time economic initiative has raised questions among scholars and policy practitioners on whether or not the decision for intervention by a coalition of these countries was basically underpinned by the quest to attain and safeguard national interests or it was aimed at promoting personal elite interests. Having taken note that the major findings of the study revolve around contentious primary issues relating to foreign policy decision making in the context of military intervention, a number of recommendations are made. These include: · Firstly, the undertaking of cost benefit analyses in regard to political, legal and economic matters prior to a nation’s decision for military intervention; · Secondly, the need for an appropriate and effective sub-regional mechanism guided by a sub-regional legal guide or tool for military intervention that would be utilised within the relevant AU and UN political and military framework; Finally a paradigm shift is needed in the conceptualization of what constitutes national interest. This includes a new theoretical thinking based on unilateral and multilateral military intervention in the present global order which should be based on the global or collective interest where maintenance of international peace, stability and security (more importantly human security) are of primary importance.


Thesis (Ph.D.)-University of KwaZulu-Natal, Pietermaritzburg, 2012.


Southern African Development Community., Intervention (International law), Congo (Democratic Republic)--Military relations., Congo (Democratic Republic)--History--1997-, Congo (Democratic Republic)--Politics and government--1997-, Theses--Political science.