Is it ok to call for action in countries other than your own?

Hi, this is Shaimaa back from the Cornish countryside and Ros’ ‘hood’. Zimbabwe tops the news agenda again as calls for Robert Mugabe to step down and for new leadership continue.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has branded Mugabe’s government a “blood-stained regime” and called on the world to tell the Zimbabwean president “enough is enough”.

It is true the humanitarian situation in Zimbabwe is worsening by the minute; Oxfam is expecting 6,000 Cholera caused deaths by the end of next month. But is it OK to call for action on someone else’s country? When has military or indeed any form of foreign intervention really helped? The most recent examples to come to memory are Iraq and Afghanistan.

But isn’t it time Africa stood up and faced it’s own problems? There have always been calls for African solutions to African problems. Yet, with the current situation in Zimbabwe, has Africa failed to solve it’s own problems?

29 Responses to “Is it ok to call for action in countries other than your own?”

  1. 1 LesMajestey
    December 8, 2008 at 14:01

    Evidently, there is NO legal basis for a right to intervene (see Fleuriot article infra).

    Would it not be more productive to recognize that a degree of sovereignty must be surrendered to a supranational body for there to be equal application of a rule of law throughout the World?


    I would suggest that this is the real issue and all the other talk dances about the question.


    A right to intervene?

    Caroline Fleuriot

    724 words

    1 November 2008

    Le Monde Diplomatique


    ” (4). So the right to intervene, without any basis in law remains

    a vague concept for those who might have recourse to it – states, international

    organisations and NGOs.”

    Caroline Fleuriot is a researcher in social sciences

    (1) UN General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding.

    (2) Chapter 7 of the UN Charter gives the Security Council the right to resort

    to force in the case of a threat to international peace and security.

    (3) Kofi Annan, “We the Peoples: The Role of the United Nations in the 21st

    Century”, United Nations Millennium , , March 2000.

    (4) Françoise Bouchet-Saulnier, Dictionnaire pratique du droit humanitaire, La

    Découverte, Paris, 2006.

  2. 2 James Robinson
    December 8, 2008 at 14:04

    I truly think that now is the time for the international community to act very decisively and end the dictatorial rule of Mugabe. He should be brought to the Hague and tried for crimes against humanity. The other person who should appear in the dock with him as an accessory is Thabo Mbeki who has wilfully allowed Mugabe to steal 3 consecutive elections in the past decade. Enough is enough. Get tough, no more words – we want to military action, whether British, UN, Nato or AU. Get on with it..

  3. 3 John in Salem
    December 8, 2008 at 14:06

    Those who have the freedom to speak have a moral obligation to speak for those who do not have it.

  4. December 8, 2008 at 14:18

    Countries shouldn’t be at the mercy of regimes that have disregards for basic human rights, including the right to life. As such the world should use its means to save endangered lives and not to consider threatening cases like cholera and other endemic diseases as an internal matter.

    For Mugabe to refuse humanitarian aid should be seen as a crime against humanity. He has no right to take the Zimbabweans his hostage just for his survival. It goes without saying that the survival of a country is far important than the survival of a regime; especially, the one that has no respect for human rights.

    In the case of Zimbabwe, African leaders are unlikely to take any action – military or economic- against Mugabe. The West should have the determination to find means to save the Zimbabweans at least from the spread of cholera and famine before finding the means of saving them from the chronically ailing Mugabe regime.

    The West has had successful interventions in Liberia and Sierra Leone that were torn by savage civil wars. Why not give a try to find a permanent solution to the current situation in Zimbabwe?

  5. 5 Brett
    December 8, 2008 at 14:22

    Sure it’s OK to call for action in other countries other than your own. But if your going to make such calls, its important to also be open to criticism on your country and its actions and more importantly your country and its actions if they play any role whatsoever in or conflict the ideals which you are calling on another country to do.

  6. December 8, 2008 at 14:23

    Hi Shaimaa, I know the Iraqi debacle looms large but remember the Liberian & Sierra Leonean Interventions. Both countries now have democratically elected governments and are trying to rebuild. If there were no intervention, maybe a somali-like or sudan-like scenario would have played out. So interventions are necessary. We in Liberia know this very well.

    Concerning PM Brown’s call, this is OK as far as the nation making the call is a contributor to the well-being of the country in question. If the UK and other countries are expected to spend their tax-payers dollars to bail the failings of Mugabe’s government in terms of financing the supplies for containing the cholera outbreak, then those contributing countries MUST have a say. Its imperative.

    African leadership has generally failed over the years and continues to. Otherwise, the continent would not be as it is now. For fear of being brought under the spotlight, an African leader TENDS to leave the affair of another leader alone. Therefore, its very difficult for Africa to stand up and face its own problems. Even if a couple of leaders muster the guts to tackle an issue, they don’t have the resources to back it up.

  7. December 8, 2008 at 14:28

    Yes, sure it is ok to call for action if human rights are not respected. Action should be organized though UN to prevent biased reaction for single minded countries like we saw in case of Irak.

    Rob Oudendijk

  8. 8 Mike Lee
    December 8, 2008 at 14:35

    Robert Mugabe—-Idi Amin—-Saddam Husain.
    What is the difference between these three?
    Answer—-Robert Mugabe has been getting away with it. He is worse than the other two put together.

  9. December 8, 2008 at 14:39

    To request action in other countries is all part of healthy debate. All that should matter is that good ideas are found and implemented. Where they come from shouldn’t matter.

  10. 10 Donnamarie Leemann
    December 8, 2008 at 14:42

    Hi, World Have Your Say Team,

    No, it is NOT okay to call for intervention in other countries. That is, it is not okay UNTIL that other country’s internal problems become deadly to citizens other countries.

    After the atrocity of 9/11, I believe that the USA was not only justified but obligated to try to set things right in Afghanistan. By the same token, I feel the USA was utterly unjustified in invading Iraq.

    In the case of Zimbabwe, its internal troubles–specifically the growing cholera epidemic–has spread beyond its borders and now endangers the citizens of its neighbors. Those neighbors have the right to take whatever steps are necessary to stop the epidemic, and if they are unable to do it by themselves they would be justified in calling on international help to do so. Since it appears that nothing meaningful can be accomplished in Zimbabwe while Robert Mugabe remains in power, removing him would be the first step in stopping the spread of the epidemic.

    Donnamarie in Switzerland

  11. 11 Dan
    December 8, 2008 at 14:43

    What a thorny question.
    I am a strong advocate to help save human life but what about going into Pakistan to clean out the Muslim terrorists?
    Where does one stop? Who makes the decision?
    The UN is an impotent body of fat old men & women who cannot make a decision as to whether the sun is up.
    The United States? We see the results of a unilateral decision with Iraq?
    China, Russia Somalia?
    Who makes the decision and then who enforces it?

  12. 12 Neil McGowan
    December 8, 2008 at 14:47

    Of COURSE it is ok to intervene in the affairs of other countries. Provided that they produce oil that you can steal. Or if you are experiencing a few problems at home that you want to sweep under the carpet for a while.

    But if it’s Burma, then they’re the main trading partner of China… a British trading partner. And making it tough for Burma would restrict China’s access to the dirt-cheap raw materials and labour in Burma… that China rebadges as “Chinese” to sell in British £1-Shops.

    So Britain cares about Human Rights in any countries which aren’t its pals.

    Water-boarding anyone? God help us that we’d ever complain about the US’s record on Human Rights… we’re too busy holding the victims down to stop them wriggling!!

  13. 13 gary
    December 8, 2008 at 14:49

    Although much in human history suggests otherwise, political boundaries are not in fact moral boundaries. Whether acknowledged by specific governments,or not, every human on Earth has the same rights to freewill and such happinesses as may be possible, as have been granted by the Maker. No one may fully enjoy these rights without ensuring their protection for everyone. Turning away from those whose rights need protecting is as harmful an act (both to the victim and to the observer) as was denying these rights in the first instance. All must act against inhumanity, not as a right; but as a human duty.

  14. December 8, 2008 at 14:59

    Yes, it is okay to call for action, but how hard will you push? We can look in from the outside and say things need to change, but what will we do to help or make it so? That, in my opinion is the question. Do you send in troops to force it? Do you send in aid to help those who are sick? Do you cut off funding and aid to force the people to make it happen? None of these are real good answers, but one will, in the end, be the answer. It’s sad, but, the international community can not make all the decisions for one place and not everyone. Where is the line?

  15. 15 JAMES
    December 8, 2008 at 15:04

    I dont know why Britain is so obsessed with Zimbabwe when it is not even mentioned anywhere else.There is lots of truth which the British government dont tell the people here and unfortunately all the media follows goverment veiw specially when it come to foreign affairs.I see the copy of communsism here though it is hated by people here but subconsciouly we live in a communistic state.

  16. 16 David
    December 8, 2008 at 15:06

    Of course not.

    Who are we to comment on the actions of political elites that have achieved power? Mugabe had every right to impoverish the people of Zimbabwe and if gross incompetence and a little torture were required to keep the whole thing going, I am sure what is left of the rule of law in Zimbabwe will be up to the task of dealing with it. It’s all very well to say that you would not like cholera in your own nation but to project that standard on an independent state can only be viewed as a gross violation of sovereignty.

    After all both starvation and plague are temporary, at a certain point people die of starvation, and as we know cholera thrives in heavy populations. If we just ignore it for a while, it will all sort itself out.

    If you start by suggesting that change might be in order, the next thing you know someone might suggest that we might actually need to do something about situations like Darfur and the genocide in Rwanda.

  17. December 8, 2008 at 15:30

    “James Robinson December 8, 2008 at 2:04 pm
    I truly think that now is the time for the international community to act very decisively and end the dictatorial rule of Mugabe. He should be brought to the Hague and tried for crimes against humanity. The other person who should appear in the dock with him as an accessory is Thabo Mbeki who has wilfully allowed Mugabe to steal 3 consecutive elections in the past decade. Enough is enough. Get tough, no more words – we want to military action, whether British, UN, Nato or AU. Get on with it..”

    The track record of “the international community” has been nothing short of abysmal when it comes to acting decisively and ending dictatorships. And what has Thabo Mbeki has to do with it? Quite enough problems to be dealt with in S.A. without poking the nose into your neighbours garden.

    It is really time, is it not, that the “international community” started looking after it’s own problems at home and cease this pompous and arrogant attitude that it can ‘solve’ anything.

    Look at the mess Bush, Blair/Brown, Merkel… the list just goes on, have made out ‘their’ countries? Ruined the lives of millions of their citizens with their incompetence, political skulduggery and complete inability to keep financial corruption on the highest level at bay.
    Is this the “international community” that is being referred to here? Please, save the Zimbabweans from such a fate.

    I can list a great number of people who should be “in the dock” before I even reached Mugabe.
    And the situation in Zimbabwe is so suspicious that if I were a Zimbabwean I wouldn’t want any of these charlatans coming anywhere near the place.

    “Get on with it…”? Yeah right, “international community” get on with cleaning up your own back yard and get those sticky “international community” fingers out of other countries pies. If any one is going to solve the problems in Zimbabwe it is going to be the Zimbabweans. The best anyone can hope for is that They “get on with it” and not waste any more time about it.

  18. 18 DENNIS
    December 8, 2008 at 15:51

    No, But–most countries around the world have been intervening in other countries affairs for many years (and: decades and etc.)

    Regarding: Zimbabwe….I think that the international community should, immediately intervene in that country’s affairs!

    Also, the world has been intervening with countries and leaders that, was not the desirables types: Saddam Hussein, Idi Amin and many others….

  19. 19 Lamii Kpargoi
    December 8, 2008 at 16:07

    This is a fine balancing act, but it largely depends on the military strength of the regime against whom the intervention is to be done, and also the country’s that are clamoring for the regime change. Although it may be a tough fight, Britain could invade Zimbabwe and subdue it’s military in a few weeks or so and thus effect regime change. But would any of Zimbabwe’s neighbors allow their territories to be used as a staging point? I think not! Outside interventions, in the name of protecting humanity is good, but the best answer to the problem of dictatorship and tyranny is a population that is prepared to pay the ultimate sacrifice in the streets. A docile population only helps to accentuate the problem.

  20. 20 Ogola Benard
    December 8, 2008 at 19:35

    Goog times are over and the balance is now tranformation!

  21. 21 Ogola Benard
    December 8, 2008 at 19:39

    As denis mentions it, these business of politicking among friends and other body’s calling for end of violence and going behind and secreting funding the same???!!!

  22. 22 Jino Jato
    December 9, 2008 at 05:17

    The best thing is for democratic countries to intervene militarily AND then call the United Nations to supervise free elections AND then these countries should support the elected government by the people of Zimbabwe.The is the best solution.Zimbabwe cannot be compared with Afghanstan or Iraq , since more than 80 % of the population will welcome and aid say British troops as they invade.If the UK or any other clearly show that the are intervening even mugabe’s soldiers will celebrate and switch sides quickly(Mugabe knows this).The unusual thing about Zimbabwe is that Robert Mugabe(True name Robert Masuzyo Mathibili Chatunga) born of parents from Malawi is intelligent, cruel, canning, merciless and is a feared manipulator.His record show that he came to power by hook and crook. Changed his name at an early age to a shona name so that he cannot be seen as a foreigner.He is cruel to Zimbabwean because he is not one of them.

  23. 23 Dave
    December 9, 2008 at 05:18

    Yes, mankind is only delaying history.Leaders like this will be arrested in future as a matter of fact.We call for intervention.

  24. December 9, 2008 at 11:23

    The intervention is long overdue.

  25. 25 Justin
    December 11, 2008 at 12:19

    The most disgraceful part of the Zimbabwe episode is the way african leaders have turned their backs.

  26. December 11, 2008 at 20:28

    Gordon Brown should resign and hide himself away in shame.

    The British administration is a disgrace.


  27. 27 Harald
    December 14, 2008 at 09:58

    It seems to me maudlin to the point of ridicule that Mr. Brown – scourge of civilian men, women and children in Afghanistan and Iraq – should be concerned with Mr. Mugabe’s fitness to govern.

    I may consider Zimbawe’s rulers “a bloodstained régime”; Downing Street, having drenched entire populations in blood, should have some sense of shame.

  28. 28 Solomon Ndungu
    December 16, 2008 at 09:34

    This is a very tricky situation to intervene or not. I think its relative on one side agenocide may be under away in particular country with loony president overseeing it yet, if the said country happens to have some resources that world powers need that is brushed aside.
    Mugabe should go what he hasn’t achieved in 28 years he can’t do in 4 years, however it seems he is the only case beeing magnified for certain reasons. there should also be calls for other leaders, more so in africa to step down they are as bad as Mugabe or worse.
    the method used to interfere sholud be carefully chosen nobody would like the re-incarnation of Mobutu or Idi Amin

    Nairobi Kenya

  29. 29 ANIL TEWARI
    January 22, 2009 at 12:55

    Action can be initiated in all countries at least on noncontroversial issues such as issues related to Environment and Human right violation

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