On the theme of a new world order
On May 25, 2015, l gave a keynote address titled ECOWAS at 40: The Driving Philosophy Of Multinationalism. It was on the occasion of the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the creation of ECOWAS under the auspices of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
In the address, I enunciated the concept that ideas are not borne out of thin air, they are usually spurred by some concrete events; not just any event, but to use the language of Putin, an event of Teutonic proportions. For example, l pointed out that it was the Napoleonic wars that led to the Concert of Europe (1815), the First World War which led to the League of Nations (1915) and the Second World War, which led to the United Nations (1945). So that is the good news in the sense that the human race can count always on something teutonic happening.
The bad news however, and there is always a bad news that accompanies the good news —- the ying and the yang—- of world affairs, is that the Teutonic syndrome is usually tragic, very tragic. Wars are never pleasant, not even for the military involved. Even though estimates vary, the 30years war which lasted from 1618 to 1648 cost between 4 and 12 million lives and ended with the Treaty of Westphalia which created a new European World Order which deemphasized religion as the basis of recognition of states and recognized nation states as the foundation of the European order.
It has been estimated that military deaths for the Napoleonic wars ranged from 2.5m to 3.5m; and civilian deaths ranged from 750,000 to 3 million, given a total of 3,250,000 to 6,500,000. It ended with the Congress of Vienna. The casualties of the First World War was 20million which lasted from 1914 to 1918 and ended with the Treaty of Versailles and the League of Nations. The casualties of the Second World War had 70-85 million people and led to the establishment of the United Nations. Drawing attention to these figures is deliberate. Apart from the casualties of the WW2, which was global in reach, the other casualties were basically European. So, when the global South is presented as the problem of the world with the implication that they don’t deserve a seat on the chessboard of world order, it is worth remembering how much the conflicts in Europe have cost the world. More about this later.
However, it would be misleading to think of wars as the only calamities that breed major developmental changes on the world scene. The only major factor to illuminate this, that is close to our own destiny, is SLAVERY. Before the advent of slavery, the interaction amongst African groups did not extend to the development of the consciousness of a common identity. We were Zulus, Ashantis, Yorubas, Hausas, Ibos, etc. before that enforced congregation on the slave ships, where the virtual perception, based on colour differences between captors and captives, led to the development of the consciousness that “we are all Africans.”
Distinction among the variegated African groups evaporated on those slave ships. Hence, it came as no surprise that the concept and institutions of Pan-Africanism came from the Africans in the diaspora. The theme of this introduction is that progress in world affairs whether in terms of ideas or institutions is usually preceded by calamity. In fact, some will put it differently that embedded in the womb of cataclysms are the seeds of progress. However there are exceptions.
The Papal bulls of 1455 and 1493 legitimized colonialism and slavery in Africa and the Americas. Of more direct relevance is the Berlin Conference of 1884, which carved up Africa amongst European powers. The import is that calamity or cataclysm at times can emerge from seemingly progressive moves as the Papal bulls and the Berlin conference were designed to prevent European conflicts or wars in their competition over colonies and slavery.
To return to the central theme about the creation of the new world order, the existing World Order was created in 1945 and grounded in the United Nations charter. An overview of that charter reveals the racial and economic parameters. The members of the Security Council are the winners of the Second World War namely, the United States, the United-Kingdom, the Soviet Union (now Russia), China, and France. No thought for racial or economic parity. On the basis of equity, Japan and Germany should have been included but on the basis of morality, it would have been unjustifiable. The United Nations as an institution was the guarantor of the World Order but it could only act on the basis of unanimity or consensus within the Security Council.
Embedded in the charter of the United Nations were the seeds of decolonization that led to the political independence of dozens of states in the global south. The World Order was based on the following assumptions: First, the maintenance of the Order is dependent on the superpowers not going into direct military conflicts. Second, the Order will be maintained by a fulfillment of the right of self-determination by members of the Global South. Surprisingly both the West and the East were agreed on pushing for independence for the global south but for different reasons.
The West, especially the United States, was persuaded that concentrating on the conflict with the East, could not be sustained if critical members such as the United Kingdom and France were to be bogged down in colonial wars. Of course, the East supported the struggle for independence for ideological reasons as well as part of the strategy to confront and embarrass the West. The charter of the United Nations also showed an appreciation of the need for cultural, social and economic development of the global south. Sketched in article 1(3) of the Charter, which reads “to achieve international cooperation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural or humanitarian character, and in promoting and encouraging respect for human rights and for fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion,” and Articles 55-57 of the charter, the parameters bloomed into the UNESCO, WTO, WHO, ILO, FAO, ITU, UNIDO, WMO, ICAO and many others etc.
To a full extent, the old World Order was full of contradictions. As a structure representing the power structure at the end of the Second World War, it did not keep pace with the development of the power and economic configurations. Japan, India, Germany, South Africa, Turkey etc. (the Medium Powers) could still not be accommodated. This issue will be discussed in full later when l discuss the parameters of the New World Order.
However, the old World Order, as earlier mentioned bred formal political independence for the global south but kept all other leaches on. This led to the coining of a new terminology of neo-colonialism. Scholars and analysts from the global north fought back claiming that there was no such thing as neo-colonialism or any such ism after colonialism. Either they were ignorant or mischievous or plainly dishonest. One illustration will suffice. Initially the departing colonial authorities adopted a general policy of eliminating the true nationalist leaders either through assassination or rigging of to the disadvantage of the real nationalists.
The following nationalist leaders were assassinated. Ruben Um Nyobe of Cameron, Patrice Lumunba of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Maurice Mpolo, of the DR Congo, Amicar Cabral of Guinea Bissau, John Chilembwe of Malawi, Eduardo Mondlane of Mozambique, etc. The decolonization systems in Nigeria, Gambia, Sierra Leone, Uganda etc. were structured with defects to breed instability post-colonial. What is called the Colonial Pact, institutionalized by the French best illustrates the issue. On the eve of independence of its colonies, France drew up this pact and insisted on her colonies signing the pact as a condition of granting independence. A few of the details will suffice to make the point.
First was the colonial tax which France imposed on its colonies for what France spent developing its colonies without any mention made of the wealth that France extracted from those colonies. The tax was to be paid annually. Secondly, no independent country could have a currency of its own. All of them must use the same currency linked to the French currency at the rate determined by France. Thirdly, each country will set up an army made up of soldiers who fought on the side of France during WWII and who were still part of the French army. Fourthly, any contract to be awarded by an independent African country must first be awarded to a French company. Fifthly, if any mineral resources are found, a French company must be given the first right of exploitation.
Sixthly, 85% of the foreign exchange reserves must be kept in the Central Bank of France, leaving it with only15% of its own money. If it needs more, it could then borrow it at market rate interest while France has access to it interest free. What it can borrow is capped at 20%. These are some of the obnoxious aspects of the Colonial Pact.
The Colonial Pact is not to be confused with The Charter of Imperialism recently discovered at the Royal Museum for Central Africa in Tervuren, Belgium. My personal opinion is that judgement is still out there as to the authenticity of this document as the contents are just too atrocious to be conceivable. The British Colonial authorities were not as brutal as the French. They simply organized an electoral system that favored their Favorites by rigging census figures or electoral results. But that is not the end of the story. Leaders of the nationalist hue that scraped through who later revealed their true hue were subjected to military coup d’état treatment.
Recall that the first coup in independent Africa was in Togo when the President, Sylvanus Olympio, decided to breach the Colonial Pact. He was overthrown by Eyadema who was a Sargent in the French army, and assassinated in the process. Sankara and Gadaffy have suffered a similar fate. Nkrumah was overthrown shortly after Olympio was overthrown. This is not an unnecessary recourse to the past.
In 2019, Dr. Arikana Chihombori-Quao, the African-Union Permanent Representative to the United States had her appointment terminated as she went public with her criticism of France and the World Bank in their economic relationship with the global south, especially Africa. She has been relentless in singling out the Colonial Pact and impressing it on American public consciousness.
Even recently, the new Italian Prime Minister, Georgia Meloni, took on President Macron of France. Macron has described the Italians as “disgusting, cynics and irresponsible.” The Italian Prime Minister replied “Emmanuel Macron, The irresponsible are those who bombed Libya because they were concerned that Italy would obtain important energy concessions from Gaddaffy.
Disgusting is France that continues to exploit Africa by printing money to 14 African countries and charging them mint fees, and by children labor in the mines and by extracting raw materials, as is happening in Niger where France extracts 30% of the uranium it needs to run its nuclear reactors, while 90% of Niger’s population lives without electricity. “John Perkins, The New Confessions of an Economic Hitman (2016) and The Secret History of the American Empire (2007) are explosive exposes of how the United States overthrows administrations in the global South for economic reasons. And so, it is obvious that the status of the global South in the old World order is best described as political independence and economic colonialism which has gone down in the political vocabulary as neo-colonialism.
As of the time l gave the Abuja lecture in May 2015, l did not foresee four factors which were to pose existential threats to the old world order. First was the character of the Donald Trump Administration. Second was the COVID-19/Omicron epidemic. Third was the impact of the Diasporan factor. Four is the Russian-Ukraine war. Firstly was the peripatetic nature of the Trump administration. The issue was not that Donald Trump replaced Barak Obama in the White House.
Every four or eight years, there are changes in the US administration but all these administrations operate within parameters agreed to over post-World Ii decades, whether the administration is Democratic or Republican. The issue with the Trump administration was that he not only operated but he took delight in operating outside the parameters of traditional foreign policy of the United States.
Akinyemi, Professor of International Affairs delivered the 2022 Nigerian Institute of International Affairs Distinguished Lecture on October 20, 2022.