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Why does the AU have the different approach on unconstitutional behavior of the member states?



The AU is characterized by its high level of involvement in the domestic affairs in the member states. As Hellquist noted, “the AU is considered well advanced in its activist peace and security policy, of which its sanctions doctrine against unconstitutional changes of government is a vital part.” (Hellquist, 2014) As an expression of this policy, the Constitutive Act (CA), the codified principle under which the AU is conduct itself, makes it clear that “condemnation and rejection of unconstitutional changes of governments” is one of its working principle (Organization of African Unity, 2000, §4p). Indeed, the peace and Security Council of African Union is allowed to “institute sanctions whenever an unconstitutional change of government takes place in a member state”. (African Union, 2002, §7)

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This far-reaching sanction doctrine of the AU can be explained by the notion called “regime security” in the member states. Regime security refers to “the condition where governing elites are secure from violent domestic challenges to their rule” (Jackson, 2008, p.148) Governments which seize power by way of non-democratic, unconstitutional manner often suffer from a high level of regime insecurity because of a combination of lack of legitimacy , political fragmentation, improper social unity, and the lack of consensus as to various issues on social, economic, and political arena, as well as domestic sources of instability. (Koblentz, 2016)

Moreover, Countries face regime insecurity when they confront mainly a domestic threat such as civil war or antigovernment forces. In general terms, there are many weak states among the developing countries which suffer from regime insecurity. Weak states are also vulnerable to international/cross-border threat such as a border dispute or interference from large countries. For instance, antigovernment forces often expand their activity with a help from a neighboring country or large countries. Moreover, there is a case that a cross-border threat is triggered by the domestic problem, in which, for example, civil war in a country extends to the neighboring country in the form of an increase in the number of refugees. As seen from this example, regime security within one country has significant importance on its surrounding countries in the sense that its influence is likely to go beyond the national boundaries. Suzuki (2012) points out that the higher the level of regime insecurity grows, the more likely that an international system which has a high level of intervention in a member states would be established.

There are many of weak states in the African continent which always have a problem with their regime insecurity. (Diehl & Lepgold, 2003) The AU have high level of involvement in the domestic matters of the member states because such policy helps improve regime security within the African countries. (Jackson, 2013) The CA gives the AU the right to intervene in a member states for the purpose of; preventing war crimes, genocide, and crimes against humanity. (Organization of African Unity, 2000, §4h) Also, it allows the member states to request intervention from the AU in order to restore peace and security. (Organization of African Unity, 2000, §4j) The member states decide the need for the AU to intervene based on the analysis on whether an issue in question is harmful to regime security of their own. (Sturman & Baimu, 2003)

Take the example of the Somali civil war, an ongoing civil war whose from the 1980s. Following the ascendancy of Mogadiscio by means of military force by the insurgent Islamic Courts Union (ICU), Somali government requested intervention from the AU. (Suzuki, 2012) In 2007, the African Union’s Peace and Security Council decided to create the African Union Mission in Somali (AMISOM), regional peace keeping mission formed by the soldiers from the member states. On 6 August 2011, the Transitional Federal Government’s troops and their AMISOM allies managed to capture all of Mogadishu from the Al-Shabaab, an offshoot of the ICU. In this case, facing the danger of the ascendancy of the territory and the unconstitutional overturn of the incumbent government, Somalia utilized the AU’s principle of intervention in order to improve its security. In addition, Yukawa (2010) points out that the intervention from the AU was because the civil war had the potential to spread to the neighboring countries. In this case, it can be argued that the surrounding countries of Somalia feared that the deteriorated regime security would have a cross-border impact on themselves.

The discussion above is consistent with the preceding study by Acharya and Johnston that the regional organization among the developing countries is established and utilized with the aim of establishing or maintaining national sovereignty. (Acharya & Johnston, 2007) The establishment or maintenance of national sovereignty requires such regional organizations to sustain the legitimacy of the government as well as domestic order in the member states. In case of the Somali civil war, in order to mitigate the harmful influence of the civil war and its cross-border spillover effect which would have potential to cause a threat to the rule of the government and trigger domestic disorder in both Somalia and its surrounding countries, leading to a harmful effect on their national sovereignty, the AU actively intervened in Somalia and took the central role in peace keeping mission in the country with the approval of the United Nation. Although it seems that the AU’s activist peace and security policy jeopardize state sovereignty, it in fact serves as a means to reassure it of the member states. Pointedly, Hellquist (2014) argues that the AU’s active participation in the domestic affairs of the member states promotes regime stability. In fact, its policy of high level of intervention is in line with the traditional shielding of state sovereignty irrespective of what regime type they have. As seen from the example above, it can be argued that the fact that there are considerable numbers of weak states provide a basis for the establishment of the AU which has high level of intervention in member states. It is because such states have in many cases weak control over its territory, which means they need help from the regional organization in order to maintain its government and to improve its security.