Sub-Saharan Africa’s “frail democracies too often fall victim to corruption, social division, greed and dictatorship,” says analyst Landry Signé:
The world needs to add another “responsibility to protect” — a duty of democratic nations to safeguard popular rule in neighboring lands. The failure this year to protect and restore democracy in Mali is a perfect case in point. Less than a year after a coup last March, Mali has slid into a devilish civil war and national breakup accompanied by reports of war crimes, atrocities and crimes against humanity.
So, how can the concept of responsibility to protect democracy be further developed? she asks in The New York Times:
Where institutions and traditions prove no match for a crisis of democracy, the region or the continent should step in. The African Union’s charter already empowers that organization to intervene to prevent war crimes and genocide, and it condemns “unconstitutional changes of government.” Such ideals need to be invoked boldly and quickly; that may be the strongest argument for a new doctrine of a responsibility to protect democracy, with a protocol for military or other forms of firm coercion when diplomacy fails.
In addition, the International Criminal Court should announce that it will seek to punish all those responsible for any coup d’état that results in war crimes or crimes against humanity. In Mali and across Africa, the evidence shows that a failure of democracy is all too likely to lead quickly to such crimes.
Landry Signé is a fellow in the Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law at Stanford University.