THE HOLE OF THE UNITED NATIONS IN CONFLICT MANAGEMENT
Going down memory lane, we discovered that states have always sought to manage conflicts that impede peace and security in the society at large. With this in mind, I forged ahead to see what international institutions can do to help ameliorate the suffering that comes with conflict. This study, therefore, is concerned with collective management mechanisms of actual or potential conflict so as to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind. After some working assumptions, the study examined briefly the historical development of international institutions. The United Nations is however the focal point of the study. Thus we examined the role of the mo3t universal institution ever organized by States in their international relations. The United Nations has the responsibility of bringing about by peaceful means, and in conformity with the principles of justice and international law, the management of conflicts. We observed that conflict, which can be ‘crisis’ ‘dispute1 or ‘situation’, has no acceptable definition in international relations. Nevertheless, no matter vii the terminology, the fundamental premises on which conflict is based cannot be removed. Our concept of conflict therefore is a r e l a t i o n s h i p among s t a t es in which actions and interactions are mutually opposed on a p a r t i c u l a r issue(s) at a point in time. We identified five common variables in this concept, these are: parties; i n t e r e s t ( s ) ; correlation; incongruity and reaction which could be coercion or violence or both. Conflict is often brought about b a s i c a l l y by power-play over v i t a l national i n t e r e st and incompatible objectives and policy actions. C h a r a c t e r i s t i c a l l y , conflict could manifest in physical aggression or public verbal dispute or covert verbal aggression or breach of expectation or avoidance. It is our contention therefore that conflict can be effectively managed by a disinterested party or institution. This is particularly possible where the parties to the dispute are unwilling to follow the norms of international society, that is, those rules and regulations which bind nation states in their relations with each other. International law exists because it is to the benefit of all states that some sort of order should govern their international dealings. Though states may disagree about what law applies to given situation, there is a consensus about the fact that some s e t of rules are necessary. Hence the rules of international law can be so framed that a policy of conflict cannot be worked out except through open violation of i n t e r n a t i o n a l law which will meet with protest, condemnation and action by members of the world community at l a r g e. Perhaps the most acceptable sets of rules so far is the constitution of the United Nations, that is the Charter. Drawn and adopted at San,Francisco on June 26, 1945, the Charter enumerated the various mechanisms for managing conflict based largely on past experience. The Founding Fathers’ philosophy as far as conflict management is concerned i s , freedom of action based on equal and inalienable rights and the dignity inherent in a l l men that Member States should s e t t l e conflict peacefully by the common consent of the adversaries. These mechanisms include peace making, the use of force (war), peace-keeping and disarmament and arms control. ix Although the United Nations is not and is not intended to be a world government, because it is based on the principle of sovereignty of States, the obligations of states under the Charter have modified t h e i r sovereignty. Thus; the United Nations is now a symbol of world unity, a unity towards international peace and security. This was demonstrated during the Congo experiment. The Congo c r i s i s was a unique example of a s i t u a t i o n which called for the United Nations’ action. The United Nations f i l l e d the vacuum created by the Belgian abrupt grant of independence in July 1960. This action prevented any of the blocs from taking over from the Belgians. Under the authority of the Security Council, the Secretary-General dispatched military assistance to the beleaguered Congolese government. This was called operation des Nations Unies au Congo (ONUC). ONUC, the largest of a l l United Nations operations was called into being within forty-eight hours of request by Chief of State (Joseph Kasavubu) and Prime Minister (Patrice Lumumba). The request became necessary following the collapse of the Force Publique and the introduction of Belgian metropolitan troop3 to ‘Protect’ Belgian lives and property in the Congo. The establishment of ONUG was based on the fact that the Congo crisis was characterized as a threat to international peace and security. ONUC was complex, expensive and the most controversial operation ever managed by the secretariat of an international institution. It was full of irony and paradox. There was no truce to observe, and no line to patrol. It spread all over the country for about four years with opposition from various groups at different times. But in the face of incredible difficulties and frustrations, ONUG discharged its main purpose to accede to the request of the Congolese central government for the restoration of a united stable Congo without taking sides. ONUC demonstrated, though challenged and criticized, the ability of the United Nations to take collective military measures to maintain law and order within the territory of a Member state, albeit, as a means of preserving international peace and security. In the final analysis, the United Nations mechanisms will nonetheless not serve to lower the level of international conflict unless the Member states rededicate themselves to the principles enshrined in the United Nations Charter. With what happened during the Congo operation, we submit that Charter revision is no guarantee for better conflict management. It is our contention that, education, necessary p o l i t i c a l will, u n i l a t e r a l disarmament, co-operation, preventive measures, functional internationalism and unswerving support for the Secretary-General by Member States, will go along way in conflict management under the United Nations system.