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An African lens on breaking sovereignty

Foreign intervention in Africa has become almost a norm, with the Central African Republic as the latest example. The world must ask how much it should honor individual rights over national sovereignty.

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Civilians who fled attacks by rebels seek refuge in a church yard in Bossangoa, Central African Republic. The rebels have been blamed for abuses including widespread looting, killings, rape, and conscription of child soldiers.

AP Photo

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For those who track events in Africa, it has lately become more difficult to count the times that forces of one country have entered another. Last weekend, for example, US Navy SEALs raided Libya and Somalia. French troops swept into Mali earlier this year. Rwandan soldiers often chase rebels in Congo. Many nations are going after Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army in Central Africa.

Then there are the troops of the African Union or United Nations currently involved in several troubled nations on the continent. One nation is the Central African Republic, a mineral-rich country of some 5 million people that has been disintegrating into chaos ever since a coup in March.

On Thursday, the UN Security Council unanimously approved a resolution to help end widespread violence there by supporting the African Union in sending more troops and possibly converting those forces into UN peacekeepers next month. The country already has a few hundred French soldiers near the main airport and some forces sent by neighboring states.

Foreign intervention in another country, whether approved or not, can often break a long-held rule about national sovereignty, or the collective self-determination of a people. In Africa, where most borders date back to colonial days and don’t follow ethnic demographics, the sovereign concept is still a work in progress.

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