US intervention in Somalia ended in failure
Power in Iraq has been now formally handed over to an interim Iraqi government by the occupying coalition forces.
Africa also has had its share of foreign interventions by the US and Britain.
Sierra Leone emerged from a decade of civil war in early 2002, largely with the help of Britain. It is now stable, though it still hosts a peacekeeping force.
Foreign intervention in Africa
1994: Foreign intervention fails to prevent genocide of 800,000 people in Rwanda.
1995: US Marines withdraw from Somalia after a failed mission to capture warlord Muhammad Aideed.
2000: Sierra Leone's President Ahmad Tejan Kabbah is reinstated by the British military.
2003: Liberia's Charles Taylor is pressured by the US to go into exile.
It took pressure from the US for Liberia's Charles Taylor to leave his troubled country for exile.
In contrast, the intervention by US troops in Somalia ended in failure in 1995. Somalia still has no effective central government.
BBC Africa Live asks: Is foreign intervention in Africa the answer to removing corrupt and undemocratic governments and to end conflicts? In countries where there have been such interventions, have the lives of people been improved or not?
This debate has now closed. Here are some of your comments.
Force is not the answer.These bad leaders are only there because leaders from the free and developed nations arm them, aid them and bail them out when necessary. If we choose to remove African leaders by force, the whole continent has to be invaded with the exception of South Africa, Kenya, Zambia, Senegal maybe another one or two.
Bekuretsion Fesshaye, Canada
let the people who are being led have the choice to remove their leaders. We have countries who changed their leaders without any other country's intervention.
Langeci Ncube, Zimbabwe
If your neighbour's house is on fire you just can't stand watching because it is not on your property. You will have to join up with other neighbours and friends to put out the fire and help rebuild the house again! No president should be able to commit genocide or oppression un-interfered under the protection of national sovereignty.
Most dictators I have known including Saddam Hussein of Iraq were once the darling of the Western World. In reality they become dictators only when they deviate from the interests of the West. Take the example of Uganda's former leader, the late Idi Amin. Today, Gaddafy is no more a terrorist promoter or a dictator. Why? Because Mr Gaddafy is back in the fold where the Western interests are. So, you see, today's dictators were yesterday's promoters of democracy.
Barrie Amadu, USA
Sure, bad leaders should be removed by force. I think the UN should introduce a law where if any leader is no longer good for a nation then he or she should be asked to resign if not then UN forces should remove him/her.
Raahima, The Netherlands
Foreign-imposed democratic governments have never worked and will never work in Africa. This because of cultural differences between Western ideology, tribalism and religion in Africa.
Faisal Jama, Toronto, Canada
Foreign intervention could undoubtedly save thousands or millions of lives, and increase the opportunities and quality of life for millions if done responsibly. For example, it would probably not take a massive contingent of British troops to stop the Janjaweed in Sudan. Stabilising a nation that has been crippled by years of bad government is no small job. It would take decades of commitment to the liberated countries, and massive long term investment to get them on the right track.
I think foreign intervention is the only way to save Africa from corrupt and undemocratic governments and also as a way of ending conflicts.
I hate to see it but sometimes it's needed in countries such as Sudan, Zimbabwe and several other African countries.
I'm from Somalia, if the US was so concerned with peace all over the world, why did they leave Somalia after the death of 18 marines? They are still in Iraq after 1050 dead marines!
Intervention similar to that of Iraq is a must although I would prefer a UN force with a clear military mandate. The comment by Yitatek Yitbarek of Ethiopia is irresponsible as most of the African Leaders are despots in their own way and are reluctant to rebuke one of their own.
I agree with Yitatek, countries in the region should be able to settle it best. If the USA or European powers try to tell a country in Africa or South America what to do, people will reject it because it looks like domination.
I strongly disagree to the use of force in order to remove bad leaders. Two wrongs don't make a right. Using force to remove bad leaders will only create or breed more violence and chaos. But the people should say enough is enough and use their collective will and action through non-violence means to remove bad leaders.
Matthias A. Idyu, USA /Nigeria
To begin with, there needs to be a differentiation between intervention and interference. Sierra Leone was an intervention and so was Cambodia. But in Iran under the Shah, it was an interference, Somalia began as an intervention but rapidly descended towards the other. The motive and intention of entering a country is not good enough a reason, a plan of implementing that motive and the effects of it are to be considered as well. As far as Iraq is concerned, the motive (publicly declared) and the implementation have been largely out of sync.
Ajinkya M. Tulpule, India (in USA)
Definitely. It's hard to understand how the rest of the world can turn a blind eye to things which are happening in countries such as Zimbabwe.
Ann Hunter, ex-Zimbabwe, currently UK
Removing a bad guy requires a careful analysis before an intervention. Does the intervention appeal to the larger population at grass root level? How loyal are his followers? how deep is his authority? how long can he survive under pressure? if an intervention is inevitable, regional diplomacy or force is the option, but remember, locals always smell a rat in foreign forces!
Ahmed Hersi, USA
Any leader who is committing mass human rights abuses should be removed by force. It is our duty as democratic citizens of the free world to ensure this happens. How, as it is that the US lacks the necessary skills (militarily, diplomatically and knowledge of other cultures, such interventions should be led by the UK.
Quentin Hunter, England
Bad leaders should be removed by force by their own people and not by foreign powers or forces as happened in Iraq. The only time foreign powers should be involved is in a scenario like that of Uganda in 1979, or Germany in Word War II when the respective leaders of these countries invaded their neighbours (Amin invaded Tanzania, Germany invaded all its neighbours), and were a clear threat to not only their neighbours but their own people and other minorities as well. Another scenario would be where genocide is being committed as happened in Germany, Rwanda, Bosnia, Uganda, Cambodia and in South Africa. In such circumstances, the UN as a whole should act unilaterally (as it should have done in Rwanda, etc.) to get rid of mass murderers. In the case of Iraq, only the people of Iraq had the legitimacy to remove their leader. The only thing the outside world should have done is give them aid in whatever form to overthrow their dictator.
It could be better if we were able to remove bad leaders by force, countries like my home country, Somalia, have been in conflict for over a decade, but the question is who is going to remove those bad warlords. Secondly, we have seen it is not easy to remove someone and bring peace - for example in Iraq the US removed Saddam but what is the result, maybe we could say Iraqi was better in the hands of Saddam.
Before you send your troops, how about first stopping and returning stolen funds which corrupt leaders hide in your banks?
Foreign intervention is definitely the solution to Africa's problems and should only be conducted by the UN. Had the UN taken charge of the situation in Somalia, today we would have had a stable and democratic government. Of course, the transition to a period of peace is always a difficult one. The US "Hollywood" version of foreign intervention is what people are generally opposed to. The world including Africa needs a strong proactive UN.
Well, who is the rightful individual to decide which leader is bad and which one is good? Indisputably, the so-called superpowers are not interested in liberating the oppressed people, but are after economical benefits. Each continent should have an organisation (e.g African Union) to decide on such issues.
Sabelo Lukhele, Italy/Swaziland
Had it not been for the forceful removal of dictatorial regimes of savage acts, the lives of many future generations would have remained sealed. This has been witnessed in Haiti, Iraq, Sierra Leone, Yugoslavia and others. I believe that many of the problems that could have been solved in most African countries have remained unresolved due to the reluctance and ignorance of most of the BAD African leaders to accept necessary changes.
Leellisaa Fufaa, USA
Yes, I believe foreign interventions lead to stability. Sierra Leone is an example of that. My only regret is that the Western nations wait until the nation is corrupt and undemocratic before trying to intervene. Why can't they do it sooner when it is been planned?
Kokpor Daynuah, Liberia/USA
I think Somalia needs a multi national force to resolve the situation in the country.
Abdul Addow, Somalia
Just been reading the history of DR Congo, thanks to the BBC. "Bad" leaders seem to have had European role models ... it's a bit rich to ask the question "should they be removed" with the implication that it is just those who have benefited en bloc from 500 years of exploitation who would do the removing.
Susan Kubitz, Briton in Germany
It has long been an established principle of the liberal Western tradition that governments that no longer serve the ends to which they were constituted by the people may be removed by the people, peacefully if possible, by force if necessary. However, unless these regimes threaten international security or the legitimate national interests of other states, the responsibility for their overthrow is incumbent upon the very people they oppress. Foreign states may, of course, aid such domestic opposition, democracy or, at least, better governance - cannot be imposed from the outside. It either arises from within or it will never take root.
Dr. J. Peter Pham, USA
War is not good. This is because in situations of war it is the poor, women, and children who suffer. For this reason, I do not subscribe to international intervention to overthrow corrupt regimes. I believe the imposition of targeted sanctions will do better than military interventions.
John Patrick Tindana, Accra, Ghana
Iraq will be the best example for what will happen if a dictator is removed by a foreign power. Iraqi people accepted US as a liberator just for a short time. Now they consider USA as an occupier. Right now iraq is in a mess, much more worse than during Saddam Hussein's regime.
Kirk, Ethiopian in Iraq
I've been against my country feeling the need to intervene in what seems to be every other country's business. Defending a nation under attack is one matter, attacking a nation merely over it's internal leadership is another.
Terry Cousins, USA
The use of force has been explored to its apocalyptic ends and violence begets violence. Non-violent and economic isolation such as that used against South Africa's white minority apartheid government is the only long term solution. Military action does not discriminate between friend or foe, killing those for whom the intervention is intended to assist.
Village Boy, South Africa
While peaceful removal of such leaders would be the best way forward, use of force in case of grave violation of human rights is still an option. If the latter be the case, UN Security Council is better placed to implement its Chapter VII mandate for peace enforcement. Multilateral action under the banner of UN holds the best promise in such cases because, it at least, reduces partisan motivation by unilateral actors. Force does not necessarily mean violence. Targeted forceful sanctions could still be an option in such cases.
Camlus Omogo, Kenya
The question comes down to who has the authority to oust a leader? The problem is the UN does NOT have the power to do so because it does not currently hold the status of the World Government and doubtful that it ever will. Having said that the UN does have the power to intervene to establish some sense of order for politics to thrive through the use of UN Peacekeepers. The choice of removing leaders from power should be in the hands of the people at large since they must decide what is good and bad for them.
Dustin Jones, US
There are times when it may be necessary but it should never be done unilaterally. In a situation like Iraq where one nation is invading claiming to "liberate" it, the motivations are most likely questionable.
I think foreign intervention is necessary like the case where the civilian people are under constant threat from warlords like those operating in Somalia. The world has stood by for 14 years as Somalia descended further into total anarchy, where human rights are violated almost daily.
Abdi Mohamed Ahmed, UAE
Alex (Zimbabwean in UK), I find your comment on the presumed neglect of Zim by its neighbours extremely unfair and unthankful. Zambia paid the ultimate price - economic bust - for liberating our brothers from Ian Smith. She did the same for other southern African nations. What has southern Africa done for Zambia now that is economically crippled? Would Zimbabweans still expect empoverished countries - like Zambia - to empty the very last penny they owe - (because they don't have any)- on a self torpedoed ship like Zimbabwe? All your neighbours are with you in spirit, we love you, but we cannot suffer unceasingly for the political pride and pomposity of Bob.
Muusa Kadabwe, Mwansabombwe, Zambia.
Foreign intervention without a selfish end is formidable but the past has witnessed alternative interventions like it has been during the past two wars in Iraq. May be its a wake up call after 11th september that forgotten conflicts are habours of terrorism and global stability is paramount to counter terrorism
Victor Ruttoh, Kenyan in UK
In nature, without external forces a system is said to be at rest or moving at a constant speed. Each people on the earth move into, through and out of bad governments on their own, and the west is no different! How many bad leaders have we had? Did a foreign army charge the Bastille? Did a foreign army take part in the Million Man march? It is the duty and right of the oppressed to dispose of their bad leaders. This is the foundation of western democracy and can be the only foundation of democracy in the developing world.
Let us remove them when we eliminate all types of the hidden foreign forces and bribing interventions working against those leaders. Since we can't, let us leave at least this decision to the people.
Make the veto power available to one nation of each one of the 5 continents rotating every 6 months and make nations of a continent vote for their veto-holding country. Otherwise, the UK, the US, France, Russia or China will be removing people whenever their president agree among themselves maybe for personal reasons.
Lubula, Congo (Zaire)
How do you define a bad leader? Who makes that decision? In any case what difference does it make? It will blithely disregard the UN and world opinion. In fact historically many of the politically motivated interventions have caused more problems than they have resolved.
Andie, Sydney, Australia
Whilst no one with half a brain would argue against removing someone like Mugabe, deciding who is bad becomes a bit more of a grey area when the leader in question is anything more than a corrupt, thieving murderer.
Ian, Dete, Zimbabwe
African leaders especially in Nigeria top the list where the leaders share the country's money amongst themselves and the populace live in abject poverty.
Removal by force should only be the absolute last after all diplomacy has failed. It takes a lot of patience and sacrifice to establish a free society, but in the end whether it comes about in a diplomatic process or God forbid, by force, countries with an open government with mass participation from the majority is certainly better then a dictatorship, or a government controlled by a minority who clearly don't have the interest of all people in their hearts.
Khalil Aalee, United States
Africa is like no other place in the world, Western standards do not apply. Mind your own business, stay out of African affairs.
There is a strong case for and against brutal despots and general nutters being removed as heads of state. My only question is, when talking about leaders to be removed in Africa, why is there never any mention of Gnassingbe Eyadema of Togo.
I am from Zimbabwe and wish that the US and UK would remove Robert Mugabe by force. The reality is, Zimbabwe has no oil!
Balf Carnegie, currently Iraq
Why should the world bother about Africa, there's little or no oil unlike in Iraq, no terrorist threats to world peace unlike Bin-Laden in Afghanistan. Zimbabwe's problems with old Bob have been going on for years and more people have been killed and/or tortured there than in have both Gulf wars, not to mention the starving people and this is only mentioning one country. The first world should have pulled finger years ago instead of turning a blind eye to those without oil. Now suddenly Africa should be democratic, too little too late! The African politicians are set in their corrupt ways and it will take a lot more effort than Iraq to change it.
Ryan, UK, formerly South Africa
Sometimes the foriegn community support attrocities and displace millions of people because they don't put people's interests first.
Michael Nuul Mayen, Manitoba, Canada
Intervention by the UN, not just in Africa, should become the norm. We should all become our brothers' keeper.
Eddie Lee, Liberia
What is necessary from foreign countries and the UN is a more active involvement in education, eradicating corruption, and other factors that will help Africans bring about the right kind of governments themselves.
Mo Bello, Nigerian in U.S
Bad and undemocratic African governments have been supported by western and eastern blocks for decades. Intervention in the form of humanitarian aid, etc are still supporting African dictators. So let the people of Africa solve thier own problem.
Zeccarias Tseggai, eritrea
I support the removal of "bad" leaders. However, I don't trust the United Nations because it does not follow its own rules. The United Nations is a tool of the elite, superpower countries which only act if their interests are in danger. If bad leaders are to be removed it should be done by their own people.
Marion H, U.S.A
On what yardstick will the leaders be measured? History has shown that bad leaders who milk their countries dry for other nations live longer than those who chose the path of patriotism.
Michael Aideloje, U S A
I think regional powers, like South Africa and Nigeria should act as the policeman for Africa. What bothers me is the unwillingness of Africans to remove their bad eggs. Zimbabwe, is a prime example.
Max Fabella, USA
Infact there is no good leader in Africa.They are all self-centred, nepotic embezzlers. If the US had more more interest in Africa, a war on terror might have been on the way in Africa. Personally I think the president of Cameroon(Paul Biya) is the worst head of state in the world and an international force should be used to boot him out.
Kappa, Cameroonian in Cairo
A common theme for dictators throughout history is to link themselves strongly with one group of people. Removing the leader often adds not reduces this division as revenge and counter revenge takes over. A common quote over Iraq is "they told us the killing would stop".
Nich Hill, UK
Africa is now economically disabled because of its bad leadership, corruption and dictatorship and endless wars are due to bad leadership. I wish the UN could come up with some sort of law enforcement policy to remove bad leaders.
Gloria Otieno, Belgium (Kenyan)
Some African leaders take power as their personal property. Why must this happen? Why must my country still be the poorest one in the world despite all its riches? The answer to this is bad governance.
Michael Bappie, Freetown Sierra Leone
Unfortunately this is the only way to get rid of the likes of Amin, and hopefully soon Mugabe. African leaders do not believe in democracy. They claim to but this is just a ploy to obtain funds from donors. They think that once elected they should rule forever. A perfect example is Sam Njoma of Namibia. Force is the only thing they seem to understand and as such force must be used to remove them.
Joao Simoes, South Africa
Force from outside our western nations is not the answer to remove "bad" leaders. Instiution-building, education and grass-roots development with UN and external support is the real key to change leadership in Africa and in other developing nations.
Srinivasan Pattoo, India
Intervention is necessary in situations where conflicts have destroyed the lives of the innocent. But when intervention is carried out to satisfy the ambitions of a comic leader of a super power then that's imperialism.
Just an insignificant percentage of African leaders are ever willing to step down, even when they can see catastrophy looming in every facet of their domains. Its no news anymore that the opium of our "leaders" is power, and not people. As long as the mentality remains, that, being a leader is an opportunity to have a share of the national treasury at will, it might be difficult for African leaders to relinquish power willingly. They may still need force to let go of the power seat.
Emmanuel Maiyanga, Abuja, Nigeria
Force is not the solution. The billions of dollars being spent in Iraq and Afghanistan could be used for the benefit of the people of those countries if other means were used for regime change instead of funding the war machine. The removal of Taylor, Noriega or Aristide shows there are alternatives to war.
Charles Muriu, Liberia
Why ask this question about Africa? Awful though some governments are, there is no evidence to suggest that previous colonial adventures have made them any better. And between all the states in Africa their record of corruption and tyranny pales into insignificance against that of the main western powers
I say "Yes". But then I'm just a selfish, self-righteous, imperialist American.
If my neighbor is not taking care of his house, how do I measure this? Who am I to tell him? When do I intervene? When you can get the people free enough to get rid of some of these scarecrows, you will have change. The continent is not without resources to make some instant changes. However, there is always the matter of some countries, like mine, who want to see weak, dishonest governments in power. It suits the disposable society we are drowning in.
Jerry Gwinn, USA
African leaders are so corrupt and the only option left for the masses or the few enlightened citizenry is to force them from power through a revolution involving the use of deadly force. The western world does not understand the level of the endemic suffering in Africa. The so called superpower(s) are interested in maintaining the status quo because it serves their interests. What other option do you have when a clique of elites have cornered the national treasury, using the central bank as their personal piggy bank. All means of opposition have been muzzled, and separation of powers is a mockery.
! Neal Adams, USA
No, the US or Europe cannot decide for us who a bad leader is, Africans should be able to decide this for themselves.
Chidi Okoye, Nigeria
People in oppressed countries have been resigned to their fate but the international community, as represented by the UN, AU, etc., has the moral obligation to rescue them from the claws of bad leadership in Africa.
James Nihinlola, Nigeria
Look at what is happening in Eritrea, a country with no constitution, no independent news papers, no freedom of movement, nothing. If the west can help the people before it is too late, then we may not see a major intervention by foreign powers.
Harnet, South Africa
It doesn't necessarily need invasion, just extreme pressure. Take Zimbabwe - if Mbeki and Nujoma would stop siding with a cold-blooded despot there would be change. As it is, why would Mugabe ever change when he is still considered a hero by his fellow African leaders? Maybe Africa ends up with the leaders we do for a reason?
John, Zimbabwean in UK
All bad rulers must be removed by force immediately with the speed of light and be sent to prison for life.
David D. Dann, USA
Foreign intervention in a sovereign nation is not an exercise to be undertaken lightly. Corruption and political repression alone are not reasons for foreign intervention. Only when intervention will potentially save many innocent lives, as intervention in Rwanda, is it morally defensible.
Daniel Bronson, USA
The French in Jebuti, the English in Kenya, are just few. These foreigners were and still are stablizing forces in these countries. If it is needed to be realistic, African people are not ready to govern themselves democratically and speed up economic growth without foreign forces.
Melese Zenawi, Ethiopia
Such ideas sound better in theory than in practice. Who will be the intervening power in such circumstances? Will it be the US with their inconsistently applied policy of pre-emption; will it be the UN whose rhetoric and efforts often result in ineffectiveness on the ground, or will African regional organizations take the lead, and how will they differentiate between what is in their own national interest and what is in the interest of the common good? The idea itself has merit, but to try and codify it would open up a Pandora's box.
Jason Blankenship, USA
Forceful intervention is necessary under certain conditions. Darfur's increasingly genocidal killing of Africans is a classic example where military intervention is necessary. Containing and isolating dictators can be effective in some cases but it fails to improve the situation on the the ground such as the case of Zimbabwe.
Marial Wuoi, USA/Sudan
I refer to Liberia where I have worked for 33 years. My answer is YES. It would be ludicrous to expect the oppressed people of such a nation to handle the corruption and horror unaided.
I believe that one of the main problems facing Africa today is the fear of positive outside intervention. We tend to be very paranoid as Africans and too touchy. If the international community is willing to help, well we need it and should be grateful!
The democracy system as defined by the West has failed in many countries because its not an all-cultures model. So the best way is to advise and never use force.
Wilfred Mushi, Tanzania
Democracy is good but we should also understand that it is a process and not a prescription to cure a disease. Introduce it and allow the people to understand it by digesting it. Believe me, if the West used a different approach in promoting democracy, people would do everything to keep it.
Abdoulie S. Jobe, Gambian
Intervention into sovereign states is a must. Having said that it must be done under the banner of the UN if only they could decide anything. A multinational force is essential because more often than not, the neighbours of war - torn countries have a hand in starting the violence in the first place.
James Stevens, UK
Definitely. Let's start with the US.
Heider Nasralla, UK
In Zimbabwe we have a situation where the people are brutalised and the country has been raped, yet our neighbours - except Botswana - do not care. Zimbabwe is an example of a country where the people do not have a government that they deserve. And what can the people do? Nothing.
Alex, Zimbabwean in K
Why should somebody be a President for 32yrs? I am so disappointed that as an African, I'm looking for a future abroad when my country has the resources that can train me.
People have different tastes, fashions and preferences. A leader deemed "bad" by some is seen as good in other areas. Endorsing the removal of incompetent leaders may actually be used to attain imperialist, political and economic motives.
I think the more important question is: How do you decide what a bad leader is. If bad leader should be removed by force then some may argue that it would be okay to try to remove President Bush for the crimes committed in Iraq's jails. Those decisions should only be made inside the UN.
Corey Stire, Canada
You will agree with me that the system of democracy practiced in Africa is bastardised. The judiciary and the legislature pander to the whims and caprices of the executive arm of government. Removing a bad leader or an evil government in such a situation will be god sent. Think of what is happening in Zimbabwe at the moment. No sane person should be happy with the regime there yet the whole world is just watching and allowing it to continue. This definitely is not right.
I don't think foreign intervention is the remedy for corrupt and undemocratic governments.The instability and the crises in Liberia, Siera Leone, DRC, Chad, Sudan, and Central African Republic are evidence of this. Perhaps, the best way forward would be to let the countries solve their own problems or let the African Union and the sub regional economic groups take the primary initiative to deal with the governments.
Yitatek Yitbarek, Ethiopian/South Africa