OPINION: US role in focus amid global uncertainty

Friday November 27 2020
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The US’ tendency to intervene in the internal affairs of other countries, especially the accusations against other countries as suppressing civil liberties, eroding democracy has been a matter of concern almost the world over.

The self-styled world’s policeman would not hesitate to point an accusing finger at Tanzania, China, or Zimbabwe for instance, mentioning flaws in the electoral processes and human rights issues while deliberately overlooking the various grave injustices in its own territory.

This has been the case in the just-ended Tanzanian elections and several instances in the various internal dealings in China as evidenced by the Taiwan and Hong Kong questions, whereby the United States did so through its ambassadors or directly through its Department of State.

As regards Tanzania, the current US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, tweeted following the recent elections saying that: “We are deeply concerned by reports of election irregularities, politically motivated arrests, and violence during Tanzania’s elections,” giving himself and his country the legitimacy to represent the people of Tanzania without being retained to do so.

The United States has consistently preferred not to realize the various normal or likely situations during political contestation, including allegations of voter fraud which could occur everywhere including in the United States itself regardless of the maturity of its democracy.

Such tendency, irrespective of whatever is happening, amounts to violating international norms forbidding interference in the internal matters of other states, and gross disrespect to the targeted countries no matter how weak or strong they could be in the international system.


The lack of reciprocity to US overstepping diplomatic norms may be due to asymmetrical power relations and the limited access to avenues where the voices from the weak would be aired and heard, making it logical to argue that maybe, the retreat by poor countries from criticising the US unjust systems speaks of its almost unrivalled power.

Majority of the news channels, social media and other means of communication are controlled directly or indirectly by the powerful, making it hard for the weak to wage a meaningful fight in the international arena. The US would even use its power and influence to cripple the channels such as TikTok, WeChat and other social and traditional news media which would carry alternative voices from its perceived rivals.

For that matter, divided and economically weak states will perpetually be defined according to the wishes of the powerful ones, and the only way is to strengthen cooperation between the economically weak countries as well as national economies. Doing so would translate into their ability to protect their sovereignty as well as define and pursue their interests.

It is along this analogy that the US has been exploiting to meddle into the affairs of other countries in varying degree given the level of disunity and the economic weaknesses.

This failure to define, pursue and defend one’s own interests, as well as the lack of unity among states can be the one reason subjecting African countries to interference by powerful countries. It is for this reason that Tanzanian authorities would condemn foreign interference when the latter seems to enforce western-styled democracy on the country. Therefore, the ambivalence can be explained along the lines of disunity among states and the poor countries’ dependence on the economically powerful nations in financing their various projects and programmes.

The poor countries also fail to collectively come together to counter and condemn such unilateral actions, and they hardly calculate the dangers of embracing the same perpetrators.

As far as state power is concerned, this wishy-washy situation would not be condoned by China, for instance, which has grown strong enough to curtail such interference at any level, for the realisation that allowing any interference would set a precedent for a repeat action that woule eventually be difficult to reverse or legitimately condemn at an advanced stage.

This has been the case in the US attempts at infiltrating Hong Kong, buttressing Taiwan independence forces and demonizing China’s de-radicalisation efforts in its northwest Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.

Like everything else, the relativity of curtailing or condoning foreign state interference largely depends upon the unity among weak states at the international space as well as the ability of each state, or a collectivity of states, to define and pursue common interests.


SWEBA UNUKI is a social affairs analyst based in Dar es Salaam. [email protected]