Rogues and pariahs of this world
A number of states in the international system are diplomatically isolated because of their political system or political leaders. Such states often defy international law and diplomatic convention.
Analysts usually refer to such entities as ‘pariah’ or ‘rogue’ states. Although there is a distinction between the two, these terms are often used interchangeably.
Rogues states have a political leadership that is perceived to be irrational, corrupt or troublesome. Pariah states are nations whose legitimacy, ideology and political system are questioned by the international community. These states often have a weak rule of law, thus eroding the democratic process, independent audit institutions and public service delivery. An arbitrary and unjust execution of governance often leads to the establishment of authoritarian regimes.
Citizens are the first to be adversely affected. Stories emerging following the downfall of a regime often reveal extensive human rights abuses and unmask the sheer brutality of the ruling elite. This is often followed by a period of instability and a long path to recovery.
Dictatorships often leave an indelible mark on the national psyche. Such situations are likely to have repercussions in the wider international community. Mass migration is fuelled by a decline in economic conditions and a deterioration of the domestic situation.
Pariah and rogue states are likely to endanger regional stability and security. The identification of rogues and pariahs is subjective. Nonetheless, there are some states that can easily be classed in the aforementioned categories.
Their current situation is a cause for concern.
Zimbabwe has been governed by the Zanu-PF party for over three decades. Robert Mugabe served as Prime Minister between 1980 and 1987 and as President with executive power since 1987.
He was duly elected in all the elections he contested amid reports of electoral irregularities.
Since the late 1990s, Mugabe presided over steady economic decline, hyperinflation, disastrous land reforms and considerable human rights abuses.
His defeat in the first round of the 2008 Presidential election had been followed by a systematic programme of violence and intimidation that had targeted members of the Opposition.
Fearing the negative consequences of this impasse, the then South African President, Thabo Mbeki, mediated a power-sharing agreement between the Government and the Opposition.
The situation remains volatile to this day; the State apparatus is weak and ineffective.
Belarus is another country that raises concern.
Described by the former US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, as an “outpost of tyranny”, various governments expressed concern over the current situation. EU governments withdrew their ambassadors from Minsk.
President Alexander Lukashenko has been at the helm since his election as first President of Belarus in 1994. International observers report that elections are rigged. The Opposition is subject to constant intimidation through violence, kangaroo court trials and political murders.
The majority of enterprises are State-owned. The Government also curtailed freedom of speech, freedom of movement and the right to peaceful assembly.
Belarus is, thus, one of the last dictatorships in Europe.
Rogue states attract the ire of the international community but are not viewed to be as threatening as some pariah states.
North Korea, Iran and Syria constitute a more immediate and visible threat. The model of governance in these countries combines ideological inflexibility, authoritarian ruthlessness and unrealistic foreign policy aims.
All three countries are considered to be State-sponsors of terrorism. They have also embarked on the research and production of weapons of mass destruction.
North Korea is governed through a dominant personality cult that allows little room for dissent. Persistent belligerence and an unwillingness to engage with other nations is the main feature of its foreign affairs. Its leaders often raised the possibility of nuclear war with South Korea and attacks on Japan and the United States. This poses a serious threat to the region.
The Iranian Government has been defined as an “anti-status quo” power. Iran has been a state sponsor of terror and has never fallen short of adopting subversion to achieve its aims. Its rhetoric in relation to Israel is often a cause for concern for a number of governments.
The Assad regime in Syria has an appalling human rights record. The ongoing bloodbath turned Syria into an ungovernable mess and a humanitarian tragedy. The Opposition fighting the Assad regime is fragmented and includes Islamists, Kurds and other Syrians clamouring for democratic reform. The international community is in a quandary over the stand to take over Syria.
Dealing with rogues and pariahs is not an easy task. Such states are a sizeable minority and are often dependent on larger and more powerful states. Each case needs to be analysed on its own merits.
Human rights activists need to keep on raising awareness. Effective advocacy is key to ensure that governments exert appropriate diplomatic pressure.