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Namibia from colonisation to statehood: The paradoxical relationship between law and power in international society.

Idowu, Stephen Babatunde (2000) Namibia from colonisation to statehood: The paradoxical relationship between law and power in international society. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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On March 21 1990, Namibia became an independent state after 70 years of being a mandated territory under South African control. This thesis examines the dialectical relationship between power politics and international law in securing this outcome. From the beginning when South West Africa became a pawn in the European balance of power in the late 19th century, its atypical nature amongst other colonial territories reflected the ambiguous relationship between power politics and law. The Namibia conflict was essentially driven by balance of power politics. As this thesis demonstrates, it was at once a creation, a victim and a beneficiary of power politics. Nonetheless, while power drove the conflict, law constrained it. Indeed, its history paradoxically demonstrated a degree of complementarity between the two. By itself, international law was impotent to secure change in opposition to the realities of power and the interests of the great powers. On the other hand, the Namibian question was posed within the legal framework of the international arrangements for the transfer of power, i. e. mandate system, trusteeship, and decolonization regimes. At each stage, the complex and changing relationship between power and law became manifest. From the establishment of the mandate system in 1920, the ideas of self-determination and international accountability were ingrained in the consciousness of the metropolitan power. These ideas survived to influence much of the transfer of power debate. They did not stop power politics, but over the long term, they changed the legal framework within which it operated. Consequently, international law served as an institutional device for communicating the prevailing norms of the international community to the South Africa government and restrained South Africa from annexing Namibia. Yet international law alone could never create the optimal balance of incentives and costs necessary to resolve the Namibian issue. However, as the conflict became externalized within the Cold War, the United States, acting out of self-interest in containing Soviet expansionism in Southern Africa, discovered that a solution was an effective means of achieving this objective. Thus Namibia was a beneficiary of power politics, and the international community finally sanctioned the outcome.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Political Science, General, Political Science, International Law and Relations, Sub Saharan Africa Studies
Sets: Collections > ProQuest Etheses
Departments > International Relations

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