The modern practice of intervention by invitation in Africa and its implications for the prohibition of the use of force

14 Jun 2016

This article examines how two prominent criteria for permissible military intervention by invitation as developed in doctrine are currently implemented by states as well as how this impacts the prohibition of the use of force. Controversies concern, in particular, the determination of the authority entitled to extend the invitation, as recently illustrated by the Russian claim that its military intervention in the Crimea was based on the invitation of (former) President Yanukovych. Does the inviting authority need to enjoy democratic legitimacy and/or be in de facto control of a state’s territory? Furthermore, it remains highly contentious whether an invitation for forcible intervention may be extended during a civil war. By analysing modern state practice in Africa – where most of the contemporary invitations for military assistance occur – and comparing it with recent developments in other regions, the author concludes that effective control rather than democratic legitimacy is (still) the point of departure for determining the legitimate government of a state. Once recognized, incumbent governments enjoy a large discretion when inviting military assistance from foreign governments. They seem to retain the right to military assistance even in situations of civil war and while exercising limited control over the territory.