The Status Quo

Ryan M. Irwin

in Gordian Knot

Published in print September 2012 | ISBN: 9780199855612
Published online September 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780199979882 | DOI:

Series: Oxford Studies in International History

The Status Quo

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This chapter is about the consequences of the 1966 ICJ ruling. It begins by outlining the impact of the decision within the African nationalist community. Backed into a corner by impatient liberation fighters and apathetic Western policymakers, the African Group responded to its defeat by unilaterally declaring South West Africa independent from South Africa, renaming the territory Namibia, and establishing a government-in-exile in New York. At the same time, within the United Nations, new groups began to reframe the critique against apartheid in non-nationalist terms and reach out to nongovernmental organizations. If the push for sanctions had stalled at the United Nations, it was necessary to lobby Washington at the grassroots level using more flexible discourses of human rights. In response, U.S. officials began to reassess their commitment to racial justice and liberal internationalism, and rollback their confrontational stance toward South Africa. By the end of the Johnson years, the United States had given up its campaign to change the apartheid status quo; all it wanted was to limit the unruliness of postcolonial politics.

Keywords: United Nations; Cold War; South West Africa; Namibia; human rights; Organization of African Unity; African Liberation Committee; African nationalism

Chapter.  12146 words. 

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