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Gordian KnotApartheid and the Unmaking of the Liberal World Order$
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Ryan M. Irwin

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780199855612

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199855612.001.0001

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The Status Quo

The Status Quo

(p.126) 5 The Status Quo
Gordian Knot

Ryan M. Irwin

Oxford University Press

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

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