Africans Back UN Intervention
for Serious Abuses

media contacts     methodology

• African Public Says
UN Has Right to Intervene to Stop Genocide •

• US Public Favors UN Intervention in Darfur
7 in 10 Favor More Support to African Union Operation •

College Park, MD. While the leaders of African countries have shown strong resistance to non-African forces intervening in the crisis in Darfur, a GlobeScan poll finds that in eight African countries surveyed a majority (7 countries) or a plurality (1 country) believe the UN should have the right to intervene to stop human rights abuses such as genocide, and that the UN is the most popular force to intervene in situations like Darfur. Likewise, a PIPA poll finds 61 percent of Americans favor the UN intervening in the crisis in Darfur, with 54 percent willing to contribute US troops. Seven in ten favor NATO, including the US, providing support to the African Union peacekeeping operation in Darfur.

Africa Poll
The eight-nation GlobeScan poll of 10,809 Africans (margin of error +/-2-3%) found that overall, 65 percent of Africans interviewed believe the UN Security Council should have the right to authorize the use of military force to prevent severe human rights violations such as genocide, while just 19 percent are opposed. Support was strongest among those in Ghana (80%), Kenya (75%), Nigeria (66%), Tanzania (66%), Zimbabwe (65%), and Cameroon (64%), while milder support was found among Angolans (55%) and South Africans (47%). Opposition to UN intervention was the highest among Angolans (37%), but in most other countries less than one in five were opposed.

Africans show widespread openness to the idea of multilateral military intervention in their own country in the event of a conflict “like Darfur.” When asked who they would prefer to intervene in the event of such a conflict, UN military troops received the widest endorsement (30%), followed by the African Union (22%). The idea of intervention by rich countries acting alone was endorsed by just 5 percent.

Countries endorsing the UN for this role most strongly were Ghana (48%), Kenya and Zimbabwe (both 35%). The lowest level of support for the UN was in South Africa (21%), but this was still more than the number of South Africans who preferred the African Union (12%). In three countries, the proportion of people preferring the AU and the UN were about the same—Tanzania (28% and 25% respectively), Angola and Nigeria (22% and 25% in both cases). The greatest number of people rejecting any foreign military intervention was in Cameroon (20%); the smallest number was in Ghana (6%).

Awareness of the situation in Darfur is fairly low. Just over one-third of Africans interviewed (36%) say they have heard or read a great deal or a fair amount about “the conflict in the Sudan region called Darfur.” Attitudes about whether the UN should have the right to intervene are not significantly different between those with higher or lower levels of awareness.

While African support for intervention is much higher with UN authorization when it comes to severe human rights abuses such as genocide, Africans do not reject the idea of a country being able to intervene even when it does not have UN approval. In such cases, half (51%) say a country should have the right to intervene even without UN authorization, while three in ten (28%) disagree.

Lloyd Hetherington comments, “Clearly Africans are looking outside their own countries and especially to the United Nations to help deal with some of their problems. Contrary to their leaders, it appears that they would like to see the UN intervene in dealing with problems such as the crisis in Darfur, with a growing confidence in the African Union to also take on this role.”

These findings are from a larger annual survey of African public opinion called “Africa in the New Century,” tracking attitudes of Africans on key issues, with the support of the Commission for Africa and syndicated subscribers. The survey of 10,809 Africans from eight countries (Angola, Cameroon, Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe) was conducted between October and December 2004.

US Poll
A new PIPA-Knowledge Networks poll of 812 Americans finds majority support for several forms of intervention in the crisis in Darfur. The poll was conducted June 22-26 and has a margin of error of 3.5 percent.

Asked whether UN members should “step in with military force to stop the violence in Darfur,” 61 percent said that it should, while 32 percent said that it should not. This support was bipartisan: 67 percent of Republicans and 62 percent of Democrats favored it. Independents were a bit lower at 52 percent.

A majority, albeit a slightly smaller one, also favored contributing US troops to a multilateral operation in Darfur. Asked “If other members of the UN are willing to contribute troops to a military operation in Darfur, do you think the US should or should not be willing to contribute some troops as well?” 54 percent said that it should, while 39 percent were opposed. Here again support was quite bipartisan. Fifty-seven percent of Republicans and 56 percent of Democrats favored contributing US troops.

Support is even higher for providing equipment and logistical support to the African Union peacekeeping force in Darfur. Respondents were told, “At present there is a peacekeeping force in Darfur made up of soldiers from African countries. But this force is quite weak and its presence has not stopped the violence. The African Union has asked NATO for equipment and logistical support.” They were then asked, “Do you think that NATO, including the US, should or should not provide such help?” Seventy-one percent said the US should, while 21 percent said it should not. Here again support was highly bipartisan, with 73 percent of Republicans and 74 percent of Democrats favoring providing such assistance.

Steven Kull, director of PIPA, comments, “What is quite striking here is that even as the US is tied down in Iraq and suffering daily casualties, a majority of Americans would support contributing troops to a multilateral operation in Darfur. This suggests that what is occurring there goes against strongly held values in the American public. Indeed, multiple polls have found that many Americans believe that if severe human rights abuses are occurring, especially genocide, the UN should have the right to intervene and the US should be willing to contribute troops.”

When the Chicago Council on Foreign Relations in 2004 asked whether the UN should have the right to intervene in the event of human right abuses such as genocide—the same question asked in the eight-nation African poll—85 percent of Americans and 94 percent of American leaders agreed that the UN should have the right to intervene. Also, in the same CCFR poll, 75 percent favored using US troops “To stop a government from committing genocide and killing large numbers of its own people.”

US public support for intervention in Darfur may vary, depending on whether Americans assume that what is occurring in Darfur falls in the category of genocide. In December 2004, when the Bush administration was stating that genocide was occurring in Darfur, PIPA/KN asked whether the UN should intervene with military force “to stop the genocide in Darfur.” Seventy-four percent said it should and 60 percent said that the US should contribute troops. In light of the UN report that determined that war crimes and genocidal intent were occurring in Darfur, but refrained from labeling it genocide, the present poll presented the situation more equivocally, referring to “large-scale violence in Darfur, Sudan, that some, including the Bush administration, have called genocide.” In this case support for UN intervention was 13 points lower and support for the US contributing troops was 6 points lower.

The full report with accompanying charts can be downloaded here in pdf format.


Media Contacts

For media interviews with participating pollsters, please contact:
Lloyd Hetherington 416-969-3085
Steven Kull 202-232-7500

GlobeScan Incorporated is a global public opinion and stakeholder research firm with offices in Toronto, London, and Washington. GlobeScan conducts custom research and annual tracking studies on global issues. With a research network spanning 50+ countries, GlobeScan works with global companies, multilateral agencies, national governments, and non-government organizations to deliver research-based insights for successful strategies.

The Program on International Policy Attitudes (PIPA) is a joint program of the Center on Policy Attitudes and the Center for International and Security Studies at the University of Maryland. PIPA undertakes research on attitudes in both the public and in the policymaking community toward a variety of international and foreign policy issues. It seeks to disseminate its findings to members of government, the press, and the public as well as academia.



Knowledge Networks
The poll was fielded by Knowledge Networks using its nationwide panel, which is randomly selected from the entire adult population and subsequently provided internet access. For more information about this methodology, go to Funding for this research was provided by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund and the Ford Foundation. A full report and the questionnaire can be found at

The following table gives a detailed description of the methodologies used in each of the 8 countries:

Country Sample Size
Field dates Sample frame Survey
Type of sample
Angola 1000 Oct 20 –
Nov 6, 2004
18 years and over Face-to-face Nation-wide
Cameroon 1009 Nov 23 –
Dec 2, 2004
18 years and over Face-to-face Nation-wide
Ghana 1000 Oct 1 –
Nov 5, 2004
18 years and over Face-to-face Nation-wide
Kenya 1000 Sep 28 –
Oct 10, 2004
Oct 19–22, 2004
18 years and over Face-to-face Nation-wide
Nigeria 1300 Oct 16 –
Nov 10, 2004
Dec 10–15, 2004
18 years and over Face-to-face Nation-wide
South Africa 3500 Oct 26 –
Nov 23, 2004
16 years and over Face-to-face Nation-wide
Tanzania 1000 Oct 30 –
Nov 10, 2004
18 years and over Face-to-face Nation-wide
Zimbabwe 1000 Oct 17–25, 2004 18 years and over Face-to-face Nation-wide