Angie Elisabeth Brooks rose from a humble poor life to global prominence after studying law in the United States and England. She had an excellent career as a jurist, a professor of law and then the first woman to serve as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of Liberia. Her excellent character and hard work earned her an opportunity to also contribute to Liberia’s foreign policy. She served as Assistant Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and subsequently as Liberia’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations.
Angie Brooks continued her diligence and excellent performance in championing Liberia’s agenda for decolonization of the continent of Africa. Her primary concerns were about “non-self-governing territories” and “trusteeship territories” on the continent. She worked tirelessly and extensively in this endeavor and as a result of her commitment, she became Chairperson of the Fourth Committee and President of the Trusteeship Council, where she worked assiduously to propagate the message of eliminating all forms of colonialism in Africa.
She is most famous for becoming the second woman and the first and only African Woman till date to serve as President of the United Nations General Assembly in 1969, a position she served with diligence and contributed enormously to the United Nations’ drive of maintaining world peace and security. Even though she had inherited numerous challenges including South Africa’s occupancy of South-West Africa (which later became Namibia) and South Africa’s apartheid policy – two major and interrelated conflict-causing situations. This is one of the many results she achieved under her leadership within the council.
Angie Brooks was however, no stranger to these situations that posed a threat to the existence of the World body, as Liberia, which she represented had instituted proceedings along with Ethiopia to the ICJ against the Union of South Africa, arguing that South Africa’s continued presence in South-West Africa (Namibia) was contrary to the UN Charter and violated the right of the people of South-West Africa to self-determination. The General Assembly endorsed this move and although Liberia and Ethiopia’s case was dismissed on grounds of lacking ‘locus standi’ (not a proper party), the struggle against South Africa’s illegal occupation of Namibia continued with the involvement of the UN General Assembly, then dominated by Third World countries, including African countries that had attained their independence in the late 1950s and early 1960s.
Several Resolutions against South African’s occupancy were passed including 2145 (XXI), in 1866[i] giving the UN authority to administer the territory. Under this authority, the territory’s name was changed from South-West Africa to Namibia on June 12, 1968, as proposed by the black Namibian liberation movement called SWAPO. Resolution 269 was also adopted by the Security Council in 1969 calling for the withdrawal of South Africa administration from Namibia, stating that ‘its continued occupation constitutes an aggressive encroachment on the authority of the United Nations, a violation of the territorial integrity and a denial of the political sovereignty of the people of Namibia’.
By the time Angie Brooks had taken office as President of the General Assembly in 1970, other resolutions such as 276 and 283 were adopted, reaffirming the Council’s position. The Council also adopted Resolution 284 requesting an advisory opinion of the ICJ on the legal consequences of South Africa’s continued presence in Namibia[ii] and in 1971 the ICJ ruled that South Africa’s continued administration in Namibia was illegal as it violated the UN Charter and other relevant rules and principles of international law. The extension of its apartheid policy to Namibia was also found to be a flagrant violation of the purposes and principles of the UN Charter[iii]
Angie Brooks was very instrumental in all of these processes that eventually led to the independence of the Republic of Namibia. She has been a true trailblazer and a continental pace-setter.
[i] Slonim, Solomon 1973. South West Africa Fand the United Nations: An international mandate in dispute, Baltimore, MD, The Johns Hopkins University Press.
[ii] Sonnenfeld, Renata 1988. Resolutions of the United Nations Security Council. Dordrecht/Boston, M. Nijhoff Publishers; Warszawa, PWN-Polish Scientific Publishers.
[iii] Slonim, Solomon 1973. South West Africa Fand the United Nations: An international mandate in dispute, Baltimore, MD, The Johns Hopkins University Press.