Saturday, April 24, 2004

Rwanda on their consciences...

When John Lloyd left the New Statesman last April over the Iraq war, he published a final article (excerpted here) entitled "The left has lost the plot" ( — by defending sovereignty in the name of anti-imperialism, opponents of war undermine their claim to champion the oppressed — ). Lloyd mentioned "a Canadian-sponsored report, The Responsibility to Protect" and said it was a "brilliant summation of the arguments for stripping tyrants of sovereign inviolability."

One of the co-chairs of the commission that developed the report was former Australian foreign minister Gareth Evans, now president of the Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG), an organization that seeks "to prevent and resolve deadly conflict."

Along with Stephen Ellis, ICG's Africa director, Evans has just published an essay in Le Monde entitled, "After the Rwanda genocide, memory is not enough."
In future, the international community most be better prepared to respond to such situations when they become explosive. Part of the response consists in dispensing with preconceived notions that have naturally spread far and wide in world where so many have had to fight with every ounce of strength to rid themselves of colonialism. The sovereignty of a state is not a license to kill. It implies a responsibility protect one's own people. Once one deliberately renounces this responsibility or once the state is incapable of exercising it, it becomes part of the larger responsibility of the international community.

The threshold for military intervention must also be raised: loss of human life, real or feared, on a grand scale, large scale ethnic cleansing, real or feared, brought about by forced expulsion or other means. It must always be implemented according to principles that take into account cautious criteria such as well-founded intentions, last resort, proportionate means and a reasonable hope of success during an intervention that will be worth the damage caused.

Focusing the "humanitarian intervention" debate on "the right of intervention," will assure the continuance of the controversy over whether such a right exists. Changing the perspective in favor of that of the victim and pleading in favor of a "responsibility to protect" will create the possibility of a genuine consensus. This may prove to be the most lasting contribution of the International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty, sponsored by the Canadian government, and of which the 2001 report, "The Responsibility to Protect," is gaining ground, slowly but surely.


A few signs of progress are nevertheless visible. When the UN mission to the Congo had to confront massacres in the city of Ituri, in the east of the country in 2003, France [despite some vexatious snickering] took the lead in an international response by organizing "operation Artemis." This operation secured the city of Bunia and its airport for three months, pending the deployment of a UN peacekeeping force.


Many nations have Rwanda on their consciences. The path to erasing this stain does not lead through commemorative ceremonies but through effective actions.

No comments: