The legacy of the Rwandan Genocide and R2P

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Next week will commemorate 20 years since the Rwandan Genocide. Afterwards there was a universal declaration of "never again". Never again will the international community stand idly by and let mass killings occur. However, history has shown that this is not the case. 

Sovereignty is the concept that prevents international intervention. It is a necessary precondition of statehood and has remained relatively unchanged since the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. In response to the international communities inability to intervene and prevent or stop the genocide in Rwanda, then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan implored the world to reconcile the inviolable concept of state sovereignty with the need to intervene on a humanitarian basis. The concept of Responsibility to Protect was born.

R2P is premised on the belief that sovereignty is not a right but rather a responsibility. If a state is unable or unwilling to protect their citizens from mass atrocities- an umbrella term comprising of genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity and ethnic cleansing- they have forfeited their right to sovereignty. It follows the jus ad bellum theory of war using force as a last resort with prevention at its core.

It is far from perfect. As the UN Security Council is the only body vested with the ability to authorize military force, a veto prevents its use wherever necessary. There are preconditions that must be met before the norm can be applied, even then navigating the diplomatic process can be next to impossible. As a relatively new norm that was universally adopted at the 2005 World Summit, leaders and policy makers should familiarize themselves with the framework it provides.

In the Central African Republic, mass atrocities are occurring. Statements have been made, resolutions have been passed, people are still dying. We have the framework to intervene and yet we as an international community are once again standing idly by. Never again is happening now.


About the author


I am a University of Toronto student and aspiring politician. I believe that there are always two sides to a story and attempt to actively seek out the less popular opinion. I do not expect everyone to agree with me, in fact I encourage debate but lets keep it civil.…

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