Title page for ETD etd-07152011-143814

Document Type Master's Dissertation
Author Gihana, Kennedy Alfred Nurudin
Email gankenny@yahoo.co.uk
URN etd-07152011-143814
Document Title Challenges in application of the " responsibility to protect" as a norm in the international community's response to the humanitarian impasse : Rwanda and Darfur
Degree LLM
Department Public Law
Advisor Name Title
Adv A Stemmet Supervisor
  • Darfur
  • responsibility to protect
  • humanitarian impasse
  • Rwanda
Date 2011-04-11
Availability restricted
History, so the saying goes, repeats itself. Were this statement to be applied to only positive events then life would be an adventure. The reality is that history does repeat itself almost exclusively regarding negative things. It seems that humanity does not learn even when many horrific lessons abound to show us a better way. Unfortunately this is all too true as will be shown in the following study of the world’s shamelessly inadequate responses to human suffering in two African regions, the Republic of Rwanda in 1994 and the Darfur region in Sudan in 2003.

Even after the world solemnly declared “Never again” in 1945 we still witness the most egregious cases of carnage, gross violations of human rights, undisguised murders of entire ethnic groups, rape and racially motivated violence taking place as the world looks on.

In both cases the United Nations, the only world body mandated with the specific responsibility to detect, deter and diffuse problems before they become unmanageable, has proved to be nothing but a talking shop where little, if anything, was done to help the suffering people of these two regions.

In both cases a whole raft of resolutions were passed and eloquent speeches were made but millions died notwithstanding.

As such, this study will concentrate its attention on the actions and inactions of the UN. It attempts to unravel the reasons why there appears to be widespread indifference, multiple standards and general apathy when African conflicts erupt. Is it because the continent has hitherto been seen to be resource-poor? Are African lives less valuable than Western nation’s lives? Are UN principles applied uniformly or is the UN a purely utopian idea that should be disregarded henceforth? The study also exposes the ineptitude of the world body in light of the evidently much more powerful, but much less representative, UN Security Council.

Is there reason for hope? May be so. A new plan of action dubbed R2P- the Responsibility to Protect - is taking root in the international community. It is not an entirely new way of thinking but it has certainly made a lot of policy makers wake up and take note because of its configuration. This study explores its background, its intent, its challenges and whether or not it can be a practical tool in future conflicts.

The world has hitherto used the excuse of state sovereignty as the main reason for non-intervention in the affairs of another country even when it was clear that, for various reasons, it was not able or willing to protect its own citizens. This morally bankrupt notion has persisted even in this more enlightened age to the detriment of whole populations.

The basic tenet of R2P is that humanitarian law must supersede all other conventional thinking. The world should not be a mere spectator when vulnerable, defenseless men, women and children are being massacred simply because of ill-conceived laws that prohibit concerned nations from taking action. In this age of 24-hour live television where the images are beamed all over the world, it is even less excusable. But that is exactly what happened in Rwanda and is still happening, albeit on a smaller scale, in Darfur.

If indeed history repeats itself, then we can be fairly certain that in the near future there will be another horrific conflagration somewhere in the world. It is at that time that the international community will once again be put to the test. R2P as a principle has received universal acceptance. But up to this point, it is as much a good intention as “Never again” was.

Whether or not this good intention will be translated into veritable action is yet to be seen. Unfortunately, despite our incredible advances in technology that have made the world faster, more accessible and safer in many instances, history just might have the last laugh and repeat itself yet again.

© 2010, University of Pretoria. All rights reserved. The copyright in this work vests in the University of Pretoria. No part of this work may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the prior written permission of the University of Pretoria.

Please cite as follows:

Gihana, KAN 2010, Challenges in application of the " responsibility to protect" as a norm in the international community's response to the humanitarian impasse : Rwanda and Darfur, LLM dissertation, University of Pretoria, Pretoria, viewed yymmdd < http://upetd.up.ac.za/thesis/available/etd-07152011-143814/ >


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