“The Contracting Parties confirm that genocide, whether committed in time of peace or in time of war, is a crime under international law which they undertake to prevent and to punish.”

–Article 1 of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide[1]

In early April 1994, following the assassination of the Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana, the deep and long-lasting animosities[2] between the two main ethnic groups in Rwanda, the Hutus and the Tutsis, degenerated into genocide. The military, Hutu militia groups and ordinary people engaged in targeted, systematic killings of large numbers of Tutsis and political moderates irrespective of their ethnic backgrounds. In the course of only a hundred days, “several hundred thousand people … were gunned down, beaten to death, or literally hacked to pieces by machete, often after being raped, tortured, and forced to watch or participate in the execution of family members”[3].

The killing spree outpaced that of Nazi Germany in World War II and decimated Rwanda’s population. While “Rwanda had a genocide, the world’s powers left Rwanda to it”[4], demonstrating once again just how unprepared or unwilling the international community was to deal with an event of such magnitude.

Sadly, Rwanda is by no means a singular, exceptional case. The world’s post-Cold War history was and continues to be marked by virulent conflicts and intense transformations worldwide, by narratives of grave human rights violations, horrendous civil wars and mass killings. Events in Cambodia, Bosnia, Eritrea, Sudan, and many other places around the world have led to fiery debates about the role of the international community in the prevention of human suffering, and the humanitarian ideal. The Nigerian-Biafran war[5], and more recently the events in Kosovo or Rwanda, called into question, not only once, the principles and tools of classic humanitarianism[6]. As a result of the ongoing debates and attempts at re-conceptualising humanitarianism, the participants at the UN’s 2005 World Summit coined the concept of ‘new humanitarianism’, which would go through major changes from classic humanitarianism.

The present article attempts to outline some of the predicaments humanitarianism is facing in a changing world; as well as encourage a re-conceptualisation of humanitarianism, and of some of the indeterminate rules and ‘slippery’ concepts it is working with. To this end it will take Rwanda as a case study and will examine the possible reasons for non-intervention in the Rwandan events of 1994, by the international community. Rwanda was chosen as a case study, not only because of the author’s own interest in the region and the events of 1994, but also because much has been written on Rwanda and the deliberations engaged in by the relevant actors are more readily available for critical assessment.

This article will only analyse decisions and actions of states and the UN in humanitarian emergencies. The ‘international community’ is therefore understood as a collection of duty bearing states, the only actors on the international arena who have the power to act with impunity to stop grave human rights violations. As Sean Greenaway was contending in his article Post-Modern Conflict and Humanitarian Action: Questioning the Paradigm, “the legal clothing of humanitarianism has always been determined by states… [it] arose historically through traditional diplomatic methods, and has always been Westphalian in form.”[7]

Three main views that transpire from the vast literature on Rwanda will be explored, attempting to explain the reaction of the international community during the unfolding tragedy in Rwanda in the spring and early summer of 1994: indifference to what was happening in Rwanda; a case of bystander effect and the slippery slope argument.

The bystander effect[8], or diffusion of responsibility, is a psychological phenomenon which occurs when many people together witness a person in need of help. Studies have shown that confusion arises about who should help and most of the witnesses assume someone else will intervene. In the case of Rwanda this could constitute an explanation for non-intervention by the international community.

The slippery-slope argument, in the case of Rwanda, is that the international community, specifically the UN and the USA did not intervene to stop the massacres because they feared triggering a series of events they would not have been able to control, as had happened only 7 months before in Somalia.

The first part of the article will give a brief overview of the two concepts – classic and new humanitarianism and will then give some background information on Rwanda, including some of the events that preceded the 1994 genocide and ultimately contributed to the succession of events. The second part will follow the events after the 6th of April, focusing on the response of the international community and the three views stated above. The concluding remarks will then, draw one some of the conclusions of the case study, and will evidence some of the pitfalls of the ‘new humanitarianism’ rhetoric[9].

Humanitarianisms in brief

Famine, disease, poverty, people suffering in conflict zones or under oppressive regimes, need and should not happen; and if such events do occur, we should act to minimise human suffering. It is this belief in a common humanity and the universality of human condition that gave rise to the concept of humanitarianism. A moral norm par excellence, which could best be defined as a kind of institutionalised ethic of compassion, this classic concept of humanitarianism was based on the principles of impartiality, neutrality and independence. This meant that the few actors who were engaging in the provision of aid had to be impartial, guaranteeing the provision of aid proportional to need, and based on need alone, with no regard to ethnicity, religion, race or any other considerations. This was for many years the most effective response to humanitarian emergencies, but it was also the only dimension of humanitarian assistance. It was a concept that had arisen in a particular geopolitical context, in which the only type of conflict was the classic inter-state conflict, with a clear separation of military and civilians, of relief and development assistance, and in which the sovereignty of a state was inviolable.

This is not to say however that in practice humanitarianism was not sensible to systemic changes. Much to the contrary, geopolitical shifts and changes in the nature of conflicts and humanitarian emergencies brought about an organic change in humanitarian practice. It adapted to the new context, so that throughout the years, and with the appearance of the so-called ‘complex humanitarian emergencies’[10] (such as Nigeria, Ethiopia, Somalia, Angola and many more), the world of aid saw a steadily increasing number of actors involved in a variety of humanitarian operations. International organizations, NGOs, donors, military, local communities started engaging not only in traditional relief, but also in peacemaking, peacekeeping or the provision of development assistance.

Without a real normative basis, humanitarianism came under intense scrutiny, not only for failing to address the conundrums of a changing world, but also for the increased politicisation and militarisation of humanitarian assistance, brought about by the increasing complexity of emergencies and of the world of aid. To be more explicit: the post-Cold War geopolitical context was characterised by a growing number of intra-state conflicts, where the traditional distinction between combatants and civilians was blurred, and civilians and civil structures[11] were increasingly becoming targets of violence. This new context made the traditional objective of humanitarianism – relieving human suffering – “insufficient and merely palliative”[12]. Instead, the greatest challenges for humanitarianism were the protection of civilians and ensuring lasting outcomes through the promotion of human rights, stable and legitimate governments[13] and long-term development assistance – all cornerstones of peace.

Involving the military in humanitarian activities made humanitarian intervention a very contentious issue in international affairs, because the military was a combating force, and any military intervention by one state in another state was traditionally called a war. But the probably most acute problem of classic humanitarianism was the view of sovereignty as inviolable. It meant that an intervention in the affairs of a state was strictly forbidden, and even if the humanitarian practice had evolved, aid became politicised; humanitarian actors were choosing whom to help, intervening only in those cases which were considered politically expedient. In other cases, the inviolability of a states’ sovereignty became an excuse for non-intervention.

It soon became obvious that there were enormous discrepancies between the classic humanitarian concept and humanitarian practice. This theoretical and normative void in humanitarianism produced another perverse effect – humanitarianism was often used in a dishonest way. The best example for this kind of behaviour is the US policy to unilaterally defend its interests by use of military force, after the terrorist attacks of September 11th 2001. The large-scale military operation in which it engaged in Iraq was deceptively masked and justified by the US in humanitarian terms.

With humanitarianism facing near moral bankruptcy, the international community realised that reconceptualising humanitarianism, its principles and tools was imperative. The ‘re-branding’ of humanitarianism came in 2005 in the form of the concept of ‘new humanitarianism’; a new humanitarian order which was intended to be one more politically active, which would assign responsibility for the protection of vulnerable populations to ‘the international community’[14]. The ‘new humanitarian’ paradigm authorises intervention, recognising the limits of sovereignty, especially in the case of weak and failing states and promoting the international norm of the ‘responsibility to protect’ (R2P). The R2P framework is based on the idea that sovereignty is not a privilege, but an international responsibility. Accordingly, if a state fails to fulfill its responsibilities to protect its people from harm, the international community has the responsibility to intervene, at first diplomatically, then more coercively, and as a last resort, with military force. Lacking however is a new enforcement mechanism which would ensure that these principles are acted upon.

The Land of a Thousand Hills

[15]

Located in central Africa and bordered by the Democratic Republic of Congo, Uganda, Tanzania and Burundi, Rwanda was described by early travellers as a “tropical Switzerland”[16]. A small kingdom, Rwanda was first visited by a European in 1894, when a German count was received by king Rwabugiri at his court. The early travellers and German colonial representatives noticed that the Rwandan population was divided into three different groups that spoke the same language and shared the same religion: the Hutu, the Tutsi and the Twa (or Pygmies).

The Tutsi who were described as light-skinned, tall people who were traditionally cattle-herders, seemed to dominate the Hutu – the shorter, darker people of Rwanda the majority of which were peasants. The Twa were a small number of people who lived in tribes and had no political or economic power. The Germans administered Rwanda through the existing social and power structure in which Tutsi constituted the majority in the army and in political positions, and in which even the king was Tutsi.

After World War I, the League of Nations entrusted the tutelage of Rwanda to Belgium, setting the premise for decades of tensions and conflicts between Rwanda’s main ethnic groups. Tutsis were appointed to administrative positions and had privileged access to jobs and education. The Belgians issued identity cards that specified ethnicity, further deepening the schism between the Tutsi and Hutu. In the late 1950s a movement of Hutu elite – the Parti du Mouvement de l’Emancipation Hutu (Parmehutu) started mobilizing for Hutu freedom. This generated a series of violent clashes between the two ethnic groups which, in 1959, brought the Hutu into power (what was to be known as the Hutu Revolution). In the years following the revolution, up until the genocide in 1994, there was systematic violence against the Tutsi, resulting in massive flights of refugees to the bordering countries.

Many of the Rwandan refugees in Uganda “joined the National Resistance Army (NRA)… both to fight Obote’s regime and to prepare for their return to Rwanda”[17]. In October 1990, Rwandan soldiers deserted the NRA taking weapons, supplies and trucks. They subsequently formed an army known as the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) and invaded Rwanda. For more than three years following the attack, Rwanda was in civil war. In 1993, under international pressure, the RPF and the Hutu dominated government of Rwanda agreed to a cease-fire known as the Arusha Accords and the UN deployed a peacekeeping force (UNAMIR[18]) to Rwanda to monitor the power-sharing arrangements and to ensure the safety of the returning refugees. But “the Arusha deal … was never implemented with enthusiasm”[19], and Rwanda’s government received strong criticisms from the international community for failing to implement the Accords by April 1994.

During a meeting in Dar-es-Salaam on the 5th of April 1994, under pressure from regional political actors and pro-Arusha forces, the Rwandan president Juvenal Habyarimana finally agreed to accelerate the implementation of the Accords. But the shooting down of Habyarimana’s plane, only one day later, threw Kigali and Rwanda into turmoil. Road blocks were set up by the Interahamwe[20] and the Rwandan Armed Forces (FAR) and killings began that same night. In the first days, the targets were moderate politicians and civil society leaders. “These were the “traitors” who had negotiated and made peace with the RPF. They were also the journalists, lawyers, human rights activists, church activists, and opposition intellectuals who supported the peace process”[21]. The Hutu extremists were determined to eliminate all the “cockroaches”, as they called Tutsis. The killings spread rapidly throughout Rwanda, as ordinary people got involved.

During the 100 days that the genocide lasted, the international community offered little assistance, but virtually no protection to the people of Rwanda. After Agathe Uwilingiyimana, the Hutu moderate prime minister was killed and the Belgian soldiers who were protecting her were tortured, killed and mutilated, most Western countries closed their embassies and were seemingly concerned solely with evacuating their troops and all resident nationals. Although facing great risk, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and a few Médecines san Frontières doctors chose to remain in Kigali and provide emergency medical treatment. Later, “the United Nations… sent a handful of consultants back into Kigali to distribute aid”[22]. As the RPF was advancing through the northwest of Rwanda, humanitarian operations began in the region controlled by the RPF, involving more than thirty international NGO’s and UN agencies. At the beginning of May there were ICRC representatives in five Rwandan cities, treating sick and wounded people. But “humanitarianism makes sense only as part of a larger international response”[23], and in the case of Rwanda, that larger response – a forceful intervention to stop the killings – never came.

100 days of genocide

‘Indifference’?

Most of the literature on the Rwandan genocide describes the reaction of the international community as indifference (see among others Samantha Power, Michael Barnett, David Rieff). However, indifference implies that the international community, although knowing of the crisis, totally ignored what was going on. This was definitely not the case in Rwanda and actions undertaken by both the U.S. and the UN, strengthen the argument against indifference.

In the first days of killings, both the U.S. and UN could not appreciate the depth of the crisis that Rwanda was facing. Regional specialists suspected that Rwanda was going through yet another fight between the RPF and the Hutu government that would involve casualties, but this would not have been a new development in Rwanda. In fact, the few people in Washington who had been following the Rwandan case for years were used to seeing conflicts and ethnic violence in this region.

Only a few months before the Rwandan genocide, two international commissions had warned of a possible escalation of the violence into genocide. In December 1993, an anonymous letter written by officers from the Rwandan army reached the commander of the UNAMIR, Romeo Dallaire. It warned of “‘diabolic manoeuvres’ to prevent the implementation of the Arusha Accords. Massacres would spread throughout Rwanda”[24]. In January 1994 Dallaire obtained information on training and arming of Hutu militias and their genocidal intentions. He consequently sent a fax to the UN headquarters in New York warning of imminent killings of Tutsi and a number of Belgian troops, and stated the UNAMIR was ready to raid the Hutu arms caches. The answer from New York was clear “the overriding consideration is the need to avoid entering into a course of action that might lead to the use of force and unanticipated repercussions”[25]. The UN was clearly not indifferent to what was happening in Rwanda, “from the UN’s point of view the “planned raid had Somalia and ‘mission creep’ all over it”[26]. The UN peacekeeping missions were seen as ineffective after Bosnia, Somalia and Haiti, so in the absence of official information, the UN feared that a raid could have a negative outcome and it could not afford another debacle.

On the evening of April 6, 1994, the assassination of the Rwandan president unleashed “hell” in Kigali and then entire Rwanda. “When country-specific knowledge is lacking, foreign governments become all the more likely to employ faulty analogies”[27], in the case of Rwanda these were the memories of Somalia. With Somalia very clearly in their minds, the members of the UN Security Council voted to withdraw most of the UN peacekeeping troops from Rwanda. It seemed like the Hutu militias had learned something from Somalia. “The desertion of Rwanda by the UN force was Hutu Power’s greatest diplomatic victory to date”[28].

‘Bystander effect’?

Immediately after the killings had started in Kigali, the U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Prudence Bushnell sent an urgent memo to Secretary of State Warren Christopher, which read “our strategy is to appeal for calm…both through public statements and in other ways”[29]. In New York, the UN Security Council “was in almost constant session, meeting sometimes twice daily and long into the night”[30] trying to decide what steps to follow in the Rwandan crisis.

South Africa and Nigeria, two of the most powerful African countries were nowhere to be seen in the crisis. The Nigerian Ambassador to the UN was supporting a strengthening of the UNAMIR forces and an expansion of their mandate so that peacekeepers could enforce public order. Nigeria did not send troops into Rwanda. It seemed as though they expected someone else to intervene to stop the massacre. The bystander effect could well be a valid explanation for the reaction of the African states to the Rwandan crisis. What it can not explain is non-intervention by the U.S. and UN. In the case of both the UN and the U.S., non-intervention was a policy; it was an intention not a psychological effect.

This would also explain why the international community was so reluctant to qualify the events as “genocide” – this would have necessitated action, as stated in the UN genocide convention[31], and none of the major actors was willing to engage in a war that was not theirs. The international community clearly failed to mount any action to stop the genocide and, out of fear, contented itself with merely being an informed spectator to the bloodbath.

‘Slippery- slope’?

Looking at non-intervention through the lens of the Just War tradition, particularly bearing in mind some of the elements of ius ad bellum principles – “reasonable hope of success” and “proportionality” – rises the question of feasibility as “authority, cause, and intention are not in themselves a sufficient basis on which to decide on humanitarian intervention. To be right is not enough”[32]. A feasibility study should have been the first step in deciding whether to intervene in Rwanda or not. Somalia had, if anything, shown the international community that interventions could be the wrong answer. This was true in cases where there was little knowledge of a country’s history and especially true in cases where ethnicity played into the conflict. Having too little information on the background of the Rwandan conflict, the U.S. decided an intervention would have been too difficult, fearing that it could trigger events they would have not been able to control. As the U.S. was still reeling from the Somalia nightmare, the Clinton administration and the public became highly risk-averse to any operation risking the lives of American soldiers.

Making a case of proportionality, the U.S. public did not want the lives of American soldiers to be risked, even if it could have meant saving the lives of hundreds of Rwandans. This is not to say that the U.S. was indifferent to the tragedy that was unfolding thousands of miles away. If this would have been the case, then a similar level of indifference would have applied to Somalia and the U.S. had not intervened. The rationale behind this is that the images of American soldiers being killed and mutilated in Mogadishu were deeply seeded in American minds and out of a sense of self-preservation, the American public opposed an intervention that could have had similar outcomes. This is why, even after the killings in Rwanda had started, the U.S. firstly tried to solve the problem by diplomatic means, insisting on the implementation of the Arusha Accords.

In May 1994, thinking of the Somalia debacle, President Clinton signed the Presidential Decision Directive 25 (PDD25) which listed a series of reasons for non-intervention. These were meant mainly to limit U.S. military involvement in international peacekeeping operations. The conclusion of the PDD25 stated clearly that “The U.S. cannot be the world’s policeman. Nor can we ignore the increase in armed ethnic conflicts, civil wars and the collapse of governmental authority in some states – crises that individually and cumulatively may affect U.S. interests. This policy is designed to impose discipline on both the UN and the U.S. to make peace operations a more effective instrument of collective security”[33]. This Presidential Directive was adopted just months before the congressional election, which may have played a significant role in the decision for non-intervention. The Democrats had lost the electorate’s trust after the intervention in Somalia; another ill-timed and botched intervention could have added to their losses. Thus intervening in Rwanda was not considered a politically expedient option. If, as is likely the case, politics played a role in non-intervention, claiming indifference or bystander effect merely serves to whitewash the decision-making process and would minimize the moral responsibility for inaction. Rather, these considerations strengthen the slippery slope argument – it was not indifference, but wilful non-intervention.

Rwanda: a post-humanitarian affair

[34].

The Rwandan events of 1994 clearly created one of the most complex humanitarian emergencies of the last century, and evidenced the limitations of classic humanitarianism. In fact, viewed through the lens of classic humanitarianism, Rwanda would not only get the title ‘complex emergency’, but could easily be termed post-humanitarian. The universalism of the humanitarian ideal was forgotten in the case of the Rwandan genocide. What was needed in Rwanda was not merely provision of aid, but more importantly, a forceful intervention to stop the killings and restore peace. This intervention however never came – overriding political motives hindered an intervention.

Even though the Rwandan genocide happened before New Humanitarianism, it showed that the indeterminate[35] rules of humanitarian intervention can lead to the loss of many lives in places the international community’s most powerful members deem un-important, and in cases that are not considered politically expedient.

Sadly New Humanitarianism doesn’t change much in that regard. R2P gives states the moral right to intervene forcefully to halt and to prevent human suffering wherever it may occur. However, talking about a right or responsibility to intervene does not preclude, nor encourage, intervention – a right, or even a responsibility is not an obligation, nor does it necessarily entail a notion of moral permissibility.

Lacking a real enforcement mechanism, humanitarian intervention continues to be highly politicised. States are intervening only in those cases which are considered politically expedient; in other cases, the inviolability of a states’ sovereignty has largely become an excuse for non-intervention.

Conclusion: “The dark sides of virtue”

[36]

‘New humanitarianism’ was thought as a complete set of tools which would help in the coordination of coherent responses to humanitarian disasters; a concept completely different from the classical humanitarian paradigm. This new paradigm was tailored to address the complex emergencies of today by promoting such norms as ‘sovereignty with responsibility’ and the ‘responsibility to protect’. However, the pitfalls of humanitarian assistance today are not much different from those we saw in classic humanitarianism. State sovereignty in its absolute sense continues to be the lynchpin of international relations, even though, according to the new humanitarian norms, states now have the obligation to protect their citizens and respect human rights. If they fail to do so, the international community, through the UN Security Council, has the responsibility and right to intervene. However, despite the growing acceptance of R2P, it does not guarantee that the world won’t ever again witness large-scale humanitarian emergencies because sadly “humanitarian norms and laws are often not respected, and humanitarian concerns do not always produce interventions (as the Rwanda case makes painfully clear)”[37]. Even more than that, both norms leave much room for interpretation, so the pattern arising is the same as in the case of classic humanitarianism – aid will become or continue to be politicised, with states choosing to engage in emergencies on political grounds, with the norm of “saving strangers”[38] often not acted upon and the voices of those suffering being overheard; and exactly as often, those morally responsible for the protection of those civilians will find a “justification for their actions because the rules are sufficiently indeterminate”[39].

Overt politicisation of aid, including all the dangers stemming from it, continues to be the ‘Achilles’ Heel’ for humanitarianism. How else could we explain Darfur or the DRC or so many other ongoing, protracted humanitarian emergencies around the world?

If humanitarianism is to ever gain or regain legitimacy, a re-contextualisation and re-conceptualisation of the norms underpinning it is necessary. The UN, as a representative body of the international community, will have to draft a set of rules of humanitarian intervention that is not only obligatory but also morally permissible. The establishment of a set of moral norms would contribute to distancing the decisions to intervene from purely political considerations, and the rhetoric of a right rather than an obligation to intervene. Secondly, the UN will have to find a way to ensure that these rules are acted upon, and impose drastic sanctions to those who disregard the new norms.

Acknowledgements

The present article is based on research I have conducted for the ‘International Humanitarian Assistance’ course undertaken at the Australian National University. I wish to express my deepest appreciation for their most valuable comments and their support in publishing this paper to Prof. Raymond Apthorpe and Mr. Michele Acuto, as well as to Britt-Marie Lorenzen-Wang, Jared Bissinger, Sumanya Anand Velamur, Nino Kemoklidze, Steven de Klerk and William Francis. Last, but not least, I am grateful to the editors of the Journal of Humanitarian Assistance for their helpful criticism and advice.

Sources cited

  1. African Rights (1995) Rwanda. Death, Despair and Defiance, London: African Rights
  2. Barnett, Michael (1997), The UN Security Council, Indifference, and Genocide in Rwanda, in Cultural Anthropology, vol 12, no 4
  3. Finnemore, Martha (2000), Paradoxes in Humanitarian Intervention, http://www.cgpacs.uci.edu/research/working_papers/martha_finnemore_humanitarian_intervention.pdf
  4. Fixdal, Mona and Smith, Dan (1998), Humanitarian Intervention and Just War, in Mershon International Studies Review, Vol. 42, No. 2
  5. Gourevitch, Philip (1998), We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families, Picador

6. Greenaway, Sean (1999), Post-Modern Conflict and Humanitarian Action: Questioning the Paradigm, http://www.jha.ac/articles/a053.htm

  1. Jones, Bruce D. (2001), Peacemaking in Rwanda: the dynamics of failure, Lynne Rienner Publishers Inc.
  2. Kennedy, David (2005), The dark sides of virtue: reassessing international humanitarianism, Princeton University Press
  3. King, Toby (1999), ‘Human Rights in European Foreign Policy: Success or Failure for Post-Modern Diplomacy?’, European Journal of International Law, vol 10, no 2
  4. Melvern, Linda (2000), A People Betrayed: The Role of the West in Rwanda’s Genocide, New Africa Education Publishing
  5. Nascimento, Daniela (2009), Humanitarianism at the crossroads: Dilemmas and Opportunities of the ‘War on Terror’, in Portuguese Journal of International Affairs, Number 2

12. Power, Samantha (2001), Bystanders to Genocide, published in The Atlantic Online, http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/print/200109/power-genocide

  1. Rieff, David (2002), A bed for the night: humanitarianism in crisis, New York: Simon & Schuster
  2. Rieff, David (2005), At the point of a gun: democratic dreams and armed intervention, New York: Simon & Schuster

15. Wheeler, Nicholas J (2000), Saving Strangers: humanitarian intervention in international society, Oxford University Press

  1. Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/genocide.htm
  2. Development Assistance Committee, OECD (1999), Evaluation and Aid Effectiveness: Guidance for Evaluating Humanitarian Assistance in Complex Emergencies, http://www.the-ecentre.net/resources/e_library/doc/OECD.pdf
  3. Presidential Decision Directives, www.fas.org/irp/offdocs/pdd25.htm

Sources consulted

  1. Bannon, Alicia L. (2006), The Responsibility to Protect: The UN World Summit and the Question of Unilateralism in The Yale Law Journal, pages 1157 – 1165
  2. Barnett, Michael (2002), Eyewitness to a Genocide: The United Nations and Rwanda, Ithaca: Cornell University Press
  3. Darley, J. M. & Latané, B. (1968), Bystander intervention in emergencies: Diffusion of responsibility, Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 8, 377-383
  4. Dallaire, Romeo (2005), Shake Hands with the Devil: the failure of humanity in Rwanda, Caroll & Graf
  5. Des Forges, Alison (1999), Leave None to Tell the Story: Genocide in Rwanda, New York: Human Rights Watch
  6. Fox, Fiona (2002), New Humanitarianism: Does it Provide a Moral Banner for the 21st Century? in ‘Disasters’, vol.25, issue 4, pages 275-289
  7. The International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (2001), The Responsibility to Protect, Ottawa, Canada: The International Development Research Centre, http://www.iciss.ca/pdf/Commission-Report.pdf
  8. Maley, William (2002), Twelve Theses on the Impact of Humanitarian Intervention, in Security Dialogue, vol.33(3), pages 265-278
  9. Weiss, Thomas G. (2005), Humanitarian Intervention: Ideas in Action, Cambridge, UK: Polity Press


[1] http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/genocide.htm

[2] Note: by ‘deep and long-lasting animosities’ I mean the events which occurred during and after the Belgian tutelage of Rwanda. By no means am I a supporter of the ‘ancient hatreds theory’

[3] Jones, Bruce D.(2001), Peacemaking in Rwanda: the dynamics of failure, Lynne Rienner Publishers Inc., page 1

[4] Gourevitch, Philip (1998), We wish to inform you that tomorrow we will be killed with our families, Picador, page 149

[5] The Nigerian civil war, which took place between July 6th 196 and January 15th 1970

[6] The two concepts ‘classic humanitarianism’ and ‘new humanitarianism’ will be explained in a later chapter

[7] Greenaway, Sean (1999), Post-Modern Conflict and Humanitarian Action: Questioning the Paradigm, http://www.jha.ac/articles/a053.htm

[8] Also known as “Genovese syndrome”, named after the case of Kitty Genovese, whose murder in the early 1960’s brought this phenomenon to the attention of psychologists

[9] Note: The article, however, should not be regarded as an exhaustive account and analysis of the dangers of new humanitarianism.

[10] The term ‘Complex humanitarian emergencies’ refers to grave social crises in which there are large numbers of deaths occurring as a consequence of war, displacement, hunger and disease

[11] Development Assistance Committee, OECD (1999), Evaluation and Aid Effectiveness: Guidance for Evaluating Humanitarian Assistance in Complex Emergencies, http://www.the-ecentre.net/resources/e_library/doc/OECD.pdf, page 7

[12] Nascimento, Daniela (2009), Humanitarianism at the crossroads: Dilemmas and Opportunities of the ‘War on Terror’, in Portuguese Journal of International Affairs, Number 2, page 61

[13] Note: By ‘legitimate government’ I do not understand a democracy, but a government that represents its people, and which respects the rights of its people and assumes responsibility for their well-being

[14] A responsibility to be exercised in practice by the UN, and in particular by the Security Council

[15] In French it is referred to as “Pays des Mille Collines”

[16] Melvern, Linda, (2000), A People Betrayed: The Role of the West in Rwanda’s Genocide, New Africa Education Publishing, page 7

[17] African Rights (1995), Rwanda. Death, Despair and Defiance, London: African Rights, page 27

[18] United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda

[19] Rieff, David (2005), At the point of a gun: democratic dreams and armed intervention, Simon & Schuster, page 64

[20] A Hutu paramilitary organization. It’s name means “those who fight together”

[21] Jones, Bruce D, op. cit, page 38

[22] Jones, Bruce D, op. cit, page 137

[23] Rieff, David, (2002), A bed for the night: humanitarianism in crisis, Simon & Schuster, page 166

[24] Melvern, Linda, op cit, page 89

[25] African Rights (1995) Rwanda. Death, Despair and Defiance, London: African Rights, page 574

[26] Rieff, David (2002), A bed for the night: humanitarianism in crisis, page 158

[27] Power, Samantha, op cit.

[28] Gourevitch, Philip, op cit, page 150

[29] Power, Samantha (2001), Bystanders to Genocide, published in The Atlantic Online, http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/print/200109/power-genocide

[30] Barnett, Michael (1997), The UN Security Council, Indifference, and Genocide in Rwanda, in Cultural Anthropology, vol 12, no 4, page 558

[31] Article 8 of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, http://www2.ohchr.org/english/law/genocide.htm

[32] Fixdal, Mona and Smith, Dan (1998), Humanitarian Intervention and Just War, in Mershon International Studies Review, Vol. 42, No. 2, page 305

[33] Presidential Decision Directives, www.fas.org/irp/offdocs/pdd25.htm

[34] Greenaway, Sean (1999), op. cit

[35] Wheeler, Nicholas J (2000), Saving Strangers: humanitarian intervention in international society, Oxford University Press, page 9

[36] Kennedy, David (2005), The dark sides of virtue: reassessing international humanitarianism, Princeton University Press

[37] Finnemore, Martha (2000), Paradoxes in Humanitarian Intervention, page 1, http://www.cgpacs.uci.edu/research/working_papers/martha_finnemore_humanitarian_intervention.pdf

[38] A play on Wheeler, Nicholas J (2000), Saving Strangers: humanitarian intervention in international society, Oxford University Press

[39] Wheeler, Nicholas J (2000), op.cit., Page 9

One Response to New Humanitarianism with Old Problems: The Forgotten Lesson of Rwanda

  1. Darren says:

    For too long, in piece time and wartime, political alliances and money seemingly take precedence over human rights and international law. Current examples such as Zimbabwe, North Africa, Somalia etc…show that money always comes ahead of principles. Once a country is worth the risk, and only then – the West will intervene and claim it is a matter of principle. Of course, nobody can question that suffering must be stopped and genocides must be punished, but our politicial leaders cannot pick and choose when to be principled and when not to be – unfortunately, it isn’t about what is right most of the time – it’s about what they can get away with.

    A current example is the contrast between Libya and Somalia – The West intervened in Libya because we couldn’t standby and allows thousands to possibly be murdered. However, we now have the knowledge that Islamist Militants are blocking foreign aid in Somalia, which may lead to 4,000,000 people dying. Yet, we do not seemingly have the political will to sort out this situation. I used the number for 4 million because it spells out the principle of our leaders – 4,000,000 vs 4,000. They’d choose the latter, if the risk-reward ratio was right.

    It’s a shame that the great work of humanitarian is not supported sufficiently by real military action that makes a difference. Although war only leads to more war, war is unfortunately a price worth paying in certain circumstances – for example – in somalia – to ensure that millions will die. Because an omission, is an afterall an action of unprincipled governments.

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