Academic journal article Melbourne Journal of International Law

What Happened to the International Community? R2P and the Conflicts in South Sudan and the Central African Republic

Academic journal article Melbourne Journal of International Law

What Happened to the International Community? R2P and the Conflicts in South Sudan and the Central African Republic

Article excerpt

Since the beginning of ethnic and religious conflicts in South Sudan and the Central African Republic in early 2014, it has been clear that crimes against humanity have been committed in both nations by all parties. This intra-state violence has resulted in the loss of thousands of lives, many thousands of injuries, grave human rights abuses and humanitarian crises of dramatic proportions. Pursuant to the new political doctrine of 'the responsibility to protect', the two states ' failure to assume responsibility for the protection of the human rights of their peoples might have been expected to trigger the international community's broader responsibility to intervene to prevent the further commission of mass atrocities. While the United Nations Security Council expressed its grave concern, however, such preventive actions as it took were too little and too late to stem the human catastrophes that unfolded. This article describes and analyses both conflicts, examines the international community's responses through the UN and associated regional organisations and seeks to explain why, at least in the first year of the conflict, the implementation of the responsibility to protect was again, after Libya and Syria, found wanting.


I   Introduction
II  South Sudan
III Central African Republic
IV  The Responsibility to Protect
      A The Africa Factor
      B Peacekeepers
      C Regional Considerations
      D South Sudan
      E Central African Republic
      F International Considerations
V   R2P: Missing in Action?
VI  Conclusion


How bad does it have to get before we act? Have we not learned by now from other conflicts that the longer they are ignored or neglected, the harder and costlier they become to solve? The Central African Republic is like some poor orphan right now, but in fact what it needs more than anything is to be adopted; for an authority to take on the role of leading international efforts to restore it to good order.


How is it possible for an entire country to become forgotten? That is the question I heard time and again from people living in mortal fear ... How did the world forget about us? (1)

In December 2013, violent internal conflicts broke out in two Central African countries: South Sudan and the Central African Republic ('CAR'). Within weeks it was clear that crimes against humanity and war crimes were being committed with impunity by all sides, in both places. Thousands were killed within a month. The significant majority of these were innocent civilians. The United Nations had peacekeeping and monitoring missions in South Sudan and CAR but neither had predicted an outbreak of violence and the commission of mass atrocities on the scale that occurred so precipitately. Both were completely overwhelmed, being reduced almost instantly to undertaking a residual, albeit critical, role in protecting civilians by housing and shielding them in UN facilities. All the preconditions for the international community, through the Security Council ('the Council'), to take action to halt the violence in accordance with the 'responsibility to protect' ('R2P') doctrine were present. And yet, 12 months later, fighting continued to spiral out of control and international crimes continued unabated. This article seeks to explain how and why the community of nations failed in its sincere but flawed endeavours to stop the criminal violence. In doing so, it is hoped that valuable lessons--conceptual and practical--may be learned, to strengthen strategies for atrocity prevention in the future. (2)


The world's newest nation, South Sudan, fell apart in a week in December 2013. In the preceding month, existing tensions between the principal factions in the ruling administration, the Sudan People's Liberation Movement ('SPLM'), had increased dramatically. (3) In early December, the former Vice-President, Riek Machar, had publicly accused the President, Salva Kiir, of acting unilaterally and dictatorially. …

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