Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Would the World Allow Another Genocide?

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Would the World Allow Another Genocide?

Article excerpt

As quickly as Rwanda began its descent into genocide 10 years ago, the world community began its retreat from any serious effort to help stop the frenzy that killed nearly 1 million people in just 100 days.

Now, amid somber commemorations of those events, one question looms large: If a similar atrocity exploded now, would the international community again "pass by on the other side" while hundreds of thousands were killed?

Many observers say it probably would. Places like Rwanda are still far removed from the center of world events. With no oil and no terrorist cells, its strategic value to the world is small.

Nonetheless there are subtle signs that the world is more prepared to act on reports of mass killing.

"Genocide prevention is being taken more seriously by governments. There is, at least, much greater awareness," says James Smith, head of the Aegis Trust, which is orchestrating commemoration events in Rwanda this week. But, he adds, "I'm skeptical of the idea that another genocide would be prevented by the international community."

There are, for instance, new anti-genocide structures: The UN and US now have officials devoted exclusively to the prevention of mass killings. New forums for crimes against humanity have emerged with the establishment of the International Criminal Court in The Hague last year, Belgian courts has tested the limits of "universal justice" in human rights cases, and the ongoing Yugoslav and Rwanda war-crimes tribunals. UN chief Kofi Annan is expected to announce Wednesday a new early-warning system to help prevent genocide.

More fundamental, resistance to keeping troops overseas has lessened drastically in a decade. Back in April 1994, when Rwanda's genocide started, Americans had just watched the bodies of marines being dragged through Somalia's streets after their Blackhawk helicopters were downed. It was one reason the US refused to condone a robust UN humanitarian mission to stop Rwanda's genocide.

Today American troops are deployed across the globe, and despite challenges in Iraq, the troops don't appear to be headed home soon. Recent French and American troop deployments in Ivory Coast, Liberia, and Haiti are further examples of a new willingness to deploy. "The stomach for war is much stronger," observes Anne Morris, country director for the international aid group, CARE, in Rwanda.

There's also a growing desire by Africans to intervene in their continent's conflicts. The new African Union plans to create a rapid- reaction force to help end wars. Through NEPAD, another Africa-wide organization, nations are undergoing "peer review" - criticism by their neighbors. It hints at a growing consensus to challenge the long-sacred concept of state sovereignty, which has traditionally been a key argument against interventions. …

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