Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A New Commitment to Stopping Genocide

President-elect Barack Obama recently announced his choice of Susan E. Rice for Ambassador to the United Nations. She supports U.N. intervention in the worse cases of civil rights violations, such as in the ongoing genocidal war in Sudan.

Rice's personal experience of the Rwanda genocide led her to believe that the international community has the duty to act to protect endangered populations.
[T]he posting will offer Rice a platform from which to decry long-standing global concerns. For instance, she has voiced a commitment to use American muscle to protect human rights in Africa, particularly in Darfur, where she has raised the prospect of a naval blockade and a bombing campaign to compel the Sudanese government to halt mass violence.

Rice has spoken movingly about how she was shaken by the genocide in Rwanda, where as many as 800,000 were killed. Describing a 1994 visit to the country, Rice told Stanford University's alumni magazine that she saw "hundreds if not thousands of decomposing corpses outside and inside a church. Corpses that had been hacked up. It was the most horrible thing I've ever seen. It makes you mad. It makes you determined."

Since then, Rice has said she has been haunted by the United States' failure to intervene or to reinforce a beleaguered U.N. peacekeeping mission in Rwanda on the eve of the genocide.

"Rice has learned a lesson from what happened in Rwanda, and, together with the incoming secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, she cannot turn a blind eye on anything happening in Africa," said James Kimonyo, Rwanda's ambassador to the United States. "We are very optimistic she is going to be effective" in her new post, he said.
Pope Benedict XVI in his address to the United Nations this year affirmed this principle of the international body's responsibility to protect.
Recognition of the unity of the human family, and attention to the innate dignity of every man and woman, today find renewed emphasis in the principle of the responsibility to protect. This has only recently been defined, but it was already present implicitly at the origins of the United Nations, and is now increasingly characteristic of its activity. Every State has the primary duty to protect its own population from grave and sustained violations of human rights, as well as from the consequences of humanitarian crises, whether natural or man-made. If States are unable to guarantee such protection, the international community must intervene with the juridical means provided in the United Nations Charter and in other international instruments. The action of the international community and its institutions, provided that it respects the principles undergirding the international order, should never be interpreted as an unwarranted imposition or a limitation of sovereignty. On the contrary, it is indifference or failure to intervene that do the real damage. What is needed is a deeper search for ways of pre-empting and managing conflicts by exploring every possible diplomatic avenue, and giving attention and encouragement to even the faintest sign of dialogue or desire for reconciliation.

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