Political expediency and humanitarian imperatives in response to genocide
This dissertation examines the humanitarian crisis in the Sudanese region of Darfur during 2003-2004, a situation that has continued through to 2005. Recent reports from the World Food Programme estimate that the violence carried out by the tacitly government-supported militias against the non-Arab civilian population in the region has left 3.5 million people hungry, 2.5 million displaced by the violence and 400, 000 dead.
The Darfur crisis has been a humanitarian disaster unseen since the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. It has been a situation that ultimately foreign governments and international organisations have been unable to ignore.
Chapter two examines firstly the theoretical questions behind humanitarian intervention. The realist theory of international affairsis at the heart of the debate – realism suggests that states should puttheir own security and self interest before any moral obligation to intervene. Set in the context of Darfur, there was nothing within the individual national interest of other individual states to intervene, yet at some point in the crisis the common assumption moved towards afeeling that intervention on the basis of humanity was required. The Rwandan genocide of 1994 and the international response at the time isused as an example of realism dictating the initial response of theinternational community, only to be overtaken by a more moral based response once the sheer scale of the crisis and human rights abuses became apparent.
Chapter three looks at events in Darfur in detail, from the beginnings of the crisis to the current situation. Using media sourcesas well as reports from organisation such as the UN and Human Rights Watch, this chapter summarises the main events of the crisis, with examples of the indiscriminate violence used by the government-backed Janjaweed militias against the civilian population in Darfur. The response of the Sudanese government along with the steps it took to prevent humanitarian intervention are describes, as are the actions, or in many cases, the inaction of sections of the international community. The actions of the Sudanese Government would appear to be driven by the state centric realism that Webber and Smith term “acentral driving force for human motivation, namely a quest for power”
Chapter Four attempts to analyse events in Darfur against the theoretical frameworks detailed in chapter two. Realist assumptions continue to carry a certain weight in international politics, but there are examples of some more ethical policy making within the international community. The roles of the Sudanese Government, the UN, the US and other Western nations are looked at against theoretical positions.
Chapter Five offers some conclusions on the internationalresponse to Darfur.
At the heart of any analysis of the international response to thecrisis in Darfur lies the question why should anyone care about Darfur.Whilst theories supporting just wars and humanitarian intervention fromthe likes of Kaldor and Walzer argue that there is a basic humanmorality that requires states that are able to intervene to stop thesuffering of oppressed people, a realist perspective, one thatrepresented the initial international response to Darfur, is that thekey value of national interest is independence and security. It is aquestion that has been at the crux of international relations forcenturies – intervention in the affairs of another sovereign state isan issue that has generated much debate.
State sovereignty has long been a fundamental pillar of internationalsociety and non-intervention has ensured that individual states canmaintain their political independence and territorial integrity.International organisations have generally supported this principlewith, for example, Resolution 2131 of the UN General Assembly in 1965stating:
“No state has the right to intervene, directly or indirectly in theinternal or external affairs of any other state. Consequently, armedintervention and all other forms of interference or attempted threatsagainst the personality of the State or against its political,economic, or cultural elements are condemned”. Regional organisationshave taken a similar stance – the Organisation of American Statestotally prohibits direct or indirect intervention in the affairs ofanother state. A wide range of political theory also supports the viewthat sovereignty is all-important and one state should not interfere inthe affairs of another.
Nonetheless, international affairs since the establishment of thenation-state have seen intervention by states in the affairs of otherfor a number of reasons. The earliest interventions were for economicand strategic reasons and to secure territorial security – nineteenthcentury European interventions in Africa and Asia to establish coloniesserve as an example of this. In the early twentieth century the USbegan to utilise a different type of intervention, intervening in theaffairs of Central American states such as Nicaragua to encouragedomestic political order, reduce economic corruption and reinforce itsown influence in the region. Such action drew the attention of realistcritics who have influence US foreign policy thinking more recently.Realists have alleged that the adherence to moral principles and thefailure in the past to understand the “power essence” of interstaterelations has led to unwise and unsuccessful policies , for example tofailed humanitarian intervention in Somalia. Certainly, the memories ofSomalia will have effected thinking on a political and humanitarianresponse to Darfur.
The Cold War saw intervention across the globe by the two superpowerseither to enhance their own strategic security or to advanceideological goals, for example the USSR moving to strengthen communismin Czechoslovakia in 1968 or the US challenging anti-democratic forcesin Grenada in 1983.
It is however, humanitarian intervention that is most relevant to thesituation in Darfur, an type of intervention that according to JackDonnelly is foreign intervention that seeks “to remedy mass andflagrant violations of the basic rights of foreign nationals by theirgovernment” The failure of states and subsequent abuses of humanrights in the latter stages of the twentieth century have presentedother governments with numerous scenarios where they have to makedecisions as to whether military intervention for humanitarian reasonsis justified. It is a complex issue that poses a number of legal andmoral issues.
Amstutz argues that humanitarian intervention presents a legalchallenge to the accepted systems of state sovereignty along with amoral challenge to the right of self-determination. Whilst the demandfor order, justice, stability and human rights may override theseconcerns, politicians are also faced with the decision as to whether,how and when their country should instigate humanitarian intervention.Such interventions can generally be justified if two criteria are met:firstly that humanitarian intervention be in the interests of theintervening state, i.e. that it perceives the human rights abuses inthe foreign state as a general threat to the order, legitimacy andmorality of global society, or as a particular threat to its owneconomic prosperity; secondly that the intervention must be in theinterests of the civilian population of the intervened state and thatthe legal and moral issues around military intervention can bejustified by the overall good that is accomplished. NATO interventionin Bosnia can be seen as an example of a situation that met the formercriteria, the situationsin both Rwanda and Darfur would appear to meetthe latter.
Michael Walzer who has written extensively on just war theory andintervention argues that humanitarian intervention should be seen asdifferent from instigating a military conflict. As well as the legalistargument against intervention in the affairs of another state, there isalso the difficulty of intervention in a country that has not committedaggression against another state – there is a danger that interveningstates can be seen as portraying the message treat your people the waywe believe you should or be subject to the threat of armed punishment.Walzer nonetheless believes that even if intervention threatens theterritory and political independence of another state, there are timeswhen it can be justified. The onus of proof of justification howeverlies with the leader of the state that intervenes and this can be aheavy burden, “not only because of the coercions and ravages thatmilitary intervention brings, but also because it is thought that thecitizens of a sovereign state have a right, insofar as they are to becoerced and ravaged at all, to suffer only at one another’s hands”.
Arguments that states should, regardless of how they are governed,should be left to deal with own affairs and influenced by the thoughtsof John Stuart Mill who argued from a utilitarian viewpoint stronglyfor the right of a single political community to determine its ownaffairs – whether or not its political arrangements are free is not anissue for other states – members of any political society mustcultivate their own freedom in the way that individuals must cultivatetheir own virtue, self-help rather than intervention from an externalforce must be the way towards a just society. Such arguments do notstand up when applied to some of the systematic and well-documentedhuman rights abuses of the twentieth century – foreign governments makedecisions based on a realist perspective not to intervene, butnon-intervention based on the idea of self-determination is to avoidthe issue and hide behind outdated ideas. There is a point at whichrealism has to be put aside and some form of moral stance must betaken. For Walzer, there are three situations in which theinternational resistance to boundary crossings can be ignored:
1. when a particular set of boundaries clearly contains two or morepolitical communities, one of which is already engaged in a large-scalemilitary struggle for independence; that is, when what is at issue issecession or ‘national liberation’
2. when the boundaries have already been crossed by the armies of aforeign power, even if the crossing has been called for by one of theparties in a civil war, that is, when what is at issue iscounter-intervention; and
3. when the violation of human rights within a set of boundaries is soterrible that it makes talk of community or self-determination or‘arduous struggle’ seem cynical or irrelevant, that is, in cases onenslavement or massacre
His criteria present a realistic scope for intervention. For all theideas of ethical foreign policies there has to be some realism ininternational relations in that states cannot simply intervene in everydispute between neighbours or outbreaks of political unrest in otherstates. Walzer’s criteria, particular his third, limit interventionwhen serious abuses of human rights appear to be taking place. At thispoint, political expediency and national self-interest should be putaside.
Ultimately, Walzer’s thinking lead him towards an ethical theory ofpeace on the basis of sovereignty and other widely accepted states’rights. His values form the basis of a legalist paradigm, which providethe moral and legal structure for maintaining international peace. Hislegal paradigm also outlines the criteria for use of force tointervene. Its six key principles are:
1. An international society of independent states exists;
2. The states comprising the international society have rights,including the rights of territorial integrity and political sovereignty;
3. The use of force or threat of force by one state against another constitutes aggression and is a criminal act;
4. Aggression justifies two types of action: a war of self-defence bythe victim and a war of law enforcement by the victim and any othermembers of the international society;
5. Nothing but aggression justifies war
6. After the aggressor state has been militarily repulsed, it can be punished.
Irrespective of the situation in a particular state and the legal ormoral issues around any form of intervention, the realist view ofinternational affairs can lead statesmen to decide againstintervention. Realists from Thucydides, Hobbes and Machiavelli throughto the likes of Kissinger and Waltz remain strictly sceptical aboutmoral concepts within international relations and assume that statesgoing to war or engaging in any form of intervention are more motivatedby power and their own national security than any moral issues. Thephrase “all’s fair in love and war” is often applied to the realistperspective with Walzer writing “referring specifically to war,realists believe that it is an intractable part of an anarchical worldsystem, that it ought to be resorted to only if it makes sense in termsof national self-interest” – in effect there are no moralconsideration in regard to military intervention, the human rightsabuses occurring in another state are of little importance to realists,intervention will only be considered if it is considered to beeconomically or strategically of value to the intervening state or itsleaders. This value can be political on occasions. There is littledoubt of the power of modern media to put pressure on politicians. TheUS intervention in Somalia and NATO action in Bosnia were to someextent related to public pressure on politicians to do something aboutscenes being broadcast into the homes of the electorate.
Thinking on humanitarian intervention has had to adapt more recently tothe new type of wars that have proliferated across the globe since theend of the Cold War, for example the conflicts in the former Yugoslaviadriven by ancient ethnic hatreds. Certainly with the demise of thestand off between two military superpowers there has been greater scopefor the UN and individual states to become involved in conflictresolution and throughout the 1990s the UN has found itself constantlyinvolved in providing humanitarian aid, establishing safe havens,disarmament and demobilisation operations, monitoring and maintainingceasefires.
New wars have involved a blurring of the distinction between war(usually defined as violence between states or organised politicalgroups), organised crime (violence undertaken by privately organisedgroups for private purposes, usually financial gain) and large-scaleviolations of human rights (violence undertaken by states orpolitically organised groups against individual). Some of the ethnichatred that has fuelled new wars has in particular led to terriblehuman rights abuses; events that put moral pressure on others states toconsider intervention. Mary Kaldor suggests that there are two types ofresponse to new wars – one is to draw on the old war idea of the nationstate and look for solutions along the lines of intervention and peacekeeping whilst the other response is a more negative and fatalisticoutlook: “because the wars cannot be understood in traditional terms,they are thought to represent a reversion to primitivism or anarchy andthe most that can be done therefore is to ameliorate the symptoms. Inother words, wars are treated as natural disasters.”
Kaldor’s view rightly challenge the realist assumption that statesshould not involve themselves in humanitarian intervention unless thereis some advantage to be gained in a self-interested pursuit of power.What is required is a more political response to new wars and theattacks on human rights that accompany them. The internationalcommunity should be looking towards politics of inclusion that capturethe hearts and minds of protagonists and any such politicalmobilisation should override traditional geopolitics or short termdomestic concerns. This type of thinking moves closer to a type ofneo-realism which places more of an emphasis on the structural featuresof the international system and avoids the stress on the often anarchicstriving for power that reflects traditional realism. The drawback tothe neo realist approach is that its reliance on the determining impactof the structure of the international system allow policy makersrelatively little discretion. This can be seen to some extent in Darfuras representative from various states struggled to find a solution tothe crisis that met with consensus.
There have of course been embarrassments for individual states andinternational organisations with attempts at humanitarian interventionin the 1990s, setbacks that will give weight to realist theory thatsovereign states should on the whole be left well alone. Kaldorconcludes that humanitarian intervention has had mixed success:
“at best, people have been fed and fragile ceasefires have beenagreed….at worst the UN has been shamed and humiliated, as, forexample, when it failed to prevent genocide in Rwanda, when theso-called safe haven of Srebrenica was overrun by Bosnian Serbs, orwhen the hunt for the Somali warlord Aideed ended in a mixture of farceand tragedy”.
Nonetheless, the arguments for humanitarian intervention remain strong.Darfur is as good an example as any for this. As Orend writes “whyshould foreign states, which themselves respect human rights, be barredin principle from intervening in such illegitimate regimes?”
Rwanda in particular serves as an example of both foreign states andinternational organisations initially taking a realist stance only toeventually to be spurred into action by the sheer scale of the genocidetaking place. In France’s case, the links between the powerful elitesin the two countries had long been established – not only had Francelong supported the Hutu regime but Francois Mitterand and RwandanPresident Habyarimana were personal friends, whilst their sons, JeanChristopher and Jean-Pierre were also friends and business associates.The two countries had mutual economic interests and there is evidencethat Jean Christopher was one of France’s biggest arms dealers to Rwanda.
The French response to the developing crisis, when it came, was farfrom glorious. Rather than intervene to provide further killings itdecided to pull out its troops. In the previous week, the first of thegenocide they had evacuated as many as 1361 people including 450 Frenchnationals and 178 Rwandan officials and their families. No otherRwandan nationals were evacuated, not even Tutsi personnel from theFrench embassy or well-known opponents of the regime who had alreadybeen targeted by the militia.
The role of the United Nations mission (UNAMIR) has receivedconsiderable criticism in analyses of the genocide. The UN had its owninternal politics to contend with and its policies on Rwanda were inturn determined to some extent by realist self-interest. As anorganisation it was largely reliant on the support of its most powerfulmembers on the Security Council. These nations, mindful of thedisastrous US intervention in Somalia were wary of investing troops andfinances into another African conflict. Realism came to the forefrontof the early decision making process. Human Rights Watch, in additionto criticism of the UN for not taking heed of Dallaire’s warnings, isalso critical of the scale of the mandate itself. It describes thedetails of the mandate as follows:
“Not only was the UN slow, it was also stingy. The United States, whichwas assessed 31 per cent of UN peacekeeping costs, had suffered fromthe enormous 370 per cent increase in peacekeeping expenses from 1992to 1993 and was in the process of reviewing its policy on such operations.
Quite simply the UN was not equipped to keep the peace in Rwanda.Members on its influential Security Council did not have the politicalwill to get involved, nor were they willing to take on the financialburden. The US and the UK, although less involved in Rwanda thanFrance, were similarly guilty of happily ignoring warnings of possiblegenocide and working towards the maintenance of the status quo. Bothhad sold arms to the Hutu regime and had trading links with Rwanda.Both also had little desire to see their own troops caught up as partof an UN force in Rwanda. The theory of non-intervention, as opposed torealism is another view that opposes humanitarian intervention. The keyassumptions and values for this concept are
• the existing anarchic international system is morally legitimate
• peoples have a right to political self-determination
• states have a juridical right to sovereignty and territorial integrity
• states have an obligation to resolve conflicts peacefully
• force is a illegitimate instrument for altering the existing territorial boundaries
Non –intervention theory argues in favour of an internationallegitimacy of states in which existing states are entitled to autonomyand domestic legitimacy which assumes that states are entitled torespect and support when they fulfil their core obligations as states.In terms of domestic legitimacy, in the light of the fact that thereare wide disparities in conceptions of human rights, this canessentially be interpreted that whether a state is entitled tonon-intervention depends largely on its subject’s approval of theregime itself.
The counter-arguments of realism and moral intervention continue toplay a major role in international politics and are likely to continueto do so. It is a sad fact that the list of oppressive governments andmassacred populations is lengthy. Walzer points out that for every Naziholocaust or Rwanda there will be a number of smaller examples ofinjustice and abuse – so many that the international community cannothope to deal with. On a small scale at least, Walzer’s suggestion that“states don’t send their soldiers into other states, it seems, only tosave lives. The lives of foreigners don’t weigh that heavily in thescales of domestic decision-making” rings true – humanitarianintervention in smaller-scale situations is simply not realistic. Agreater test for the moral resolve of NGOs and wealthier nations istheir response in the face of large-scale humanitarian disasters andhuman rights abuses, again using Walzer’s words, when dealing with acts“that shock the moral conscience of mankind”.
Ethical questions around the issues of international moral obligationstowards nations suffering from oppressive regimes and human rightsabuses are not easily resolved. Whilst humanitarian aid or interventionis generally seen as a morally correct route of action, politicalexpediency quite often takes precedence. Whilst it is generallyaccepted that, as Grotius believed, war ought not to be undertakenexcept for the enforcement of right and when once undertaken it shouldbe carried on within the bounds of law and good faith, national selfinterest does not always allow for a strategy led by such moralincentives. In Darfur, the action of the Khartoum Government couldcertainly not be described as driven by moral incentives whilstelsewhere early responses to the crisis were driven by politicalexpediency Major states have to ask themselves which moral valuesshould influence their foreign policies and which international valueis more important – sovereignty or human rights? The answer should behuman rights, yet there is a fine line between using these values froma moral perspective or manipulating them into a realist opportunity toindulge the national interest with intervention elsewhere. There areother difficult questions – do human rights violations justify foreignintervention and at what scale? Does international political moralityrequire the removal of illegal military regimes and the restoration ofdemocracy? There are countless regimes around the world to which theworld might turn its attention and ask itself these questions. For themost part, small conflicts and small-scale abuse of human rights are,rightly or wrongly, ignored. The situation in Darfur from 2003 onwardshowever gave the international community a scenario that it could notignore. The world had to make decisions upon hundreds of thousands oflives would rest.
Chapter Three – The crisis in Darfur
The current situation in Darfur can be traced back to February 2003when fighters from the Sudanese Liberation Movement (SLM) and theJustice and Equality Movement (JEM) launched joints attacks againstgovernment garrisons in protest at what they saw as decades ofpolitical oppression and economic neglect by the Sudanese government.The attacks came at the same time that there had been high hopes of apeace settlement to the war in southern Sudan that had been ongoingbetween the government and the Sudan People’s Liberation Movement/Army(SPLM/A) since independence in 1965.
The government’s response was unequivocal. Citing the rebels as anaggressive force against the state it set out to crush the rebellion byforce and utilised the powerful force of Arab Janjaweed militias toattack not particularly rebel soldiers but the civilian populationsfrom where the rebels would have originated. The government expectedto crush the revolt, partly as it had done so in 1991 when a SPLA unitinfiltrated Darfur, and partly as it expected a lack on internationalinterest as Darfur was an internal Northern Sudanese issue with noChristian population and no oil interests involved. Khartoum –ledmilitary activity in late 2003 to early 2004 was brutal (“acounter-insurgency of extraordinary ferocity”) and carried out whilstthe government prevented any humanitarian aid reaching the civilianpopulation. It was an action led by political expediency withabsolutely no regard for the human rights of an innocent civilianpopulation. Hugo Slim describes the military action as completelydisproportionate to the targeted guerrilla warfare of the two Darfurinsurgent groups and states that “systematic and widespread governmentand Janjaweed assaults on civilians, their villages, theirinfrastructure and their livelihoods along with forced displacement andland-grabbing, intended to make it impossible for the terrorised andevicted populations to return. As this went on, the Government alsoenforced what was almost a complete ban on humanitarian aid accessingthe country between October 2003 and February 2004.
Early talks on the crisis saw the Khartoum Government deliberatelystonewall on major issues. It objected to upgrading the small AUobserver force from 300 to 3500,with an increase in its mandate toinclude protecting civilians, and was then forced to accept thismeasure by the UN Security Council. It was a realist approach – lookingsolely after its own interests and using delay in an internationalresponse to move along with its aim to displace the population ofDrafur.
Government and Janjaweed Cooperation
There is little realdoubt that the government has worked closely with the Janjaweedmilitias. Human Rights Watch (HRW) investigations concluded thatgovernment forces and militia troops have taken part in massacres andsummary executions of civilians, burnings of towns and villages andforcible depopulation of areas across Darfur. ”We are the government”has been a common response of Janjaweed at checkpoints and whenentering villages and HRW reports that “the government and itsJanjaweed allies have killed thousands of Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa –often in cold blood, raped women and destroyed villages, food stocksand other supplies essential to the civilian population.”.
In the early stages of the conflict, the Sudanese government barelyattempted to conceal its close working with the Janjaweed. Mans writesthat “the Janjaweed militias are said to be of largely Chadian originand finance themselves through plunder and pillage, reportedly enjoyingimplicit support from the Government in Khartoum.” But this isunderstating the relationship between the two. In April 2004, theSudanese Foreign Minister, Mustafa Osman Ismail, admitted a commoncause with the Janjaweed stating “the government may have turned ablind eye to the militias…This is true. Because these militia aretargeting the rebellion.” President Bashir also had spoken on 31December 2003 of the government’s determination to defeat the SLArebellions and warned darkly that “the horsemen” would be one of theweapons it would use.
There is other clear evidence of well established links between thegovernment and Janjaweed leaders. Many of the militia leaders areestablished emirs or omdas from Arab tribes who have previously workedin government. For example, Abdullah abu Shineibat, an emir of the BeniHalba tribe is a Janjaweed leader in the Habila-Murnei area, whilstOmar Saef, an omda of the Awlad Zeid tribe is leader of the Janjaweedfrom Geineina to Misterei. Other evidence pointed to a similarconclusion of complicity between government and militia: Janjaweedbrigades were organised along army lines with forces wearing similaruniforms and officers using the same stripes; militia forces used thesame land cruisers and satellite phones as army personnel and there isevidence that Janjaweed members were given assurances that they wouldnot face local prosecution for crimes, with police forces beinginstructed to leave them alone. Again, the prevailing issue here ispolitical expediency overcoming any possible humanitarian response.Both the Government and Janjaweed had interests in devastating Darfur –there was political gain for the Government and financial gain for theJanjaweed. Both took the realist option of looking after themselves.
Government and Militia forces attack civilians
One of the mostnotable traits of the crisis in Darfur has been the fact that bothgovernment and militia forces have largely ignored rebel forces,preferring to use their weapons against the civilian population inareas that rebels may have originated from. HRW investigationsuncovered 14 incidents in Dar Masalit alone between September 2003 andFebruary 2004 in which 770 civilians were killed. It also gatheredwitness testimony to mass executions in the Fur areas of Wadi Salihprovince over the same period.
Aerial bombardment of civilians has also been commonplace. The SudaneseGovernment has made extensive use of attack aircraft, dropping bombsloaded with metal shards to cause maximum injury and also utilisinghelicopter gun ships and MiG jet fighters. Bombing has also beendeliberately targeted at villages and towns where displaced citizenshave gathered – for example on August 27 2003, aircraft carried out anattack on the town of Habila which was packed with displaced civiliansfrom surrounding areas. 24 were killed.
Government and Janjaweed forces have also systematically attacked anddestroyed villages, food stocks, water sources and other essentialitems essential for the survival of villages in West Darfur. Refugeesin Chad have confirmed a sweep south east of Geneeina in February 2004saw the destruction of a number of villages including Nouri, Chakoke,Urbe, Jabun and Jedida.
The International Response
The international response to the situation in Darfur has been mixed,characterised by a willingness to condemn the Sudanese Governmentalongside a dragging of heels in actually intervening to stop what theUS Government has labelled genocide. Alex De Waal suggests thatpolitical repercussions for the Sudanese Government were gravewriting: “International attention and condemnation exceeded allexpectations, culminating in Darfur being brought before the UnitedNations Security Council in July 2004” This analysis however fails tomention the scale of the crisis in the preceding months and suggests amore positive and effective response by the international communitythan was actually the case.. The international community may eventuallyhave come around to taking Darfur seriously – but much later than wasrequired. As Hugo Slim concludes: “the international community has notdenied, but it has delayed and dithered. Once engaged it fumbled andtook far too long to achieve a united and sufficiently assertiveresponse.”
There was a notable reluctance from the UN in particular to use theword genocide in relation to Darfur, a similar pattern to that had beenfollowed in Rwanda a decade earlier. It was in fact US Secretary ofState Powell that announced on September 9th 2004 that the USgo