Myanmar and Pillar II of the Responsibility to Protect

This month’s AIPR Blog post was written by Dominique Fraser, a current post-graduate student at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia. Her Honours thesis examines peacekeeping in Africa and the relationship between the African Union and the UN. Her research interests also include mass atrocity crime prevention and the Responsibility to Protect (R2P). In previous blog posts for AIPR, Ms. Fraser analyzed the ongoing turmoil in the Central African Republic and the impact of UNAMID in Darfur. Today, she looks at the myriad of protection challenges facing Myanmar and opportunities for the international community to assist this transitioning country within the framework of R2P’s Pillar II.

r-boyMyanmar is in a period of transition from a political dictatorship to a more inclusive democracy. From a mass atrocities prevention perspective, this change is positive: states that are less transparent are more likely to commit genocide, crimes against humanity, ethnic cleansing and war crimes—acts collectively known as atrocity crimes. However, countries that are in transition are particularly vulnerable to the commission of these crimes. During transitions, ‘the old fault lines of ethnic conflict come to the fore again and tensions increase and lead to violence.’ Myanmar currently faces several such challenges, including ‘communal problems in Rakhine State, conflicts in the Kachin, Kayin and Shan states, religious discrimination, and protest control.’ These may lead to the (continued) commission of mass atrocity crimes if the international community does not assist Myanmar to protect its population.

Myanmar’s Protection Challenges in Focus

map1The western Rakhine state continues to see inter-communal conflict and internal population displacements of the local Muslim Rohingya population. The government of Myanmar explicitly denies the existence of the Rohingya ethnicity, instead stating that they are of Bengali descent and therefore not citizens of Myanmar. Rohingya are subject to arbitrary arrest, detention and harassment. To date, ‘at least 200 Rohingyas have been killed and perhaps 140,000 mostly Rohingyas displaced’. Former UN special rapporteur, Tomás Ojea Quintana, has said that violence against the Rohingya could amount to crimes against humanity.

These tensions may escalate with the upcoming elections tentatively set for November this year. While during the 2010 election, many Rohingya were given so-called ‘white cards’ that allowed them to vote, officials have indicated that these cards may not be renewed when they expire on March 31, 2015. This would mean that the Rohingya might not be allowed to vote. Continue reading

UN Emergency Peace Service and R2P

History has shown the importance of both robust and timely action in the face of mass atrocities. With this in mind, proponents of the United Nations Emergency Peace Service (UNEPS) aim to create a permanent standing UN military service to protect civilians in extreme risk. In today’s guest post, Annie Herro, a professor at the Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Sydney and author of a new book about UNEPS, examines the proposal and highlights a path forward based on a range of interviews with UNEPS proponents and critics for this innovative, yet controversial idea.

b-helmet-1The UN has long been criticized for deploying peacekeepers “too little, too late” in response to conflict and mass atrocities. The gap between the number of peacekeepers promised by the UN Security Council and those actually deployed can be seen right now in the Central African Republic. Last April, the Council finally authorized a UN peace operation – MINUSCA – with a mandate to protect civilians, support a democratic transition and deliver humanitarian aid, but full deployment is anticipated for April 2015 – a full year after the UN gave the green light. A complete and robust mission was needed immediately to help end the violence.

Late deployments are bad enough, but the failure to deploy a peace operation at all is also commonplace. In the case of Syria, there have been calls for a robust international response to honor the international community’s responsibility to protect (R2P) since the start of the fighting in 2011. Such calls have fallen on deaf ears.

How can the international community’s ability and preparedness to prevent and halt atrocities and protect civil­ians be improved? How can we ensure that UN-sanctioned interventions are legitimate in the eyes of the intervened and do not tarnish the reputation and the norms of the organization they represent?

herro-1My book, UN Emergency Peace Service and the Responsibility to Protect, explores attitudes towards a possible answer to these questions: the UN Emergency Peace Service (UNEPS) proposal. UNEPS is a civil society-led proposal for a permanent service that would be directly recruited, trained, equipped and controlled by the UN. The UNEPS proposal is not the first attempt to create a permanent UN service – what some have called a UN ‘Legion.’ The idea has its roots in the inter-war years and since then has periodically resurfaced, championed by diverse actors in academic, diplo­matic and political circles. Continue reading

UNAMID: An Effective Force for Prevention?

More than a decade after civil society across the globe mobilized to end mass atrocities in Darfur, reports of mass rapes and killings continue to trickle out of western Sudan. In today’s blog post, AIPR guest blogger Dominique Fraser, who most recently analyzed the conflict in CAR, scrutinizes the impact of UNAMID, the African Union – United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur, for its failure to provide sustainable peace and security for Darfuris. As with all AIPR Blog posts, the personal opinions of the author do not reflect the views of AIPR.


The current Darfur crisis began over ten years ago and soon gained international attention with civil society groups and celebrities like George Clooney trying to push the crisis to the top of the agenda of Western policy makers. Now Darfur is again in the news. On 6 November, the Guardian published an article detailing how the Sudanese government prevented the UN-AU peacekeeping mission UNAMID from reaching a town in North Darfur, where 200 women and girls had allegedly been raped. Only a week earlier, in an article by Foreign Policy, readers learned that an internal UN probe found that UNAMID had withheld evidence detailing culpability of Sudanese armed forces and their proxies in committing crimes against civilians and peacekeepers. Such reports, although shocking, do not surprise those who have followed the crisis closely. The mission was set up as a compromise between the UN and Sudan. It was therefore quite predictable that the mission would not be able to function without impediments by the Sudanese government and that UNAMID would need to spend considerable time and effort to gain the cooperation of the government.

After the outbreak of violence in early 2003, the international community was initially quite apathetic in its response. This was despite the U.S. terming the crisis a “genocide” in September 2004 and UN findings that serious crimes against humanity were being committed by government militia, the janjaweed. However, the permanent members of the UN Security Council had little interest in getting involved: while the U.S. and UK were preoccupied with the peace talks between North and South Sudan and the internationally unpopular invasion of Iraq, Russia and China were more interested in protecting their weapons and oil investments in Sudan than stopping the rapes and killings in Darfur. Continue reading

Do the Right Thing: Exploring Corporate Social Responsibility with Owen Pell

Welcome to the latest edition of AIPR’s Podcasts in Prevention. Our last interview tackled Early Warning Systems with University of Otago lecturer Dr. Charles Butcher. Today’s podcast features an interview conducted by Samuel Gillespie with Owen Pell, a partner at White and Case LLP in New York City and an AIPR Board Member. Pell’s areas of practice include complex commercial litigation, securities litigation, litigation involving foreign sovereigns and their state-owned entities, and litigation involving issues of public international law. Mr. Pell has also handled important cases in the area of corporate social responsibility, including by representing Citigroup in class actions relating to the bank’s activities in South Africa during the former apartheid regime, and JP Morgan Chase in class actions relating to a predecessor bank’s alleged connections to African slavery in the United States.

For those people who don’t know what corporate social responsibility means, can you just briefly outline the concept and tell me what it means to you?

Corporate social responsibility can mean a lot of things—it’s a spectrum of activities. It can mean everything from a corporation simply giving money to charity and otherwise doing good works, to a corporation attempting to change society for the better in a direct way including the way that may actually relate to its business.

How did you become interested in corporate social responsibility?

I became interested in it because I’ve worked on cases involving corporations that have done business in parts of the world where bad things have happened, and have been sued for being in proximity to those bad things. So corporations that have been accused of not doing enough to stop bad things from happening, like genocide or mass atrocities, or corporations that were accused of aiding or abetting those kinds of activities because they chose to do business in certain countries at certain times.

In the scope of genocide prevention, can you cite any examples of how corporations sponsor efforts to prevent genocide? I know for example you are serving on the board of AIPR, but is there anything that your corporation or other large corporations do in that respect?

Well, I think that the best examples that are out there of companies taking steps to somehow prevent genocide from occurring, or prevent mass atrocities, you would have to look at examples like the Kimberly Process where companies in the diamond business agree to set up a supply chain system that reduced the chances that the diamonds they were buying were diamonds that were mined by child mercenaries who were being forced to work in mines in places like the Congo. So the Kimberly Process is an attempt by companies to not directly or indirectly support people who, in turn, might be committing atrocities. Another example, not necessarily as closely connected to genocide, but still relevant, were the West African Cocoa Accords, where a group of companies that represented 99% of the cocoa buying market—in terms of companies that do everything from food to fragrances to makeup—those companies agreed to set up a system that would make it less likely that they would buy their cocoa from places where there was a high percentage of child labor. On the theory that child labor is bad and that we ought to move countries away from it, but that the way to do that was to stop buying cocoa from those areas. Continue reading

Iraqi Minorities: The Responsibility to Protect

Today’s guest post on the threats facing ethnic and religious minorities in Iraq—and steps the international community can take to protect these vulnerable groups—was written by Romsin McQuade, an undergraduate student at Temple University in Philadelphia. He has previously written about Iraq’s Assyrian community for The Telegraph UK and about his own identity as an Assyrian in a column for his university newspaper, The Temple News. As with all AIPR Blog guest posts, the views of the author do not necessarily reflect the views of AIPR.


Yazidis1They never saw it coming: After managing to survive al-Qaeda in Iraq’s decade long onslaught in the midst of the Iraq War, and the subsequent American exit, Iraq’s minorities thought the worst was over.

The Islamic State’s (IS) expansion from hubs in northeastern Syria to Mosul in Iraq has been particularly unfortunate; northern Iraq is the last stronghold – or, what remains– of Iraq’s minorities, which have been mercilessly targeted. IS’ message to minorities – such as Assyrians (the indigenous people of Iraq who speak Aramaic and belong to the Ancient Church of the East, Assyrian Church of the East, Syriac Orthodox Church, Chaldean Catholic Church, and the Syriac Catholic Church) and Yezidis (an ancient Kurdish-speaking religious minority synchronizing aspects of Zoroastrianism, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) – has been strikingly clear: convert, leave, or “face the sword.”  Dehumanized, threatened with their lives, and forced out of their homes, the possibility of genocide occurring in the cradle of civilization has never been more palpable.

While humanitarian aid has been pouring in from both the West and the Arab world, it is certainly not a sustainable measure. Just weeks ago, tens of thousands of Yezidis were stranded atop Mount Sinjar, northwest of Mosul, and were threatened with death if they descended from the mountain. U.S. airstrikes were essential in destabilizing IS bases and military vehicles surrounding the mountain; however, some Yezidis that were unable to flee to the Kurdistan region set out for nearby villages, such as Kojo, wherein Islamic State militants rounded up and executed over 80 Yezidi civilians. Continue reading

Interview with early warning forecasting expert Dr. Charles Butcher

Welcome to the first edition in a new podcast series from the Auschwitz Institute for Peace and Reconciliation. My name is Samuel Gillespie and today I will be discussing early warning forecasting, a new strategy in the field of genocide prevention. Joining me today is Charles Butcher PhD, a lecturer at the National Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies out of the University of Otago in New Zealand. As part of his focus on genocide forecasting and group participation in violent and nonviolent conflict, Dr. Butcher coauthored a report titled “Understanding and Forecasting Political Instability and Genocide for Early Warning” published in 2012. The report drew international attention after the forecasting model accurately predicted the mass atrocities in the Central African Republic. How are you today Charles?  

Well thanks, thank you for having me on.

Thank you for joining us. What sparked your interest in early warning forecasting?

Well I was very fortunate to have associate professor Ben Goldsmith as my doctoral supervisor at the University of Sydney. My PhD dissertation was on understanding the spatial dimensions of civil war violence, so in other words, why some places experience a lot of violence in civil wars, and others not so much. So I was familiar with the existing research on armed conflict and then at the end of my dissertation Ben brought me on board with the Atrocity Forecasting project with the University of Sydney, which also involved some colleagues at the University of New South Wales. At this point, the idea of even predicting mass atrocities was fairly new and interesting to me, so just the idea of prediction at that point brought me on board. The more I’ve worked on this over time, I’ve become increasingly convinced that the early warning of mass atrocities can have a real preventative impact and there have been a couple of recent studies that have solidified my opinion on this, by Matt Krain and Jacqueline Demara. They seem to show that naming and shaming of perpetrators and potential perpetrators can reduce the severity of civilian killings or prevent them from beginning. These might not be huge impacts, but small impacts really matter in these situations where we’re talking about thousands and thousands of people being killed and even a greater magnitude being displaced. So I thought that knowing where to look for instances of mass killing before they occur is a pretty obvious public good in this regard and given our tools, forecasting tools can be constructed with data that’s already publicly available and demonstrate a relatively high degree of accuracy, say in comparison to forecasting civil wars, makes early warning and public dissemination of those warnings a fairly low cost policy option with the potential to save lives. And there of course many other benefits. Continue reading

The Early Warning Project: Can Expert Crowd-Sourcing Spot the Next Atrocity on the Horizon?

Today on the AIPR Blog, Daniel Solomon, an independent researcher on mass atrocity issues who blogs at Securing Rights, discusses The Early Warning Project, a new mass atrocity forecasting program that combines statistical forecasting with crowd-sourced intelligence from a pool of invited experts, of which Solomon is among.


In December 2008, the final report of the Genocide Prevention Task Force (GPTF), a high-profile convening of U.S. officials and policy experts, described “early warning” as a prerequisite of effective mass atrocity response. Early warning, which the group defined too-narrowly as “getting critical information [about mass atrocities] to policymakers,” has since emerged as a keystone of local, national, and international mass atrocity prevention agendas. The first adage of mass atrocity prevention, that it is possible, is closely followed by a second: mass atrocities can be known, far in advance of their onset.

ew1Early warning, defined more broadly, far predates the GPTF report; since 2008, however, policy-oriented warning programs have proliferated widely. Recent innovations in statistical forecasting have borne fruit in parallel models of mass atrocity risk. Among several programs, one stands out: the Early Warning Project, a partnership between the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Center for the Prevention of Genocide and Dartmouth’s Dickey Center for International Understanding. Unlike similar programs, which rest on the predictive grist of specific models, the Early Warning Project creates an interaction between statistical forecasting and the “wisdom of the [expert] crowd.” In the project’s expert opinion pool, of which I am a member, area scholars and mass atrocity specialists fill the blind spots of quantitative indicators. At the same time, the project’s quantitative side informs the specialists. If we can anticipate mass atrocities before they occur, it is only through the pluralism of knowledge, which the Early Warning Project advances.

Like much of the mass atrocity prevention agenda, early warning does not exist in a vacuum; each program warns about a specific event, for a specific audience. Some programs, formal and informal, identify local threats to vulnerable civilians: in northern Nigeria, an interfaith consortium gathers town-level data about trends in mass violence, for town-level use. The scope of the Early Warning Project is general by design. The project’s statistical model—and, to a partial extent, its expert opinion pool—measure risk in “country-years,” namely, annual, country-level indicators of mass violence. In tandem, the model and the expert pool can describe the risk of mass violence in Sudan, in 2015; only the pool, with its malleable question set, can describe the same risk in Darfur during November of the same year. The predictive model is only as nuanced as its data allows. Without more granular indicators, more specific prediction exceeds the project’s scope. It leaves to others—field researchers, journalists, human rights monitors—the question of how perpetrators may kill, or where, or when.

If the project’s audience is diverse, it is also limited. The explicit audience of the project’s warnings is a digital public: an assortment of individuals, organizations, and officials, often linked to institutions of the so-called global North, with continuous access to web-based information. This is a significant improvement from the status quo. Existing attempts at systematic warning models, such as those spearheaded by the CIA-funded Political Instability Task Force, are proprietary to the U.S. government; separate public efforts to assess and rank the global risk of mass violence, such as the International Crisis Group’s CrisisWatch bulletin, often lack comprehensiveness, whatever their qualitative value. Despite these improvements, the shortcomings of the program’s audience are also clear. These warnings are not intended for communities in conflict-affected areas. In fact, civilians and civil society for whom violence is imminent will likely find little use for the program’s country-year assessments. These groups may receive separate, more specific warnings that describe the time and location of a society’s mass violence.

In some circumstances, a common practice of mass atrocity prevention is unachievable and unproductive. As AIPR Board Member Sheri Rosenberg often observes, the relative entropy of the field of mass atrocity prevention may prove more fruitful than its false organization. A practitioner may approach the prevention of mass violence from various angles and levels of political organization, each equally as worthy as its counterpart.

ew2Several approaches to prevention, however, may benefit from the agenda the Early Warning Project’s risk assessments provide. Where it works best, the Early Warning Project is an agenda-setting tool: it tells practitioners, if imperfectly, which crises loom on the near horizon. For the informed practitioner, the program’s findings will contain few surprises (any way you slice it, the likelihood of mass violence in countries like Myanmar is an apparent fact). Its strength is not in the creation of new knowledge, but in the transparent collection of existing knowledge about global trends in mass violence. The statistical model’s criteria is publicly accessible: through its blog, the project is also finding ways to make the conclusions of its expert pool equally transparent. The advocacy efforts of coalition groups like the Prevention and Protection Working Group, which informed the creation of the U.S. government’s Atrocities Prevention Board, or the R2P Focal Points initiative of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, which organizes global collective support for the “responsibility to protect” doctrine, are often ad-hoc. These groups may use the Early Warning Project’s findings, as well as associated media coverage, as a wedge for collective global and regional action.

Of course, the political tenuousness of prevention will remain. One imagines the government of South Sudan, for example, is none too pleased by its unfortunate rank on the Early Warning Project’s list. But the possibility of limited consensus, often elusive in the practice of mass atrocity prevention, will likely advance our current status quo.

Can It Happen Here? Early Warning Forecasting in Cameroon

In today’s guest post, Dickinson College student and AIPR Communications Intern Sam Gillespie applies an early warning systems (EWS) lens to Cameroon, where he is currently studying.


“It could never happen to me.” Whether our nature or just a common sense of denial, most would agree that humans rarely think they will become the victim of an unfortunate event. This spans from third graders thinking they won’t be picked last for the team, to a homeowner opting out of flood insurance, to states refusing to admit they are at risk of a humanitarian crisis. In sub-Saharan Africa, this impulse to deny an imminent crisis is particularly pronounced—especially among unstable states at risk of mass atrocities.

Enter early warning systems (EWS). Early warning forecasting seeks to monitor certain factors that determine a states’ likeliness to commit atrocities. Early warning is cost effective since the costs to monitor certain factors are less expensive than intervening after crises take place. Some of these risk factors include official discrimination against a group within the state, political instability, increased military activity, and conflicts with neighboring states. Unfortunately, analysis of these factors is difficult to accomplish without resources, technology and funding.

Furthermore, these early warning factors are usually not evident to the naked eye, whether viewed by local citizens, surrounding countries, or the international community. Economic growth, political proceedings and even tourist activity may carry on as usual, without giving any indication of imminent violence. As a result, atrocities that may be predictable to a team of analysts may appear to be spontaneous to the untrained eye.

yaoundeFor the last five months, I have been studying abroad in Yaoundé, Cameroon, with a program that has successfully sent students here since 1993. For nearly 20 years, the program has never feared for the safety of its students. Since being here, I have never feared for my safety more than I would in the United States. But despite my confidence in Cameroonian infrastructure, studying early warning systems have forced me to question the stability of what I thought was a stable country.

In a country such as Cameroon, any local or visitor could say the prospect of genocide is ridiculously far-fetched, as I would have said before analyzing the early warning factors. But by analyzing these certain risk factors in Cameroon, I’ve discovered that the likelihood of genocide and mass atrocities in this country is not as far off as I had first thought. Thanks to a study done by the University of Sydney and the University of New South Wales where Cameroon was ranked 13 on a list of countries most at risk of a mass atrocity, I have begun to more carefully examine early warning factors and how they indicate a potential threat.

Official Discrimination Against a Group within the State

One of the first important things to remember when discussing genocide and analyzing its risk factors is that the term itself means the targeting of a specific group and “results in the deaths of a substantial portion of a communal group or politicized non-communal group.” Therefore in forecasting genocide, an important factor is the official discrimination against a group within the state, both historically and in the modern context.

Historically, Cameroon is home to arguably one of the most severe genocides in Africa. Between 1959-1964, the national Cameroonian military targeted the indigenous Bamileke peoples, killing between 100,000 and 400,000. French involvement in the massacre is still in question, however, it is clear that the Cameroonian military were the primary perpetrator of the genocide. Many believe that there was French support of the Cameroonian military and their aim was to exterminate the ethnic group most likely to offer a presidential candidate in post-colonial Cameroon.

I discussed this genocide with my host mother, Jacqueline Mafowe, who is Bamileke and was born in the early 1950s. Though her memory of the events is foggy, she does remember her family having to move to avoid the conflict. Even once families moved, she was told that they would often spend nights camped out in their fields to avoid raids lead by rival tribes or the Cameroonian military. During these raids, perpetrators would burn houses, steal livestock and loot the village of anything of value. Despite not having a great memory of the era, my host mother told me that the stories of her parents still haunt her and her siblings.

In the modern context, Cameroon is considered one of the most ethnically diverse countries in the world. Boasting over 250 ethnic groups, the country presents the potential for more ethnic tensions than most diverse African countries. Although today there is no active genocidal campaign against a particular group such as the Bamilekes during the early 1960s, there is clear discrimination against Cameroon’s Baka people (pygmies). Despite having the same legal rights (on paper) as all Cameroonian citizens, in order to access the most services one must obtain a national identification card. In order to obtain the card, one must produce a birth certificate, which is not possible for most Baka people since many are not born in hospitals. It is important to note that discrimination against Baka people is widespread across sub-Saharan Africa and does not apply only to Cameroon.

cam2_optAnother instance of discrimination concerns the Francophone versus Anglophone populations. In 1962, British colonized territories in Nigeria were reunited with their tribal ancestors who had been colonized in French Cameroon. By the time the reunification happened, the colonized peoples had been taught English or French. Therefore British Nigerians spoke English and French Cameroonians spoke French—both groups let their native vernacular become a secondary language. Since the reunification, the majority Francophone population has proliferated in the education system and government, forcing the Anglophones to learn French if they want to receive a higher education or obtain a position in government.

Director of the Dickinson program in Cameroon, Teku T. Teku, is a native of Buea, a city located in the heart of the Anglophone region. Speaking with him, I learned that during the 1980’s he and many other Anglophones were forced to learn French in order to attend University of Yaoundé I, which was the country’s sole public university at the time. “If you wanted higher education, you had no choice,” Teku told me. Teku’s time at University Yaoundé I allowed him to obtain a scholarship to study abroad at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and subsequently lead to his ascension to director of the program in Yaoundé. Had he not learnt French, none of these opportunities would have been available to him.

Political Instability and Increased Military Activity

The next factor necessary in early forecasting work is examining political instability and increased military activity. In both these areas, Cameroon is very complicated because despite apparent peace during its independence, the country has had few elections and presidents, and is ranked extremely low on freedom indexes. In 54 years, Cameroon has had 10 elections that have produced only 2 presidents, both of whom undoubtedly fixed conditions to maintain their power. These conditions include appointing ministers, paying high salaries to military officials and intimidating other political parties and candidates. While well known, this is hard to definitively prove since the government makes it difficult to obtain financial records and monitors the press to make sure it publishes stories that favor the government. On the Freedom House Index, political rights in Cameroon were ranked 6/7 and civil rights 6/7—seven being the lowest possible score.

Monitoring military as a function of the government’s power, it is important to understand that increased military activity is an important factor in forecasting. As noted in the report, “Understanding and Forecasting Political Instability and Genocide for Early Warning,” it is important to monitor specific military activity. This study examines how the “demobilization of parts of the regular army, for example, might push a government to rely upon paramilitaries for regime security, and, by creating an armed force unfettered by the institutional constraints of the regular military and answerable directly to the executive, might actually increase the chances of genocide.”

In Cameroon, military records are not made public, and therefore, analysis of its activity is extremely hard to monitor. In light of the Boko Haram movements in northeastern Nigeria, the Cameroonian government has made their military movements more public. In recent months, military forces in Yaoundé have practiced blocking off roads, setting up check points and enforcing its will over the city at a moment’s notice in an attempt to increase security measures. As a temporary citizen of Yaoundé, the efficacy with which the military imposes its will over the city is simply terrifying. The blocking of a single road sends the entire city into frenzy and creates traffic jams that stretch for kilometers. Furthermore, their strategically placed checkpoints at intersections and major junctions have forced me to produce my passport several times in the past month. Both of these military demonstrations have proved to me how the Cameroon government could shut down and exploit its capitol city in under an hour.

Conflicts with Neighboring States

This last factor that plays an important role in determining a country’s susceptibility to genocide involves a state’s volatility with other states. This can be an indicator of how volatile a state might be within its own borders. In this regard, Cameroon has been very well behaved and even exemplary. As civil wars, insurgencies, and other violent conflicts have ravaged the Central African Republic, Nigeria and DRC, Cameroon has opened its doors to thousands of refugees. The state has allowed humanitarian organizations to set up refugee camps and provided educational, medical, and nutritional support for those in need.

cam3_optWith regard to Cameroon’s relationship with neighboring states, professor of political science and international relations at University of Yaoundé I Elizabeth Nkongho told me that, “although Cameroon has not done a lot right in the way of politics, the government has respected AU and UN conventions regarding refugees and displaced persons.” Furthermore, Cameroon has not been involved in border disputes or territorial wars with its neighbors, barring the reunification issue that was discussed in previous sections.

Early warning forecasting—at its core—is simply the realization of modern technology and analysis that can help monitor and track factors that lead to genocide or mass atrocity. Through this sort of analysis, the international community and other actors can monitor “at risk” countries and better prevent genocide and mass atrocity events around the world. Furthermore, early warning forecasting models can serve as monitoring systems to collect data to prosecute those who commit genocide and mass atrocities. What’s more, forecasting highlights problems and factors that are not evident to the untrained eye and proves that genocide is never a spontaneous event, but a process. Even a trained professional living in an “at risk” country would have trouble foreseeing a mass atrocity without taking a bird’s eye view at the situation. But when you weigh all these factors together, a seemingly stable state can prove to be a risky environment, prone to mass atrocity.

During my time in Cameroon, I never would have believed that the country would have been so susceptible to an event as severe as genocide. But after examining these factors, it has become dreadfully clear how such a horrible event could come to fruition.

The author would like to extend a special thanks to Dr. Ben Goldsmith at the University of Sydney for his expertise and guidance regarding early warning forecasting systems.

R2P Response to Crisis in CAR: Too Little Too Late?

After more than one year of worsening religious and ethnic-strife in the Central African Republic, recent months have seen wider international attention to the conflict and authorization of a United Nations peacekeeping operation. In this month’s guest post, Dominique Fraser analyzes the latest developments in CAR, including application of the R2P norm to this troubled landlocked state. Ms. Fraser received her Bachelor of Arts with a major in Peace and Conflict Studies from the University of Queensland in 2013. She was president of the R2P Student Coalition at her university in 2012 and upon graduating undertook an internship at the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect, where she worked in the areas of research, advocacy and country monitoring.


car2The crisis in the Central African Republic (CAR) has now entered its second year and while it is becoming more sectarian in nature, the international community is finally starting to take not only notice, but action as well. A coup in March 2013 saw a group of mainly Muslim ‘Séléka’ rebels take control of the country and commit atrocities against communities; in turn some Christian communities formed so-called self-defence groups, the “anti-balaka” (anti-machete). Since September 2013, the anti-balaka have been engaged in a program of ethnic cleansing, which many fear may develop into a full-fledged genocide. African Union troops, as well as France and now the EU, have been in the country for months trying to establish stable conditions, but due to a lack of troops and resources, many have called for the establishment of a UN peacekeeping operation (PKO) which was only recently approved.

Over its more than two-year course, the conflict in CAR has displaced over one million people (almost a quarter of its population) and has killed over 2,000. In February this year, reputable human rights organizations Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have stated that the atrocities committed against the Muslim population in the west of the country amount to ethnic cleansing. Several UN officials have adopted this language, with Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon calling the conflict “ethno-religious cleansing” and has warned against the dangers of a de-facto partition of the country, which is increasingly being discussed by CAR residents. Virtually all Muslims have been driven from the capital Bangui, as well as the western city of Bossangoa, and others from all over the country are seeking shelter in the northern parts of CAR or trying to cross the border into Chad and Cameroon. Along the way, refugees have been attacked with machetes and firearms. Additionally, over half the country’s 4.5 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, but the international community is slow in providing much-needed financial aid.

car3The Responsibility to Protect (R2P) has been developed to respond to exactly the kind of crisis now occurring in CAR. In 2005, world leaders agreed that states must protect its people from war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and ethnic cleansing. If a state fails or is unwilling to do so, then that responsibility falls on the shoulders of the international community. At the end of 2013, Philippe Bolopion from HRW said that “the handling of the CAR crisis will certainly become a test case for R2P.” And he was right. That the violence in CAR has not led to heated discussions around RtoP—as it has with Syria—demonstrates the norm’s power in relation to the current situation: RtoP has been mainstreamed into the international response, without needing to be discussed and defended by its advocates.

UNSC resolution 2127 from 5 December 2013 authorized the deployment of MISCA (the African Union’s International Support Mission in the Central African Republic) and French peacekeepers, giving them the mandate to use “all necessary measures” to protect the population. The resolution also spoke of “the primary responsibility of the Transitional Authorities to protect the population.” This so-called “first pillar responsibility” was also reiterated by UN Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng on 22 January 2014. However, interim President Catherine Samba-Panza has little hope of establishing peaceful conditions in her country, with both rebel groups receiving financing for weapons through the illicit trade in diamonds and ivory. Adama Dieng, therefore, highlighted second and third pillar responsibilities in saying that “the transitional authorities have neither the capacity to protect the civilian population nor to exercise control over the armed elements …, [so] the international community must take concrete measures to assist the State to stop the abuses and protect the civilian population.”

car1What the international community has done so far simply has not been enough. In mid-2013, the African Union set up MISCA, asking the UNSC for one year to prove its ability to undertake an extensive peacekeeping mission with Chad promoting “an African solution to an African problem.” However, despite the assistance of almost 2,000 French peacekeepers under Operation Sangaris and now with EU peacekeepers who have taken over security of the airport in Bangui, MISCA has been unable to keep the peace due to limited resources and so the situation continues to spiral out of control.

On 10th April, the UNSC finally authorized a UN PKO—the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA)—with a troop size of up to 12,000 under Resolution 2149, which again reiterated the primary responsibility of the CAR authorities to protect the people. The resolution authorized the mission to protect civilians, support a democratic transition and deliver humanitarian aid. The international mass atrocity prevention community sighed in relief, hoping the UN PKO would be able to avert an even bigger humanitarian disaster. However, the mission won’t be deployed until 15th September this year and if it encounters similar funding issues as the humanitarian aid effort, it might turn into a dog that cannot bark. In the meantime, violence is spiraling out of control. The UN now needs to find a way to bridge the time until UN peacekeepers can be deployed in September.


Photo credits: Humanitarian and Development Partnership Team in the Central African Republic

Rwanda in 2014: A Lesson in the Prevention of Forgetting

In the second of two AIPR blog posts commemorating the 20th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, Michelle Eberhard shares insights drawn from a recent University of Minnesota conference on this tragedy’s lessons. Ms. Eberhard is a former AIPR intern who completed in December 2013 a M.A. in Human Rights Studies, with a concentration in genocide, from Columbia University. You can read her previous AIPR blog posts by clicking here.


rwanda-conference1Commemorations, Voices of Rwanda founder Taylor Krauss explained, represent a “deliberate confrontation with history.” They are an opportunity to experience an event through the eyes of the victim, to enable the voiceless to speak, and to stop the completion of the cycle of genocide by refusing to allow the present to “erase the trace of the past.”

Speaking at a University of Minnesota Institute for Global Studies conference, “Genocide and its Aftermaths: Lessons from Rwanda,” Krauss accompanied his opening address with excerpts from filmed interviews with three Rwandan rescapés who survived the genocide in 1994. Each of these individuals shared stories of fear, the loss of loved ones, and a personal journey of how they, as Krauss put it, “prevent forgetting.”

The importance of remembering was a reoccurring theme at the conference, which was held on April 16, 2014, and included panels on representation and long-term implications of the genocide in Rwanda that left upwards of 800,000 individuals dead in the span of roughly 100 days. The conference also provided an opportunity to consider not only the ramifications of this crisis in the context of contemporary conflicts like Syria and the Central African Republic, but also what the true legacy of Rwanda’s story might be.

Memory as a Political Tool

Several speakers, including Eric Schwartz and David Lippmann, Deans of the University of Minnesota’s Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs and the University of Minnesota Law School, respectively, focused on the political context of the genocide in Rwanda.

While Schwartz reasoned that “examining what we didn’t do in the past can only enhance what we do in the future,” Wippman argued that “those who remember history are condemned to mess it up.” Wippman supplemented his quip with examples of how the legacies of Vietnam and Somalia, as well as the progression from the Weinberger and Powell Doctrines to Presidential Decision Directive 25, made American action in Rwanda in 1994 conceptually unrealistic.

Wippman also shared his personal experience in the National Security Council, when he was tasked with completing research for then-President Bill Clinton, who had read a piece by Philip Gourevitch on Rwanda and jotted “is this true?” in its margins.

Though somewhat absurd now given the enormous amount of documentation that exists on the Rwandan genocide, how often do questions of this skeptical nature nonetheless continue to hamper efforts to prioritize and appropriately respond to similar crises twenty years later?

Weighing the Impact of Humanitarian and Human Rights Organizations

Another perspective that added an important dimension to the conference’s scope came from Executive Director of The Center for Victims of Torture, Curt Goering, who spoke of his experience as a staff member at Amnesty International during the Rwandan genocide. Goering expertly synthesized the transformation his organization was faced with at the time, as patterns of human rights violations shifted towards an increase in extrajudicial and mass killings, and away from large numbers of prisoners of conscience. He also noted new challenges such as the difficulty of operating in insecure environments and addressing violations committed by individuals who actually carry out peacekeeping missions.

From an operational view, Goering emphasized that Amnesty was completely underprepared to handle a crisis like the genocide. With deteriorating situations, policy restraints, and a dearth of crisis researchers due to “insufficient flexibility to shift around resources,” organizations like Amnesty were often reduced to monitoring a crisis and providing recommendations. As such, Goering concluded, the impact of humanitarian organizations was simply “not much.” But, he also cautioned against believing that the existence of appropriate mandates and policies would have “made the difference” in Rwanda.

What Justice, Whose Memory, and How?

rwanda3Of course, the task of remembering what transpired in Rwanda must certainly extend beyond a discussion of consequences for political and humanitarian actors and institutions. Indeed, issues of post-genocide justice and memory are also imperative in the aftermath of atrocity.

Speaking in his capacity as both the current Director of the University of North Dakota Center for Human Rights and Genocide Studies, and as a former Legal Officer at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), Gregory Gordon explained the impact that the ICTR has had on rebuilding Rwandan society. Noting at the outset that “it’s not a zero-sum game” and that all components matter, Gordon countered several common arguments against the work of the ICTR by highlighting what it has contributed to Rwanda’s healing process and international justice more broadly, including the precedents the Tribunal has set on genocide, hate speech, and rape and sexual violence as a component of genocide.

Yet, as those familiar with the Rwandan genocide know, a majority of justice initiatives have occurred at the local level through the implementation of gacaca courts. Drawing heavily on their recently completed fieldwork in Rwanda, Distinguished McKnight Professor of Sociology at the University of Minnesota Chris Uggen, and University of Minnesota Ph.D. Candidate in Sociology Hollie Nyseth Brehm, explained the parallels between gacaca and restorative justice.

In particular, Uggen and Nyseth Brehm identified a handful of “dualisms” in gacaca: its formal yet informal nature; the involvement of the Rwandan government, despite the courts’ operation within the local community; the mixture of traditional procedures with contemporary cases it is meant to adjudicate; as well as its combination of punitive and restorative punishments. The pair also emphasized that much more time must pass before definitive conclusions on the impact of gacaca and other justice measures in Rwanda can be fully drawn.

The most pressing matter, of course, is whether the justice prescribed has been an appropriate antidote to the poison of the genocide’s aftermath. For Dan Wildeson, Professor of Communication Studies at St. Cloud State University and Director of the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Education, evaluating this question necessitates a consideration of the twin issues of birth and perspective.

Simply put, while children inherit their DNA from their family, Wildeson explained, they do not also inherit their culture, stories, or family legacy from some biological origin. Perhaps, then, we need a “tectonic shift,” he reasoned – a shift in the narrative of the world we pass on to our children. This shift is naturally tied to the second issue, as contesting any narrative demands that one consider the world from another’s point of view.

Similarly, the various manners in which Rwandans choose to remember what happened during the genocide were discussed. Nicole Fox, a Ph.D. Candidate in Sociology at Brandeis University, noted that while memorials were initially viewed as an opportunity to bury the dead that lay scattered throughout the streets of the country, these spaces eventually transformed into places for survivors to grieve, thus providing a dual purpose at both the macro and micro levels.

However, the challenges for memorials are real, as it is their creators who decide what stories each space will tell – sometimes at the detriment of marginalizing particular victim groups, like those in Rwanda who experienced gender-based violence. The implication of this selectivity is that such spaces inevitably become “organizers of memory and organizers of trauma,” which in turn, have the dichotomous opportunity to either empower or stratify communities.

What Legacy?

rwanda4Repeated throughout the conference were references to Rwanda’s “unbelievable” transformation in the past twenty years, particularly in terms of economic growth. But should we truly be so astonished by Rwanda’s progress? Is Rwanda not proof of what can be done when the world responds to a problem by identifying and implementing a focused solution? If we were to be astonished by anything in the past twenty years, then, it would seem more appropriate that we become struck by the moments of opportunity we have neglected to undertake elsewhere, knowing the impact that such commitment is capable of producing.

The legacy of Rwanda, then, must not simply be the chance it provides to reexamine our strategies for handling conflict. Though the world’s response (or lack thereof) in 1994 will forever remain one of the darkest moments of modern history, Rwanda today is an example of the alternative to cynicism, to apathy, to a foregone conclusion that there is no way to influence the outcome of a problem not uniquely our own.

As Fox stated in reference to the power of memorials, “the evidence shapes the stories.” Perhaps now the evidence of Rwanda can be the hope its transformation provides for current and future decisions regarding imminent atrocity situations. Perhaps now we can “prevent forgetting” our own power to create a world different from the one in which we live today.

If we could remember that capability, just imagine the legacy for which we might someday be remembered.

“Genocide and its Aftermath: Lessons from Rwanda” was co-sponsored by several departments, boards, and associations at the University of Minnesota, including the Center for Victims of Torture, the Advocates for Human Rights, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas, St. Cloud State’s Center for Holocaust and Genocide Education, World Without Genocide, Global Solutions Minnesota, and the Minnesota International Center. A list of all conference speakers is available here. Rwanda photo credits: Adam Jones, Ph.D.