Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Role of the international community in the Rwandan Genocide

A Rwandan blogger living in the Netherlands, in his last post, made me aware of a valuable paper by Alan J. Kuperman.

Alan J. Kuperman, assistant Professor of International Relations at School of Advanced International Studies John Hopkins University, Bologna Center, writes in the conclusion of this paper "Explaining the Ultimate Escalation in Rwanda: How and Why Tutsi Rebels Provoked a Retaliatory Genocide", prepared for the annual meeting of the American Political Science Association in 2003:

"A revised history of the Rwandan Patriotic Front reveals how and why these Tutsi refugee rebels, by pursuing an armed challenge against Rwanda’s Hutu regime, provoked a retaliatory genocide against the state’s Tutsi populace. These findings help explain the genocide, but do not justify or excuse it. Nor can they resolve debates about the legitimacy of the RPF’s goals or its resort to military force. However, the findings do suggest that the genocide was foreseeable – and avoidable if the RPF had been willing to compromise either its aspirations or means of pursuing them. The evidence also demonstrates that the international community, by supporting the rebels’ intransigence, inadvertently helped trigger the genocidal backlash. Scholars and policymakers would be advised to heed these lessons as they attempt to avert genocide in other cases."


On foreignaffairs.com in 2000 Kuperman explains his positon on the role of the international community with des Forges and Schulz of respectively Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International USA in which he writes:

"What my article actually states is that the leaders of such groups sometimes provoke retaliation against their own civilians in order to galvanize domestic and, especially, international support. This was a repeated tactic of the Bosnian government in its 1992-95 war, as documented by at least two U.N. commanders on the ground. More recently, this cynical tactic was copied with even greater success by the Kosovo Liberation Army. As long as the West comes to the military assistance of groups being victimized because of their own violent provocations, we risk fostering an escalation of ethnic conflict.

Thus, I offer an alternative prescription: Give less support for violent insurgencies, more incentives for gradual reform, and golden parachutes for departing authoritarian leaders in cases in which forgiving past crimes is the price of preventing future ones.

The best way to stop genocide is not military intervention after the fact but wise diplomacy that prevents genocide from starting in the first place."


Alan Kuperman's thesis has been challenged by Samantha Power, also in relation to the conflict in Sudan.

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