Economics and similar, for the sleep-deprived

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Update: seemingly not

Update: Oh yeah!

Monday, November 24, 2008


A particularly annoying species of Afrobollocks is the use made in opinion journalism of the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. I've written about this before - basically, for purposes of editorialising all one needs to know is that "nobody intervened and therefore hundreds of thousands of people were killed". The Rwanda Gambit is played by someone wishing to add a sprinkling of moral gravitas to whatever point they want to make, usually about the United Nations being tragically inadequate to the modern world because of its failure to endorse the bombing of a current enemy. It's irritating bullshit, and is not rendered any less so by the fact that Paul Kagame is all too inclined to play the same game at the drop of a hat.

And so we have Alasdair Palmer in the Telegraph:

If Kenya, South Africa or Uganda had intervened to stop the genocide in Rwanda in 1994, for example, they would have been violating international law. China would certainly have vetoed any UN Security Council authorising an invasion of Rwanda, as would Russia: even Britain and America would probably have done so.

Quite a lot to discuss here.

First, if South Africa had "intervened to stop the genocide", it would have to march its intervention force 1500 miles north through Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Tanzania (or the same distance up through DR Congo) in order to get there. This is rather like suggesting that Portugal might have intervened unilaterally in Croatia. Kenya is closer (about 450 miles from Nairobi to Kigali), but a) does not have a frontier with Rwanda either so would have to march through Uganda or Tanzania (depending which side of Lake Victoria they decided to go around) and b) was not exactly the world's most stable state itself in 1994, which was toward the back end of the Moi years. The geography here does not give one a whole load of confidence.

Second, this hypothetical four-party veto doesn't seem terribly consistent with the UNSC's actual behaviour. There was, actually, a UN peacekeeping force in Rwanda (UNAMIR) at the time, and UNSC 929 was passed in June 1994, authorising the French government's Operation Turquoise. Neither UNAMIR nor Turquoise were effective, but this is a different issue and Palmer doesn't get to simply assert that his hypothetical South African intervention would have been an unqualified success. It certainly isn't the case that the UN Security Council in 1994 was so overcome with concern for Rwandan national sovereignty that it was prepared to quadruply veto any overseas intervention. In fact, the main opposition from Turquoise came from UNAMIR, which believed that the resources that France and the African Union were devoting to "Zone Turquoise" would have been better deployed to a toughened up UN force with more robust rules of engagement, and they were almost certainly right. If only the UNSC had been prepared to take more of a stand against unilateralism, things might have gone better.

I've made this point about Turquoise before but it's important so I'm making it again. There is a really annoying tendency among the pro-intervention lobby to pretend it didn't happen and that "there was no intervention in Rwanda". There was an intervention in Rwanda, it was Turquoise and it made things worse. It was a somewhat politically motivated, terribly badly planned and wholly counterproductive exercise. Or in other words, the normal kind. Using the example of Rwanda as a data point in favour of unilateral intervention requires you to have a theory about why Turquoise can be considered as irrelevant or sui generis. Without that (or even worse, to make rhetorical use of Rwanda without mentioning Turquoise at all) is a particularly toxic strain of Afrobollocks.
5 comments this item posted by the management 11/24/2008 02:01:00 AM

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