I have no answer to this question, and I hope and pray it is just something to think about abstractly.
What I am getting at is that for purposes of public consumption at least the Western democracies were in denial in 1994 about the risk of mass slaughter and eventually genocide and failed to act to an extent that we all pretty well have acknowledged shame about. (No one bothers to suggest that China, Russia or other non-Western powers would be expected to be similarly troubled.) It seems to be recognized that the U.S. was the “indispensable” party that would have had to push forward to make intervention happen, but elected instead to pull back. There is regret that we did not take affirmative action.
Post-Rwanda 1994, of course, there has been over the years the notion that we learned a valuable lesson from that particular genocide and could now say “never again” with a newly “doctrinized” post-Cold War sense of purpose of a Responsibility to Protect.
Unfortunately the timing gets complicated by other events. We are in a presidential election year. Now the last major “humanitarian” intervention involving U.S. forces was Libya. While initially celebrated, it has become a politically dicey sore spot. The tragic loss of American lives later at Benghazi was fortunately not televised, but we now have a feature Hollywood movie coming anyway. While Washington collectively is not yet ready to examine the decision making process on intervening or not, the specics of the Benghazi incident have attracted more investigation than I recall from “Black Hawk Down” as such. The larger negative geopolitical fallout from the intervention in Libya has become much more apparent much sooner than in Somalia in the early ’90s and already appears to be a major concern of many facets and no easy solutions.
In that sense the factors supporting a cautionary holding back from acting are greater in 2016 than in 1994 (and of course I haven’t even mentioned Iraq/Syria and Afghanistan).
We have hoped that we would not be indispensable on Burundi, in particular that the (post-Gaddafi) African Union could find common purpose and means to act. That hasn’t happened. My perception is that there might be reason to hope for this sort of AU action many years in the future but that the capacity is really just not there now.
It has to be noted that governance in the region has continued to be dominated by what could be called a “league of extraordinary generals”–Kagame and Museveni as well as, in a sense, Nkurunziza. Nearby Mugabe remains and Kabila the younger. Who can really be an honest broker or claim with a straight face to be primarily acting on global “humanitarian” values without outside leadership?
Museveni and Nkurunziza are militarily allied with the West in the current AMISOM effort in Somalia which will need to continue for some long time yet. Museveni is involved with the US in our Lord’s Resistance Army operation which presumably is indefinite at this point. Kagame has apparently decided to postpone the transition to a postwar elected leadership by his constitutional referendum lifting term limits, like Museveni did long ago. He probably expects a relationship at least as good with the next U. S. administration for his re-election in 2017. He appears to continue to be a darling of Davos and to be working with a variety of endeavors involving commodities trade and related regionalization that enjoy quasi-official support around Washington aside from the public foreign aid.
If, God forbid, things turn sharply for the worse in Burundi, and there “isn’t anyone else,” would the U.S. seriously consider an emergency humanitarian intervention or not? If not, are we prepared to explain to our children why not, again, while living also with the consequences? I am in no way qualified to advocate for or against a particular course of action, nor do I know the backstory of the latest facts on the ground, I am just asking the questions as to our policy parameters as a taxpayer/citizen/ voter and a person of humanitarian concern.
Sir Mohinder Dhillon, renowned Kenyan photographer, photojournalist and filmmaker shared this new essay which he also submitted to the ICC judges:
“GADDAFI AND MUSEVENI”
African Unity leading Africa towards disaster.
I’d like to challenge the AU to tell me which tribunal or judiciary in Africa will ever convict a sitting Head of State. This attempt to renege on a commitment to the ICC is nothing more than a sinister plot by Africa’s dictators to save themselves from any kind of accountability. It was initiated by the late Colonel Gaddafi, who bailed the AU out of a financial crisis, thereby buying the loyalty of other African leaders whose necks were also on the line. To save himself from international justice, he wanted Africa out of the reach of the ICC. Shame on such leaders! Contrary to any suggestion of restoring national sovereignty, the aim of these people is for Africa to be out of the Rome Treaty so that they can continue with their evil intentions where money and power counts for everything and the ordinary African can rot.
Our memories in Africa are very short, particularly in the case of perpetrators of genocide, rape and murder. Those who support the AU line that accused Kenyans should be tried locally should remember that not so long ago Parliament and other local bodies preferred to hand over cases to ICC. Remember the slogan that was on the lips of all Kenyans: “Don’t be Vague, Ask for Hague”. Kenya was given 12 months to put their act together and they did not move an inch. Kenyan authorities were going to investigate several thousand of other perpetrators but none was investigated due to lack political will despite some of perpetrators were recognizable carrying out crimes against humanity. AU is becoming laughing stock in promoting impunity.
The early history of Kenya’s ICC cases seems already to have been forgotten. After the post-election violence in 2008, the Peace Accord appointed the Waki Commission which produced 529 pages report on 16 July 2009 along with 6 boxes of documents and supporting material. A sealed envelope containing names of those considered most responsible for the violence was given to Kofi Annan as mediator. Kenyan Government tried for one year to establish a local tribunal but parliament blocked this, leading to the involvement of the International Criminal Court. The ICC Prosecutor, Luis Moreno Ocampo opened the envelope, inspected its contents and re-sealed it, before proceeding at Kenya Government request to carry out investigations and develop the resulting cases for ICC.
Kenya must smell the rat behind the intentions of our neighbours in Ethiopia, Uganda and Sudan, who are guilty of gross human rights violations in their own countries. Most recently, these include muzzling the media and arresting journalists and civil rights workers, but there is a long track record of crimes against humanity in each country. The AU has failed miserably to bring the perpetrators to book, as have the local judicial systems.
Until fifteen years ago, I filmed all the OAU meetings since its inception in 1963. For most of that time, the fight against apartheid in South Africa was the only factor that held this organisation together – otherwise I’m sure it would have disintegrated. It is a matter of record that crimes against humanity on the rest of the continent have far outweighed the evils of apartheid both in terms of scale and sheer lack of accountability. Why the double standard?
It is abundantly clear that most of Africa’s leaders are more concerned with protecting themselves than they are with securing justice for ordinary people. Although we in Kenya have made enormous strides in securing personal freedoms over the last twenty years, I am deeply concerned about the negative influence of our dictatorial neighbours in Uganda, Sudan and Ethiopia, where media houses are being closed down for flimsy reasons, where opposition is not tolerated and large numbers journalists and activists languish in dungeons without being charged. Kenyan genocide victims need closure just like the victims of Charles Taylor in Liberia, where the ICC was applauded for a job well done. There can never be adequate compensation for loss of life, limbs or dignity but at least some measure of justice was served.
Members of Kenya’s Government are shouting empty slogans about protecting their sovereign rights, in complete contradiction of their earlier position. I trust that the Kenyan people can see for themselves the total insincerity of those who are driven by nothing more than fear for themselves, and total disregard for the victims of violence. . . .
NAIROBI, Kenya – Kenya on Friday allowed the International Criminal Court to open an office in the country, a development that comes after Kenya’s commitment to the court came into question when the nation hosted Sudan’s indicted leader last week.
ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno Ocampo is investigating top Kenyan leaders and businesspeople for their roles in the country’s December 2007 to February 2008 post-election violence that killed more than 1,000 people.
On Friday, Kenya granted the ICC immunity from legal challenges, tax exemptions and other privileges in a letter signed by Foreign Affairs Minister Moses Wetangula.
The move comes only a week after Kenya hosted Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir during a ceremony for Kenya’s new constitution.
. . . .
Kenyan Cabinet leaders, including Wetangula, met with ICC Registrar Silvana Arbia on Friday.
"We have agreed to comply with every aspect of the (ICC) request for the privileges and immunity which their officers require to be able to undertake their work," said Minister of State for Internal Security George Saitoti, who chairs the Cabinet subcommittee on the ICC.
"I trust that the government of Kenya will fully respect its obligations under the Rome Statute," which established the ICC, Arbia said after receiving the letter.
The ICC registrar has been in Kenya since Wednesday to seek government assurances it will cooperate with the court and educate the public about how it operates.
For a cautionary, but realistic view of where Kenya is a the moment, see the latest post from "Maina’s Blog", wherein Maina Kiai stresses the ICC status and throws cold water on the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission:
Impunity and lack of accountability also needs to be addressed via the Truth, Justice and Reconciliation Commission, which is unfortunately now turning into a bigger farce than could have been anticipated! How a potential witness—in a negative way–can Chair the TJRC beats comprehension! How someone who is supposed to lead reconciliation can be so arrogantly obstinate boggles the mind. If Bethuel Kiplagat does not get what conflict of interest is, his competence and integrity as Chair are marred ab initio. Worse, he has now gone out and hired other potential witnesses as staff for the TJRC! Which means that these survivors—and a large majority have been on the margins of society precisely because of the violations they suffered–who are now staff will not be testifying at the TJRC as that would be another conflict of interest! What better way to destroy an institution, and weaken it before it starts than this?