Humanitarian intervention and great lakes region crises

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  • Publié le : 15 décembre 2010
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Since two decades now, the Great Lakes region of Africa faces a situation of infectious crisis, a political and social crisis which has changed the face of the whole region by its war and crimes.

From a chronological point of view, everything started by the coming to power of Yoweri Museveni inUganda in 1986 and continued with the genocide in Rwanda in 1994 as result of the civil war which started in 1990 by Rwandan exiles from Uganda. The horror of Rwanda was exported to DR Congo since 1996 and resulted in millions of killings and massive violations of human rights after 13 years of fighting and unrest. This regional crisis has been characterized by massive violations of human rights suchas the genocide in Rwanda and the tragedy lived by the populations in the Congo.

The questions which arise are the following:

1. What were the possibilities at the disposal of the international community in order to prevent those tragedies?

2. Why nothing was done in the region?

Answers to these questions lead us to consider the international legal architecture and look forjuridical tools which could have allowed the international community to intervene. They will allow us to consider also if the conditions were combined to allow such an intervention which could have changed the course of history and protect the world from bad and abominable events which took place in the region during the last two decades and affected millions and millions of people and destroyed entiregenerations.


Amongst international principles and notions, we have considered some of them which could have been invoked by the International Community in order to intervene and stop the tragedy of the Great Lakes Region.
A. Humanitarian Intervention.
One of them is the notion of “humanitarian intervention”. Humanitarian interventionrefers to “armed interference in one state by another state(s) with the stated objective of ending or reducing suffering within the first state.” That suffering may be the result of civil war, humanitarian crisis, or crimes by the first state including genocide. The goal of humanitarian intervention is neither annexation nor interference with territorial integrity, but minimization of the sufferingof civilians in that state. The claimed rationale behind such an intervention is the belief, embodied in international customary law in a duty under certain circumstances to disregard a state’s sovereignty to preserve our common humanity.[1]
This notion appeared, in its modern form, during the Biafran War (1967-1970). The conflict lead to a famine which caused great suffering widely covered inwestern press outlets but totally ignored by government leaders in the name of neutrality and non-intervention. This situation led to the creation of NGOs like Médecins Sans Frontières, which defended the idea that certain public health situations might justify the extraordinary action of calling into question the sovereignty of states. The concept was developed theoretically at the end of the 1980s,notably by law professor Mario Bettati and French politician (and former president of Médecins Sans Frontières) Bernard Kouchner.
In practice, humanitarian intervention actions are often carried out by coalitions of nations, which can create two somewhat different situations:
The right to interfere, which constitutes jus ad bellum, a term coined by the philosopher Jean-François Revel in 1979,is the recognition of the right of one or many nations to violate the national sovereignty of another state, when a mandate has been granted by a supranational authority. In practice, because of humanitarian emergencies, it is common that the mandate is provided retroactively; for instance, France’s intervention in Côte d’Ivoire was made initially without a UN mandate.
The duty to interfere is...
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