Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The “big problem in Darfur” and the “prospects for success” in Uganda

The conflict in Darfur remains, at least in the media, the ideal case for humanitarian intervention and the ‘responsibility to protect’. Not so fast, continues Ramesh Thakur.
Before undertaking military intervention, be confident of reasonable prospects for success in the mission. Given Sudan's size and regional geopolitics, this is a big problem in Darfur. By its very nature, including unpredictability, unintended consequences and the risk to innocent civilians caught in the crossfire, warfare is inherently brutal: nothing humanitarian about the means.

The ethic of conviction, which impels us to act, must be balanced by the equally compelling ethic of responsibility, which requires us to weigh moral action against the pragmatism of consequences.

Still, the fundamental question cannot be avoided. Under what circumstances is the use of force necessary to provide effective international humanitarian protection to at-risk populations without the consent of their own government?
There enters the question of the 20-year conflict in northern Uganda. A brutal war that has seen over 30,000 children abducted, 100,000 civilians killed and over 1.5-million people (90% of the entire population of northern Uganda) forced into squalid displacement camps. Conditions are so bad, that 1,000 people have been dying every week.

In northern Uganda, a ceasefire is now in place and peace talks are in motion, yet the camp conditions remain unchanged. The government of Uganda has guaranteed that the camps will be destroyed by the end of the year, so that the entire civilian population can go home.

Then the questions abound. Home to what? And if the peace talks fail? How much longer do we wait to protect the innocent victims of this senseless and ultimately simple conflict? 1 year? 2 years? 5 years?

If the government of Uganda can’t provide enough support to the camps or can’t allow ‘their’ people to go home, what is the responsibility to protect?

The responsibility is clear, and that clarity is in the very first pillar of R2P, the responsibility to 'prevent', “ crisis putting populations at risk.”

The need is clear, so where is the call for R2P in Uganda?


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