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FROM RWANDA TO DARFUR : EVER AGAIN OR EVER SAY NEVER AGAIN?r By Yav Katshung Joseph
7 April 2007

Yav Katshung Joseph is a Congolese (RDC) Human Rights Lawyer.

April marks the 13th anniversary of the start of the genocide in Rwanda during which approximately 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed in 100 days. When celebrating the anniversary of this horrific tragedy lets take a moment of our time not only to remember those who were slaughtered so unmercifully, more attention should be focused on how to prevent future heinous crimes to occur in Africa and elsewhere.

ever Again An international commitment or a rhetorical sound bite?

() Even if there is controversy on the notion of genocide in Darfur, one could reasonably argue that, there is little doubt that despite the hair-splitting of the proper description of the unfolding tragedy, there is a developing genocide in Darfur with a similar reaction or lack of action from the world community.

Equally, the current situation in Zimbabwe - where the state is oppressing its own people - is another case to put on the agenda of actions to end this cycle and move us to finally realize the call ever again. As April 7 has been designated by the UN as nternational day of reflection on the genocide in Rwanda , the profound sense of the ever Again phrase should be reflected in how to prevent heinous crimes and other violations of human rights and how to act should such violations occur. Prevention of such crimes through swift and effective action will send us a clear message and maybe, thus inspired, we can someday make ever Again! more than a mere slogan.

In so doing, the responses to protect civilians would immensely benefit from President Paul Kagames sagacious words: Never again should the international communitys response to these crimes be found wanting. Let us resolve to take collective actions in a timely and decisive manner. Let us also commit to put in place early warning mechanisms and ensure that preventive
interventions are the rule rather and the exception. To achieve the broad goal expressed in this message, it will certainly take more than mere rhetoric. Political commitment must be expressed, not only in establishing the required mechanisms but also in triggering them to act when action is required. The case of Darfur aptly demonstrates the futility of establishing legal regimes which
cannot be effectively utilized. In providing for intervention in internal affairs of member states when massive human rights violations are perpetrated without action from the government concerned, or when the government itself is involved in such atrocities, the Constitutive Act of the African Union has codified an important principle of international law. The principle, as alluded to above holds that while states have the responsibility to protect their citizens in recognition of their sovereignty, the default responsibility falls upon the international community, in this case the AU, which can intervene to forestall the atrocities.

() As the world commemorates the commencement of the tragic events of 1994 in Rwanda, our leadership and those who shape opinion and policy must rethink our commitment to a world and continent free of human suffering, a continent committed to furthering the aspiration to live in peaceful world, a world in which human life and dignity are embedded in state policy and interactions between nations. This would allow us, when necessary, to discard parochial notions of sovereignty to act accordingly when another Rwanda or Darfur threatens. To achieve this, we must bring the institutions we have established and collective powers to construct a world in which ever Again means what it should.

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