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Rwanda and Darfur: A Comparative Approach to Two Peacekeeping Failures

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The author compares the 1994 Rwandan genocide and the crimes against humanity and possible genocide in Darfur (since 2003). He finds one main common point: the basic incapacity to turn the Responsibility to Protect from a virtuous doctrine into a practical reality. On the basis of his wide experience as a scholar of African politics, the author gives his answer to the question why. His conclusion is that in both cases there was either no ‘peace’ to keep for the ‘peacekeepers’, or several of the actors had no intention of respecting the peace agreement. He then sums up seven commonly held illusions about peacekeeping: a) Parties stop fighting because they recognize the inanity of conflict; b) “Give war a chance” is wrong c) A bad peace is better than a good war; d) A peacekeeping military force on the ground changes the reality; e) A pro-forma stabilization of peace is enough to start a peacekeeping operation; f ) ‘Conflict’ is an operational concept; and g) We deal with the present, the past belongs to historians. He concludes that in many ways the failed peacekeeping operations in Rwanda and Darfur are exemplary, not because of what peacekeeping advocates hope are technical mistakes, but because the basic concepts of why the operations were undertaken at all. He argues there are no quick-fix solutions, because the basic concepts are wrong, or at the very least wrongly applied, and that if we cannot do something properly, we should not do it at all.


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