Washington — "International crisis response strategies in Africa have hardly evolved in the years since the Rwandan genocide erupted", a human rights activist stated during the commemorations honouring the 20th anniversary of the onset of Rwanda's genocide.
He stressed it is also the 10th year after Darfur's genocide was recognised.
John Prendergast is co-founder of the Enough project and published his report 'Rwanda 20 and Darfur 10: New Responses to Africa's Mass Atrocities' on Monday.
Wars from the Horn through East and Central Africa often do not recognise borders and involve an array of armed groups, Prendergast found.
He referred to "Sudan and South Sudan's support for cross-border insurgencies in each other's back yards", as well as "deep links" between conflicts and armed groups in Darfur, eastern Chad, and the Central African Republic, "where militias often work for the highest bidder".
According to the human rights activist, the most common form used to mobilise these forces in Africa is to appeal to race, religion, region, and ethnicity. "This has a devastating effect on civilian populations, alters demographics through ethnic cleansing campaigns, and gender-based violence."
"The name Janjaweed is becoming more and more familiar. [..] These groups rarely sit at negotiating tables, their patrons are often unrecognised, and their financing is largely left unaddressed."
Crisis response in Addis Ababa
Peacekeeping operations such as the UN-AU Mission in Darfur (Unamid) have largely failed to grasp the complexity of modern African conflict, Prendergast criticised, owing to the cross-border and economically-rooted nature of conflicts. "In Sudan, multiple sub-national peace processes have stove-piped conflicts in Darfur, the Nuba Mountains, Blue Nile, and eastern Sudan, ignoring Abyei. The result is, predictably, deepening war."
Prendergast suggested that the international community needs "a response regime that fits the problem". Because, he found, it is of no use to pass sanctions "if the money supply for the violence is left intact". In Sudan's case, this refers to the United States which imposed economic and trade sanctions on Sudan in 1997 in response to its alleged connection to terror networks. In 2007 it strengthened the embargo, citing abuses in Darfur which it labeled as genocide.
He thinks one hopeful sign is the peace efforts in the Democratic Republic of Congo by the UN, regional organisations, and other players. "Other African conflicts suffering from terminal peace processes could be revitalised by this model of crisis response. The learning curve would accelerate by creating a crisis response cell in Addis Ababa, to which issue experts could deploy to support the peace efforts throughout the region."
Responding to mass atrocity
According to Prendergast, peacekeepers can draw lessons from the Congo approach to respond to mass atrocity crimes more effectively. "Involve or neutralise regional actors, including pressuring neighbouring states. Also, authorise UN peacekeeping missions to undertake joint missions where cross-border dynamics undermine stability, such as in the CAR, Darfur, and South Sudan triangle."