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Right to Intervene Essay Sample

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Right to Intervene Essay Sample

            International intervention against genocide continues to be a thorny issue among countries. The United Nations has in many instances failed to approve intervention by countries, whereas some countries have chosen to undertake intervention programs even without its backing. Conflict of interest has been the driving factor determining whether sovereign states choose to intervene; they have also been reasons behind approval or disapproval of UN rulings. In the attempt to understand how independent countries and the United Nations have dealt with genocide intervention cases, concurrent sections of this report will provide recent examples. Another section shall explain reasons behind successes and failures on intervention programs.

            Cause of genocide are widespread all over the world. With regard to genocide initiated and facilitated by the state, leaders in those countries happen to claim that measures being referred to as genocide by the international communities are just ways of controlling internal aggression. In some situations, leaders in these sovereign states are quick to note that people being affected by the so-called genocide have themselves participated in similar incursions, but the international community keeps mum. However, many are the instances that the masses being inflicted with genocide are denied the opportunities to express themselves, meaning that only views of the state (the main aggressor) get represented.

            On the other hand, the international community confers that UN is obligated to stop sovereign nations from embarking on genocide activities  (Korea Foundation, 1993, p. 116).. This means that UN has to be involved in stopping such abuse of human rights through passage of relevant resolutions. It is therefore upon UN member states to ensure that resolutions. However, conflict of interest has consistently resulted to inactions from the organization, reason being that governments tend to fight for influence. Fact that some countries are involved in genocide reduces probability resolutions being passed. Division in the interests among permanent security members also affects process of reaching proper decisions. All these factors have meant that UN lacks enough powers to stop sovereign states from supporting genocide activities. This means that governments being accused of taking part in this gross abuse of human rights can continue to do so; reason: the global organization fails to take appropriate actions. It is also due to the lack of power that lead independent countries to take matters into their hands and end genocide themselves. This has been the case in many instances, some of which have been successful and others total disasters that have compounded the problem.

            Due to the lack of opportunities for the affected individuals to present their case, the role of reporting to the United Nations rests upon well wishers at regional and international levels. The locals, even those that are not widely affected by genocide are less likely to take part in informing the international community because of dangers to their own lives, especially when national governments are directly involved. This role has historically been played by individual countries, especially developed ones. However, the increase in conflict of interest, back door dealings, and slow paced decision making process has led to the increase in the use of international Non-Profit Organizations (Thomson & Annan, 2007, p. 24 ).

These institutions are seen as more efficient in lobbying , p. international community to take note of the ongoing genocide. Individual governments happen to provide greater support to these organizations Indeed, many are the times that governments, especially in the west use non-profits to further the course of preaching against genocide. The organizations use their extensive network of individuals and other establishments to lobby United Nations’ passage of resolutions declaring genocide, which presupposes actions against the offending states. Having described several aspects of genocide intervention, the next section shall present some examples that include Paraguay, Burundi, Uganda, and Cambodia among others.


            The country of Paraguay experienced widespread genocide upon its  Ache Indians population from mid 1960s and late 70s. The state is reported to have been involved in the entire process. As illustrated in the above section, the affected people did not have the opportunity to express their grievances to the international community. In addition, the genocide was littles known to the international community, meaning that UN members were not in a position to press for a resolution or embark on intervention ate the earlier stages. It is only after the genocide had advanced to catastrophic levels that the international community became aware and started pressing the UN for actions.

            The International League for the Rights of Man was the first organization to prepare a report regarding the Paraguayan genocide, and was followed by the  Great Britain’s Anti-Slavery Society in 1974 (Kuper, 1993, p. 162). Reports from both organizations were presented to the United Nations for debate and consideration. However, proposals from the two groups were taken for grated by the organization; investigations on truth of the matter were not considered, which meant that Paraguayan government continued with the incursions. Solutions were later found in agreements between the UN and Paraguayan government.

            Reason for UN’s failure to pass a resolution resulted from lesser knowledge regarding this genocide to international community. Fact that member states had little information regarding the genocide meant little attention for claims being made by the the tow organizations This i considering that member states are the ones that pushes for resolutions; they have to be voted upon. This lack of information to UN members also contributed to the lack of intervention by individual countries. As it would be shown in the other examples mentioned below, individual countries only intervene when there is enough information that is already in possession of many members. Rarely does a country intervene in genocides that significant number of world states to not have information about. Main reason for this scenario is to seek good will support lest the intervening country find itself facing international condemnation for such actions. In the case of large scale genocides, individual countries tend to take time before intervening in hope of getting allies in the process. This is probably among best ways to approach such crisis. Reason: going it alone could be costly to states. Despite the importance of waiting for other countries’ viewpoints on the issue, some states that sensing spill over of conflicts in their territories tend to embark on intervening at early stages. Taking this speedy route could sometimes lead to escalation of the problem given that the intervening states tend to take sides in the affected country.


            In 1970s, Burundi, experienced a state sponsored genocide towards the Hutu tribe by the Tutsi. Tutsi are the minority group, constituting 14 percent of the population, whereas the affected Hutu constituted 85 percent (CIA Factbook, 2008). The Tutsi government had inherited power from Belgium after receiving independence and was therefore feeling threatened by the majority Hutu. This leads to a conclusion that genocide was targeted and  inflicting fear on the the majority Hutu to a point that they could not claim majority rule through democratic elections. Indeed, the country had not undertaken a national election since receiving independence from Belgium in 1962; first elections in the country’s history were performed in 1993, after which another violence between the two groups stared (CIA Factbook, 2008).

            Just as the case with Paraguay, the Burundian genocide was little known to the international community. The country’s small size further meant that few UN members or  sovereign states had received information about the goings in the country. First, UN members states could not have had the opportunity to present the case for discussions. Secondly, few would have considered embarking on the process of intervening independently. The Hutu people therefore continued to suffer as rest of the world west ahead went their daily lives. Having received scanty information, the United Nations could have taken any measures against the regime causing so much human suffering.

            Conflict of interest meant that two major European powers, Belgium and France, that had been the country’s colonial powers were not best positioned to take part in intervention. Both countries had taken part in the installation of Tutsi governments notwithstanding fact that they were the majority. This originated from the divide and rule colonialists’ tactic that saw Belgium align itself with the minorities at the expense of the larger community as well as democracy in the country. Being close to colonial powers meant that it was Tutis that ended up in independence government. They did their best to stay in power and block rest of the country, especially the majority Hutus on fear that they may never get back to position of power once it got relinquished through democratic means.

            This was also the period that west and East were competing on the spread of their respective economic systems, with the west rooting for capitalism and the east for socialism and communism. This competition saw countries, including China and Russia, supporting Burundian government (Thomson & Annan, 2007, p. 24); the present regime inclining towards socialism. These tow countries were therefore (immorally) obligated to supporting one of their own. Failure to support the regime would have been regarded as surrendering the country to capitalism, the rival economic system. Instead of helping find a solution to Burundian genocide problem, the participation of the rivaling economic systems was worsening people suffering. As expected, states using capitalistic economic systems could not stay back and watch as communists and socialists spread their ideologies in other countries. Instead, they were quick to denounce rivals’ actions of supporting regimes that had less regard on human life.

            The two countries that were consistently pressing the UN for action included the UN and Vatican. United States was engaging in the solution finding mission as a representative of capitalist countries, and as a counterweight to Chinese presence. Vatican was on the other hand pressing UN and Burundian government on ending the genocide on a theologian point of view. The papal representative was vocal in requesting the Burundian state to end the persisting brother against brother oppression. Despite increased concerns expressed by the two parties, UN member states were slow to adopt any resolutions, reason being that the country was too small to have global effect.

            The United Nations further failed to pass a resolution on Burundi because it felt that the Organization for African Unity, OAU, was best placed to take necessary measures (Kuper, 1993, p. 162). UN was therefore passing pressure to OAU. The latter organization was willing to embark on getting solutions to the Burundian problems, but lacked enough support from member countries. Many African countries were just establishing themselves after receiving independence in 1960. Most of theme were busy with internal integration affairs after the dividing and rule tactics that had been applied by respective colonialists. In addition, few, if any, countries had vital experience needed to deal with the Burundian crisis.

In consideration of all these matters, it became almost a hard task to participate in intervention despite UN’s appeal. The United Nations was also weary of the repeat of its intervention in the neighboring Congo, where peace keepers had taken sides in the conflict and lead to escalation of the problem into a civil war. It was therefore being feared that peace mission would support one side and lead to escalation of the very problem they were supposed to control. This was followed by greater condemnation by world countries and especially in Africa. The OAU was especially vocal in condemning UN actions in Congo. All these resulted to the UN preferring to have an African solution to the Burundian crisis, something that the OAU accepted despite evidence that it lack capacity and good will from leaders in member states.

            OAU’s failure to intervene in Burundi was originating from fact that African presidents were overwhelmingly in support of their Burundian counterpart (Kuper, 1993, p. 163). The Burundian president had consistently asserted that the conflict in the country was not a genocide, but just measures to quell uprising that was originating from the affected Hutus. Fact that many African countries were facing similar uprising because of autocratic leadership could have led to presidents protecting one of their own. Some of them could have been taking notes from their Burundian counterparts;  they knew that their own countries could see uprising and here was one of the best ways to control it. The lack of African intervention thus provided President Mocobero with grand opportunity to continue with his genocide against the Hutus.

            The pressure coming from western countries for OAU to take action against Burundian government  fell o0n deaf years. On their part, African governments were not ready to embark on following into the whelms of western governments, who were accused of being in support of Apartheid regime in South Africa (Kuper, 1993, p. 163). The solidarity with African freedom fighters was therefore a factor that led to lack of African action. All these meant that Hutu people in Burundi had to continue being massacred as the world engaged in the debate of who among the peaceful countries was better placed to take action. Such responsibility games had been repeated over and over again since the Burundian incidence.


            The genocide against several groups in Uganda started after Idi Amin toppled the countries government in 1971 (Weart, 1998, p. 35). Unlike in Burundi and Paraguay that genocide was directed at single ethnic group, the one in Uganda was directed to religious leaders and their followers, Ugandan Nubians, elite, and Indian immigrants that were later given notice to leave the country. Killings and mass abuse of Human rights characterized Idi Amin’s ruling yet few among world major powers and the United Nations tried to take control of the matter. Even United Kingdom, Uganda’s colonial masters did not do enough to stop Amin’s tyranny.

            The OAU and individual African countries still held that what was going on in Uganda was an internal matter that only Ugandans could provide a solution. This meant that OAU would take no action against what the Ugandan genocide. Just like in Burundi, the genocide was happening at a time that most African countries were crawling from colonialisms and were hence looking for their own footing. Another reason for the failure of many African nations to taking actions was that the neighbors, Kenya and Tanzania were in an economic block that advice against interfering with each others’ internal affairs. Other neighbors, Sudan and the Congo were facing internal that made it hard to engage in finding solutions for Ugandan genocide.

            Members of government that was outed by Amin were at the forefront of demanding action from both OAU and the UN. They therefore played the role of presenting grievances on behalf of the masses affected by the genocide. But the pressure was not enough to convince OAU to take necessary measures. This was despite insistence that what was going on in Uganda was totally an African affair. Attempts to press the UN to address the issue also bore no fruits; the organization was passing the pressure to OAU, which was not responding.

            Lack of success by representatives of the ousted government led to the International Commission of Jurists preparing a report that was presented to the United Nations. This was followed by Amnesty Internationals 1974 report. Both reports received less attention at the United Nations as no investigation were prepared were arranged. The right UN procedure of dealing with genocide issues is to appoint independent commission that investigates claims made by complaining parties (Weart, 1998, p. 36). In the Ugandan case, the United Nations was obligated to establish a commission that would look into the claims made, and subsequently prepare a report, which will later be used to determine actions to be taken against the Ugandan regime. However, as seen in Paraguayan and Burundian cases, the UU has consistently been slow in establishing these commissions,  a factor that has led to the escalation of genocide in the affected areas.

            After deliberations and the UN, it was decided that Idi Amin was to establish an internal commission that would investigate genocide matters in the country (Kuper, 1993, p. 168). This astonished and angered many members states, for how could the regime performing the genocide be the one to investigate self. Amin must has been satisfied with what the UN had decided. As it happened, some mock investigation were done and results did not indicate that the government had a case to answer, which was expected by many. Some countries, especially, Great Britain and Canada were pushing for the United Nations to take intervention measures, but was overwhelmingly defeated by African, East European and Asian countries at the ballot.

            None of OAU countries complained against UN’ s provision that Amin investigates himself. This could have originated from fat that Amin was the serving Chairman of OAU; he had been elected to this position by his peers, meaning that they had confidence in the way Amin run affairs in the country. In addition, President Amin’s no-nonsense approach for former colonialists in Europe had been taken as a model by most of African leaders. West’s claim that Amin was breaking human rights law therefore fell on deaf years. Indeed, few African leaders would have followed western claims lest it be claimed that he was colluding with former oppressors.

            The only country that embarked on looking for solutions in Uganda was Tanzania under President Mwalimu Nyerere (Korea Foundation, 1993, p. 14). Though rules of the East African Community between Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania objected to any involvement of each other’s internal affairs, Tanzania saw it fit to counter Amin in his own country. This was occasioned by Ugandan armies’ constant entry into Tanzania and claim by Amin himself to annex Tanzania’s north eastern region (Weart, 1998, p. 36), which did not augur well with the Tanzanian government. Tanzania therefore embarked on intervening in Uganda for political reasons. That is to protect its territory for Uganda. Though Tanzania succeeded in ending Amin’s annexation attempts, the genocide in the country did not end, which is a further evidence that intervention was totally self centred.


            Early 1970s saw the Phnom Penh people of the Democratic Campchea region get massacred as the world watched (Valentino, 2005, p. 125). This was a secluded regions that few in the world ever heard of. In this regard, it was hard for the members of the UN to demand action at the organizations Fact the beginnings of the genocide we completely hidden from local, regional and international observers meant that people continued to suffer, while those in position to help continued with their ignorance. Just like in the African context, many countries in the region were also crawling from colonialism and were therefore busy with national issues.

            Interests of the affected persons were presented to the United Nations by well wisher countries: US, UK, Australia, Norway, and Canada among others. It was hereby argued that the UN had to take urgent and stern measures against authorities participating in the Colombian genocide. UN response was no different from the ones mentioned above: the organization dragged its feet in declaring that there was a genocide going on in Cambodia. Indeed, it never came to a conclusion, neither was investigation ordered. Attempts by several non-profits to push for a UN decision regarding the area were completely ignored by member states, and thus continued the suffering of the masses in Cambodia.

The UN had tried to set up a commission on the happenings in the country. However, disagreements among member countries regarding the commission led to inaction regarding the issue. In fighting among members states led to slow decision making process. This was cause by the mistrust between some of the powers in the UN. As it had happened with the Burundian case, capitalists in the west and communists in the east were fighting for dominance in the region. Th chaos in Cambodia thus provided an opportunity for both sides to keep competing for relevance. On their part, the communists ion the east were feeling that the west had to keep off the Asian turfs. On the other hand, capitalists seem to have taking the opportunity to plant capitalism seed in the region. The arguments in the UN led to delayed decision making regarding the genocide in Cambodia.

            The slow process of reaching conclusive agreements regarding the genocide led to some member states in the region feel pressured to take action. This led to Vietnam embarking on intervening in Cambodia (Korea Foundation, 1993, p. 104). Vietnam chose to topple government of the day, which was accused of the genocide and replace it with another one. The main reason for Vietnamese action was purely political: the country felt threatened by the chaos. Considering that the country subscribed to communism, the country could have been motivated in expanding the number of communist countries in the region. In addition Vietnamese authorities must have wanted to keep western powers at bay.

            Despite the accusations that western powers on the regime that was abusing human rights in Colombia, the western countries were not ready to endorse the new one that was instituted by Vietnam. Indeed, many world powers voted for representatives of the ousted government keep sitting on the UN assemblies. This was a blow and double standard for the Colombian people, and begs the question of what the western countries really wanted. On its part, Vietnam continued to support the new Colombian government with all they needed. Its is not clear whether the western powers felt humiliated by Vietnam’s success and were therefore envious or were feeling that communisms and socialism were winning in the region. However, the Vietnamese government’;s human rights record was also not good enough to warrant spreading freedom in the region or helping the oppressed colleagues overcome challenges.

            Other Genocides and Interventions

            This last section shall elaborate on other genocides where UN interventions were sought and where individual countries chose to look for solution with or without UN mandate. Among the genocides is one that happened in Bangladesh in late 1960s and early 70s. Again, UN intervention was sought but never happened. On observing this, the Indian government decided to intervene in the country. India intervened because both countries share common histories and culture, meaning that India was morally obligated to help those that were being massacred in Bangladesh. In addition, sharing of cultures and histories could have cause colleagues of the peoples being massacred in Bangladesh to embark on revenging in India. This would have resulted to the conflict spilling into India, something that the regime of the day had to avoid. The government of India therefore had various reasons to engage in the Bangladeshi conflict.

            In East Timor, the government of Indonesia was forced to intervene in a genocide back in 1975 (Wallensteen, 2002, p. 107)). This also happened without UN’s blessing, reason being that resolution was taking ages to pass despite attempts made by various organizations and Indonesia itself. This also happened without UN’s blessing. Main reasons for Indonesia intervention were political and strategic. Indonesia must be fearing that the problem in East Timor could easily spread in other islands and had to be controlled before the situation got worse. In addition, other world countries easily saw the ongoings in East Timor as an internal problem that had to be controlled by the Indonesian government itself. In this regard, leaders in the country had little choice other than intervening in East Timor.

            Most of the intervention listed above happened under the watchful eyes of the United Nations, an organization that was established with the sole purpose of taking rallying world countries in stopping such abuse of human rights. UN’s slow paced decision making process regarding investigating genocide claims has been enticing individual countries to take necessary measures. Major world powers have also stayed away from making necessary steps of stopping genocides in these countries. Intervention has therefore been left to nations neighboring the affected nation, reason being that they are the ones most affected by what transpires in their neighboring country.

            United Nation’s failure to provide help to the affected people crops from fact that the organization has too much respect on member states’ sovereignty. UN therefore feels less obliged force member states to follow organizational rules. In addition, fact that the United Nations relies on other countries’ help to deal with issues such as genocide mean that conflict of interest and lobbying gets on the way. Countries can easily lobby each in dealing with the problem in hope that that would be reciprocated in some other ways. The only way that the United Nations has been able to deal with genocide issues is in the provision of humanitarian help to the affected communities.

            Despite UN’s failure to develop mechanisms that would help in improving ways of dealing or responding to genocide, world countries have continued to rely on the organization in coming up with solution. The horror of this ineffective reliance were confirmed in 1994, when the country of Rwanda experienced one of the most serious genocide atrocities in recent history. The failure of the UN to respond to the warning signs resulted hundreds of thousands being massacred in the country within a short period of time. The world did not learn from this ineffectiveness as shown by the continued reliance on the UN.

The Rwanda story is being replicated in Sudan’s Darfur region and the same UN has not declared that a genocide that requires world attention is under way. The organization has again insisted that African Union (AU), which replaced OAU recently has to take action. Lack of enough resources and commitment from individual African nations has meant that Darfurians will continue to get massacred as the world continues to watch. Unlike in the past when neighboring countries have been willing to intervene in such genocides, the current one has again caught neighbors occupied with other internal challenges that need immediate attention. The Chadian intervention being experienced in Darfur is only escalating the problem as Sudanese authorities change focus to Chad instead of ending the genocide going on in the western part of the country.

            Genocide examples presented herein lead to conclusion that proper solution hardly hardly comes from the collective responsibilities that world nations leave to the United Nations. On contrary, successes in dealing with genocide in many places develop from local solutions and especially neighboring countries that intervene because their sovereignty is threatened by the happenings in the neighboring countries. These neighborly interventions are, however, prone to being abused by neighboring countries and result to escalation of they problem being addressed. In this regard, intervening nations must consider costs and benefits to accrue from their intervention actions. Only then can genuine help end people’s suffering.


CIA Factbook (2008). World CIA Factbook. Retrieved 14 May, 2008, from             https://www.cia.gov/library/publications/the-world-factbook/

Korea Foundation (1993). Early Warning on Humanitarian Crisis. College Park: Korea Foundation.

Kuper, S. (2004). Sovereign Territorial State. Boston: Sage.

Thomson, A. & Annan, K. (2007). Rwandan Genocide and the Media. Ottawa: IDRC.

Valentino, B. (2005). Final Solutions to 20th Century Genocides. Ithaca: Cornell.

Wallensteen, P. (2002). Understanding Conflict. Bastion: Sage.

Weart, S. (1998). Democracies at War. New Haven: Yale.

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