R2P: African roots?

Peace & Security13 Jun 2010Amaka Okany

The emergence of the R2P as a distinct set of principles is usually traced to the report of the Canadian government-established International Commission on Intervention and State Sovereignty (ICISS). However, during the discussions at the conference, several references were made to the ‘African origins’ of the R2P.

Edward Luck, for example, referred to the influence the ideas of Francis Deng, the present UN special adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, had on the drafters of the ICISS report. (Incidentally, Deng can be seen in the film ‘Worse Than War’, shown during the conference, calmly asserting the responsibility of States to respond to mass atrocities, while the interviewer appears to express doubts as to just how many governments would share this view. It is not clear when the interview was conducted but it would seem to have been before the 2005 UN World Summit, in which world governments endorsed the R2P).

Also at the conference, Ebenezer Appreku referred to the founding charter of the African Union (AU), a treaty that has been described as having pioneered the idea that the international community has a responsibility to intervene in crisis situations if the State is failing to protect its population. But he pointed out that well before the AU, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) had, in a protocol to the 1975 Treaty establishing the regional body, provided for the responsibility of ECOWAS States to intervene in internal armed conflicts in member States. It was this provision that later formed the basis for the Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group’s successful military interventions to stop mass killings in Liberia and Sierra Leone in the 1990s.