Opinion

The Great Debate

Post Rwanda: Invest in atrocity prevention

In the 20 years since the horrific 1994 genocide in Rwanda and its terrible spillover into the Congo, it has been clear that the global community remains ill-equipped to address such human-made catastrophic tragedies.

While many have worked to heal Rwanda, crises of unfathomable mass violence have continued to unfold in places like Sierra Leone, the former Yugoslavia, Sri Lanka, Sudan, South Sudan, Central African Republic and Syria. In each case, the international community has failed to live up to a global commitment to prevention, protection and accountability for mass crimes.

War and mass violence not only halts development, it reverses it — scarring the lives and memories of new generations.  This creates traumatized societies — one of the biggest factors contributing to conflict.

Human rights, good governance, rule of law, economic opportunity, and norms of international, restorative and reparative justice all need to be nurtured and encouraged to build peaceful societies. We founded Humanity United in 2005 to connect and support public, private and social sectors with the same vision.

The destructive nature of mass violence must be stopped in order for countries to progress and their populations to thrive. We have worked with partners — individuals, governments and institutions — to strengthen the policies and laws that can help prevent mass atrocities before the killing starts.

Seize this crisis to push South Sudan reform

Three years ago this week, outside a makeshift polling station in Bentiu, South Sudan, I interviewed Riek Machar, vice president of the then semi-autonomous region. Machar had just cast his vote for South Sudan’s independence; I asked him what he would say to those who doubted that South Sudan, desperately underdeveloped and with experience of ethnic strife, could be a viable nation. “We will show them” he said, with a confident gap-toothed smile.

Today, doubters must feel vindicated. A power struggle between Machar and South Sudanese President Salva Kiir became public when Kiir fired Machar from the vice presidency in July. That political dispute has since metastasized into a bloody conflict with ethnic overtones. In a land where unchecked weaponry is ubiquitous, youth unemployment overwhelming, and military discipline fractured, this crisis has the potential to tear the fledgling nation apart.

Machar denies Kiir’s allegation of an attempted coup on Dec. 15, but acknowledges leading rebels opposed to the government. The United Nations now estimates that at least 1,000 people have been killed and more than 200,000 displaced.

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