Prevention and the Responsibility to Protect
The Case of Kenya
Routledge – 2014 – 208 pages
This book examines the case of international mediation in Kenya as a test case of the responsibility to prevent harm.
The Responsibility to Protect (R2P) is a broad-based international commitment to protect populations from systematic human rights violations. The reaction to the post-election violence in Kenya in 2007 was swift and well coordinated, as international actors supported the African Union-sponsored mediation effort, which eventually brought the violence to a halt. Consequently, this crisis has featured in the UN’s plans for implementing R2P. The attention this case has garnered reflects the renewed importance of prevention in the evolution of R2P. Although deemed the ‘single most important dimension of R2P,’ the responsibility to prevent has been consistently sidelined in favor of the other elements of R2P, such as the responsibility to react and responsibility to rebuild. This sidelining of prevention has, however, recently begun to shift in light of the persistent opposition to the more contentious aspects of R2P, over sovereignty and the association between R2P and military intervention. Given that the Kenyan crisis was resolved in the absence of military force, it has, for proponents of R2P, become a pertinent illustration of the responsibility to prevent.
This book challenges the extent to which this case can be deemed a success story from the perspective of the responsibility to prevent. Although the international response did help forestall the violence, it fell short of effective preventive action in two crucial respects. First, indicators of violence prior to the crisis, which might have been acted upon at an earlier stage, went largely ignored. Second, in the interests of halting the violence, the mediation tended to privilege short-term measures, such as power-sharing. Though effective in the interim, such an approach remains unlikely to prevent a recurrence of violence in the future. The international response to this case can more accurately be described as a metaphorical bandaging of Kenya‘s wounds. Successful preventive action in this case necessitated a deeper level of international engagement, which would have likely reintroduced some of the more contested elements of R2P. As the author argues, the pursuit of R2P through a preventive lens illuminates, rather than mitigates, the contentious aspects of R2P. Instead of serving as a blueprint for R2P, the Kenyan crisis reveals the fundamental challenges associated with the prevention of mass atrocities.
This book will be of interest to students of the Responsibility to Protect, humanitarian intervention. African politics, war and conflict studies and IR/Security Studies in general.
Introduction: The ‘First Test Case’ for R2P 1. Toward a Responsibility to Prevent: Reprioritizing Prevention in R2P 2. The Post-Election Crisis and International Response 3. Kenya as a Blueprint for R2P? 4. The Pre-Crisis Phase: Preventive Opportunities Missed 5. The Post-Crisis Phase: Preventing a Recurrence of Violence 6. The Kenyan Crisis in Context: The Challenges of R2P Prevention Conclusion. The Joint Office on R2P and the Prevention of Genocide: A Way Forward? Bibliography
Serena K. Sharma is a Lecturer in the Defence Studies Department at King' s College, UK.