The Responsibility to Protect (RtoP) represents a dramatic shift in the post Westphalian nation state. States have voluntarily accepted the right of the international community to intervene in cases where governments are unable to stop or are themselves perpetrators of crimes against humanity, war crimes, mass atrocities and genocide. Sceptics of the doctrine like Mahmood Mamdani argue that the doctrine will be abused by large powers for their own self-interest in continental Africa.
This paper will oppose the argument that RtoP and international justice are merely facades for a larger western agenda to recolonise Africa. Firstly, RtoP represents a significant movement away from the traditional notion of sovereignty. Mamdani's assertion that the concept was born out of Western capitals and forced down the throats of Africans is false. Secondly, RtoP has advanced the norms of international justice, particularly the International Criminal Court. Mamdani and his colleagues argue that the ICC is a western court designed to try Africans, but it is this group who were heavily involved in the creation of the court and its subsequent operations. Thirdly, this paper argues that Mamdani and his colleagues misrepresent the Darfur conflict in his book "Saviors and Survivors" as a conflict between Arabs and Africans, and concludes that they have oversimplified the RtoP doctrine as a "neo-colonial" project.
Amal Varghese is studying for a Masters in International Relations at the University of Melbourne. He is a human rights advocate and is affiliated with the International Coalition for the Responsibility to Protect in New York.