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Hours After Obama Oslo Speech, US UN Ambassador Talks of Genocide Prevention

  • Nico Colombant

Susan Rice says the Obama administration is actively using diplomacy and pressure to prevent future genocides and mass atrocities, especially in Africa

The U.S. permanent representative to the United Nations, Susan Rice says the Obama administration is actively using diplomacy and pressure to prevent future genocides and mass atrocities, especially in Africa. Rice spoke late Thursday at the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C.

Hours after President Obama said in Oslo military force is sometimes necessary to establish peace, Ambassador Rice looked back on America's inaction during Rwanda's genocide in 1994.

"I think the greatest failing, this is a very personal view, was the failure to ever really ask at the highest levels: should we, should others, in this context, do something, by way of direct intervention," she said.

At the time hundreds of thousands of ethnic Tutsis and moderate Hutus were slaughtered by extremists, Rice was a junior staffer with the administration of former President Bill Clinton.

Now a top diplomat, she echoed President Obama's Oslo speech to prevent such a tragedy from taking place this century.

"He explained that this approach of engagement and pressure for which there is no magic formula and no cookie cutter model is in fact the basis of our approach in many complex situations," she said.

Most of the examples she gave about current concerns of mass atrocities were in Africa. She spoke at length about the situation in Sudan's western region of Darfur, where she said the situation was evolving with less large scale fighting, and that the main U.S concern was to make sure civilians are protected by international peacekeepers.

The ambassador said in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, the U.S. administration was grappling with a situation of what she called "intolerable atrocities", caused both by fighters linked to Rwanda's genocide as well as undisciplined soldiers.

Rice also warned of other potential flash points elsewhere in Africa, like in Guinea. In the capital Conakry, dozens of demonstrators were recently killed in protests against military rulers, who appear increasingly divided.

"Even in places like Guinea, where I think we had some recent horrific atrocities, we have been very much involved, not only in New York, in the [Security] Council, but in the region through our embassy, and in various behind the scenes diplomatic efforts, including some that I myself have been involved in just in the last week, to try to deal with that very volatile situation which has the potential to spin even further out of control," she said.

Rice's remarks coincided with the one year anniversary of the release of a blueprint for U.S. policy makers on preventing future genocides and mass atrocities.

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