The Journal of Modern African Studies

The massacre of refugees in Congo: a case of UN peacekeeping failure and international law

Kisangani N. F. Emizet a1 1
a1 Department of Political Science, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS 66506, USA


The massacre of refugees during the 1996–7 war in Congo illustrates the gap between existing legal standards and their application, as the principle of sovereignty rationalises states' behaviour against helpless people. This paper assesses available information on the scale of the massacre, concluding that about 232,000 refugees were killed. It argues that firmness in demanding justice and protecting human rights does not require ignoring the objectives of stability and prosperity for any country, but rather that it is the best way of promoting those goals and strengthening state sovereignty within the international community. To implement international law related to refugees will require making states and non-state players responsible for their actions to the international community, since any outflow of refugees creates negative externalities or costs that are unequally borne by this community.


1 The author would like to thank the editor and the anonymous reviewers for their invaluable comments.