External mediation in civil conflicts since the end of the Cold War has rested on a standardized conflict resolution mechanism, which differs significantly from the state-centric mechanism prevalent during the Cold War. This accords a broadly equal standing to all parties to the conflict, and seeks to reach a settlement acceptable to them all. This, in turn, calls for a ceasefire, followed by either of two mechanisms designed to create a liberal constitutional order, guaranteed by internationally supervised elections. In the Rwanda conflict of 1990-94, conscientious implementation of this mechanism not only failed to avert genocide, but even helped to create the conditions that made it possible. This failure illustrates important weaknesses in the mechanism itself, notably the way in which mediators become implicit participants in the conflict, and the divorce of a mechanistic approach to conflict resolution from the political prerequisites for a successful settlement.