AFRICAN UNION GENOCIDE PREVENTION EFFORTS – LONG OVERDUE

“Last year, a despairing 14 year old boy committed suicide in a Darfur camp, a situation that was worth the world’s effort to reflect on the appalling situation that was biting hard on the war-torn region”

The Peace and Security Council of the African Union, on April 11, 2017 convened for the 678th time, to receive a briefing on the prevention of hate crimes and the ideology of genocide in Africa, from which various resolutions were adopted. From its communique, the meeting stressed the importance of the need to deepen democracy, participatory governance and a culture of peace, a strategy I believe if implemented, gives a strong glimmer of hope for sustainable development on the continent. The emphasis is in line with aspiration 4 of Agenda 2063 that aspires for a peaceful and secure Africa. This aspiration stipulates that mechanisms for peaceful prevention and resolution of conflicts should be functional at all levels and all that guns should be silent by 2020

However, gun shots are still heard flying around in South Sudan, claiming thousands and leaving over one million people displaced by the violence. The South Sudan conflict was declared genocide by the UK in April, 2017, as the conflict is perpetrated along tribal lines. Also, a UN report in March stressed that South Sudan was experiencing ethnic cleansing by mostly government forces and their allies and that the country was teetering on the edge of genocide.

This could be more or less the same way Genocide  started in Rwanda. They were rumors of the killings, then journalists flooded the country from different parts of the world to report on the killings in some small country in East Africa and they later fled for their lives while the innocent lives were killed mercilessly as the world watched claiming their hands were tied. While the World repeats continuously that genocide should not happen ever again, , there have been reports of targeted killings in   South Sudan, driving  the youngest nation in the world towards i the edge of genocide and the world is looking on again in the name of non-interference in sovereign state matters.

However, with the 678th PSC declaration, Africa ought to shift from rhetoric to action, strengthen measures for prevention and reading early signs to avoid Genocide.  This declaration is long overdue, and will be meaningful, only if it doesn’t stay on paper, a declaration we refer to only in continental meetings, or an indicator of the achievements of the African Union towards genocide prevention, without practical strategies to implement it.

It’s very common for some warning signs of genocide to escape much notice but if there is more analysis, the signs will present themselves in all forms. Last year a despairing 14 year old boy committed suicide in a Darfur camp, a situation that was worth the world’s effort to reflect on the appalling situation that was biting hard on the war torn region. Imagine a young boy hanging himself with a rope in his family’s home, tired of the dire circumstance his family was living in. Although many people looked at it as extreme, especially being done by a child, with limited and blurred knowledge on death or even hanging himself for dead, but it’s the best in his own mind that could show a despairing sign of saying enough is enough.

So my point is, we welcome the 678th PSC declaration but it should not just be another statement without supporting action. Africa needs to walk the talk!  After the genocide of Tutsi in Rwanda, Africa committed to walk away from the old Non-interference principle and not to remain indifferent in the face of a tragedy on the continent.  We cannot remain silent while the people in our neighboring countries perish as we look on.

I pledge to keep my voice alive and loud to silence the guns on the continent. I will start with what I can do for now.

Photo is from http://www.voanews.comA man collecting bodies to bury in a mass grave approaches a burned hut containing charred corpses, on the outskirts of Yei, a center of the country’s renewed civil war, southern South Sudan, Nov. 15, 2016:

 

COMMITMENT TO THE FIGHT AGAINST GENOCIDE

I am back with another piece on genocide, not only because we as Rwandans are in the 3 month commemoration period of the genocide against Tutsi but because being at the helm of an organization that is hinged on the history of our country, gives me a drive to steer conversations about peace, good governance and genocide prevention. In this piece, I am drawing focus on three elements that can contribute to a sustainable fight against a replay of genocide anywhere in the world.

  • The respect for the dignity of each and every human being by combating all forms of discrimination, racism and exclusion can prevent genocide.
  • In our education systems and in schools, history should be emphasized as a way to avoid the mistakes of the past.
  • Empower critical thinking among the young and encourage active citizenry so as avoid blind following

Genocides are often carried out in a manner where one group of the society wants to exterminate another group. This in many cases is perceived as the struggle against political, economic and social marginalization and discrimination of ethnic, racial, religious or political inclinations. Although it is difficult to anticipate the critical moment at which genocide will begin or the scope that the massacre will take, it’s imperative to examine and interpret the warning signs and respond to them adequately. If one group is continuously discriminated against, they will start by resenting the system, then start forming opposition groups, then resort to organizing illegal or unknown meetings with others who are tired of a dire situation, from there, they develop a determination to end it once at for all, no matter the extent to which they have to go to. Considering that all human beings are equal before the law and are entitled to equal protection of the law against any discrimination and against any incitement to discrimination, any nation should treat all citizens equal in a bid to avoid a potential genocide.

Secondly, education is an important medium of acquiring skills and knowledge. A common saying notes that our education begins at home, but thereafter, as we grow we go to schools, colleges and other educational institutions. School education lays the foundation stone for the child’s future. As years go by after the genocide against Tutsis happened in Rwanda, a new generation that has no idea about the brutality of genocide is born. The best way to keep them informed and committed to Never Again is if they know the history of their country.  The more the young generation knows about their past and how it darkened and silenced the country, the more they will renew their commitment and intensify their efforts against genocide. Education can play a great role in a given society as a means of conflict prevention.

The aspect of critical thinking is both an education element and a trained skill. If the young ones acquire this skill, they will involve in active citizenry and thus know when they are manipulated or lied to. In this case, critical thinking constitutes the ability to integrate and evaluate information, that is looking at a conflict and see the similarities between it and previous conflicts, related or unrelated. The individual can then resolve the conflict using resolutions that have worked or adopt strategies that can prevent a potential fatal conflict or violence. A critical thinker can’t be just lured to hold a machete for the sake of ethnic clinging, they would questions the approach, they would weigh in to the impacts, and they will ask if there is no other way to resolve rather than opting to blood shedding.

I can’t say that these are the best mechanisms to preventing genocide, but these complemented with other approaches can promise a genocide free world.

Special dedication of this blog goes to the the millions of innocent children, women, and men who have suffered and died from the genocide against the Tutsi. It’s a reiteration that we shall do everything in our capacity not to let the genocide happen again in Rwanda but also to collaborate with other key stakeholders globally to prevent any genocide anywhere in the world.

commitment to “NEVER AGAIN” has proven that it has failed

Over the years, the international community’s commitment to “NEVER AGAIN” has proven that it has failed, as it happens “AGAIN and AGAIN.” The promise the United Nations made was broken, as again and again, genocides and other forms of worst pogroms in human history have befell the world. If I could list all the genocides that have occurred starting from the one in 1915 in Armenia that recorded 1.5 million deaths, the holocaust that lasted 3 years from 1942 t0 1945, claimed 6,000,000 Jews, Cambodia from 1975-1979, over 2,000,000 lives were killed, Rwanda in 1994, registering over 1,000,000 deaths; and ongoing killings  in Darfur-Sudan from 2001 to present where UN puts it to over 300,000 deaths have been recorded and not forgetting what is going on in Syria at the moment . These cases are not definitive as there are many others that are still debated upon if they should be termed as genocides or just civil wars that don’t need medaling. All the genocides have one shared characteristic, a human common tendency of considering only “one group” as human, and “de-humanizing” the other, which sparks off the need for ethnic cleaning.

For the next 100 days from 7th April, Rwandans in Rwanda and around the world will commemorate the genocide that was perpetrated against Tutsis 23 years ago and honor the courage of those who risked their lives for others. Although it’s a time to remember the pain and horrendous killings, it’s mostly a time to remember, unite and build. There has been a growing concern on how the fight against genocide can be sustained. And since the human being cannot determine how there forgetting curve can hold their memories, it would be appalling if the genocide was erased from our memories and future generations found themselves at the center of the brutal killings all over again.  Although most of us will be long gone and won’t have to endure that pain again, we can at least secure a better tomorrow for our children and those to come after them.

Genocide, like armed conflict of a certain dimension, does not erupt from one day to the next, but a result of a combination of factors: a lack of dialogue, a failure to respect Peoples fundamental rights and an absence of shared values among many others. It is difficult to anticipate the critical moment at which genocide will begin or the scope that the massacre will take, but at least we can relay concrete strategies that will kill genocides even before they manifest. We grow up and live in particular cultures, with particular lineages, but we are one, not us against them.

The genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda was sparked by poor politics which incited ethnic differences; but in the spirit of unity and reconciliation, the current  government of Rwanda and other stakeholders have worked tirelessly towards building a national identity and  foster a Rwandan community that is based on respect, trust and unity.

Although the international community has continued to fail world citizens, watching in silence as genocides claim millions and millions of lives for example the Syria of today:-, there is something we can do on our own to never again have to witness or record any genocide in Rwanda. There is a common but powerful statement, united we stand but divided we fall.