“I once spoke to someone who had survived the genocide in Rwanda, and she said to me that there was now nobody left on the face of the earth, either friend or relative, who knew who she was. No one who remembered her girlhood and her early mischief and family lore; no sibling or boon companion who could tease her about that first romance; no lover or pal with whom to reminisce. All her birthdays, exam results, illness, friendships, kinships-gone. She went on living, but with a tabula rasa as her diary and calendar and notebook. I think of this every time I hear of the callow ambition to make a new start or to be born again: Do those who talk this way truly wish for the slate to be wiped? Genocide means not just mass killing, to the level of extermination, but mass obliteration to the verge of extinction. You wish to have one more reflection on what it is to have been made the object of a clean sweep?”-Christopher Hitchens
The United Nations Genocide Convention defines genocide as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnic, racial or religious group, as such ” including the killing of its members, causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group, deliberately imposing living conditions that seek to bring about its physical destruction in whole or forcibly transferring children out of the group to another group1 while human liberty is the state of being free; enjoying various social, political, or economic rights and privileges.1
A BRIEF CASE STUDY OF ARMENIAN, HOLOCAUST AND RWANDAN GENOCIDE
The Armenian genocide is acknowledged to have been one of the first modern genocide. It involved the systemic mass murder and expulsion of 1.5 million ethnic Armenian in Turkey and the adjoining region by the Ottoman government between 1914 and 1923. It was carried out during and after world war I and implemented in two phase-the wholesome killings of the able-bodied male population through the massacre and subjection of army conscript forced labor, followed by the deportation of women, children, the elderly, and the infirm on death marches leading to the Syrian desert.7
The holocaust, also known as the Shoch, was the World War II genocide of the European Jew carried out between 1941 and 1945. Germany occupied Europe, Nazi Germany and its collaborators murdered about Six million Jew, around two third of Europe Jewish population. The murder were carried out in pogrom and mass shooting; by a policy of extermination through work in concentration camp; and in gas chamber and gas van.6
The Rwandan genocide, also known as the “Ruanda genocide” and genocide against the Tutsi, was a mass slaughter of Tutsi, Twa, and moderate Hutu in Rwanda. It took place between 7th April and 15th July during the Rwandan civil war, claiming the life of an estimated 500 000 to 1 000 000 Rwandans.8
WHY GENOCIDE IS STILL HAPPENING
After the Armenian genocide, the world in unity vowed never to allow such a crime to take place again but in the space of decades, the world has witnessed the Holocaust and Rwandan genocides.
“Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it”- George Santayana. Many schools have neglected the place of history education in the building process of the younger generation. Through my 20 years sojourn in the academic system, I can’t point to a time when any of my teacher taught me about any genocide. My knowledge of genocide began when I accidentally stumbled at a movie that covered the events of the Rwandan genocide in drama form.
Seeds of discord and hatred been sown into the younger generation contributes to reasons why genocide still happens. Taking a clue from the Rwandan genocide, it was evident that the Tutsis, a minority ethnic group suffered state sanctioned discrimination from the then led Hutu government. Children from the Hutu ethnic group were indoctrinated into seeing violence against the Tutsi people as an acceptable way of life.10
The inability to take swift action on the part of international organization s like the UN is another reason why genocide persists. While the Rwandan genocide was been planned, Romeo Dallaire, the then head of the UN peacekeeping mission in Rwanda sent information to The UN security council about the impeding danger but no swift action was taken to stop it. The UN also failed in her responsibility when she removed peacekeepers from the country once the violence started.10
Furthermore, efforts by the political class and elites to keep and maintain control at all cost is also a reason for this menace. In Rwanda for instance, the government being devastated as a result of a civil war, poor economy, and an increasing population blamed the minority Tutsis who had been living peacefully with their Hutu brothers for decades for the misfortune, the country faced. This culminated in events that led to the genocide execution.
Failure to punish past perpetrators of genocides also promotes the continuance of genocide. History reports that the majority of the Turkish perpetrators responsible for the death of over a million Armenians escaped punishment after World War 1. This action tends to fuel and strengthen students of history who wish to execute genocide missions.
WHAT CAN BE DONE TO STOP IT
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing”- Edmund Burke
The family has been the smallest unit of the society should not be neglected in this fight. Parents should make efforts to instill good moral culture into the life of their wards to foster love and peaceful co-existence.
The education system should integrate history into the school curriculum irrespective of discipline or educational inclination. This can help in enlightening the younger generation to crush the bile of hatred and anger, which would have run through generations.
Local, traditional, and religious leaders who are closer to the populace should help in bridging the gap between members of society. This could be done through the organization of festivals, sporting activities, and programs where people can unite for long-term peace breeding.
The UN should try to take swift action when signs that can lead to genocide starts manifesting in any part of the world. This will help in discouraging the execution of preventable genocide.
The ICC should be re-empowered with greater authority to prosecute anyone guilty of genocide crimes irrespective of political or religious inclination. The Rwandan government in 2001 implemented a participatory justice system known a Gacaca, in order to adder the enormous backlog of cases. These courts give lower sentences if the person is repentant and seeks reconciliation with the community4 The Rwandan model of prosecution should be adopted in every nation where acts of genocide have taken place as a measure to punish perpetrators and discourage potential genocide instruments.
Many a nation has enacted anti-genocide bills into their constitution. Senator Greig from the Australian parliament presented a bill for an act to give effect to the convention on prevention and punishment of the crime of genocide and for related purposes.2 . Such a measure ought to be adopted by all nations of the world.
Elites and political leaders should be re-educated frequently about the danger of maintaining control to the detriment of people’s lives. Such campaigns can make leaders be people-centered.
The formation of organizations like Illinoi Holocaust Museum and Education centers that empower individuals and communities to take action to prevent and end genocide should be encouraged. International justice initiative is an example of such an organization helping to increase the coverage of contemporary genocide in the blogosphere.
The role of young people in activism today merits special attention. Social media when leveraged upon by young people can drive change and propose an innovative solution to discourage the practice of genocide around the world.
Youths should also be admonished to engage in the use of technology for campaigning and creating awareness among their peers. Such movements can help in restructuring the mind-set of many a person.
Contributions from the public in form of essays, poems, and slogans can be employed by Organizations to foster research culture among the public and increase everyone’s understanding of genocide. Personal research can unlock genocidal ignorance among citizens of the world.
“The denial of past atrocities undermines our collective attempt to prevent similar crimes today”- Kundera. Our ancestors have done mistakes, but we need not deny nor dwell in the past. Although genocide has continued to persist in our world, the most effective way to stop genocide lies in the education of the younger generation. Once this is successful, we would have created a future where crimes of genocide are alien to humanity.
- Legal definition of genocide United Nations. Retrieved 19th October 2020
- https://www.legilation .gov.au/detail/c2004BO0603
- Charle H. Anderton, Jurgen Brauer, ed. (2016). Economic Aspect of genocide, other Mass Atrocities, and their prevention
- Www. nytimes.com