Tag: <span>Genocide</span>

Reconciliation Appeals

Reconciliation in Africa: A Vital Need.

Featured Image: USAID has integrated reconciliation and trauma healing into peace building. This has helped communities moveout of the cycle of violence and revenge.Photo credit: Pact/Aernout Zevenbergen. By USAID in Africa, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

Pope Francis’ Appeal to the populations of the Democratic Republic of Congo and of South Sudan for reconciliation and forgiveness stresses a vital need to overcome the divisions of the armed conflicts in the two countries.  A million people came to the Kinshasa airport to hear the Pope call for an end to the armed conflicts in the eastern Congo, basically the administrative provinces of North and South Kivu.  The area is huge, about the size of the U.S.A. east of the Mississippi River.  Originally, he had hoped to go to Goma, the major city of eastern Congo, with many refugees from the surrounding area. 

However, the security situation was such that the itinerary was modified.  However, his words reached the area.

Pope Francis in 2021. By Quirinale.it, Attribution, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Genocide in neighboring Rwanda in 1994.

The Democratic Republic of Congo has a large Christian population.  The activity of Christian missionaries was part of the agreement to create the Congo Free State which was the personal property of the King of Belgium before becoming a Belgium colony.  Thus, the Pope’s influence can be real with a fairly strongly developed Catholic Church infrastructure to follow up.

However, the divisions within the country are deep and of long duration.  The divisions have both ethnic and economic roots.  The Congo’s vast mineral and timber riches have drawn in neighboring armies which have joined local insurgencies as well as local commanders of the national army to exploit the mines and to keep miners in near slavery.  The eastern area of Congo has been the scene of fighting at least since 1998 – in part as a result of the genocide in neighboring Rwanda in 1994.  In mid-1994, more than one million Rwandan Hutu refugees poured into the Kivus, fleeing the advance of the Tutsi-led Rwandan Front, now become the government of Rwanda led by Paul Kagame.

Rwandan PRESIDENT KAGAME ATTENDS THE NEPAD@20 SYMPOSIUM Virtual Meeting in Kigali, Rwanda (2014). By Вени Марковски | Veni Markovski, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

Genocidaire.

Many of these Hutu were still armed, among them the “genocidaire” who a couple of months before had killed some 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu in Rwanda.  They continued to kill Tutsis living in the Congo, many of whom had migrated there in the 18th century.  As the Rwandan groups created their own militias, so did different Congolese ethnic groups, often drawing on their ethnic brothers who deserted from the Congolese army.  Deserters and ethnic militias combined to rob and burn villages and to rape on a large scale.  Rape as an instrument of war has been widely practiced in eastern Congo.

Systematic rape is a crime which is covered by the mandate of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.  Rape is a violation of international humanitarian law.  Additional Protocol II of the Geneva Conventions prohibits:

“violence to life, health and physical or mental well-being of persons, in particular murder as well as cruel treatment such as torture…outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment, rape, enforced prostitution and any form of indecent assault, slavery.”

Image: Photo by Stewart Munro on Unsplash.

A Step Forward in the U.N.’s Efforts Against Rape as a Weapon of War.

The MONUC.

Into this disorder, in 2002, the United Nations sent peacekeepers, the MONUC, currently some 18,000 persons – the largest U.N. peacekeeping operation.  The MONUC mandate has been prolonged with a new Security Council resolution each year that the sponsors hope will be the last.  Each year, there is so little improvement in the security situation that the mandate is continued with little debate and with general indifference of world public opinion.

On paper, the U.N. mandate is clear and comprehensive – to build the political, military, institutional, social and economic structures needed to create a secure environment.  However, there is no effective Congolese administration.  The U.N. troops are not trained to deal with the cultural issues – especially land tenure and land use issues, which are the chief causes of the conflict.  U.N. peacekeepers are effective when there is peace to keep.  Today, there are an estimated 120 separate armed militias in action.

What is required today in eastern Congo is not so much more soldiers under U.N. command as reconciliation bridge builders, persons who are able to restore relations among ethnic groups of the area.  Such bridge builders can help to strengthen local efforts at conflict resolution and the restoration of confidence among peoples in conflict. It must be hoped that the Appeals of Pope Francis will provoke creative action on the part of bridge builders.

 Picture: MONUSCO Photos, CC BY-SA 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons.

The United Nations Peacekeeping Forces, Weak but Necessary.

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

The Uprooted.

Increasing numbers of people in countries around the world, have been forced from their homes, by armed conflicts and systematic violations of human rights. Those who cross internationally recognized borders…

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Genocide Convention UN: Growth of World Law.

Genocide Convention: 9 December 1948.

Featured Image: Photo by Pixabay on Pexels

By Dr. Rene Wadlow.

Genocide Convention: 9 December 1948.
An Unused but not Forgotten Standard of World Law.

Genocide is the most extreme consequence of racial discrimination and ethnic hatred. Genocide has as its aim the destruction, wholly or in part, of a national, ethnic, racial or religious group as such. The term was proposed by the legal scholar Raphael Lemkin, drawing on the Greek genos (people or tribe) and the Latin cide (to kill).(1) The policies and war crimes of the Nazi German government were foremost on the minds of those who drafted the Genocide Convention, but the policy was not limited to the Nazi. (2)

The Genocide Convention is a landmark in the efforts to develop a system of universally accepted standards which promote an equitable world order for all members of the human family to live in dignity. Four articles are at the heart of this Convention and are here quoted in full to understand the process of implementation proposed by the Association of World Citizens, especially of the need for an improved early warning system.

Article I

In the present Convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

  • (a) Killing members of the group;
  • (b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
  • (c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
  • (d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
  • (e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Unlike most humanitarian international law which sets out standards but does not establish punishment, Article III sets out that the following acts shall be punishable:

  • (a) Genocide;
  • (b) Conspiracy to commit genocide;
  • (c) Direct and public incitement to commit genocide;
  • (d) Attempt to commit genocide;
  • (e) Complicity in genocide.

Article IV

Persons committing genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in article III shall be punished, whether they are constitutionally responsible rulers, public officials or private individuals.

Article VIII

Any Contracting Party may call upon the competent organs of the United Nations to take such action under the Charter of the United Nations as they consider appropriate for the prevention and suppression of acts of genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in article III.

Numerous reports have reached the Secretariat of the United Nations of actual, or potential, situations of genocide: mass killings; cases of slavery and slavery-like practices, in many instances with a strong racial, ethnic and religious connotation – with children as the main victims, in the sense of article II (b) and (c). Despite factual evidence of these genocides and mass killings as in Sudan, the former Yugoslavia, Rwanda, Burundi, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone and in other places, no Contracting Party to the Genocide Convention has called for any action under article VIII of the Convention.

As Mr Nicodene Ruhashyankiko of the Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities wrote in his study of proposed mechanisms for the study of information on genocide and genocidal practices “A number of allegations of genocide have been made since the adoption of the 1948 Convention. In the absence of a prompt investigation of these allegations by an impartial body, it has not been possible to determine whether they were well-founded. Either they have given rise to sterile controversy or, because of the political circumstances, nothing further has been heard about them.”

Yet the need for speedy preventive measures has been repeatedly underlined by United Nations Officials. On 8 December 1998, in his address at UNESCO, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said:

“Many thought, no doubt, that the horrors of the Second World War – the camps, the cruelty, the exterminations, the Holocaust – could not happen again. And yet they have, in Cambodia, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, In Rwanda. Our time – this decade even – has shown us that man’s capacity for evil knows no limits. Genocide – the destruction of an entire people on the basis of ethnic or national origins – is now a word of our time, too, a stark and haunting reminder of why our vigilance must be eternal.”

Joint Special Envoy Kofi Annan spoke with the media at the United Nations Office at Geneva following the June 30, 2012 Meeting of the Action Group for Syria. By US Mission in Geneva, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.

In her address Translating words into action to the UN General Assembly on 10 December 1998, the then High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mrs Mary Robinson, declared :

” The international community’s record in responding to, let alone preventing, gross human rights abuses does not give grounds for encouragement. Genocide is the most flagrant abuse of human rights imaginable. Genocide was vivid in the minds of those who framed the Universal Declaration, working as they did in the aftermath of the Second World War. The slogan then was ‘never again’. Yet genocide and mass killing have happened again – and have happened before the eyes of us all – in Rwanda, Cambodia, the former Yugoslavia and other parts of the globe.”

We need to heed the early warning signs of genocide. Officially-directed massacres of civilians of whatever numbers cannot be tolerated, for the organizers of genocide must not believe that more widespread killing will be ignored. Yet killing is not the only warning sign. The Convention drafters, recalling the radio addresses of Hitler and the constant flow of words and images, set out as punishable acts “direct and public incitement to commit genocide”.

Mary Robinson (2014). By Nationaal Comité 4 en 5 mei, Attribution, via Wikimedia Commons.

The Genocide Convention

The Genocide Convention, in its provisions concerning public incitement, sets the limits of political discourse. It is well documented that public incitement – whether by Governments or certain non-governmental actors, including political movements – to discriminate against, to separate forcibly, to deport or physically eliminate large categories of the population of a given State, or the population of a State in its entirety, just because they belong to certain racial, ethnic or religious groups, sooner or later leads to war. It is also evident that, at the present time, in a globalized world, even local conflicts have a direct impact on international peace and security in general.

Therefore, the Genocide Convention is also a constant reminder of the need to moderate political discourse, especially constant and repeated accusations against a religious, ethnic and social category of persons. Had this been done in Rwanda, with regard to the radio Mille Collines, perhaps that premeditated and announced genocide could have been avoided or mitigated.

For the United Nations to be effective in the prevention of genocide, there needs to be an authoritative body which can investigate and monitor a situation well in advance of the outbreak of violence. As has been noted, any Party to the Genocide Convention (and most States are Parties) can bring evidence to the UN Security Council, but none has. In the light of repeated failures and due to pressure from non-governmental organizations, the Secretary-General has named an individual advisor on genocide to the UN Secretariat. However, he is one advisor among many, and there is no public access to the information that he may receive.

Direct and public incitement to commit genocide.

Therefore, a relevant existing body must be strengthened to be able to deal with the first signs of tensions, especially ‘direct and public incitement to commit genocide.” The Committee for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) created to monitor the 1965 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination would be the appropriate body to strengthen, especially by increasing its resources and the number of UN Secretariat members which service the CERD. Through its urgent procedures mechanisms, CERD has the possibility of taking early-warning measures aimed at preventing existing strife from escalating into conflicts, and to respond to problems requiring immediate attention. A stronger CERD more able to investigate fully situations should mark the world’s commitment to the high standards of world law set out in the Genocide Convention.

Notes

1) Raphael Lemkin. Axis Rule in Occupied Europe (Washington: Carnegie Endowment for World Peace, 1944).
2) For a good overview see: Samantha Power. A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide (New York: Basic Books, 2002)
3) E/CN.4/Sub.2/1778/416 Para 614

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Republic of Congo Appeals

Democratic Republic of Congo — Need for Reconciliation Bridge-Builders.

Photo by Kaysha on Unsplash

On bridges are stated the limits in tons

of the loads they can bear.

But I’ve never yet found one that can bear more

than we do. Although we are not made of roman freestone,

nor of steel, nor of concrete.

From “Bridges” – Ondra Lysohorsky

Translated from the Lachian by Davis Gill.

The killing on 22 February 2021 near Goma in Eastern Congo of the Italian Ambassador to the Congo has highlighted the continuing insecurity of the area and the need for renewed efforts at peacebuilding. The Ambassador of Italy, Luca Attanasio, was part of a two-car convoy of the U.N. World Food Program to visit a school meal program run by the Program which has recently been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The convoy was fired upon by a group of six individuals. The Ambassador and one of the drivers were killed.

At this stage, it is not known which of some 45 armed groups in the area carried out the attack and if the convoy was attacked because it was of the United Nations or if any two-car convoy would hve been attacked in the hope of looting the contents.  While the U.N. Secretary-General has called for an  investigation, an investigation is unlikely to be able to say more than that the whole area is unstable and that more than U.N. or Congolese grovernment troops are necessary to bring stability.

Armed Violence Continues.

Despite a new president of the Democratic Republic of Congo who promised to tackle poverty at its roots, armed violence continues.  Felix Tshisekedi, son of the late, long-time opposition leader Etienne Tshisekedi, put an end to the 18-year rule of Joseph Kabila.  However, in a number of provinces of the country, especially the east, armed violence continues between the army and different tribal-based militias.  In some area, war lords battle among themselves.

The United Nations has some 20:,000 peacemakers in Congo (MONUC), the UN’s  most numerous peacekeeping mission, but their capacity is stretched to the limit.  While MONUC has proven effective at securing peace in the Ituri district in north-eastern Congo, it has been much less successful in the two Kivu provinces.

The eastern area of Congo is the scene of fighting at least since 1998 — in part as a result of the genocide in neighboring Rwanda in 1994.  In mid-1994, more than one million Rwandan Hutu refugees poured into the Kivu provinces, fleeing the advance of the Tutsi-led Rwandan Patriotic Front, now become the government of Rwanda.  Many of these Hutu were still armed, among them, the “genocidaire” who a couple of months before had led the killings of some 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu in Rwanda.  They continued to kill Tutsi living in the Congo, many of whom had migrated there in the 18th century.

Techniques of Conflict Resolution.

The people in eastern Congo have lived together for many centuries and had developed techniques of conflict resolution, especially between the two chief agricultural lifestyles: that of agriculture and cattle herding.  However, the influx of a large number of Hutu, local political considerations, a desire to control the wealth of the area — rich in gold, tin and tropical timber — all these factors have overburdened the local techniques of conflict resolution and have opened the door to new, negative forces interested only in making money and gaining political power.

UN peace-keeping troops are effective when there is peace to keep.  What is required today in eastern Congo and in certain other parts of the country is not so much more soldiers under UN command, than reconciliation bridge-builders, persons who are able to restore relations among the ethnic groups of the area.  The United Nations, national governments, and non-governmental organizations need to develop bridge-building teams who can help to strengthen local efforts at conflict resolution and re-establishing community relations.  In the Kivu provinces, many of the problems arise from land tenure issues.  With the large number of people displaced and villages destroyed, it may be necessary to review completely land tenure and land use issues.

The Importance of Decentralization and Con-Federal Forms of Government.

The Association of World Citizens has stressed the need in States deeply divided on geographic and ethnic lines such as the Democratic Republic of Congo  to manage diversity as a strength rather than as a weakness..  There is often a tendency for leaders of States divided on ethnic lines to “over-centralize” the Administration in the hope of creating “national unity”.  In practice, such efforts at centralized government lead to some areas and some groups to feel marginalized or excluded.  In such cases armed violence seems to be the fastest  way to receive attention and to get “a share of the economic pie.”  Thus, the Association of World Citizens has stressed the importance of decentralization and con-federal forms of government as an alternative to the creation of new independent states which is often the first demand of marginalized areas.

World citizens were among those in the early 1950s who stressed the need to create UN peace-keeping forces with soldiers especially trained for such a task.  Today, a new type of world civil servant is needed — those who in areas of tension and conflict can undertake the slow but important task of restoring confidence among peoples in conflict, establishing contacts and looking for ways to build upon common interests.

Rene Wadlow, President, Association of World Citizens.

Here are other publications that may be of interest to you.

4 June: Memories of Tiananmen Square.

4 June makes the security forces in China somewhat uneasy, especially in Hong Kong where, in the past, there were large memorial meetings tp remind people of 4 June 1989…

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