Genocide has been a part of the human experience for as long as humans have been around. As the world looks forward to solving issues like poverty and disease, recent genocides still threaten the developing world.
The “Third World War” in the Democratic Republic of Congo
One of the most recent genocides happened in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), and Genocide Watch reports that genocide continues to take place. Moreover, a report by the United Nations Commissioner for Human Rights states there has been evidence of recent genocides in the DRC as early as 1993.
Much of the recent genocide is involves two factions: the Raia Mutomboki militia, which seeks to kill or expel anyone speaking Rwandan or Congolese, and the rival Hutu militia called the FDLR, which attacks anyone associated with the Raia Mutomboki. Both sides have slaughtered civilians and combatants along ethnic grounds in hopes of annihilating their rival ethnic groups from the greater Congo area.
Considered the bloodiest conflict since World War II, reports estimate that almost six million people have died since fighting started in 1996. Poverty, famine, disease and sexual violence continue to devastate the DRC. In 2010, a U.N. representative called the DRC the rape capital of the world. Additionally, civil unrest stemming from the postponement of the 2016 presidential elections displaced approximately 3.9 million people by the end of 2017.
Humanitarian organizations have provided aid, but the problems within the DRC are far from fixed. The International Rescue Committee expects to reach 8.4 million Congolese by 2020, focusing on improving the health and safety of women, children and the vulnerable.
The Darfur Genocide: First Genocide of the 21st Century
Darfur is a region in Western Sudan with a population of around seven million people. Since 2003, the Sudanese government-backed militia called the Janjaweed have laid waste to many villages in Darfur. The violence and recent genocide began as a series of reprisals for a 2003 attack on a Sudanese Air Force Base, and it was claimed that the residents of Darfur were responsible for the attack. The Janjaweed target civilians, committing mass murder and rape and looting economic resources. The U.N. estimates 4.7 million people have been affected by the fighting since 2004–half of them children. A 2016 report indicated that more than 600,000 people have died directly or indirectly because of the conflict.
Humanitarian access has been historically restricted and inhibited by the Sudanese government. The Sudanese government has been accused of intimidating and arresting aid workers. For example, in May 2005, two aid workers from Médecins sans Frontières were arrested at gunpoint under suspicion of “publishing false information” after a report by the organization was released on rape in Darfur.
The Yazidi Genocide
Most of the world’s Yazidi’s live in the Sinjar province of northern Iraq and have practiced their distinct traditions for thousands of years. However, the Yazidis are a religious and ethnic minority publicly reviled by ISIS. As a result, in August 2014, ISIS launched a genocide on the Yazidi communities of Sinjar. The ISIS fighters surged through the region, finding little military resistance. The local Peshmerga, a Kurdish security force, quickly abandoned their checkpoints and the Yazidi communities who depended on them for defense. The defenseless Yazidi villages offered little in the way of a military objective, so ISIS entered the region with one goal: the total extermination and subjugation of the Yazidi population. According to U.N. reports, Yazidi girls and women, as young as nine years old, were sold into sex slavery and trafficked across the Syrian border. Men and young boys were separated from their families–the men executed and the boys forced into ISIS training camps. Hundreds were summarily executed upon capture. All evidence points to an intentional and highly organized scheme by ISIS to end the Yazidi presence in Iraq, and potentially the world.
Access to the Sinjar region has been difficult for both humanitarian organizations and displaced Yazidis trying to return to their homeland. However, the Yazidis are not alone. Nadia’s Initiative, an advocacy organization founded by Nadia Murad, a 24-year-old Yazidi woman and survivor of the genocide, has gathered support for the Yazidi people by releasing a recent report on the current status of Sinjar. It has generated a unified humanitarian effort through the Sinjar Action Fund and has partnered with the French government to de-mine the explosives left behind by ISIS fighters in the region.
In the horrific wake of recent genocides, it can be easy to lose hope that genocide will be eradicated. However, organizations like the Sinjar Action Fund and the International Rescue Committee have and continue to work to produce a world without genocide. As solutions are being presented, it is up to everyone to implement them.
– Peter Buffo