the lingering effects of genocide
The causes of genocide are vast but include dehumanization, national crises and government power. In countries where there are deep grievances between groups, it is probable one group will ultimately be victimized by the other. Moreover, groups may blame each other for tragedies within their country. Plus, some governments constrain their power, limiting the fair representation of its people.

Rwanda and Cambodia offer two case studies of genocide that occurred in the last 50 years. Additionally, both populations combated realities of poverty and inequity even before the atrocities. Halting any development these countries may have experienced, genocide left lingering effects in Rwanda and Cambodia. Currently, both countries face hardship. However, their peoples are busy rebuilding their environments to sustain a neutral state wherein cultural, political and economic growth can flourish.

Rwanda

Rwanda lost 800,00 people during the genocide in 1994. Since the genocide, Rwanda is trying to develop services and opportunities that were lost. The drive behind this redevelopment has come from tea and coffee exports, foreign aid and the tourism industry.

Rwanda has always depended heavily on agricultural production for family consumption and state revenues. But rural poverty and land issues created a dissatisfied climate before the genocide. This is still seen through rising land inequality and decreasing possibilities for income outside of the farm sector. And both are lingering effects of genocide and threaten economic stability. Subsequently, commodity prices have dropped rapidly, especially in 1989. Then, government revenues from coffee exports declined from $144 million in 1985 to $30 million in 1993.

New Growth

However, according to the World Bank, Rwanda is developing its private sector to ensure more economic growth and reduce the lingering effects of genocide. Since 2001, Rwanda’s economic growth was bordering an average of 8 percent. In 2010, the World Bank named the country as the top reformer for business. After two successful Economic Development and Poverty Reduction Strategies from 2008 to 2018, Rwanda’s per capita gross domestic product annually grew around 5 percent.

The Rwanda Development Organization has ongoing projects that empower the Rwandan people to help improve socio-economic development in their communities. One project includes the Farm to Market Alliance. FtMA provides institutional support to 24,000 farmers among 80 cooperatives. The project has sustained many small farms and created support groups. So far, 20,000 farmers have been trained by other farmers to learn the best farming practices, like post-harvesting and handling.

Cambodia

In Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge genocide period took place from 1975 to 1979. Now, the country is still grappling with the past. The Cambodian People’s Party took power at the end of the genocide, instilling conservative values. Currently, there is still a generation of political leaders making it difficult for communities to have open discussions about the Khmer Rouge genocide. As such, it is hard to create strategies for growth and healing.

Legacies of Poverty

Poverty in Cambodia remains widespread, largely due to the lingering effects of genocide and the unfair distribution of wealth. The genocide led to the death of much of Cambodia’s educated class. Additionally, the majority of surviving Cambodians were farmers, subsequently unable to sustain the services affected by the genocide.

In rural areas, poverty is still a lingering effect of genocide because of ongoing corruption and the lack of government help. Similar to Rwanda, Cambodia faces challenges in jump-starting modern agriculture and irrigation techniques. This has made it difficult for Cambodia to keep up with developed countries.

Nevertheless, the future does appear hopeful according to statistics. General poverty rates in Cambodia have decreased from 50 percent to 35 percent between the mid-1990s to the mid-2000s. As a result, many provinces have seen improvements. Development strategies and nongovernmental organizations have done a lot to assist Cambodian communities.

Voluntary Service Overseas is one such NGO that has worked to restore developmental growth in Cambodia by improving the education system, quality of teaching and people’s livelihoods. It works alongside government entities to research inclusive education policies. In 2015, VSO supported the training of 540 senior education officials. This creates a sustainable opportunity for more cohesive management of schools and contributes to future economic development.

A Shared Experience

After the genocide in both Rwanda and Cambodia, a majority of the population was comprised of young people. A large part of the healing process has been to educate younger generations about the country’s history and why knowledge is so vital in making sure genocide never happens again.

Both countries have tried tackling the skills gap that could greatly affect the future of the country’s growth in economics, politics and education. Enrolling more children in school proves to be a successful strategy in combating poverty. However, these children must also attain employment opportunities as adults, too. Creating these foundations will reduce the lingering effects of genocide and give future leaders the resources to build better lives not only for themselves but for their country as a whole.

Melina Benjamin
Photo: Flickr

TPO CambodiaThe Khmer Rouge was a genocide in Cambodia that resulted from a civil war, leaving 4 million dead and millions more traumatized. The destruction of Cambodia’s infrastructure during the Khmer Rouge has greatly contributed to poverty levels in the country and the struggle to rebuild the country. Since the Khmer Rouge specifically targeted doctors and educated people (leaving the country devoid of healthcare professionals), it took decades for mental health treatment to be available. Thankfully, organizations like the Transcultural Psychological Organization (TPO Cambodia) have emerged to help combat the negative mental health impacts of the Khmer Rouge and poverty. Here are 4 ways TPO Cambodia provides mental health aid.

4 Ways TPO Cambodia Provides Mental Health Aid

  1. Raising Awareness of Mental Health Among Locals: TPO Cambodia builds upon already established relationships to develop new mental health leaders in communities. It does this by training already established leaders in Cambodian communities in the basics of psychosocial education and how to refer those in need. This strategy is respectful of Cambodian social structures while, at the same time, raises awareness of mental health. TPO Cambodia conducts various mental health awareness programs in schools, pagodas and on the radio. These programs have been proven to increase understanding of psychosocial issues in families and leave people empowered to know how to take action to aid their mental health.Raising awareness of the importance of mental health also helps prevent mental health issues by increasing mental wellness practices. One story highlighted a man who was traumatized when attacked by robbers. The event left the man incredibly violent and, eventually, his family had to chain him up in fear of their own lives. Once the family learned of TPO Cambodia, they were able to provide him the treatment he needed, allowing him to heal and be free from chains.
  2. Building Communities: One positive impact TPO Cambodia sees from increased mental health awareness has been stronger communities. These two aspects build upon one another, the larger community raises more awareness and raised awareness strengthens the community. Trained individuals facilitate self-help groups, providing a community space for people to problem solve on shared struggles, share personal experiences and feel more socially connected. Some community programs currently available through TPO Cambodia are healing for victims of the Khmer Rouge, mental health for sexual assault victims, promoting gender equality and working for the protection of children.
  3. Providing Psychological Treatment Services: TPO Cambodia is staffed with experienced clinical professionals that offer a variety of mental health services for psychosocial, psychological and psychiatric conditions. Services available are decided based on an individual’s needs. Some of the services available at TPO Cambodia are trauma treatment, psychiatric assessment and treatment and counseling and therapy. It also provides help for issues such as insomnia, alcoholism and depression.
  4. Research Projects: All research projects TPO Cambodia conducts specifically focus on the cultural context of Cambodia. Through research projects, TPO Cambodia has developed a culturally aware version of “Testimonial Therapy” for traumatized victims of the Khmer Rouge. This therapy aids in helping victims find closure and to associate traumas with a more positive state of mind.  The various research projects TPO Cambodia is involved in aims to gain a better understanding of how traumatic events have impacted its people as well as understand better how this information can improve TPO Cambodia’s current therapeutic practices.

With a majority of mental health issues worldwide residing in impoverished communities, mental health issues need to be actively considered in the eradication of poverty. Living in poverty presents itself as a huge risk factor for many mental health struggles. TPO Cambodia’s method of incorporating the Cambodian cultural context into every part of their work has shown to positively impact communities while maintaining a crucial understanding and respect of cultural norms. These 4 ways TPO Cambodia provides mental health aid show how organizations can work to end the vicious cycle of poverty and mental health in their own communities.

Amy Dickens

Photo: Flickr

U.S. Foreign Aid Helps Prevent Genocide
There is an ongoing discussion in the United States surrounding the efficacy of U.S. foreign aid directed toward the economic and social development of developing countries.

The proponents of this arm of U.S. diplomacy sight the advantages as numerous. U.S-centric arguments in support of foreign aid cite economic and national defense benefits such as the expansion of new economic markets abroad and reduction of poverty-linked terrorism.

From a humanitarian point of view, U.S. aid and human rights initiatives have improved and saved the lives of millions of people around the globe. To narrow in on one aspect of that, studies have shown that the U.S. helps prevent genocide through foreign aid.

Roots of Genocide

According to a report published in 2010 by the U.N. Office of the Special Advisor on the Prevention of Genocide, the root causes of genocide spur from societal identity-related conflicts. The report states that the differences in identity do not generate conflict, but the gross inequalities associated with those differences in terms of access to power and resources, social services, development opportunities and the enjoyment of fundamental rights and freedoms. 

Within this explanation lays an analysis of genocide as being primarily caused by economic inequality, lack of development and unequal access to power within a state. Following this train of thought, U.S. helps prevent genocide trough foreign aid in that it enables access to tools of empowerment (security, capital, health care, etc.) for impoverished people. By narrowing socioeconomic gaps in potentially violent areas, foreign assistance plays a role in minimizing root causes of genocide.

Matthew C. Waxman, the author of the Council on Foreign Relations special report, Intervention to Stop Genocide and Mass Atrocities, weighed in on how the U.S. helps prevent genocide through foreign aid and explained: “Once mass atrocities are unfolding, it is already too late, so early preventative action is key. Here is the human toll of waiting too long, but also practical reasons for early action, because once mass violence breaks out or human suffering reaches a certain point, there may be cascading effects.”

Rwandan Genocide as a Case Study

The Rwandan Genocide was a tragedy that occurred in 1994, in which over 800,000 Rwandans, primarily of ethnic group Tutsi, were killed by militia and government forces comprised primarily of the ethnic Hutu group. The conflict ignited between the Hutu majority group and the Tutsi minority group and lasted for 100 days. This conflict will be remembered as one of the darkest moments of the 20th century.

On the 10th anniversary of the Rwandan Genocide, U.N. Security General Kofi Annan outlined a five-point action plan for preventing genocides in the future. The first strategy on the plan is to Prevent Armed Conflict. In an expanded explanation of this point, Annan states: “Addressing inequalities in access to resources constitute a critical prevention strategy” and that “economic and social development and alleviating poverty also make a substantial contribution to preventing conflict.”

Though, as Kofi Annan emphasizes in his five-point action plan, preventing armed conflict is first and foremost the responsibility of national governments, Annan also pledged for U.N.’s support to national efforts that seek to take preventative measures against genocide. In doing this, Annan implies that international and foreign institutions, like the U.N., can have a positive influence on individual nations by helping shape peaceful and equal relations within nations.

The U.S. and Its Role

As the former Security General pointed out and what has been proven to be true by the positive results of U.S. foreign assistance efforts in the past, foreign aid works in addressing inequalities between identity groups. In order to implement preventative action into potential conflict zones, Waxman suggests that development of effective early warning systems, engagement in active diplomacy to mitigate crises and usage of tools like foreign assistance and capacity- building programs to address causes of humanitarian emergencies are most important steps.

In 2011, in recognition of how the U.S. helps prevent genocide through foreign aid, President Obama pushed for the creation of the Atrocities Prevention Board (APB), a high-level interagency body responsible for coordinating a whole government approach to preventing mass atrocities and genocide.

Additionally, the U.S. Agency for International Development published the “Field Guide: Helping Prevent Mass Atrocities”, a 64-page government document that acknowledges that the U.S. should be helping prevent genocide and outlines strategies for how to do so.

Based on the research published about genocides in the past, the global community seems to have a fairly clear understanding of the origins of genocide and what the warning signs are. With the understanding of how such a terrible event comes to be, many humanitarian efforts have been launched to address the root causes of mass violence and among those the U.S. has played a pivotal role.

However, recent political moves that threaten the future of U.S. foreign assistance program have been made. In a world where mass violence is ever-looming, it would be prudent for the policy-makers to consider how the U.S. helps prevent genocide through foreign aid and keeps that violence at bay.

– Clarke Hallum
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts Everyone Should Know About Genocide
Genocide, or the mass murder of specific groups of people, is something that most consider to be a thing of the past, citing the Jewish holocaust and Nazi regime that ended over 60 years ago. Unfortunately, the concept of genocide is alive and well in the current state of world affairs. Moreover, it is important to note that genocide has farther reaches than those of mass death, extending into severe turmoil for those left alive.

Top 10 Facts Everyone Should Know about Genocide

  1. Genocide leads to mass poverty. As seen in German ghettos under the Nazi regime, and in Rwanda’s, Bosnia’s and Herzegovina’s staggering poverty rates, genocide is not a stand-alone issue but rather one with many other branches of issues.
  2. Genocide promotes poor infrastructure. When citizens cannot afford basic sustainability or are too poor to contribute to the tax pool, things such as well paved roads and access to electricity become luxuries and not expectancies. Healthy and functioning infrastructure promotes an overall health in an economic system. However, where infrastructure is lacking, it is sure to impact personal financial success and vice versa.
  3. Genocide increases crime statistics. Because genocide increases the likelihood of living in poverty, genocide indirectly increases the likelihood of crime. According to Marcus Felson, a criminologist, developing countries have more severe poverty than developed countries. Developing countries lack affordable access to advanced security tools that exist in developed countries, such as home security systems, which deter crime. With less reliable protection against crime, citizens may find themselves in an environment where crimes are easier to commit.
  4. Genocide disrupts schooling. Genocide devastates every aspect of an impacted community. Some major disruptions include weakened infrastructure, which in turn devastates school systems and access to education.
  5. Genocide creates a lack of workforce, inhibiting a functioning economy. The most obvious result of genocide is a decrease in prior population. When this is paired with a weakened infrastructure and widespread poverty, the economy suffers greatly as there is reduced resources available to invest.
  6. Genocide goes hand-in-hand with poor government systems. As seen in Nazi Germany and the genocide of over six million Jewish people, genocide is linked to totalitarian government regimes, similar to what is seen in modern day North Korea. Moreover, genocide paves the way for unstable governments to take power for extended periods of time. This is seen in current day Bosnia and Herzegovina, where corrupt government officials are rampant.
  7. Genocide cripples healthcare systems. Pre-civil war Rwanda had high rates of HIV/AIDS. However, due to sexual violence associated with the war, the rates of HIV/AIDS increased even further. The Rwandan government become nearly destitute from the war and consequently had a limited resource pool to draw from in order to treat citizens. Another example is seen in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where a devastated health care system from the Bosnian War still pervades.
  8. Genocide targets minorities before any other group. This is likely due to the “black sheep syndrome” that sometimes pushes minority groups to the fringes of society, not wholly integrating or fitting in with the larger society. This makes it easy for minority groups to be identified and targeted.
  9. Genocide leaves impacted societies vulnerable for many years after. While it is intuitive to assume that a society will not simply “go back to normal” when a genocide has ended, this is caused not by fiscal challenges but overall social distrust and emotional poverty, symptoms of the larger trauma. This is evident in nations like Rwanda, Bosnia and Herzegovina, where tensions and vast poverty are still present many years after the genocides.
  10. Genocide can be prevented. Genocide does not come about by a single factor, but rather by many single decisions to ignore humanity in others. Every single person has both the opportunity and the responsibility to treat others with respect and dignity. Each person is a factor in deciding what kind of world we all live in and everyone can choose what kind of impact to make. Choose kindness.

Due to the causes of genocide being varied and complex, these are only the top 10 facts everyone should know about genocide and not a comprehensive list. However, no matter how much information is gathered about genocide, the most imperative thing to take away is that no small action or thought is too small to matter. Every action and all thoughts contribute to what the future holds. Everyone makes a difference.

– Alexandra Ferrigno

Photo: Flickr

Human Rights in Rwanda
It’s been over 20 years since the Rwandan Genocide and, while this event is how most know of the small African nation, a reexamination of human rights in Rwanda is well past overdue. In 1994, over the course of a hundred days, nearly a million Rwandans were executed in an ethnic conflict. However, over the next two decades an exemplary justice and reconciliation process unfolded. Due to these efforts, Rwanda’s reputation for human rights violations no longer fits the reality of human rights in Rwanda today. Here are some important facts regarding human rights in Rwanda:

Seven Facts About Human Rights in Rwanda

  1. The 1994 genocide was largely drawn on ethnic lines. Following the overthrow of the Tutsi Monarchy in 1959, the Hutus (who had an 85 percent majority in the country) ruled for the next three decades. In April of 1994, however, the Hutu president was killed in a plane crash prompting Hutu extremists and ruling party officials to begin the systematic execution of the Tutsis. One hundred days later, between 800,000 and 1 million Tutsis were killed and 250,000 women had been raped by militia forces.
  2. By the close of 1994, following the genocide, the U.N. Security Council established The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR). Over the next decade and a half, The ICTR oversaw the sentencing of 61 people and received thousands of hours of witness testimony. The ICTR is now regarded as one of the preeminent mass violence tribunals and has been used as a model for similar events since. Seeing as The ICTR was so widely and successfully implemented across Rwanda, it is not surprising to learn the attitudes of those leading Rwanda still reflect the lessons learned from The ICTR. Today, human rights in Rwanda is treated with the utmost efficiency with a serious consideration for truth-seeking.
  3. In order to ensure the remaining fugitives were held accountable following the completion of The ICTR, The U.N. Security Council established The Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (MICT). MICT oversaw what remained of both the Rwandan and Yugoslavian criminal tribunals. One of those sentenced by MICT was former Prime Minister Jean Kambanda – the first head of government to be convicted of genocide. This was a clear signal sent that human rights in Rwanda were now being taken extremely seriously by the international and Rwandan community.
  4. The ICTR and MICT have not been the only judicial bodies present in Rwanda. The Rwandan National Court System has tried over 10,000 suspects accused of violating human rights relating to the genocide and has remained committed to trying human rights abusers. Interestingly, in the midst of these genocide trials, Rwanda abolished the death penalty, which reflects the growing divide between the former Rwanda, ravaged by genocide, and the Rwanda of today. The Rwandan national court system today strikes this balance well. While they no longer utilize the death penalty, judges continue to strike harsh sentences against human rights abusers to set the precedent that such actions will not be tolerated in contemporary Rwanda.
  5. An essential factor in restoring peace and reconciliation in Rwanda to avoid further human rights troubles was the need to rectify the fates of low-level participants in the genocide. To accomplish this task, the national government reestablished traditional Gacaca Courts. There, community members were tasked with hearing the confessions of those involved in the human rights violations. Confessions were important to the community as they allowed many families to learn of the fates of many of their missing loved ones. While the Gacaca courts held thousands of trials, some of the confessing suspects were permitted to return home with mandated community service, others were sentenced to hard labor. Gacaca courts today continue to play an integral role in maintaining a free and fair Rwanda. Contrary to popular belief, human rights violations seldom begin as a national level conspiracy, but rather those in the communities feel drawn to participate through local influences. Gacaca courts fight this by addressing and prosecuting the instigators at the local level – before it becomes a national crisis.
  6. During the Rwandan genocide, human rights violations spread to Burundi and The Democratic Republic of Congo. This spread was largely due to the influx of fleeing Tutsi refugees across the Great Lakes region and the subsequent pursuit of those attempting to execute the Tutsis. Those intending harm to the Tutsis took advantage of Burundi and DRC’s own internal strife to sew chaos across the region. Today, however, Rwanda works closely with its neighbors, playing an active role in monitoring for and preventing human rights violations. This is one of the biggest lessons learned from the genocide. Rwanda, while a small inland country, is nevertheless an integral regional partner. As such, human rights abuses within the country can spread outward and external abuses can spread inward. Seeing as this is the case, Rwanda has put forth an incredible effort to stymie human rights abuses in its neighboring countries.
  7. While in 1994, the Rwandan government was the sponsor of the genocide, the government today is not only one of the freest and fairest governments but also the most diverse in the region. In fact, women make up a majority of the legislature in Rwanda with 49 out of 80 seats in the lower house and 10 of 26 in the upper house.

While Rwanda is internationally known for the horrific 1994 genocide, this picture does not clearly paint the reality of human rights in Rwanda today. Following the genocide incredible strides were made to bring not only justice but reconciliation to Rwandans. While no reconciliation process is perfect, Rwanda was successful in not only starting to heal the wounds of the past but also ensuring that human rights in Rwanda are taken seriously, so that there is no chance of such tragedies happening again.

– Sam Kennedy
Photo: Flickr

Genocide Prevention
One of the worst occurrences in humankind is genocide — the killing of an entire group of people. The website titled Genocide Watch has a goal of predicting, preventing, stopping and punishing genocide and other forms of mass murder if/when they occur. In fact, this website even went so far as to develop a code for people at risk of genocide:

Genocide Watch, Warning and Emergency

  1. A Genocide Watch: Early warning signs indicate the danger of a genocidal process underway.
  2. A Genocide Warning: A genocidal process is underway and is often indicated by genocidal massacres with the imminent danger of root and branch destruction.
  3. A Genocide Emergency: A genocidal process has taken on root and branch dimensions.

Currently, Burundi is coded Genocide Watch; Turkey is coded as a Genocide Warning. However, nine countries are signified with a Genocide Emergency: Yemen, Iraq, Myanmar, Nigeria, Central African Republic, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Syria. This extensive list of countries in conflict demonstrates why genocide prevention efforts are crucial to stopping a genocide in its tracks.

Organizations Combatting Genocide

Numerous efforts are being made across the globe to make genocides an action of the past, and the following is a few of the groups making a profound change on the prevention and combat of genocides today.

  1. The Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide. This center is connected to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C., United States. The goal of this center is to mobilize global action for genocide prevention and to motivate the international community to respond in the face of genocide. The Simon-Skjodt Center combines action with awareness, as they work to influence policymakers and bring awareness to projects and risk factors that lead to genocide.
  2. Early Warning Project utilizes data to identify countries at risk of new mass atrocities. Their goal is to advance prevention through their early warning system for mass atrocities. By providing governments, advocacy groups and at-risk societies with earlier and more reliable warning, this organization then has more opportunity to take action before deaths occur. This website provides a world map that shows a country’s risk through a color scheme. It also explains their statistical risk assessment. The Early Warning Project utilizes an analytical approach to work for the prevention of genocide.
  3. United to End Genocide focuses on acts individuals can take to prevent future genocides. This organization encourages passionate individuals to lobby Congress to make human rights and genocide prevention core values in U.S. foreign policy. Also, United to End Genocide encourages individuals to mobilize others to demand action. Again, this organization provides a list of countries at risk for human rights violations. Lastly, they want to “stop the enablers;” by this, United to End Genocide puts public pressure on companies that welcome or reward perpetrators of mass atrocities. So, be a conscious consumer when it relates to preventing genocide.

Preventative Efforts

When considering genocide prevention, it is important to address the stages of genocide and the importance of early intervention. Knowing signs of classification, symbolization, discrimination, dehumanization, organization, polarization and preparation and educational efforts are crucial to preventing genocide prior to persecution, extermination and denial.

For an example of such preemptive behavior, Myanmar is under a Genocide Emergency. Three major stages of this status that occurred were discrimination, dehumanization and polarization of the Rohingya Muslims. By identifying these stages and how they occur in society, the international community can better prevent genocide.

Awareness and Activism

Such organizations focus their work on preventing genocide through bringing awareness to the public, educating and mobilizing policymakers, and taking action when needed. Projects that work toward preventing genocide not only reduce or stop massive conflict in its tracks, but also work to alleviate poverty worldwide.

These key tools of education, awareness and action are also important when alleviating communities of extreme poverty. These global issues are interwoven and by addressing poverty and addressing genocide simultaneously, the global community can live in a better world.

– Jenna Walmer
Photo: Flickr

Negative Effects of the Rwandan Genocide
Rwanda has made great strides in combating poverty. The country boasts one of the fastest growing economies in Central Africa, with an average GDP growth of 8 percent per year between 2001 and 2014. However, 60 percent of the population still lives in extreme poverty — on less than $1.25 a day — as just one of the negative effects of the Rwandan genocide.

GDP per capita would most likely be about 25 to 30 percent higher if the 100-day civil war and genocide had not occurred from April to July of 1994. More than 800,000 civilians were killed, and current Rwandans still experience the negative effects of the Rwandan genocide via the country’s collective poverty and mental health statuses of individuals today.

What was the Rwandan Genocide?

The Rwandan genocide resulted from centuries of conflict between two ethnic groups in Rwanda — the Hutu and the Tutsi peoples. Hutu extremists systematically murdered Tutsi and moderate Hutu and targeted politicians in particular so as to form a political vacuum and an interim, extremist government.

Only extreme violence and brutality could lead to the murder of so many in only 100 days. Beyond murder, another tactic used to traumatize victims was the deliberate infection of many Tutsi women with HIV/AIDS through rape. These devastating methods are why Lauren Suitt so strongly believes in “raising up the local counselors to help alleviate the trauma that still exists from the genocide.”

The Africa Healing Exchange

Lauren Suitt is a recent University of North Carolina Asheville graduate who traveled to Rwanda this May for three weeks as part of her internship with Africa Healing Exchange (AHE). The AHE is an Asheville-based non-profit with the mission of helping people overcome trauma associated with the Rwandan genocide.

Sara Stender founded AHE after being transformed by her experiences with Rwandans in 2009. The nonprofit uses its own Restoring Resiliency Program to assist individuals and groups in both the U.S. and Rwanda in their attempts to overcome trauma by particularly focusing on Rwandan mothers and children.

Suitt emphasizes forming connections as an integral part of the nonprofit’s work, telling The Borgen Project: “It is AHE’s goal to help facilitate the growth of mutually beneficial relationships/ skills exchange between people in Rwanda and the United States.”

Scars of the Rwandan Genocide

The work Suitt did in her internship highlights the way AHE attempts to address two different negative effects of the Rwandan genocide. She focused her three weeks in the country on training local Rwandans as part of a workshop for local trauma counselors in Kigali and delivering business development workshops for women’s cooperatives in the rural districts of Rubavo and Rulindo.

She advocates that of the negative effects of the Rwandan genocide, trauma should be addressed first. Suitt says, “Since the genocide occurred in 1994, only 24 years ago, the majority Rwandans were directly affected. It was very eye-opening for me to realize that this occurred only a year before I was born and that most people only a year older than I am witnessed this tragedy first hand (I was born in 1995).”

Survivor Stories

The resilient Rwandans that Suitt met during her three-week stay deepened her awareness of the negative effects of the Rwandan genocide. She explained that she was overwhelmed by the people that referred to themselves as an “orphan” or “orphan of the genocide” because so many Rwandans lost close family members.

One day at her hotel, she met Emmanuel — a man who was eight years old during the genocide. He lost every immediate family member, and only survived because he was out playing in a banana field and was able to hide when extremists attacked his family.

She also met John, whose family remains intact because they fled Rwanda to the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) when the genocide began. John’s story highlights another type of trauma that resulted from the genocide — that plights of a refugee and a returnee. As many as two million Rwandans fled during or after the genocide, mostly to the country now called the DRC, and the majority returned in 1996 or 1997. Fleeing for their lives and reintegrating to a ravaged country also created deep, emotional wounds.

Trauma, Healing and Beyond

However, Suitt does not believe the work needed in our post-Rwandan genocide world stops at addressing trauma. She believes that combating multiple negative effects of the Rwandan genocide at the same time is possible and beneficial. Teaching handicraft skills like sewing and putting quality goods in a global market to generate a fair wage will go far to alleviate poverty in Rwanda. In fact, Suitt believes that “lack of resources is the main cause of poverty in Rwanda and around the world.”

Foreign aid has been significant to Rwanda following the genocide, as 30 to 40 percent of government revenue comes from aid. Hopefully, this money and continued efforts like those of AHE will establish American markets for Rwandan goods and allow Rwanda’s economy to continue recovering. Such development would help the majority of the population currently living in extreme poverty, and pave the way to recovery.

– Charlotte Preston
Photo: Google

Post-Genocide Poverty Reduction
Genocides have occurred for decades; however, the aftermath of genocide lasts longer than the length of the genocide itself. One common problem for survivors is trying to deal with post-genocide poverty reduction. Many Jewish immigrants of the Holocaust experienced mass poverty that continues to be reported into this decade. In fact, he Telegraph reported in 2015 that more than one half million survivors are living in poverty.

After the Rwandan Genocide, Tutsis and Hutus alike had to deal with the ruins of their communities; many other populations across the world have experienced genocide and needed to focus on development and poverty reduction efforts in one way or another. The following three communities received significant organizational aid in poverty reduction methods after their respective genocides.

The Holocaust: Restitution and Aid

During the Holocaust, Jewish people were typically looted by Nazis or other community members. In 2009, the European Shoah Legacy Institute developed a two-day conference with 47 countries and the EU to urge restitution for the assets stolen from Jews during World War II, and also made efforts to ascertain social aid for poor Holocaust survivors.

France and Germany sold “heirless Jewish properties” to raise funds for social benefits; Germany established a $1 billion home care program for survivors; Austria and Poland pay pensions to survivors who suffered in their country yet live abroad. Efforts like this made the European Shoah Legacy Institute’s goals of poverty reduction and restitution in Holocaust survivors  realized.

The Rwandan Genocide: Empowerment

Inclusive Security is a noteworthy organization related to poverty reduction and female empowerment. After the Rwandan genocide, this organization empowered women to recognize their place at the table and to take initiative in rebuilding their communities.

Since the genocide, the country experienced 8 percent economic growth each year, is projected for further progress and millions of Rwandan citizens have been lifted out of poverty. Also, women have been motivated to take leadership positions and now 64 percent of elected parliamentary seats are held by women.

Inclusive Security states, “Women help create peace that lasts. When women are included in negotiations, the agreement is 35 percent more likely to endure for at least fifteen years.” Female empowerment has one of the driving factors of Rwanda’s successful transition out of genocide.

The Darfur Genocide: Education

In 2012, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) started a project in Soudan called “The Youth Volunteers Rebuilding Darfur Project.” This project’s objectives are to:

  • Improve the environment for sustainable peace in Sudan through increased respect for rights and human security
  • Reduce poverty and increase equitable economic growth.

The approach is to train and equip youth and women to expand Sudan’s economy through businesses. This program also supports the future by educating on environmental sustainability. The UNDP’s future-oriented approach allows youth and women to gain tools to build a successful community.

Post-Genocide Poverty Reduction

These three case studies of the Holocaust in the 1940s, the Rwandan genocide during the 1990s and the Darfur genocide in the early 2000s illuminate various strategies for post-genocide poverty reduction. Restitution and aid provides a short-term solution to a long-term goal, as it allows survivors to immediately gain the assistance they need to reestablish themselves in society.

However, further steps are crucial to sustaining a life without poverty after a genocide. Empowerment and education are key steps to reducing poverty in the long-term. Overall, a combination of these three approaches is key to poverty reduction in the aftermath of a genocide.

– Jenna Walmer
Photo: Flickr

Recent Genocides
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

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7 Facts about the Rohingya GenocideThe Rohingya crisis in Myanmar is not just persecution, but a genocide. According to an April 2018 Al Jazeera feature article, Myanmar has taken part in “ethnic cleansing” of the Rohingya people by not recognizing the group as people and stripping away basic human rights such as food, shelter and clothing. There is also extreme military violence to eradicate the Rohingya, which has led to seeking refuge in neighboring countries such as Bangladesh, India, Thailand and Saudi Arabia.

7 Facts About the Rohingya Genocide

  1. The Rohingya have lived in Myanmar for centuries. They speak Ruaingga, which is distinct to other Myanmar languages, and they are primarily Muslims. According to Nicholas Kristof of The New York Times, evidence of a 1799 document shows that the Rohingya have resided in Myanmar since the 18th century and possibly earlier, considering the earliest records of Muslims in Myanmar are from the 12th century. Today, there are 1.1 million Rohingya living in Buddhist Myanmar.
  2. The Rohingya have had no state identity since 1982. The British rule (1824-1948) considered Myanmar as a province of India, and there was a high volume of Indian and Bangladeshi migration of laborers to Myanmar, which was considered an internal migration. After independence from the British, the Myanmar government recognized the migration as illegal. According to a 2015 report from the International Human Rights Clinic at Yale Law School, The Union Citizenship Act was passed in 1948 following independence, and the Rohingya were not included. A 1962 military coup required citizens to obtain national registration cards, and the Rohingya were only given foreign identity cards, which limited jobs and educational opportunities. In 1982, a new citizenship law was passed, which did not recognize the Rohingya as one of Myanmar’s 135 ethnic groups.
  3. Religious violence plays a large role in the tension between the Rohingya and the Myanmar government. Since 1982, the Rohingya have been persecuted and victims of violence. The Rohingya make up 2 percent of Buddhist Myanmar’s population but represent the largest percentage of Muslims in Myanmar. Often overlooked, religious violence has been key in the tension between the Rohingya and the military. In 2012, Muslim men had allegedly raped a Buddhist woman, which created massive religious violence against the Rohingya, forcing about 140,000 into camps for internally displaced people. According to CNN, from August to September 2017 alone, 6,700 Rohingya were killed by the Myanmar government while 2,700 died from disease and malnutrition.
  4. The majority of the Rohingya live in the Rakhine state, one of the poorest states in Myanmar, and it is illegal for the Rohingya to leave. In addition, 362 villages have been destroyed by the military. Rakhine is filled with “ghetto-like camps” and lacks access to education, healthcare, services, homes, water, etc., stripping the people of basic human needs.
  5. Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace laureate and Burmese leader, has kept quiet on the genocide. Aung San Suu Kyi has neither criticized nor praised the Myanmar government for the genocide and does not recognize the Rohingya as an ethnic group. The Myanmar military claims it “maintains peace and stability,” although the U.N. states that the Myanmar military has committed crimes against humanity. Aung San Suu Kyi and her government, in fact, recognize the Rohingya as terrorists, in particular to the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army.
  6. The U.N. states that the Rohingya genocide is the “world’s fastest-growing refugee crisis.” UNICEF estimates 687,000 have sought refuge dangerously by boat, primarily in neighboring Bangladesh, and over half of them are child refugees. However, Bangladesh has presented resistance to the refugees, because a poor, densely populated country such as Bangladesh will be unable to sustain them. In August 2017, the U.N estimated that there are at least 420,000 Rohingya refugees in Southeast Asia. Additionally, there are around 120,000 internally displaced Rohingya. An estimated half a million Rohingya are still in Myanmar.
  7. International aid has provided 700,000 Rohingya with food, and aid is imperative to save the ethnic group. International help has greatly impacted the Rohingya community. In addition to food, countries, such as Pakistan and India, have helped with providing refugee camps for the Rohingya. Almost 100,000 people have been treated for malnutrition. By January 2018, 315,000 children have been vaccinated for diphtheria, tetanus and whooping cough. The U.K. has provided 59 million euros for those fleeing Myanmar, and the U.N. Security Council has appealed to Myanmar to stop the violence against the Rohingya.

The Rohingya genocide is described as “the world’s most persecuted minority.” Myanmar is committing crimes against humanity with ongoing violence, refugees, disease, malnutrition, poverty, etc. The Rohingya genocide must be seen through a humanitarian and moral lens to put an end to the atrocities being committed.

– Areina Ismail
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