10 Facts About the Sudan Genocide
The grave human rights abuses and mass slaughter in Darfur, West Sudan between 2003-2008 was the first genocide of the 21st century. The Sudanese government and the Janjaweed (government-funded and armed Arab militias) targeted civilians, burned villages and committed many more atrocities. Below are 10 facts about the Sudan genocide.

10 Facts About the Sudan Genocide

  1. The long term causes of the Sudan genocide stem from the two prolonged civil wars between the North, that promoted Arabisation and a Middle-Eastern culture, and the South, that preferred an African identity and culture. The First Sudanese Civil War began in 1955 and ended in 1972 with a peace treaty. Eventually, unsettled issues reignited into the Second Sudanese Civil War in 1983 and lasted until 2005, however. Both civil wars occurred due to the southern Sudanese rebels’ demands for regional autonomy and the northern Sudanese government’s refusal to grant it.
  2. The direct cause of the genocide during the Second Sudanese Civil War revolves around allegations that the government armed and funded the Janjaweed against non-Arabs. This supposedly led to the southern rebel groups, the Sudan Liberian Army and the Justice and Equality Movement, attacking a Sudanese Air Force base in Darfur in 2003. The government countered with widespread violent campaigns targeting non-Arabs and southern Sudanese civilians, which turned into genocidal campaigns.
  3. The United Nations estimated that the attacks killed at least 300,000 people and led to the displacement of 2.6 million people. Of that number, 200,000 fled and found refuge in Chad, which neighbors Sudan to the west. Most of the internally displaced people (IDP) settled in the Darfur region, which counts 66 camps. According to a UN report, the lack of law enforcement and judicial institutions in these areas generated human rights violations and abuses, including sexual violence and criminal acts of vulnerable IDPs.
  4. The government and militia conducted “ethnic cleansing” campaigns, committing massive atrocities. They targeted women and girls, deliberately using rape and sexual violence to terrorize the population, perpetuate its displacement and increase their exposure to HIV/AIDS. The government and militia conducted ‘scorched-earth campaigns’ where they burned hundreds of villages and destroyed infrastructures such as water sources and crops, resulting in the dramatic famine. These acts are all war crimes that still prevent IDPs from returning to their homes.
  5. In 2005, the International Criminal Court (ICC) opened investigations regarding the alleged genocide and crimes against humanity in Sudan, which produced several cases that are still under investigation due to the lack of cooperation from the Sudanese government. The ICC dealt with the genocide in Darfur, the first genocide it worked on and the first time the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) referred to the ICC.
  6. A military coup in April 2019 overthrew the former President of Sudan, Omar Al Bashir, allowing the country to secure justice and address the wrongs committed between 2003-2008. Indeed, the prosecutor of the ICC, Fatou Bensouda, urges the UN Security Council to extend the UNAMID’s peacekeeping mission to 12 months and the new government of Sudan to transfer Omar Al Bashir and two other war criminals to the ICC.
  7. Omar Al Bashir was the first sitting President that the ICC wanted (it issued the first arrest warrant in March 2009 and the second in July 2010) and the first example of the ICC incriminating a person for the crime of genocide. However, the ICC still cannot move forward with the trial until Omar Al Bashir receives arrest and becomes present at the ICC (in The Hague).
  8. The UNSC created and sent the peacekeeping force UNAMID (composed of the United Nations and the African Union) to Darfur in 2007, which operates to this day. The mission deployed almost 4,000 military personnel to protect civilians threatened by violence, especially in displacement areas and on the border with Chad. In addition, UNAMID facilitated humanitarian assistance by protecting and helping in the transportation of aid to isolated areas and providing security for humanitarian workers. The UN decided to extend the mandate of the UNAMID until October 31, 2019.
  9. Although the fighting stopped, there is still a crisis in Sudan; the UN estimates that 5.7 million people in Sudan require humanitarian support and can barely meet their basic food needs. There are many NGOs actively working to provide aid, such as Water for South Sudan, that works to ensure access to clean water to rural and remote areas, and the Red Cross, that provides medical care across the country due to its collapsed public health care system. Despite these efforts, there is still an unmet funding requirement of 46 percent in humanitarian aid as of 2018.
  10. In September 2019, a new government established with a power-sharing agreement between the military, civilian representatives and protest groups. According to Human Rights Watch, Sudan’s new government should ensure justice and accountability for past abuses. Moreover, the constitutional charter (signed in Aug. 2019) entails major legal and institutional reforms, focused on holding the perpetrators accountable for the crimes committed under al-Bashir’s rule, as well as eliminating government repression and ongoing gender discrimination.

These are just 10 facts about the Sudan Genocide which are essential to understanding the current events happening in Sudan. Despite the peak of violence in Sudan in 2019 which killed hundreds of protestors, the country finally has a new government and it seems willing to right the wrongs committed during the genocide. The new prime minister Abdullah Adam Hamdok expressed in front of the UN in September 2019: “The ‘great revolution’ of Sudan has succeeded and the Government and people and will now rebuild and restore the values of human coexistence and social cohesion in the country as they try and turn the page on three decades of abhorrent oppression, discrimination and warfare.”

– Andrea Duleux
Photo: Flickr

Reconciliation in Post-Khmer Rouge Cambodia
In August 2019, Nuon Chea, one of the leaders responsible for the Khmer Rouge genocide in Cambodia, passed away at the age of 93. His death resurfaced reports of the atrocities experienced in Cambodia between 1975-79, under the rule of the infamous dictator Pol Pot. Yet, Nuon Chea did not undergo prosecution for his crimes until 2018 — 40 years after he committed them.

Due to its scale and recency, one cannot write off the Khmer Rouge as an atrocity of the past. The pursuit of peace and justice for over 2 million victims of the Khmer Rouge continues today. Friends of Responsibility to Protect (R2P) in Cambodia is a group that has continued to push for peace in post-Khmer Rouge Cambodia — despite a government, population and international community that wants to forget.

A Community Frozen in Time

In the Anlong Veng region of Cambodia, which housed regime leaders as late as 1998, others still venerate Pol Pot, Nuon Chea and other mass murderers as national heroes. The regime may have fallen 40 years ago, but families who enforced the regime’s brutality on their fellow Cambodians are still unaware of their wrongful actions. Some citizens simply have misinformation or claim to have supported the regime for the promise of security after decades of poverty. Other families followed strict orders on death threats and see themselves as victims — despite committing genocide.

Understanding the perspective of the citizens’ support to the regime is key to longterm peace. R2P member Pou Sovachana advocates for knowledge of the ex-cadre perspectives to yield reconciliation in post-Khmer Rouge Cambodia.

Friends of R2P’s Dr. Bradley Murg, a political scientist and senior research fellow at the Cambodia Institute for Cooperation and Peace (CICP), emphasized in an interview the need to break Anlong Veng members out of their bubble. For decades, “governments have left them to their own devices, afraid to open that box” of reconciliation, Dr. Murg shared. Most were “isolated and genuinely believe that their side was right.” Scarred from the Khmer Rouge’s inadequate leadership and raised with educational “curriculum centered on hatred, anger and revenge,” ex-cadre members need therapy — not prison.

Helping Cambodia Embrace its History

Besides working with ex-members of the Khmer Rouge, Friends of Responsibility to Protect is working to promote justice among Cambodians. Unable to understand their past, many Cambodians live in denial of their history. Tourists almost exclusively visit the Khmer Rouge history museum in Cambodia’s capital city, Dr. Murg noted.

The genocide directly impacted the nation’s population over the age of 40, many of whom still struggle with untreated PTSD. Parents began to raise their children in the shadow of atrocity without an explanation. Ultimately, continued ignorance is detrimental to Cambodia. Both Dr. Murg and his colleague, Professor Sovachana Pou — who works at the CICP and is a Khmer Rouge survivor himself — agree that work is still necessary to help the Cambodian population heal from the past. This is why R2P promotes education and acknowledgment about the atrocities among the younger generation. Its work includes field trips with students to Anlong Veng and stories of ex-Khmer Rouge perpetrators in local newspapers; an effort to encourage mutual understanding.

Finishing Justice

People must recognize Friends of R2P’s work for reconciliation in post-Khmer Rouge Cambodia in the context of delayed criminal justice. Dr. Murg explained how, due to the political dynamics of the U.S. and Cambodia, many of the Khmer Rouge leaders did not receive charges for their crimes. The sentencing of Nuon Chea by a U.N. court in 2018 – 40 years after the crimes – exemplifies the uneven justice delivered to the Khmer Rouge perpetrators. Even the head of the Khmer Rouge regime, Pol Pot, never received a sentence – and died of natural causes in his home in 1998.

In an effort to fix its past mistakes, Cambodia established a court in the first part of the 21st century to bring justice to the leaders of the Khmer Rouge. Pou reminded the Borgen Project that legal justice is only the first step to the real justice that needs to be felt in the hearts of Cambodians. The peace between mainstream Cambodians and ex-Khmer Rouge members, like those living in Anlong Veng, is the next step in the journey to justice. This is why the Anlong Veng Peace Center and Friends of R2P are promoting education, historic preservation and communication between ex-Khmer Rouge members and the families of victims.

While 2019 marks the 40-year anniversary of the Khmer Rouge’s fall from power, reconciliation in post-Khmer Rouge Cambodia continues.

What is most hopeful, however, is the willingness for reconciliation among Khmer Rouge victims. People like Sovachana Pou, who narrowly escaped Cambodia and saw the deaths of their family, have offered forgiveness for the sake of rebuilding Cambodia. The key is to recognize that there are victims on both sides of the Khmer Rouge. Friends of Responsibility to Protect’s work is beautifully acknowledging the stories of all Cambodians to rebuild social trust.

Olivia Heale
Photo: Flickr

Response to the Rohingya CrisisIn Myanmar, Rohingya Muslims are the target of an ethnic cleansing campaign. Raging on since August 2017, the military-led offensive has caused the displacement of almost a million people, the destruction of at least 392 Rohingya villages and the internment of some 125,000 Rohingya in detention camps. While international authorities have placed pressure on the government to stop its atrocities, a recent update from the U.N.’s special rapporteur, Yanghee Lee, makes it clear that the situation is still dire. The U.S.’ response to the Rohingya crisis has been considerable, but there is still a lot more that needs to be done to ensure the safety of this vulnerable population.

A Coordinated Response in Bangladesh

Many Rohingya (745,000) have fled to the neighboring country of Bangladesh since the violence began. The Bangladesh government has cooperated with international bodies to ensure the reception and integration of these many refugees, but several challenges remain. For one, about 84 percent of the refugee population resides in a camp in the city of Cox’s Bazar; its location on the Bay of Bengal renders the area subject to monsoons and cyclones, which, combined with congested living conditions, increase the likelihood of death and disease. Additionally, many displaced women face sexual violence in both Myanmar and the refugee sites, and 12 percent of refugees experience acute malnutrition, creating an urgent need for adequate medical services.

In response to the Rohingya crisis, the United States has provided $450 million in aid to host communities in Bangladesh. The United States recently earmarked $105 million for the U.N.’s 2019 Joint Response Plan (JRP). This aid is important, as the JRP works to:

  • Register and document all refugees, so as to provide them with the legal standing to engage in economic activity and receive further state services in Bangladesh.
  • Improve disaster preparedness among refugee holding sites, which also entails creating an improved population density distribution.
  • Create crucial health programs, such as food vouchers and mental health services. These programs have been particularly successful—the level of acute malnutrition, while still high, is seven points lower than it was in 2018 and women’s access to reproductive health services is on the rise.

Further Steps Needed

In contributing to the U.N.’s JRP, the United States mitigates the negative effects of the Rohingya crisis. However, the political conditions in Myanmar that caused so many to flee remain, largely because the government continues to carry out atrocities against the Rohingya people. The leader of the country’s military, General Min Aung Hlaing, has directly authorized the ethnic cleansing campaigns. According to Refugees International, this has essentially allowed Myanmar soldiers to impose a reign of terror on Rohingya villages. The group has documented “consistent accounts of Myanmar soldiers surrounding villages, burning homes to the ground, stabbing, shooting, and raping the inhabitants, leaving the survivors to flee for their lives.”

Myanmar continues to block humanitarian relief organizations from entering the country, which is a roadblock preventing a thorough response to the Rohingya crisis. Moreover, the government continues to deny the existence of military campaigns, which allows perpetrators to avoid punishment.

The U.S. has worked to place pressure on the Myanmar government so as to create accountability checks and dissuade other leaders from taking similar adverse actions against the Rohingya. For example, on July 16, 2019, the Trump administration placed sanctions on a number of military officials, including General Min Aung Hlaing. Countries and organizations can do more to halt the violence, though. Both the special rapporteur and Refugees International have called upon the U.S. and other members of the U.N. Security Council to refer the case to the International Criminal Court (ICC) or to set up an independent tribunal, which could try those responsible for the Rohingya crisis. While the ICC prosecutor has already taken preliminary investigative steps, a U.N. Security Council referral or tribunal establishment would put even greater political pressure on Myanmar.

Moving Forward

While the Rohingya crisis was years in the making, its impact has been especially acute in the past two years. The U.S.’ response to the Rohingya crisis has included successful collaboration with the U.N., and raised hopes of bringing the perpetrators to justice. In so doing, it will save countless lives and move the Rohingya community in Myanmar one step closer to protection.

– James Delegal
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

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