AS THE 20th commemoration of the Genocide against the Tutsi draws near, the disturbing situation in the Central African Republic (CAR) makes it imperative that the lessons learnt in Rwanda remain at the fore.
In his commemoration message for 2013, the UN Secretary-General talked of how the UN “works every day to learn the lessons of Rwanda and to prevent any recurrence of such horror.”
The Secretary General also noted how his Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide monitors the world for signs of potential trouble.
The importance of continued monitoring cannot be overemphasised. Already investigators appointed by the UN Security Council are set to investigate reports of genocide in CAR.
Certainly, the violent situation in the country bears some of the hallmarks of genocide with the ethnic cleansing of Muslim civilians by the anti-Balaka militia.
It is worth remembering that genocide, as defined by the UN under the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, constitutes “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such killing members of the group, causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group.”
The pattern that characterises the process and consummation of genocide, as already established by scholars such as Gregory Stanton, is eminent, including the classification stage, symbolisation, dehumanisation, organisation, polarisation, preparation, and extermination.
Some of these stages are eerily evident in CAR. The UN investigation is set to begin next week.
But the spotlight is also on the interim president of the Central African Republic, Catherine Samba-Panza, as she tries to stem the violence and hold the country together.
Ms Samba-Panza, who was sworn-in in January this year, was born in Chad to a Cameroonian father and a Central African mother, making her, as she put it just before taking the helm of her troubled country, the “best example of regional integration”.
She is, however, a bona fide national of CAR, a country of about 4.6 million that has not known peace for over the past two decades with a string of coups and coup attempts at least every two years since 1990.
There is every reason to believe that her interim presidency, which is expected to lead to elections in January 2015, will break the pattern of violence.
But hers is a daunting task that she may not tackle alone, if the country is to see a semblance of stability in the run-up to the national elections.
That is why not only the UN, but also the African Union and regional economic communities, including the East African Community, should remain vigilant as far as the CAR situation is concerned.
Certainly, we in the EAC have a stake with the ilk of Uganda’s Lord’s Resistant Army lurking somewhere in the country.
The principle is universal; in the knowledge that unrestrained violence anywhere is a threat to peace and stability everywhere.
It is for the same reason that genocide is a global concern, that it is not only repugnant to humanity and shared values, but as a form of violence, it may happen anywhere.
For this reason, as put by the UN Secretary General, preventing genocide is a shared responsibility. That States must uphold their obligations under international law to prevent abuses and protect their populations.
Collectively, we must go beyond words and effectively safeguard people at risk.
The writer is a commentator on regional issues