As we commemorate Genocide week, it is all but impossible not to spend many an hour in quiet but morbid reflection on what this means.
The attempt to exterminate a whole group of people with the most ruthless barbarism is a concept so mindboggling that it is hard for the brain to wrap itself around it.
Murder has been a common feature of the human race since the dawn of even the most basic civilization, but genocide is another issue altogether.
It is the urge to murder taken to its full and ghastly conclusion- destruction in its purest form. There was a form of ghastly irony in the fact that the world looked to the United States for moral guidance when the Rwandan genocide began- The US after all is a Country founded on a series of genocidal campaigns against the indigenous population.
The facets of genocide are as varied as they are chilling-imperialism, race, hate, conquest...the list is a long one.
Genocide also embodies two concepts.
One is the way it embodies what happens when nationalism is twisted beyond recognition. Sometimes it is conflated with a particular ethnicity or race, and this logic in turn creates a situation where the targeted group of people is then seen as polluting this ideal.
The genocidal group think they are setting to create a utopia, but of course they are creating the very opposite.
In addition, Genocide also shows the limits of religion as a moral and practical guide.
The role of the church in driving the genocide has been discussed at length, but one must also remember that Rwanda was a devoutly religious place in the years leading up to the Genocide.
This did not provide even the remotest obstacle to the killings that would follow. Indeed, devoutly religious people simply incorporated their religious beliefs into their twisted views.
It is a bizarre combination that is briefly but tellingly referenced in Jean Hatzfield’s book ‘A Time for Machetes’. Religion does not stop people crossing the moral event horizon, no matter what significance it had in their lives before.
But yet as Hitler and Stalin showed, even secular quasi-atheist societies are hardly any better. Put simply, mankind has still not established a solid and overriding framework of morality that can prevent something as monumentally evil as genocide.
It is a very sobering thought.
And Genocide denial is still rife in many parts of the world. The Rwandan genocide against the Tutsi is consistently challenged in many circles by people whose agenda needs no elaboration.
Meanwhile Turkey consistently rejects the notion of its genocide against the Armenians, while Holocaust denial is fairly widespread in the Middle East.
But once we have discussed all these aspects of genocide, the question remains: what can the world do to prevent genocide? Can we ever attain the requisite unity?
Because genocide in another Country becomes a political football among the big powers, no amount of well- meaning international treaties and conventions will make a difference if genocide is seen as merely another political problem.
The international community has to see genocide as more than just violence in another land that has little to do with them except in some hazy abstract way.
It is something that strikes at the heart of our collective morality and humanity in such a fundamental way that fighting it should always be a priority. As we remember, we resolve never to let it happen again.
Minega Isibo is a lawyer