We should never lose sight of what makes us human

The international community has joined Rwanda in observing the 22nd Commemoration of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. This comes months before the world, in December this year, observes the second International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime.

The international community has joined Rwanda in observing the 22nd Commemoration of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi.

This comes months before the world, in December this year, observes the second International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime.

 

Reckoning with all the recorded genocides that have taken place, from Armenia to the Jewish Holocaust to the Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, the UN General Assembly globalised the commemoration in September 2015 by establishing December 9 as the International Day on which to honour the victims.

 

The 9th of December is the anniversary of the adoption of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

 

The International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime recognizes that, as long as there’s a possibility of genocide happening anywhere in the world, humanity is a victim in its entirety. This includes the perpetrators who, blinded by their various misinformed prejudices, often know no better.

The basis of our existence is looking out for one another, no matter what our differences may be. We may disagree, but each one of us is entitled to views that we mutually must respect.

Trampling on rights breeds insecurity that, in turn, feeds negative prejudices, invariably leading to exclusion, conflict and the violations we witness in our daily lives.

The UN underscores that, in adopting the resolution to establish the International Day, without a vote, the 193-member Assembly reiterated the responsibility of each individual State to protect its populations from genocide, which entails the prevention of such a crime, including its incitement.

The words “prevention” and “incitement” suggest that it can be anticipated. After all, as the UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon, pointed out on December 9, 2015 during the launch of the International Day, genocide does not just happen; it unfolds over time. It is not part of the accidental “fallout” of conflict; most often, it is systematic, planned, with precise targets, and it can also take place outside of conflict situations.

The UN Secretary General went on: A dangerous “us versus them” dynamic is often being exploited to justify the exclusion of communities based on different forms of identity such as religion, ethnicity or other, and to deny assistance, restrict human rights and perpetrate atrocious acts of violence.

Even as Ban Ki-Moon was speaking, 2015 had been a year of “agonizing suffering in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Central African Republic, South Sudan, Mali and places too numerous to mention.”

The grim situation continues to obtain, only punctuated by the deluge of refugees into Europe and elsewhere as we watch.

It speaks to the past in as much as it speaks to the future in the Rwandan remembrance and all the other national commemorations globally, including the International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide and of the Prevention of this Crime.

The UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Adama Dieng, who chaired the launch of the International Day, spoke of these two important elements: “It is about the past, and also about the future” with the International Day representing “both memory and action – memory as a step towards action.”

Still, there is a lament each time we witness the genocidal violence visited upon the Yezidi community in Iraq and others elsewhere and yet, as articulated by the UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson, we commemorate and honour the millions of victims of genocide.

“In doing this,” he said, “we must ask ourselves how we give meaning to a promise we have made but several times we have failed to keep: the promise of ‘never again.’ Every time we repeat that phrase after a genocide, we in fact, admit a monumental and shameful failure.”

But I will submit that all is not lost. In Rwanda’s weeklong commemoration, as the International Day looms somewhere on the horizon, it is in “both memory and action – memory as a step towards action.”

In this hope, I believe, humanity shall overcome. Only that we should not lose sight of what makes us human.

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