Rwanda is in a mourning week of the twenty-second anniversary of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi. This was the most unprecedented violation of human rights in 20th century, where more than million people were exterminated in a shortest period of time‒from April through July, 1994. What an indescribably dark moment!
Today, genocide is known as the ultimate crime and the gravest violation of human rights it is possible to commit.
According to Rummel “Genocide is horrible, an abomination of our species, and totally unacceptable. It is an obscenity-the evil of our time that all good people must work to eradicate.” Likewise, genocide, as prescribed in various international instruments, is a denial of the right to existence of entire human group, as homicide is the denial of the right to live of individual human beings. In truth, genocide always starts with an idea that one group is superior, that another group is inferior and a threat to the superior group, and that the inferior group should be eliminated. Human beings have a tendency “to think in terms of ‘us’ and ‘them,’ and to prefer their own group.”
The problem comes when the other group is seen as inferior, subhuman, without dignity, or demonic. This allows the group to be targeted for elimination without compunction.
Rwandans, as they remember those who lost their lives in the genocide and comfort those who survived, send an unequivocal message to international community for failure to comply with its international obligations. This is reminiscent of the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon’s apology, in 2014, on behalf of the international community, for inaction, when Rwandans were being brutally and indiscriminately killed. Until when the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) was able to fully liberate the country.
A key question: Is ‘Never Again Genocide’ possible in Rwanda? The answer to the question transcends a mere giving utterance,or writing on paper, it requires concrete actions that are effectively implemented at all administrative levels. First, there is a need for greater political will and support of the populace to live up to notion of ‘Never Again Genocide’ to prod us into action and awakens us from passivity, indifference or ignorance in order to defeat genocide once and for all. Second, law enforcement agencies need greater empowerment to act as a deterrent to genocide to ensure a strict observance and promotion of human rights and the rule of law.
Third, there must be an improvement in our awareness by promoting the general and civil education of our children in schools and institutions of higher learning that advance the understanding that the commission of genocide, or denial of a group’s right to life, is the vilest encroachment upon human rights.
Over and above, I want to underline that one of the best ways to prevent genocide is to find ways to make individual people more altruistic and responsible, for example, through socialisation, moral training, and education. Continued education and sensitisation of Rwandans about vileness of genocide should never let up!
It’s only Rwandans to undertake, not the UN, measures that are both preventive and repressive in nature to genocide. Like past genocides, or existential mass atrocities, the Genocide against the Tutsi is an unambiguous testament that reliance on international community to prevent genocide is an act of naivety.
Rwandans, after being betrayed by the international community, and as we vigorously say ‘Never Again Genocide’, let’s walk the talk, or talk the walk, if you like. Every Rwandan, as a starting point, should feel a sense of moral obligation to fight off genocide ideology, if we’re to meaningfully live up to ‘Never Again’.
What is the role of the international community with respect to ‘Never Again Genocide’? The UN Genocide Convention requires signatories to confirm that genocide, whether committed in time of peace or in time of war, is a crime under international law which they undertake to prevent and to punish.” The provision expressly places a legal and moral obligation on the international community to prevent and punish the crime of genocide.In fact, the notion of ‘Never Again’ is not a new phrase in the eyes of international community; it was first declared after the Holocaust at the end of the Second World War. Since then, there have been genocides and mass atrocities in various places around the world, most notably in Cambodia, Bosnia, Rwanda, Kosovo, East Timor, Darfur and the current situation in Syria.
Not mincing my words, once such a horrific episode occurs, international community quickly declares ‘genocide or mass atrocity never again’, but ‘never again’ persists throughout the world time and time again. Of course, it goes without saying that it is easier said than done. In fact, the international community’s inaction portrays cynicism and indifference as opposed to hierocracy. In many instances, UNmerely pays lip service where an urgent action is desperately needed.
Rwandans, let’s eye off international community and contribute to the best of our ability to ‘Never Again’. Once again, if we’re all inculcated into the spirit of ‘Never Again Genocide’ we will leave a capital legacy for the future generation to live up to.
The writer is a lecturer and international law expert.