As the world officially remembers the genocidal murder of 800,000 Rwandans in 1994, United Nations leaders warn that ethnic cleansing and mass atrocities continue to blight humanity and call for sharper action to prevent such wholesale violations.
Twenty-four years ago, on 7 April, ethnic Hutus in Rwanda began the frenzied slaughter of Tutsis, moderate Hutus and others in what is widely regarded as one of the darkest episodes in recent history.
In memory of the Rwandan victims – and as a sombre reminder of the international community’s failure to intervene – the UN observes 7 April every year as an “international day of reflection.”
“Today we remember all those who were murdered and reflect on the suffering of the survivors, who have shown that reconciliation is possible, even after a tragedy of such monumental proportions,” said Secretary-General Antonio Guterres in a message for the grim anniversary.
“Rwanda has learned from its tragedy; so must the international community,” Mr. Guterres said, expressing concern about “the rise of racism, hate speech and xenophobia around the world.”
“These base manifestations of human cruelty provide the breeding ground for far more evil acts,” the Secretary-General said, adding that he was particularly troubled by the systematic killings, torture, rape and humiliation of Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar.
The brutal persecution of the Rohingya, which has caused more than one million members of the ethnic and religious minority to flee to Bangladesh, was also first in the mind of Adama Dieng, the UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, in an interview with UN News.
The horrific acts committed against the Rohingya will one day be brought before an international court, Mr. Dieng said, “and I have no doubt that they will be determined as crimes against humanity, as ethnic cleansing” and possibly as genocide.
Judicial punishment for such crimes is a start, but for more attention must be devoted to preventing them, said Mr. Dieng, a native of Senegal and leading international jurist.
“We said at the end of the Second World War ‘Never Again,’ but we witnessed the genocide of the Tutsis in Rwanda; we witnessed the genocide of the Muslims in Srebrenica,” he said, referring to the Bosnian Serb army’s slaughter in 1995 of thousands of Muslims who were rounded up in the town of Srebrenica, even though it had been declared a “safe area” by the UN.
An international framework of law and tribunals has evolved for holding accountable those who commit crimes against humanity.
In 1948, following the horrors of the Second World War, the fledgling UN adopted The Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Genocide was defined as certain acts committed “with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group.”
At the UN World Summit in 2005, all Member States formally accepted the responsibility to protect their populations from “genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.” They also agreed that when countries fail to do so, the international community has an obligation to intervene, through action by the Security Council and in accordance with the UN Charter.
But enforcing that international “Responsibility to Protect” victimized populations has often been hamstrung, Mr. Dieng said, as key countries invoke the principle of “non-interference in internal affairs.” He expressed frustration that the Security Council has not taken stronger action to prevent atrocities against civilians in Syria and South Sudan as well as Myanmar.
Genocides do not take place “all of a sudden,” Mr. Dieng said, highlighting the importance and possibility of prevention.
“Genocide is a process,” he said. “The Holocaust did not start with the gas chambers. It started with hate speech.”
In Rwanda and Bosnia, too, mass killings followed escalating hate speech and dehumanization. “That is why I should say that the world failed the Rwandan people, the world failed the Bosnian people, and I hope that the world will not fail the Rohingya population,” he said.
The UN’s annual day of reflection on the Rwandan genocide is important, Mr. Dieng said, “as a way first to honour those who fell to those crimes, but also as a lesson for the future.”
“By remembering what happened in Rwanda, we are also sending a strong message to whoever around the world is inclined to commit such a crime,” he said.
Secretary-General Guterres, in his statement, stressed that “states have a fundamental responsibility to protect their populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.”
“It is imperative,” he said, “that we unite to prevent such atrocities from occurring, and that the international community sends a strong message to perpetrators that they will be held accountable.”
“To save people at risk, we must go beyond words,” he said.
The UN will hold a commemorative ceremony on the Rwandan genocide at its New York Headquarters on 13 April on the theme “Remember, Unite, Renew.”
The Transitioning Democracy of Sudan
Sudan has been the focus of conflict for much of its six decades as an independent nation. Despite being an anomaly in a region crippled with totalitarian populism and escalating violence, the country hasn’t witnessed much economic or political stability in years. While the civic-military coalition, leading a democratic transition towards elections, has managed to subside the fragments of civil war, growing hostility in the peripheries has begun threatening the modest reforms made in the past two years. The recent coup attempt is a befitting example of the plans that are budding within the echelons of the Sudanese military to drag the country back into the closet. And while the attempt got thwarted, it is not a success to boast. But it is a warning that the transition would not be as smooth a ride as one might have hoped.
The problems today are only a reflection of Sudan’s issues in the past: especially which led to the revolution. The civil unrest began in Sudan back in December 2018. Sudan’s long-serving ruler, Omer al-Bashir, had turned Sudan into an international outcast during his 30-year rule of tyranny and economic isolation. Naturally, Sudan perished as an economic pariah: especially after the independence of South Sudan. With the loss of oil revenues and almost 95% of its exports, Sudan inched on the brink of collapse. In response, Bashir’s regime resorted to impose draconian austerity measures instead of reforming the economy and inviting investment. The cuts in domestic subsidies over fuel and food items led to steep price hikes: eventually sparking protests across the east and spreading like wildfire to the capital, Khartoum.
In April 2019, after months of persistent protests, the army ousted Bashir’s government; established a council of generals, also known as the ‘Transitional Military Council.’ The power-sharing agreement between the civilian and military forces established an interim government for a period of 39 months. Subsequently, the pro-democracy movement nominated Mr. Abdalla Hamdok as the Prime Minister: responsible for orchestrating the general elections at the end of the transitional period. The agreement coalesced the civilian and military powers to expunge rebellious factions from society and establish a stable economy for the successive government. However, the aspirations overlooked ground realities.
Sudan currently stands in the third year of the transitional arrangement that hailed as a victory. However, the regime is now most vulnerable when the defiance is stronger than ever. Despite achieving respite through peace agreements with the rebels in Sudan, the proliferation of arms and artillery never abated. In reality, the armed attacks have spiraled over the past two years after a brief hiatus achieved by the peace accords. The conflict stems from the share of resources between different societal fractions around Darfur, Kordofan, and the Blue Nile. According to UN estimates, the surging violence has displaced more than 410,000 people across Sub-Saharan Africa in 2021. The expulsion is six times the rate of displacement recorded last year. According to the retreating UN peacekeeping mission, the authorities have all but failed to calm the rampant banditry and violence: partially manifested by the coup attempt that managed to breach the government’s order.
The regional instability is only half the story. Since the displacement of Bashir’s regime, Sudan has rarely witnessed stability, let alone surplus dividends to celebrate. Despite thawing relations with Israel and joining the IMF program, Sudan has felt little relief in return. The sharp price hikes and gripping unemployment which triggered the coup back in 2019 never receded: galloped instead. Currently, inflation runs rampant above 400%, while the Sudanese Pound has massively devalued under conditions dictated by the IMF. And despite bagging some success in negotiating International debt relief, the Hamdok regime has struggled to invite foreign investment and create jobs: majorly due to endemic conflicts that still run skin-deep in the fabric of the Sudanese society.
While the coup attempt failed, it is still not a sigh of relief for the fragile government. The deep-rooted analysis of the coup attempt reveals a stark reality: the military factions – at least some – are no longer sated in being equal-footed with a civilian regime. Moreover, the perpetrators tried to leverage the widening disquiet within the country by blocking roads and attempting to sabotage state-run media: hoping to gain public support. The population is indeed frustrated by the economic desperation; the failure of the coup attempt means that people have still not given up hope in a democratic government and a free-and-fair election. Nonetheless, it is not the first tranche of the army to rebel, and it certainly won’t be the last. The only way to salvage democracy is to stabilize Sudan’s economy and resolve inter-communal violence before leading the county towards elections. Otherwise, it is apparent that Bashir’s political apparatus is so deeply entrenched in Sudan’s ruling network that even if the transitional government survives multiple coups, an elected government would ultimately wither.
Money seized from Equatorial Guinea VP Goes into Vaccine
As a classic precedence, the Justice Department of the United States has decided that $26.6m (£20m) seized from Equatorial Guinea’s Vice-President Teodorin Nguema Obiang Mangue be used on purchasing COVID-19 vaccines and other essential medical programmes in Equitorial Guinea, located on the west coast of central Africa.
“Wherever possible, kleptocrats will not be allowed to retain the benefits of corruption,” an official said in a statement, and reported by British Broadcasting Corporation.
Obiang was forced to sell a mansion in Malibu, California, a Ferrari and various Michael Jackson memorabilia as part of a settlement he reached with the US authorities in 2014 after being accused of corruption and money-laundering. He denied the charges.
The agreement stated that $10.3m of the money from the sale would be forfeited to the US and the rest would be distributed to a charity or other organisation for the benefit of the people of Equatorial Guinea, the Justice Department said.
The UN is to receive $19.25m to purchase and administer COVID-19 vaccines to at least 600,000 people in Equatorial Guinea, while a US-based charity is to get $6.35m for other medical programmes in Equatorial Guinea.
Teodorin Nguema has been working in position as Vice-President since 2012, before that he held numerous government positions, including Minister of Agriculture and Forestry. Known for his unquestionable lavish lifestyle, he has been the subject of a number of international criminal charges and sanctions for alleged embezzlement and corruption. He has a fleet of branded cars and a number of houses, and two houses alone in South Africa,
Teodorin Nguema has often drawn criticisms in the international media for lavish spending, while majority of the estimated 1.5 million population wallows in abject poverty. Subsistence farming predominates, with shabby infrastructure in the country. Equatorial Guinea consists of two parts, an insular and a mainland region. Equatorial Guinea is the third-largest oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa.
African Union’s Inaction on Ethiopia Deplorable – Open Letter
A group of African intellectuals says in an open letter that it is appalled and dismayed by the steadily deteriorating situation in Ethiopia. The letter, signed by 58 people, says the African Union’s lack of effective engagement in the crisis is deplorable. The letter calls on regional bloc IGAD and the AU to “proactively take up their mandates with respect to providing mediation for the protagonists to this conflict”.
The letter also asks for “all possible political support” for the AU’s Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, Olusegun Obasanjo, whose appointment was announced on August 26, 2021. A United Nations Security Council meeting on the same day welcomed the former Nigerian president’s appointment.
Earlier in August 2021, UN chief Antonio Guterres appealed for a ceasefire, unrestricted aid access and an Ethiopian-led political dialogue. He told the council these steps were essential to preserve Ethiopia’s unity and the stability of the region and to ease the humanitarian crisis. He said that he had been in close contact with Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed and had received a letter from the leader of the Tigray region in response to his appeal. “The UN is ready to work together with the African Union and other key partners to support such a dialogue,” he said.
August 26, 2021 was only the second time during the conflict that the council held a public meeting to discuss the situation. Britain, Estonia, France, Ireland, Norway and the United States requested the session.
Fighting between the national government and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front broke out in November 2020, leaving millions facing emergency or crisis levels of food insecurity, according to the United Nations. Both sides have been accused of atrocities.
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