The Futility of ‘Never Again’

While it may seem as though the international community has made notable progress in acknowledging and responding to human crises with an increasing international spotlight on Syria, this focus is all too often still quite limited in breadth. As reports from Aleppo and other decimated Syrian cities take center stage, the rapidly dissolving situation in South Sudan has largely fallen by the wayside, both at the discussion table and in regards to policy development. Last month the UNSC failed to vote on a resolution over South Sudan that sought to impose an arms embargo, even when UN reports provided extensive evidence of widespread killing and rape perpetrated by the South Sudanese army. Reports of rampant human rights violations and unabated sexual violence in Yei and Yambio point to untold misery faced by communities. This suffering has expanded into an additional crisis in Northern Uganda as refugees from South Sudan stream into the country. Numbers of families fleeing the conflict have steadily risen over the past year leading to aid organizations dealing with food shortages.

UN Security Council

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A Time for Reflection: The UN Genocide Convention 68 Years Later

December 9th is the International Day of Commemoration and Dignity of the Victims of the Crime of Genocide. It commemorates the adoption by the United Nations of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide in 1948. On this 68th Anniversary of the Genocide Convention, it is a stark reminder that the world still lags behind the ambitious goals envisaged by not only Raphael Lemkin but also the signatories to the convention. Over the past few months, the United Nation’s Office of the Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide has issued warnings on the current state of affairs in South Sudan, Aleppo, Syria and Northern Rakhine State, Myanmar. In a rather ironic twist, we have grown accustomed to debating whether a conflict is a genocide or not, rather than working together to stop genocides from unfolding. Despite clear and early warnings about the possibility of a genocide unfolding, there is still a yawning gap between how events unfold, and our response to ending/curbing human suffering due to conflict.

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International Influence or Western Dominance: Rwanda, the ICC, and Beyond

“Be as humble as you are curious.”

Few statements could speak so directly to the dynamic of the room as these, when President Paul Kagame addressed the crowd in a talk last month at Yale University. The leader was invited to speak at the university to present the Coca-Cola World Fund Lecture, and the reaction to his arrival was incredibly mixed across the campus. He encouraged the audience to have an open and empathetic perspective on global affairs, one which leaves room for cultural divergence in opinion and policy. During this speech, a group of faculty and students lead a “teach-in” outside of the event, echoing critiques from Human Rights Watch, and Amnesty International about human rights concerns within the country. The commentary continued through extensive coverage in various media outlets, both positive and negative. The nation of Rwanda and Kagame’s RPF party are no stranger to controversy, with the academic and policy conversation often taking on quite the polarized tone. Continue reading “International Influence or Western Dominance: Rwanda, the ICC, and Beyond”

Consuming the Pain and Suffering of Others through Images

On the 6th of October this year, the New York Times published an image of dead African migrants on its front page. Not only was this image on the front page, it was above the fold, meaning that it was the most prominent part of that day’s coverage. The faces of the dead migrants were not blurred out, nor were their semi-nude bodies covered.

The use of images like this to represent human suffering is a topic that I hold near and dear, both through my research,* and also on a much more visceral level.

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Researching Court Cases to Study Genocide and Transitional Justice in Rwanda: An Interview with Dr. Hollie Nyseth Brehm

This year, Dr. Hollie Nyseth Brehm (Ohio State)* and Dr. Chris Uggen (UMN) received a Sociology research grant from the National Science Foundation for their project “Enhancing Public Access: Archiving Court Cases to Study Genocide and Transitional Justice.” Wahutu Siguru recently conducted an interview with Professor Nyseth Brehm.

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Eye on Africa – 2016-17 Preview

As the academic year begins, there are four countries that I will largely be keeping an eye on.

The first country is Burundi, where extrajudicial killings have increased since the hostilities began last year. There still seems to a jarring lack of attention on this small East African nation that has had a long history of strife and atrocity.

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Gender-Based Violence Against Men and Boys During Mass Atrocity: An Interview with Prof. Gabrielle Ferrales

In March, Gender & Society published an article titled, Gender-Based Violence Against Men and Boys in Darfur: The Gender-Genocide Nexus. The paper, co-authored by Dr. Gabrielle Ferrales (Sociology, UMN), Dr. Hollie Nyseth-Brehm (Ohio State) and Suzy McElrath (Ph.D. Candidate, UMN), analyses gender-based violence against men and boys during mass atrocity. Demonstrating new theoretical connections between gender, violence, and hegemonic masculinity, this work significantly advances our understanding of how genocidal violence is gendered, but also more broadly how gender inequalities can be reproduced and maintained in diverse settings and social structures.

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Student Spotlight: J. Siguru Wahutu

img_9446J. Siguru Wahutu was born and raised in Kenya and moved to Minneapolis to pursue his undergraduate education. He graduated from the University of Minnesota with a BA in Sociology and Global Studies and a minor in Cultural Studies. He stayed in Minnesota to obtain his PhD in Sociology with a thematic focus on genocide, media and collective memory and a regional focus on Africa. Wahutu is broadly interested in how news organizations and journalists in Africa produce knowledge about genocide and mass atrocity in neighboring African countries. He was the 2013-2014 and the 2015 Badzin Fellow in Holocaust and Genocide Studies. He also writes for the CHGS blog on current events in Africa.

Wahutu’s current research focuses on how Africa’s media represented the violence in Darfur between 2003 and 2008 and compares this to how media from the global north portrayed events in Darfur during the same period. This research project aims to examine the process through which African news organizations frame atrocities and actors in atrocities for their national audiences. While much has been written about how the global north represents the global south during instances of mass violence, little is known about how Africa represents Africa. This is the gap in scholarship that Wahutu’s work fills. During the 2016-2017 academic year, Wahutu will be editing his dissertation and submitting research papers to academic journals.

Genocide in South West Africa: German Leaders Agree with the Historians—Finally

Genocide is a familiar topic to Germans. Today, it is almost impossible to visit Germany and not confront remnants of the darker chapters of the country’s history. Germans interact with and recognize a variety of tangible reminders of the crimes committed by the Third Reich. Countless memorials stand as physical evidence of a violent “past that will not go away”—a past that a majority of Germans publically acknowledge should not go away.[1]

But what about Germany’s other genocide? What place does its memory have in German society today? Between 1904 and 1908, German colonial soldiers carried out the first genocide of the twentieth century in what is now the present-day African state of Namibia (German Southwest Africa).[2] This systematic campaign against Herero and Namaqua peoples—regarded by some scholars as the “Kaiser’s Holocaust”—claimed the lives of over 100,000 men, women, and children through starvation, imprisonment, exile, and murder. German colonial leaders’ impetus for the genocide arose during the so-called Herero-Namaqua Aufstand (Herero-Namaqua Uprising), which began in January 1904 when Herero leaders revolted against the German administration in Southwest Africa. The Namaqua joined the campaign several months later.

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Is Genocide Still a Scary Label?

This month’s contribution is by Fata Acquoi, who recently graduated with a double major in Sociology and Political Science at the UMN. She intends on pursuing a graduate degree in Human Rights. Her contribution is a snippet of a class assignment that focused on the role of the international community in dealing with alleged perpetrators of genocide and mass atrocity.

Ugandan President Museveni (right) greets Omar al-Bashir at the former’s inauguration in Kampala. Photo by PPU, courtesy the Daily Monitor

The conflict in Darfur has widely been recognized as the first “genocide” of the twenty-first century. Though this recognition is well-known, the 2008 joint United Nations and African Union peacekeeping mission to Darfur failed to stop the genocide, and more specifically the ethnic-cleansing program enacted by the current regime in Darfur. This included rape and torture of women and children. According to the Sudan Democracy First Group, a coalition of civil society organizations, there are about two million Internally Displaced Persons in Darfur, of which over 200,000 were displaced in 2015 alone. This suffering is widely felt throughout Darfur, and has not diminished, though it seems that concern for these people by the international community certainly has diminished.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has issued warrants for Omar Hassan al-Bashir, the head of the Sudanese regime for more than twenty-five years. These warrants are for crimes against humanity and multiple counts of genocide. Though nations have been notified about the warrants for al-Bashir’s arrest, it is unlikely that we will see his prosecution. Continue reading “Is Genocide Still a Scary Label?”