One of the more pressing questions I consistently get asked about genocides and mass atrocity is: What would motivate an individual to kill their neighbor? Understanding the answer holds the key to end genocides and mass atrocity.
Twenty-three years have passed since the 1994 Rwandan genocide, and the decades since have shaped Rwanda into a nearly unrecognizable country. The genocide seems, at first glance, to be a distant and painful memory. The capital of Kigali has transformed into a vibrant urban hub, complete with five star hotels and immaculate streets. Educational initiatives and a skyrocketing tourism industry are reshaping the nation. For many, especially those living outside of Rwanda, the genocide seems to be a historical event, locked firmly in the past. But while decades have passed since the 100 days during which at least 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu were killed, the past doesn’t seem so far away to many Rwandans. The personal tolls, be they loss of family members or lasting emotional scars, still remain.
“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”
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.
On April 16, 17 & 19, the Institute for Global Studies, the Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies and the Human Rights Program held a series of events to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the 1994 genocide that took the lives of an estimated 500,000-1,000,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus. The events included a public conference, a student conference, and a K-16 teacher workshop.
As we approach the 20th anniversary of the Genocide in Rwanda questions surrounding justice, commemorating the victims, and lessons learned take center stage. With regards to justice, events in Germany and in France in the past two months demonstrate that persistence and international cooperation often work to ensure justice is served to those affected by genocide and mass violence. Two trials have just ended in these two countries that will certainly put Hutu fugitives living in Europe on edge. Continue reading “Perpetrators sentenced in Europe”
Every year in April, the international community recalls the genocide in Rwanda and the failure to intervene. This year, on the 20th anniversary of the genocide, we did the same in several sites and countries around the world. Here at the University of Minnesota, we held a three day-long event that brought together practitioners, scholars, activists and K-12 educators. We asked ourselves what we learned from the Rwandan experience and how these lessons can be used to prevent and intervene in future atrocities. I personally think the world has learned very little from the genocide in Rwanda and that we have failed to efficiently put to use our limited knowledge to prevent other atrocities.
No nos une el amor, sino el espanto.
(We are not united by love, but by horror)
Jorge Luis Borges
Since Auschwitz it has indeed been possible to speak of a
German-Jewish symbiosis-but of a negative one. For both
Germans and for Jews the result of mass extermination has
become the basis of how they see themselves, a kind of
opposed reciprocity they have in common, willy-nilly.
The above-cited quotes reveal a tragic irony. The Holocaust has bound forever “Germans” and “Jews” to the past. It has also opened an insurmountable gap that conditions the mutual relationship, as well as the passing on of group identity – of victims and of perpetrators stuck in a permanent position of culpability – to the next generations. Moreover, it perpetuates in time a binary division constructed by the Nazi ideologues: Germans vs. Jews.