The following is an open letter to the organizers of an African Trade Forum event, who have announced that Maowia Osman Khalid, Ambassador of Sudan to the US, will be on campus for a panel co-hosted by the Carlson School of Management.
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.
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.
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.
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.