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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
J. 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.
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.
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?”→
Eye on Africa has often talked about atrocities unfolding, or likely to unfold, in different African states. Most of this information is never collected by myself and is gleaned from news organizations within and outside of Africa. Journalists are perhaps the one group of people that I owe a deep gratitude to. Even when working under tough circumstances they still believe in telling the story, and telling it right. The reason I point this out is because the past year has been a fraught one for African journalists in several countries. From outright assassinations in South Sudan, to the erasure of press freedoms in Rwanda and Kenya, African journalists are quickly becoming an endangered group. So this month’s contribution will focus on the plight faced by journalists working in Africa, for without them, this column would not exist.
A few things have been happening in Burundi this year. The president, Pierre Nkuruzinza circumvented the constitution and ran for a third term. The result of this has been on-going conflict from April. Burundi was not a surprise though. Journalists I spoke to earlier this year all stated that regional coverage of Burundi had pointed to something being afoot as early as last year. None-the-less, here we are, with yet another unfolding atrocity, several deaths, an ever growing numbers of displaced and plenty of hand-wringing by the international community.