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Trivia and Discussion: MONUC withdrawal from Congo?

Trivia: Give two repercussions of the UN’s impending withdrawal from Eastern DRC.


Why is the UN considering pulling out of DRC?

What are the likely immediate effects of their withdrawal on the civilian population?

Will the UN’s withdrawal necessarily point DRC in a direction to peace?

Discussion guide

Earlier this year, President Joseph Kabila called on the 20,000 UN troops in Eastern Congo to withdraw and let the country ‘fly with its own wings’. The UN mission, code named MONUC, has operated in Eastern Congo since 1999 with the aim of protecting civilians and enforcing the cease fires between the government army and rebel groups.

Kabila’s desire is that MONUC leaves by June 30th 2011, but negotiations with the MONUC chief Alain Le Roy yielded an extension to August 2011. The UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon doesn’t endorse this move, arguing that MONUC needs to remain in the fragile regions like Kivu until enough national army units have been trained well enough to take over from where MONUC will leave off.

MONUC recap
  • Started in 1999 to enforce a cease fire between the government forces and rebel groups, during the 1998 – 2002 round of conflict
  • Supported DRC’s reunification and its 2006 democratic elections which Kabila won
  • Has since worked on training some units of the national army, FARDC, and integrating disarmed rebels in the same
  • In January 2009 joined forces with FARDC to make a final assault (Operation Kimia II) on the FDLR
  • MONUC soldiers can be given credit for protection of a good number of civilians whose lives might have been in more danger in the absence of MOUC
  • But MONUC has also been blamed for supporting a faulty national army which preys on civilians through rape and robbery like the rebels, and for provoking (through Kimia II) a harsh wave of violence from the FDLR which sent 800,000 people into flight by August 2009
  • Read more about MONUC here.
What needs to be considered
  • DRC’s sovereignty vs civilian safety, if it is deemed that MONUC has indeed achieved a considerable level of security in Eastern Congo
  • Could the UN’s withdrawal mean the beginning of another dreaded wave of violence, death and flight, or is DRC ready to take on the task?

-Sharon Muhwezi, National Congo Education Coordinator

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Answers and Analysis: After Genocide

This week’s trivia and discussion focused on what happens after genocide–focusing particularly on Rwanda.

While the UN established the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), the national courts in Rwanda were unable to process the large number of cases of accused perpetrators that remained. In light of this, the government adapted the pre-colonial, traditional gacaca courts to handle the remaining cases.

There may not be words enough to describe the immense challenges faced by the Rwandan people following the 1994 genocide. Nearly one million Tutsi and their Hutu sympathizers were killed, devastating a population. Considering that so many were killed n the short 100 day time frame, there must have been a large number of killers. Immediately after the genocide ended, more than 120,000 were arrested as suspects of having perpetrated genocide. So many were arrested that there was not even enough room in the prisons to house them. Not only was Rwanda’s population as a whole decimated, but the judicial system also was incredibly impacted. Many of the judges were either killed or were killers themselves in the genocide, making trials of accused perpetrators very difficult. Estimates say that with the ICTR and the national courts, trials would continue for maybe more than 100 years. As they say, justice delayed is justice denied.

Upon establishing the adapted version of gacaca, the government hoped to speed the trials, bringing truth, justice, and reconciliation to the Rwandan population. While the ICTR is able to process only a small number of elite criminals, gacaca handles the remaining trials. While many praise the ability of the courts to speed trials and bring justice to Rwanda in a traditional way, there are several challenges the court faced.

One difficulty faced by the courts regards the safety and integrity of the inyangamugayo, or judges. In some areas where there are few survivors, it is possible for the judges, selected by the community, to be perpetrators. Even those who did not commit genocide may run a trial of a friend or relative. In addition, since they do not receive a salary for their work, they are susceptible to bribes, and hence trials may result in unfair and untruthful judgments; innocent ruled guilty, and guilty ruled innocent. Their security may also be a problem; they may face intimidation and may even possibly be killed by those who wish them to rule in a particular way.

Security of survivors is also a problem. Though security has improved in recent years, a few years ago it was not uncommon to hear of survivors being killed after giving testimony accusing members in the community of committing genocide. Such cases not only impact the survivor targeted, but also create a climate of fear among the survivor population which may be hesitant to offer testimonies as a result. In addition, it may even be possible for survivors to succumb to corruption, lying in testimony to create a desired outcome of the one who offered bribes.

Prisoners and those who defend them may also not be secure. While prisoners have safety in the prison for the most part, they may feel intimidated by other prisoners or perpetrators who remain outside prison. If prisoners give true testimonies and accuse them, they may fear being attacked by those they accused. Those who defend prisoners may feel intimidated to do so. Also, some do not trust the prisoners’ testimony in general, for they may wish to hide what they have done to protect themselves. They may speak the truth or a partial truth, as doing so, and asking for pardon, can decrease their punishments. It is unclear whether prisoners repent from the heart or in the interest of being released from prison. 

Regardless, trials are expected to conclude this June, and presidential elections will occur this August. There are widespread allegations of suppression of opposition candidates and parties, and two of the country’s independent newspapers have been suspended. Rwanda has come a long way since 1994, but rebuilding after genocide is never easy, and challenges remain to be overcome.

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Trivia and Discussion: After Genocide

April is Genocide Prevention Month, and a time when we remember the genocides of the past. As anti-genocide activists, we spend our time monitoring current conflicts, educating others, and taking action to ensure that further violence will be prevented and these conflicts end. This year, we have educated ourselves and others on the importance of prevention, ensuring that genocide does not occur in the first place. However, we spend little time thinking about what happens after genocide. While we may take the time this month to remember Armenia, the Holocaust, Cambodia, Bosnia, and Rwanda, do we ever consider how societies transitioned from devastation to peace? Once genocide ends and killing abates, peace may not yet be attained. There is a long process of discovering the truth about what occurred, judging the perpetrators, and reconciling broken societies. This process may take years, even generations. As one Rwandan survivor noted at a recent commemoration event in Boston, what occurred 16 years ago may sometimes seem like just 16 hours ago to a survivor.

This week’s discussion will use the case of Rwanda to explore the challenges faced after genocide.

Trivia: What justice mechanisms (courts, tribunals) judge accused perpetrators of genocide in Rwanda?

Discussion: What challenges did Rwanda face after the 1994 genocide in judging perpetrators? What challenges remain?

Rwandan Genocide

  • After much preparation and organization, the killings began on April 6, 1994 after the assassination of Hutu President Juvenal Habyarimana.
  • Extremist Hutu, organized in the interahamwe militias, began eliminating Tutsi elite and politicians, then moved on to ordinary citizens, usually using machetes.
  • As the largely Tutsi Rwandese Patriotic Front (RPF) fought its way to the capital to end the killing, the international community remained unengaged.
  • On July 4, 1994, the RPF made it to the capital, and fourteen days later declared the genocide to be over.
  • Estimates on the death toll range from at least 500,000 to more than one million.
  • Over 120,000 were immediately arrested on the charge of participating in the genocide.
  • Estimates say that prosecuting the number of accused in regular national courts would take more than 100 years.
  • Learn more here.

The International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR)

  • Established by the United Nations in November of 1994
  • Trials occur in Arusha, in neighboring Tanzania
  • Responsible for judging those accused of the most serious crimes (category one) such as recruiting, leading, and organizing killers or committing acts of sexual violence
  • To date 50 cases have been concluded, 24 are in progress, and 2 are waiting to begin
  • Many Rwandans feel disconnected from the court as it takes place in Tanzania, not in Rwanda, and tries only the highest criminals–not necessarily those who had a role in killing their loved ones.
  • The Rwandan government’s request to try perpetrators in its own national courts were denied.
  • Learn more here

Gacaca (gah-cha-cha) Courts

  • Translates roughly to "justice on the grass;" this community-oriented justice mechanism existed in pre-colonial times as a means for families to resolve problems by discussing with one another.
  • In 1996, the Rwandan government began considering using this mechanism for dealing with perpetrators of genocide, and officially established the courts for this purpose in 2002.
  • Objectives are to: learn the truth about what happened; speed the trials; eradicate the culture of impunity; reconcile and unite Rwandans; prove that Rwanda can author its own solutions.
  • Trials occur in the villages where crimes occurred, and all who are able may attend. Anyone is able to provide testimony, either defending or accusing the accused. Occurring in villages all over the country, trials are accessible to all and help speed the trials of the thousands of accused.
  • If the accused is found guilty, upon accepting what s/he did and asking for forgiveness, s/he may receive a lesser sentence. This may include doing community service work, such as building houses for genocide survivors. Those who refuse to accept may return to prison.
  • Since many judges either were killed or were themselves killers, communities elect inyangamugayo–"persons of integrity"–to serve as judges. Oftentimes the judges have little formal education, though they are given some trainings. There is no salary for their work, and corruption is common. Personal emotion is also cited as a reason for false judgments, as it is possible for a judge to judge a member of his or her family. In some communities where there are few survivors, it is even possible for those who participated in the genocide to be elected as judges. Furthermore, their personal safety may be compromised according to their judgments, and intimidation may also cause false judgments.
  • Though usually a local defense force is present, safety of those who give testimony–survivors and others–cannot be guaranteed. Reports of survivors being killed because of their testimonies make others hesitant to give testimony during a trial. However, in recent years safety has improved.
  • Survivors may experience trauma at trials upon recounting their experiences and in learning details from the accused about how, when, and where their loved ones were killed. However, many survivors cite learning about what happened, and discovering where loved ones’ remains are buried, as a major positive factor of gacaca.
  • Neither the ICTR nor gacaca addresses war crimes, such as revenge killings, committed by the RPF. While many note that gacaca was established specifically to deal with genocide, RPF crimes are not addressed in any other court.
  • Gacaca is expected to conclude in June of 2010, after extensions.
  • Learn more here.

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Weekly News Brief, 4.9.10 – 4.16.10

In this week’s issue: Elections concluded in Sudan and results are expected on Tuesday, April 20; the Burmese government rejected the latest proposal by the United Wa State Army on the Border Guard Force, indicating it will not compromise; UN officials are reluctant to comply with the Congolese government’s request for the withdrawal of MONUC
Weekly News Brief, April 9 to 16, 2010, compiled by Joshua Kennedy at GI-Net and the STAND E-team. To sign up to receive news briefs, trivia, and a discussion guide, email
Areas of Concern
Democratic Republic of Congo


Answers and Analysis: Airstrikes and Drone Strikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan

Trivia Answers: 149 Afghan civilians were killed by NATO airstrikes in 2009.  

Discussion: How do airstrikes and drone strikes affect conflict in Afghanistan and Pakistan? Are either types of strike legal?  

Air strikes and drone strikes are two of the most controversial subjects in the conflicts in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In Afghanistan, air strikes are utilized by NATO forces to target militants or provide air support when troops are in battle with insurgents. They are used infrequently and have led to many civilian casualties, prompting several inquiries into the nature of their use. New strict guidelines, put in place by Gen. McChrystal, commander of the joint NATO and U.S. forces in Afghanistan, have attempted to stomp out this problem by limiting when air strikes may be called. Meanwhile, in Pakistan, drone strikes are used by the U.S. government to assassinate Taliban and al Qaeda militants and batter their hideouts. They have been relatively successful at eliminating mid-level targets and forcing the Taliban in North Waziristan to seek refuge deeper underground or in vast caves. The United States has found drone strikes such an effective tool that the frequency of their use has spiked from several per month to almost one each day.   

As tools of war, air and drone strikes affect the conflicts in different ways. Because the Pakistani government has not given the United States explicit permission to use drone strikes in its territory, the practice has been heavily criticized as illegal and few have deemed it a legitimate use of force. Pakistan’s government says the United States is infringing on its sovereignty by conducting drone strikes without seeking its consent, but other government officials say Pakistan’s intelligence agency has helped the United States locate terrorists to strike, thus delegitimizing Pakistan’s claims. Nevertheless, the Pakistani population views the drone strikes as an arrogant abuse of power by the United States and a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and has protested that the strikes kill civilians as often as militants. Pakistan has requested drone technology from the United States in order to develop its drone capacities to strike militants on its own, but while the United States has offered to share some information, it has refused to give Pakistan the technology for unmanned strikes.  

The success of drone strikes in Pakistan has also brought an unexpected danger to civilians: as more militants are killed by the strikes, those that survive have begun using civilian homes as shields to drone attacks. If the attack still occurs, scores of civilians can be killed.  

Yet the Obama administration has found the drone strikes to be legal and has strived to distinguish them from assassination, which is illegal. The Justice Department’s top lawyer has said that because the strikes are proportionate, targeted killings of militants planning terrorist attacks against the United States, they are permissible under international law. Other countries have been reluctant to recognize this principle, and many scholars argue that the strikes are ethically indefensible, especially when they have a chance of killing civilians instead of militants.  

In Afghanistan, air strikes have killed hundreds of non-combatants, generating widespread outrage at their use. Such strikes have previously turned the tide of popular opinion heavily against NATO forces – so much that when mistakes have occurred and air strikes have accidentally killed civilians, Gen. McChrystal has offered his personal apologies to the Afghan government and population. These strikes, however, are legal since U.S. forces are actively engaged in war in Afghanistan (whereas they are not in Pakistan; the United States considers Pakistan a friendly, relatively stable government). Their unpopularity among the Afghan population has also been used by the Taliban as a recruiting tool – militants seek out the families of air strike victims and persuade them to join the fight against pro-government and foreign forces. This in turn puts more civilians in danger of insurgents’ attacks.  

For the most part, airstrikes in Afghanistan and drone strikes in Pakistan have negatively affected civilian populations suffering from conflicts in those regions, increasing the number of casualties and leading many to support militant groups. As long as these methods remain legally questionable and unpopular with the civilian populations of the countries in which they are used, they will delegitimize U.S. efforts to bring peace to the regions and bring further death and destruction to innocent non-combatants. 

-Carolina Chacon, National Conflicts of Concern Education Coordinator


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Voting in Sudan to conclude today- Election Recap

With only one more day of polling to go, Sudanese citizens have been flocking to the polls. However, many officials still site chaos, claiming that very few people who actually registered to vote made it to their designated site. For example, in South Sudan, 1,323 voters were registered for a specific site, but only 29 (or 2%) successfully made it to the poll on the first day. Some of the ballots have errors, creating confusion in the voting process. Fortunately, there has not been as much violence as was anticipated after the pre-election political turmoil that occurred less than two weeks ago. However, opposition candidates and supporters report intimidation and harassment.

      The Sudanese have been granted two extra days to get to the polls so that problems may be corrected. The polling booths will now close today, Thursday, April 15, 2010. Even though there has not been any substantial violence reported, four UNAMID peacekeepers have been kidnapped in Darfur, demonstrating how incredibly unstable and violent the situation in Darfur is right now. In addition, tensions mounted on Thursday as Sudan’s ruling party reported that the southern army had killed nine people, including five NCP officials. South Sudan’s army claims that it was an individual "crime of passion" after one soldier found a NCP official in bed with his wife.

Southern observers also noted that 19 monitors have been removed from polling stations, and one assaulted. Analysts noted that tensions may rise in the coming days as the vote count begins. Results are due by April 20.

      Current President Omar al-Bashir is so confident at this moment of a victory for himself and his party, the National Congress Party, that he has asked opposition parties to join the NCP.

       In response to criticisms of the decision to support the elections, Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, who is heading the Carter Center election observation mission, said, “We want to see CPA (Comprehensive Peace Agreement) implementation continue on schedule. This election is part of that process. …Ultimately, we think there’s value in giving the people of Sudan an opportunity to participate in a broader political process for the first time in a quarter century. That has value."

-Emma Smith, National Sudan Education Coordinator


Trivia and Discussion: Airstrikes in Afghanistan and Pakistan

Trivia: How many Afghan civilians were killed by airstrikes in 2009? How many Pakistani civilians were killed by drone strikes in 2009? 

Discussion: How do airstrikes and drone strikes affect conflict in Afghanistan and Pakistan? Are either types of strike legal?  

Some facts to guide you:
  • Customary international law calls on parties in war to distinguish between non-combatants and combatants as attacks on civilians are entirely prohibited.
  • U.S. and NATO commander Gen. Stanley McChrystal has issued new guidelines for when air strikes should be used in Afghanistan. The guidelines indicated troops must be sure there are no civilians in the targeted area, unless troops are in imminent danger and cannot retreat.
  • U.S. officials have previously acknowledged that hundreds of Afghan civilians have been killed by U.S. airstrikes.
  • Under customary international law, a state may not exercise its power in any form in the territory of another state unless there’s an agreement between the two states allowing it to do so. In Pakistan’s case, its government has not (publicly) signed any agreements allowing the United States to launch drone strikes in its tribal regions.
  • Although Pakistan’s government has repeatedly criticized the drone strikes, which are highly unpopular among the Pakistani population, as a violation of the country’s sovereignty, it has not filed a formal complaint and many scholars and diplomats believe the government has given the U.S. its tacit consent.
  • Some analysts argue that because the tribal areas are not under effective government control – essentially ungoverned territory – they can be attacked. The Justice Department’s top lawyer, Harold Koh, has declared that drone are strikes legal as they follow two specific laws of war: the principles of distinction and proportionality.

-Carolina Chacon, National Conflicts of Concern Education Coordinator

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Answers and Analysis: Theories of Genocide

After discussing genocide prevention and leadership, early warning, early prevention, preventive diplomacy, military options, and international action and the Genocide Prevention Task Force (GPTF) Report, we took a step back to discuss theories of genocide. If we are going to discuss how to prevent genocide, how do we understand it? What is genocide? How does it happen?

In 1943 Raphael Lemkin coined the term genocide, which the UN defines as: “Any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

  • Killing members of the group;
  • Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
  • Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its
    physical destruction in whole or in part;
  • Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
  • …Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group."

 How do ethnic groups move into conflict? Why? Are there common threads seen across cultures in various conflicts which can serve as a blueprint for understanding conflict itself? Is conflict a unique phenomenon that is always specific to the place it happens, or are there themes and concepts which are applicable to many or most cases? Gaining an understanding of the process of groups entering conflict can then serve as a foundation for developing an early warning system and prevention mechanisms to deter violence and to save lives.

          Democracy, some say, is a way to deter violence from breaking out. Stanton says that “…structural factors such as totalitarian or autocratic government or minority rule correlate substantially with the incidence of genocide” (Stanton, Early Warning 318). Fein writes that while the Democratic Peace Theory might be accurate in saying that democratic governments won’t enter into external war with democracies, this theory has nothing to say about internal wars and genocide within national boundaries (Fein 322).

            Another such theory involves the concept of modernization. In a contemporary society in which developed nations have industrialized and modernized, there is pressure on the developing world to catch up and to compete in this new world. States which are too far behind to be competitive, but which are not so far behind that they are disinterested, are susceptible to internal conflict. In a state’s frantic and frenzied attempt to “attain the unattainable” (Levene 275), a state is likely to engage in policies like genocide.

  Not having the essentials of daily living, anxieties and frustrations amongst individuals cause people to identify more strongly with the group. In times of hardship, it is through this support that people can cope. When there are difficult life conditions, and when leaders and institutions are not effectively in place to help people cope with the stress and psychological affects of deprivation, individuals will turn to radical leadership (Staub 104). Staub notes that material life conditions are not enough to provoke genocide, but that they create an atmosphere which, with other important factors in place like leadership, can explode into violence.

            Horowitz, criticizing economic theory, notes that it does not provide an adequate explanation as to why there is such strong antipathy in ethnic conflict. Economic hardship does not explain the strong sentiment behind the call to war or the call to commit genocide, nor does it explain why the masses would follow the leaders in that call to war. There must be a theory, Horowitz writes, which notes “the sheer passion expended in pursuing ethnic conflict” and which “does justice to the realm of feelings” (Horowitz 139). This fundamentally subjective quality, of what it feels like to be a member of an ethnic group engaged in conflict, is one whose importance is agreed upon by several scholars of conflict and genocide. The concepts of group sentiment, categorical identities, legitimacy, and survival in a world fearful of extermination are of utmost importance in the theory of group entitlement.

            The power of group sentiment must not be underestimated. Staub says, “because people define themselves to a significant degree by their membership in a group, for most people a positive view of their group is essential in individual self-esteem—especially in difficult times” (Staub 99). It is this idea of belonging to a group, of gaining a feeling of worth and value from group membership, that provides a foundation for understanding why ethnic groups enter into conflict.

            Further, when discussing post-colonial societies, which, it may be argued, are more susceptible to internal ethnic conflict than other societies, the importance of imposed colonial identity and categorization is extremely relevant in the discussion about conflict. Horowitz discusses the idea of “advanced” and “backward” groups. Colonial powers, favoring one group, deems the seemingly more educated, refined, and modern group advanced and treats the group differently. The backward group is the one in which members are seemingly barbaric, uneducated, indigenous. In colonial times, when advanced groups receive disproportionate colonial attention, backward groups of course feel threatened, less worthy. Even in non-colonized societies, the concepts of backward and advanced groups have a powerful hold on states.

            Finally, when considering group entitlement, the notion of survival and fear of extinction is perhaps the most powerful concept to consider. The competitive, discriminatory nature of the simple act of division into groups paired with the insecurity of the challenge of more “advanced” groups, which might not even be legitimated with the land, can fuel anxiety and desire for homogeneity. This desire becomes a projection; a group’s desire to create a homogenous society by any means becomes a fear that other groups have the desire for homogeneity. From this a group derives a fear of extinction (Horowitz 180). Levene notes similarities between the Rwandan genocide and the Holocaust by citing the same fear and anxiety that “the state itself was on the brink of destruction” (Levene 288). The state in this context includes the group with legitimacy rooted in the land. The others, after all, have seemingly no claim to the territory, and are therefore outsiders, invaders, and not nationals. Genocide in these two cases was conducted with the belief that the nation and its identity as an Aryan or Hutu society was at risk of extinction. Kiernan also notices this factor in genocide and ethnic conflict. He cites a quote directly from Hitler emphasizing this point. Hitler once said, “‘We are faced with the harsh alternative of striking now or of certain annihilation sooner or later’” (Kiernan 247).

             Because of the monumental importance of emotion and sentiment in ethnic conflict and genocide, it seems as though the theory Horowitz proposes, with which several other scholars are in line, is a more accurate view of ethnic conflict than those based on rational cost and benefit like economic theory. The power of group sentiment when divided into categories, the concepts of advanced and backward groups, legitimacy through association with the soil, and the fear of extinction, make for a deadly combination.

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Weekly News Brief, 5.2.10 – 5.9.10

In this week’s issue: in addition to opposition party boycotts, the European Union has pulled its election observers from Darfur; Burma’s military regime negotiator met with ethnic armies to discuss the Border Guard Force issue; more LRA attacks were reported in Congo

Weekly News Brief, April 2 to 9, 2010, compiled by Joshua Kennedy of GI-Net and the STAND E-team. To receive news briefs, trivia, and discussion guides, email

  • The military regime’s chief negotiator, Lt-Gen Ye Myint, met on Thursday with the United Wa State Army and on Sunday with the National Democratic Alliance Army, a Mongla group, to discuss the Border Guard Force issue.  He reportedly said that the ethnic groups should respond positively by April 22 or face repercussions by April 28.
  • Residents along the Kanbauk to Myain Kalay gas pipeline have reported increased efforts to extort money by Burmese government State Peace and Development Council (SPDC) forces.  With over 50 villages in close proximity to the gas pipeline, an estimated 90% of the residents who live along the gas pipeline have faced this abuse by the local military units based around the area.
  • Senior American diplomat Kurt Campbell is expected to visit Burma in the near future, though dates have not yet been set.  The purpose of the visit will be to kick-start the US’s engagement policy with the military regime.
  • Mother Jones magazine profiles the plight of the Karen living in Thailand in their March/April Issue.
  • The Free Burma Rangers chronicled the effect of displacement in eastern Burma on the region’s children. The study, Displaced Childhoods, charged that children in eastern Burma are subject to arbitrary killings, torture, mistreatment, arrest and detention without cause, sexual violence, forced labor including recruitment as child soldiers and other violations of fundamental freedoms.
  • In an Irrawaddy survey involving more than 500 people in Rangoon, nearly half said they do not intend to vote in the upcoming election if the main opposition party, the National League for Democracy (NLD), does not contest it.  Many view their decision not to vote as a boycott in support of the NLD.
  • Over 100 ASEAN Members of Parliament are demanding that ASEAN expel Burma and impose sanctions because the regime has clearly ignored the call to conduct free and fair elections.
Democratic Republic of Congo

Around the World



Trivia and Discussion: Theories of Genocide

Did you know that April is Genocide Prevention Month? This semester, we’ve focused on the recommendations of the Genocide Prevention Task Force (GPTF) Report. You’ve been quizzed on genocide prevention and leadership, early warning, early prevention, preventive diplomacy, military options, and international action. Especially in considering early warning, we began to delve into what the causes of genocide are–or at least the situations in which genocide and mass atrocities may occur. While we have looked quite a bit about how to prevent genocide, we haven’t much considered what genocide actually is.

TRIVIA: Who coined the term "genocide"? How does the United Nations define it?

DISCUSSION: How does genocide happen? What are some theories explaining its occurrence?

The process of genocide-
Gregory Stanton’s stages of genocide:

1. Classification- Bipolar societies (like Rwanda) most likely for genocide; to prevent genocide from this stage, develop universalistic institutions to create supraidentity or national identity.

2. Symbolization- Giving names or symbols to classifications. While symbolization and classification are listed as stages of genocide, they are natural human behaviors, and will only lead to genocide if they lead to dehumanization.

3. Dehumanization- Equating other groups with animals, insects, etc; spreading hate propaganda
4. Organization- Forming militias, etc
5. Polarization- Driving groups apart with extremism
6. preparation- Identifying and separating the target group
7. Extermination- Eliminating the target group; only intervention can stop this stage
8. Denial- Always follows genocide

A few theories:

  • Economic: There is little consensus on the importance of economic factors leading to genocide; some point out that in the allocation of resources, some groups are advantaged while others are disadvantaged, which may foster tension among groups. In addition, difficult life conditions, paired with a certain social structure and culture, can create an unfavorable view of one group by the other. While this is the case, others, like Donald Horowitz, note that there has not been an exhibited relationship between economics and conflict; furthermore, economic factors cannot account for the intense feeling that is often associated with identity-based conflict.
  • Type of government: Gregory Stanton argues that the prevalence of authoritarian and totalitarian regimes correlates with instances of genocide; therefore, genocide prevention policy should promote the establishment of democracies. However, Helen Fein says that while nondemocratic regimes may be more likely to engage in war and practice genocide externally with other countries, this is not the case with genocide occurring within the country. Barbara Harff argues that it is not necessarily the type of government, but rather a significant change in government that can lead to the occurrence of genocide.
  • Modernization: Mark Levene notes that “As the demands of the system intensify, the drive of the relatively weaker states to more rapid, fast-speed development will also intensify; so in turn will the limiting factors, economic competition, demographic explosion, resource scarcity and massive ecological degredation, conspire to wreck their ambition. Genocide in the future is likely to become a function and all too regular by-product of attempts to attain the unattainable.”
  • Group legitimacy and insecurity: This idea, largely promoted by Donald Horowitz, emphasizes the importance of emotion in engaging in conflict. The human need to belong to a group as an essential component of personal identity, along with the categorization of groups, leads to strong emotion regarding group identity. The worth and legitimacy of the group is highly important to personal identity. Groups that are associated with the land are considered most legitimate, while groups which may perceived as having foreign origins may be viewed as unwelcome intruders. The categorization of groups can lead to the mutual fear of the other, and, insecure about the intentions of the other group, groups may seek to eliminate the other group in the belief that the other group seeks to eliminate them.

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