PEACE WORLDWIDE ORGANIZATION CIVILITY REPORT 2022

In Civility Report 2022, Peace Worldwide Organization Founder Mehdi Alavi reviews all countries within the United Nations and provides human rights, democracy, peace, and civility scores for 193 countries. We urge you to read Civility Report 2022 today.

PEACE WORLDWIDE ORGANIZATION CIVILITY REPORT 2022

In Civility Report 2022, Peace Worldwide Organization Founder Mehdi Alavi reviews all countries within the United Nations and provides human rights, democracy, peace, and civility scores for 193 countries. We urge you to read Civility Report 2022 today.

KEY AREA FOCUS: TUNISIA

Africa is the world's second largest and second most populous continent, after Asia. Africa covers 6% of the Earth's total surface area and 20.4% of the total land area. With 1.0 billion people, it accounts for about 14.72% of the world's human population.

KEY AREA FOCUS: COSTA RICA

Americas are lands in the Western hemisphere of the world. In English, the plural form of the Americas is often used to refer to the landmasses of North America and South America with their associated islands and regions.

KEY AREA FOCUS: AFGHANISTAN

Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. With approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population.

KEY AREA FOCUS: ENGLAND

Europe is the world's second-smallest continent by surface area, covering about 10,180,000 square kilometres or 2% of the Earth's surface and about 6.8% of its land area. Yet the borders of Europe, can incorporate cultural and political elements.

KEY AREA FOCUS: SYRIA

The Middle East is a transcontinental region centered on Western Asia, Turkey, and Egypt.

Belgium’s Regrets Not Enough: Congo Deserves Apology and Reparations for War Crimes

Belgium committed war crimes and vicious human rights abuses against the Congolese people. The Belgian King has finally expressed regrets but still not offered an apology. Belgium must offer an apology, pay reparations and bring its brutal officials to justice. So must the US, which colluded with the Belgians to exploit the Congolese.


On June 8, 2022, Belgian King Philippe expressed his regrets for the exploitation, violence and racism during the colonization of the Congo Free State, now known as the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). This followed  years of denials and excuses by Belgian authorities.

The DRC, a territory 76 times bigger than Belgium, is the second largest country after Algeria in Africa and the 11th largest in the world. Today, it is torn by conflicts between armed groups that recruit children as soldiers. To make matters worse, DRC’s security forces operate with impunity. They continue harassing, threatening, attacking, arresting and murdering human rights defenders, journalists and members of the political opposition. Civilians are arbitrarily killed and abducted. Women and girls are systematically raped and subjected to other forms of violence. Communal violence and ethnic cleansing are widespread. Most minorities including Hutu, Tutsi, Hema, Lendu, Lunda, Luba, Mbororo, and Batwa live under continuous threat. The country remains the source and destination point for trafficking in children and women for prostitution. The country desperately needs humanitarian assistance.

The DRC’s problems are not entirely the fault of the Congolese people. Their roots can be traced back to Belgian King Leopold II and successive Belgian governments.

The Belgian King belatedly expresses regrets

Before his recent admission, Philippe denied Belgian atrocities and made excuses for Leopold II and Belgium for years. Despite pressure from his own country’s people along with that of the international community who were inspired by the Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement, Philippe hesitated to take any action other than offer excuses for the last two years.

On May 27, 2021, French President Emmanuel Macron spoke at the genocide memorial in Rwanda’s capital Kigali where many victims were buried. He asked Rwandans to forgive France for its role in the 1994 genocide. On May 28, 2021, Germany apologized for its genocide against Herero and Nema tribal people in Namibia and offered to launch “projects over a billion euros” as compensation. Even those apologies did not inspire Philippe to admit Belgian atrocities in the Congo.

Over a year later, increased Belgian and international pressures finally forced Philippe to face reality. When he finally spoke out, the Belgian king just expressed regrets. Philippe stopped short of formally apologizing for Belgian atrocities during the colonial period. “This [Belgian] regime was one of unequal relations, unjustifiable in itself, marked by paternalism, discrimination and racism,” he said before a joint session of parliament in the DNC capital Kinshasa, He want to state: “I wish to reaffirm my deepest regrets for those wounds of the past.”

The toxic legacy of the past

Leopold II was a tyrant who pursued a brutal pogrom that resulted in the deaths of millions. His policies also led to the destruction of the livelihoods and cultures of the people of the Congo. Leopold II came to power in 1865 and was determined to build an empire. Authorized by the 1885 Berlin Conference, he formed the Congo Free State, separate from Belgium but privately owned and controlled by himself. Leopold II knew evangelization was the most effective way to dominate people. He took the view that, if the Congolese converted to Christianity, they would become more subservient. This would allow Leopold II to plunder Congo’s valuable resources. So, this ruthless Belgian king brought in missionaries to convert the Congolese people to Christianity. He issued and enforced inhumane decrees that not only caused misery and death but also pushed the Congolese to convert to and practice Christianity.

To extract ivory, rubber, and minerals, Leopold’s men viciously used whipping, wounding, enslaving, beheading and severing body parts, including the penis. They routinely resorted to sexual violence against the Congolese people. They treated the Congolese as animals, exhibiting them in their zoos in Belgium. Their atrocities are estimated to have caused the deaths of around 10 million, then 50% of the Congolese population. This led to international scandal and outrage, forcing the Belgian government to take over the colony.

In 1908, under immense international pressure the Belgian government took over Leopold II’s private estate and made it a Belgian colony, christening it Belgian Congo. After 23 years of Leopold II’s rule, the Belgian government ruled Belgian Congo for another 52 years. The colony only gained its independence in 1960.

Under Belgian rule, genocidal actions reduced in number and severity but persecution and forced labor continued. The racism initiated by Leopold II continued though. Africans were excluded from education, employment and other opportunities. Children of mixed race were abducted and sent to orphanages in Belgium.

After World War I, European and US companies moved in and used the Congolese as indentured laborers to produce cotton, coffee, cacao, palm oil, rubber, copper, gold, diamond, cobalt, tin, zinc, uranium and other raw materials. They used forced labor to develop roads, railroads, utility stations, and other public facilities in Belgian Congo. During World War II, the US was heavily involved in mining uranium in the Congo. When postwar decolonization began, Belgium insisted that the Congolese were not mature enough to run their own country. So, Belgium stood firm on retaining its Belgian Colony, forgetting that the Belgians had wanted freedom from Nazi Germany themselves.

Under Belgian annexation, Congolese education undermined critical thinking and ripped up the social fabric. Only a very few were allowed to get basic education by the government-paid Christian missionaries whose primary goal was to advance colonization and conversion to Christianity. Only in 1954, a Congolese was first admitted to a Belgian university to study a subject other than Christian religion. To this day, the DRC is hobbled by its toxic colonial legacy.

Independence is snuffed out, exploitation continues

Starting from 1919, the Congolese began fighting for their independence. Their revolts were regularly suppressed by the Belgian authorities. In 1958, the Congolese formed their first political party. Riots broke out in 1959 with mobs demanding independence. A year later, Belgium capitulated, granting its huge colony independence. On June 30, 1960, the nationalist leader Patrice Lumumba became the prime minister and Joseph Kasavubu president. They put Colonel Joseph Mobutu in charge of the defense. Backed by Colonel Joseph Mobutu, Kasa-Vubu soon removed Lumumba. In January 1961, the US and Belgium backed a military coup. Mobutu murdered Lumumba. Mobutu went on to take over the presidency from Kasavubu in 1965. Backed by the US, he ran the DRC as a brutal dictator for 32 years, embezzling government funds at a gargantuan scale.

In 1997 backed by Rwanda and Uganda, Laurent Kabila took over the presidency and ruled for 4 years, causing over 3 million deaths. In 2001, he was killed and his son Joseph Kabila took over the presidency and ruled until late 2018 when opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi supposedly won an election that did not meet international expectations and was contested by the country’s dominant Catholic Church. He has remained in power as president to the present time.

In the 1880s, the US was becoming a world power. Leopold II used the services of an American to survey the Congo. He also sought American recognition of his personal rule over Congo. Some Americans were fearful of the power of American blacks who were demanding equality and liberty. They saw Leopold II’s  request as an opportunity to cleanse the US of its black population by sending them to the Congo. In exchange for the favor, Leopold assured the US that its citizens could buy lands in Congo and US imports would be exempt from all customs duties. Leopold received recognition of his rule in Congo by the US, paving the way for him to earn recognition from European powers. Leopold II’s deal with Uncle Sam also opened the gate for the US to plunder Congo”s wealth.

The US emulated Leopold II’s egregious abuses in minute detail, including displaying Congolese people in zoos in numerous cities across the country. As late as 1906, New Yorkers would rush to see a Congolese in the Monkey House at Bronx Zoo. This led to protests by American blacks and became a national scandal.

Suffice to say, the US has been exploiting Congo since Leopold II’s days. In particular, the US has been extracting uranium from Shinkolobwe mine since the 1930s. This small mine in the southern province of Katanga provided most of the uranium used in the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Today, US mining companies backed by the American military continue taking cobalt, copper, zinc and other minerals from the DRC, giving the country peanuts in return. 

The Belgian role in the Rwandan genocide

After World War I, the League of Nations transferred Rwanda and Burundi from Germany to Belgium. Taking a leaf out of its Congo playbook. Belgium yet again resorted to Christian evangelization and appointed white agents to dominate and control the new colonies. It also implemented a caste system, decreeing the minority Tutsis, a cattle-herding people, as superior to the majority Hutus, a farming people, and the native Twa, a pygmy people.   

In Rwanda, the Hutu king was removed for refusing to convert to Christianity. Then, the religion was forcefully imposed on the masses. Imana, the local monotheistic religion, was wiped out. For centuries, it had been the cultural force unifying the community. To dominate Rwanda, Belgium offered the Tutsis access to education and designated them as superior to others. The Tutsis became subordinate agents of Belgian colonial administration.

Belgium authorized the Tutsis to impose forced labor and punishments on other communities. Belgian policies imposed by Tutsis caused several famines. Later, Belgian colonial authorities took the administrative step of issuing identification cards for each ethnicity. That racial segregation policy along with the removal of their king angered the majority Hutus. To the Hutus, the Tutsis became known as “invaders”. In the late 1950s, the Hutu movement began to organize to oppose the Tutsis and expel Belgium. The Hutus also finally  began to earn some sympathy from Belgians.

When Rwanda won independence in 1962, a Hutu campaign to incinerate Tutsi huts sent many Tutsis fleeing into exile. The Hutu president JuvĂ©nal Habyarimana, known for his anti-Tutsi rhetoric, maintained a good relationship with Belgian King Baudouin. On April 6, 1994, a plane carrying Habyarimana, Burundian President Cyprien Ntarvamira, and other high-ranking officials was shot down, killing all on board. Blaming the rebel Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), Hutu extremists began the slaughter of Tutsis and their Hutu sympathizers. On April 7, 1994, Rwandan forces killed 10 Belgian officers. They threatened Belgium not intervene in the ongoing genocide against the Tutsis. Belgium dutifully abandoned Rwanda to the Hutu killers. In April 2000, Guy Verhofstadt, the Belgian prime minister, went to Rwanda and said, “In the name of my country and of my people, I beg your forgiveness.”

French forces were also present in Rwanda during the genocide. They watched the massacres, but did nothing. The French government persistently denied this until recently. After 27 years of denial, France was finally forced by its own government commission to officially admit its complicity in the 1994 Rwanda genocide. As stated earlier, Macron asked Rwandans for forgiveness in May this year. He said, “Only those who went through that night can perhaps forgive, and in doing so give the gift of forgiveness.”. 

As in Rwanda, Belgium divided Burundi people into Tutsis and Hutus, which led to ethnic conflicts and civil war, causing the deaths of 300,000 people. In 2009, Belgium officially apologized for its atrocities. 

Imperial powers must compensate their victims

In 2022, the time for reparations has come. So far, the UN proved impotent in the face of genocide, ethnic cleansing, war crimes and crimes against humanity. The oppressed people of the Congo are still waiting for justice and reparations for Belgian atrocities that still haunt them. It is for good reason that  Human Rights Watch observed, “Belgium cannot undo its colonial past but it’s not too late to redress its contemporary fallouts to build a future based on justice and equality.”

Fortunately, many Belgians today recognize that apology must be accompanied by reparations. Patrick Dewael, the speaker of the Belgian federal parliament, said: “apart from any apologies or excuses … anyone who makes a mistake, says our legal code, must compensate for the damage.” In 2001, the Belgian Parliament found the nation morally responsible for the assassination of Lumumba and apologized for its role. Belgium has yet to make any reparations though.

The “Belgium’s Colonial Past” commission, founded in 2020, is still working on issues related to the pre-independence history of the country’s three former colonies: Belgian Congo, Burundi, and Rwanda. To address the crimes of the past, Belgium must take these actions:

  1. Acknowledge all the past abuses that include genocide and crimes against human rights.
  2. Bring to justice all those individuals, living and dead, who perpetrated those egregious abuses.
  3. Make reparations to all three former colonies based on the harm done to the Congolese people from Leopold II’s personal rule as well as Belgian colonial exploitation. The reparations must meet the following criteria:
    • correlate directly with all the economic profits Belgium earned from Congo, and
    • ensure that reparations do not go to the coffers of DRC’s corrupt government but are spent to improve education and infrastructure, bringing them to Belgian standards within 10 years.

As we have seen above, the US was Belgium’s accomplice in colonization of the Congolese people. Therefore, the US must take the following actions.

  1. Acknowledge its collaboration with the Belgian authorities in the Congo regarding human rights abuses, including violence and genocide, and economic exploitation..
  2. Form a committee that brings to justice US officials, living or dead, who abetted Belgian atrocities in the Congo.
  3. Make reparations to remedy the harms done to the Congolese people. The reparations must meet the following criteria:
    • include a bipartisan committee to evaluate all the economic profits earned by the US from the Congo, starting 1885 to today, and
    • ensure that reparations do not go to the coffers of DRC’s corrupt government but are spent to improve education and infrastructure, bringing them to Belgian standards within 10 years.
  4. Emulate Belgium and apologize for assassinating the nationalist leader Lumumba,

None of these actions can destroy the hurt and pain from the past but they will make our world a kinder, gentler and more just place.

By Mehdi Alavi

This article was originally published on Fair Observer on August 13, 2022.


Negotiate With Russia and Let Ukraine Have Peace

NATO continues interfering in the affairs of other countries, causing much pain and suffering across the world. It is time to tether it or dissolve it for good.


Ukraine is the largest country in Europe after Russia. Surrounded by Belarus, Hungary, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, the Sea of Azov, and the Black Sea, it shares the longest border with Russia. 

According to the Peace Worldwide Organization’s Civility Report 2022, Ukraine has a population of about 44 million. It has a reputation for being racist and widely corrupt. It faces internal armed conflict for suppressing the people of Donbas (Donetsk and Luhansk regions), a fact that has resulted in many civilian injuries, deaths, and displacements. Torture and other forms of human rights abuses are widely used. Human rights defenders and independent journalists risk being attacked. Harassment and suppression of non-Slavic ethnic minorities, especially the Roma, Tartars, Jews, and political asylum seekers continue. Violence against women and girls remains widespread. 

Ukraine has a short history relative to its powerful neighbor Russia. Although people lived there for centuries, as Ali Rogin, a foreign affairs producer at the PBS Newshour, explains, the region was often ruled by Austria-Hungary, Lithuania, Poland, or Russia. The end of World War I inspired an independence movement that led to the birth of the Ukrainian Socialist Soviet Republic in 1922. Ukrainians nevertheless remained divided. Some favored Nazi occupation before World War II. 

The territory we now know as Ukraine was finalized when the Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev took Crimea away from Russia and gave it to Ukraine. In 1991 when the Soviet Union fell, Ukraine declared independence. In 2004, Ukrainians elected Vikto Yanukovych, a pro-Russian prime-minister, to lead the country, though the election failed to meet international standards.   

A Free Election, Status of Russian and Crimea

In 2010 in a fair and free election in Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych was elected president of Ukraine. The new president favored better relations with neighboring Russia. In 2013, a pro-European Union uprising broke out in Ukraine. Ukrainian security forces over-reacted, shooting and killing numerous people, which led to much wider protests against Yanukovych. Instead of an official impeachment, the Verkhovna Rada Committee, composed of experts advising the Ukrainian parliament, declared that Mr. Yanukovych should be removed from office on February 22, 2014. The large Russian ethnic minority in Ukraine rejected that declaration and generally remained loyal to Mr. Yanukovych.  

On February 23, the Ukrainian parliament passed a bill that repealed Russian language as an official status. That further angered the pro-Russians in Ukraine. Their protests intensified causing a rebellion to emerge against the Ukrainian forces. Russians formed about 90 cent of Crimea’s population and overwhelmingly voted in a referendum to leave Ukraine and become a part of Russia. Days later, In March 2014, the Russo-Ukrainian War began with Russia lending its support to pro-Russian separatist forces in Crimea. 

Russia invaded and annexed Crimea, a territory that Russia had previously received from the Ottomans in the 1774 Treaty of Kucuk Kaynarca, at a time when it was fully inhabited by ethnic Tatars. Crimea remained a part of Russia for 180 years until 1954 when Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev assigned it to Ukraine. Prior to 1954, Crimea had been inhabited by Russians and persecuted Tatars. 

It was only on May 25 of that year that President Yanukovych was officially impeached and removed from office by the Ukrainian Parliament.

A History of Cold War and More

Russia and Ukraine have deep cultural, economic, familial, and political ties, going back for centuries. Millions of Russians live in Ukraine and have family ties with other Ukrainians. Furthermore, Russia and Ukraine were the two original members of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics that was formed in 1922, eventually consisting of 15 republics, including Russia and Ukraine.

The US, the Soviet Union, and a number of other countries allied to defeat the Nazi Germany in the Second World War that was followed by the Cold War, a political rivalry began between the US and the Soviet Union. They emerged as the world’s two superpowers, competing for political influence and access to resources. They waged proxy wars throughout the world, producing many bloody conflicts across the globe.

In 1949, the US led the move to create the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), specifically designed to resist Soviet aggression. Paradoxically, the US-led NATO has been amongst the first to violate its commitments to the UN, leading to its perception by some  as the world’s leading troublemaker since its inception. According to the previously cited Civility Report 2022, NATO has continued “stockpiling as offensive; conventional, biological, radiological, chemical, and nuclear weaponry as well as arming other nations or groups, having a military presence in other nations, giving military aid to belligerent nations, participating in military alliances,” actions that “would increase tension worldwide and violate the commitments to the UN for working towards peace and security.” NATO countries are responsible for over 75% of global arms exports. Among  the recipients are some of the world’s most repressive regimes, such as “Egypt, Israel, Kuwait, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and UAE.”

In 1955, the Soviet Union led the formation of the Warsaw Treaty Organization (WTO), also known as the Warsaw Pact, as a balance of power to NATO to resist NATO’s aggression. The Korean War and the Vietnam War are just two examples where the two fought proxy wars, wasting millions of lives.

In 1990, after the fall of the Berlin wall in 1989, the US and Russia agreed that NATO would not expand beyond East Germany after its reunion with Germany. This was confirmed by NATO’s secretary. That set the stage for the unification of East Germany and West Germany later that year.

In 1991, the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact fell. However, NATO did not dissolve, but continued. Despite the assurances from the US and the NATO’s Secretary that NATO would not go beyond the former East Germany into the former republics of the Soviet Union, they did not live up to their promises. On the initiative of the US,  NATO moved eastward, taking in former Soviet republics. In 1994 as a response to NATO, Russia persuaded  Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan to sign a defense treaty – the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO), similar to the NATO – stipulating that aggression against any signatory is to be seen as aggression against all. 

Russian Invasion a Reaction to NATO Expansion

After the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Russia has persistently expressed its disapproval of NATO expansion into the former Soviet states. The last official warning to NATO was given in December 2021. The US has consistently ignored those warnings, including the latest one. In its 2021 draft agreements with NATO, Russia demanded, among other things, that NATO bar any military activity in Ukraine. NATO ignored the warnings.

To stop the NATO aggression, Russia deemed itself forced to invade Ukraine. The invasion kicked off on February 24, 2022. The 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine could be seen as an escalation of the 2014 Russo-Ukrainian War.

For Americans to understand why Russia believes that Ukraine must not be a member of NATO they might see a parallel with the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis when the Soviets installed some of their offensive nuclear missiles in Cuba. If the Soviets had not  withdrawn those missiles, it could have resulted in another world war. If Ukraine joins NATO, Russia could have the US offensive nuclear missiles at its borders. 

It has now become apparent that most nations representing a majority of the world’s population do not support the US-led NATO’s action against Russia and reject the US effort to isolate Russia.

The US political leaders should learn lessons from their past mistakes. Sanctions are counterproductive. The US has imposed particularly hard sanctions on Iran with no effect on the Iranian government’s behavior. Rather, Iran turned to developing its own military capabilities and becoming a far stronger adversary to the US hegemony in the region. US sanctions have caused price increases on many goods and services across the world, resulting in more poverty and destruction worldwide. If US sanctions against Russia, Iran, Venezuela, and other countries continue, it may have the effect of leading the world into a deep recession, where the American people themselves would be among the victims..

Negotiating Peace Is the Right Thing to Do

“We seek peace, knowing that peace is the climate of freedom,” said Dwight D. Eisenhower, 34th President of the United States. Instead of pouring fuel on fire by arming Ukraine in the war, the US should take the lead negotiating with Russia. If the war continues, both the US and Russia will lose.

Just as in the Cuban Missile Crisis, negotiation is the only path for resolving the issues. Escalation may ultimately lead to a nuclear war, threatening the existence not only of the US and Russia, but the entire world. 

Most of the world’s population is sympathetic to Russian security concerns and fears NATO’s aggression. Regional powers like China, India, and Iran would like to see a ceasefire and negotiations to address the Russian issues. Former U.S. secretary of state Henry A. Kissinger, who has blood on his hands for the US interventions in other countries, has come to the realization that NATO’s aggressive stance is counterproductive. Kissinger has urged NATO to negotiate and give up territory to Russia to stop the war.

It is now time for the US to act. On behalf of NATO, the US should negotiate directly with Russia, addressing its security concerns. The US must be willing to let Ukraine remain a neutral country. If that does not mitigate the Russian security concerns, the US may have to consider letting Estonia’s, Latvia’s and Lithuania’s membership be withdrawn from NATO to become neutral countries as well. Once the negotiation is completed, the UN Security Council would have to guarantee the neutrality of those countries.

Yet, far better would be an initiative of the US to prepare the  dissolution of NATO, an organization  that has brought about so much pain and suffering across the world. This would be the first step in working towards a world free from armaments.

As for Russia, it should make reparations for the loss of lives, injuries, human displacement, and property destruction inflicted on Tatars and Native Crimeans, since taking over from the Ottomans in 1774.

The path to peace can only be achieved by everyone coming to the negotiating table, giving up something they want and atoning for past wrongs. With 250 million people on the verge of starvation, that time has come.

By Mehdi Alavi

This article was originally published on Fair Observer on July 9, 2022.

Those Responsible for the 1994 Rwandan Genocide Must Be Brought to Justice

 

Big powers such as France and the US played a sinister role in exacerbating the 1994 Rwandan genocide. They must pay reparations and bring their officials to justice. African players who participated in the terror and the genocide must also be held accountable for their actions.

Kigali, Ruanda – October, 10th 2015 – The house were ten UN Belgium soldiers were shot dead during the beginning of 1994 genocide in Ruanda. Today its a memorial. East Africa. © LMspencer/shutterstock.com

Rwanda is a landlocked country located in East Africa. According to the Peace Worldwide Organization’s Civility Report 2021, Rwanda has a population of 13 million, a literacy rate of 73%, a gross domestic product (GDP) of $10.4 billion, and per capita income of $800, which makes it one of the poorest countries in the world. Rwanda is ruled by an authoritarian regime that persecutes political opponents across the country. Journalists and human rights defenders are often killed or disappear. Security forces work with impunity. Refugees are treated badly and some are killed. About 134,000 or 1.2% of the population are forced into modern-day slavery. The country remains a source of, and to lesser extent, transit and destination point for trafficking women and children.

Rwanda has a tragic past. For 100 days in 1994, around 800,000 Rwandans were massacred in Rwanda by the ethnic Hutus in what has become known as the Rwanda genocide. Once, the country was run by the ethnic minority Tutsis. In 1959, they were overthrown by the ethnic majority Hutus. Thousands of Tutsis escaped to neighboring countries. Some of the Tutsis in exile united to set up the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), which began fighting against the Hutu government until a peace treaty was signed in 1993. In April 1994, a plane carrying Rwanda’s Hutu president and high-ranking officials was shot down, killing all on board. Blaming the RPF, Hutu extremists began the slaughters of the Tutsis and their Hutu sympathizers. 

The RPF maintained that the plane was shot by the Hutu extremists in order to blame the RPF and rationalize genocide. Meanwhile, French forces present in Rwanda watched the massacres, but did nothing. The French government has denied this persistently until recently. After 27 years of denial, France was finally forced by its own government commission to officially admit its complicity in the 1994 Rwanda genocide. In May 2021, French President Emmanuel Macron, spoke at the genocide memorial in Rwanda’s capital Kigali, where many of the victims were buried. He asked Rwandans to forgive France for its role in the 1994 genocide. “Only those who went through that night can perhaps forgive, and in doing so give the gift of forgiveness,” Macron said. 

United Nations Measures to Prevent Genocide

The United Nations (UN) Article 1 clearly states that the countries are bound to suppress “acts of aggression or other breaches of the peace, and to bring about by peaceful means,” a “settlement of international disputes” or resolution of situations that could lead to violence. In 1946, the UN General Assembly in its Resolution 96 (I) defined genocide and considered it an international crime. 

In 1948, the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, defined genocide as, “acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group.” In the case of disputes, the convention made the International Court of Justice (ICJ) the final legal authority on genocide. In 1949, the Geneva Convention prohibited willful killings, torture, property destruction, unlawful deportation or confinement, and the taking of civilians as hostages.

More recently, international law has sought to prevent genocide. In May 1993, a Hague-based International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) was established. The ICTY indicted a number of the perpetrators of the Bosnian genocide in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Those indicted include Radovan Karadzic and Slobodan Milosevic for crimes against humanity.

In August 1993, the Rwanda government signed a peace treaty with RPF, known as “Arusha Accords.” In October, the UN Security Council (UNSC) established the UN Assistance Mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) to assist the parties executing the peace agreement. The UNAMIR was supposed to monitor the progress in the peace process and help form the transitional government.

As mentioned earlier, the plane carrying the Rwandan Hutu President was shot down in 1994 and the Hutu government blamed the RPF. The next day, on April 7, 1994, government forces and Hutu militia began killing Tutsis, moderate Hutus and the UNAMIR peacekeepers who were among their first victims.

On June 22, 1994, after two and a half months of killings, the UN finally authorized a French-led multinational operation, “Operation Turquoise”, which set a protection zone in Rwanda to help victims and refugees. On July 15, 1994, RPF took over the country and stopped the 100 days of killings. In August 1994, whatever was left of the UNAMIR took over the French-led multinational operation and provided shelter to thousands of refugees.

In November 1994, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) was established. Headquartered in Arusha, Tanzania, the ICTR was supposed to “prosecute persons responsible for genocide and other serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in the territory of Rwanda and neighboring States, between 1 January 1994 and 31 December 1994.” So far, ICTR has brought to justice 93 persons “responsible for serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in Rwanda in 1994.” 

French Support of Genocidal Hutu-led Regime

In April 2019, the US law firm Levy Firestone Muse released A Foreseeable Genocide, a report based on million pages of documents after years of interviews and investigation. The report found France to be a “collaborator” of the Hutu government in the genocide. The French were aware that the regime planned to exterminate the Tutsis. 

As per the report, the “French government was unwavering in its support for its Rwandan allies even when their genocidal intentions became clear, and only the French government was an indispensable collaborator in building the institutions that would become instruments of the Genocide.” The report concluded that “the Government of France bears significant responsibility for having enabled a foreseeable genocide.”

In March 2021, a French commission found that France bore “heavy and overwhelming responsibility” for the Rwanda genocide. After this finding, the French government could no longer deny its involvement in the genocide. Under international pressure, the French president was finally forced to apologize for supporting the Hutu-led genocidal regime in Rwanda in 1994.

US Support for RPF

Even as the French backed a genocidal regime, the US supported the rebel RPF. Helen C Epstein, a visiting professor at Bard College, chronicled the secret role of the US in the Rwandan genocide in a tour de force in The Guardian. Rwandan President Paul Kagame was “then a senior officer in both the Ugandan army and the RPF, was in Kansas at the United States Army Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, studying field tactics and psyops, propaganda techniques to win hearts and minds.” He flew back to lead Uganda-backed RPF against the genocidal Hutu regime.

Kagame and the RPF were not blameless either. Epstein tells us that Robert Flaten, the then US ambassador to Rwanda, witnessed the terror caused by the RPF invasion of Rwanda. Apparently, “hundreds of thousands of mostly Hutu villagers fled RPF-held areas, saying they had seen abductions and killings.” Flaten urged the George Herbert Walker Bush (Bush Senior) administration “to impose sanctions on Uganda, as it had on Iraq after the Kuwait invasion earlier that year.” Instead, the US and its allies doubled aid to Yoweri Museveni’s government. Uganda’s defense spending ballooned to 48% of the budget. Strongman Museveni allocated a mere 13% for education and 5% for health, even as AIDS was ravaging the country and killing thousands.

In 2022, Museveni continues to rule Uganda while Kagame is the big boss of Rwanda. There has been relative peace in the region but both regimes are based on the barrel of the gun. Under the Belgians, the Tutsis “formed an elite minority caste in Rwanda” and “treated the Hutu peasants like serfs, forcing them to work on their land and sometimes beating them like donkeys.” Today, the Tutsis continue to occupy the top echelons of the Rwandan state. The Hutus may be better treated than a few decades ago but they are clearly second class citizens in their own land.

Time for Action

Like many other countries, Rwanda is still waiting for justice. It is another example of the failure of the UN to stop genocide, save victims, and bring to justice all guilty parties. In 1994, the UN only acted after 75 days of killings. Even then, it chose France, a biased party, to lead the operation. The UN has acted belatedly, inadequately and irresponsibly repeatedly. Genocides in Cambodia, the Balkans and other places are proof of that fact.

The UN usually serves the interests of the powerful and ignores the poor. Thus, we cannot rely on the UN to prevent genocides, crimes against humanity and other atrocities. It is we the people who must assume responsibility and support political leaders who strive for global peace and harmony.

In the hope of avoiding another genocide, we must demand that our political leaders take the following actions:

First, ICTR must continue its work until all individuals, Rwandan or not, are brought to justice. Its mandate must be expanded to include the forces of other countries who watched but chose not to take any action to stop the ongoing killings.

Second, France, which has already appointed a commission, must now form a criminal tribunal to investigate those who collaborated with the genocidal Hutu government in 1994. French troops who watched the killings, but chose not to act, should also be brought to justice. The French cannot be tried by the ICTR because France is a permanent member of the UNSC and will veto any such proposal. So, we must put pressure on France to bring its citizens to justice.

Third, France must make reparations for the loss of lives, injuries, human displacements, and property destruction caused by its illegal collaboration and complicity with the Hutu government. France has a GDP of over $2.7 trillion compared with Rwanda’s $10.4 billion. France must put its money where its mouth is and allocate at least $20 billion, amounting to less than 1% of its GDP, to compensate the victims of the genocide.

Fourth, the US must form a bipartisan committee to investigate its officials who played a dubious role in Rwanda or Uganda in the 1990s. Those who knew about killings and did nothing to prevent them must be brought to justice just like their French counterparts. Like France, the US is a member of the UNSC and its citizens cannot be tried by ICTR. So, it is up to American citizens to demand a reckoning of the dark days of the 1990s.

Fifth, the US must also pay reparations for the loss of lives, injuries, people displacements, and property destruction that occurred during the genocide. The US GDP is much larger than France and the US could easily give Rwanda $20 billion, about 1% of its GDP.  If the bipartisan committee discovers systemic support of genocide, then this amount should be higher. This money should be spent to build infrastructure, educate people, improve healthcare, create means of production and much more.

By Mehdi Alavi

This article was originally published on Fair Observer on June 3, 2022.