Ten years after the genocide in Rwanda Don Cheadle starred in the movie, Hotel Rwanda. He played the part of Paul Rusesabagina. He was the hotel owner who protected Tutsis from death at the hands of the Hutu militia.
Two years later I wrote my first post on Darfur. That was 2006. Jason was on staff at the time and he had learned of the genocide and sought to make Snow Hill aware.
2014 marks what John Pendergast refers to as Rwanda 20 and Darfur 10. That is, 20 years after the genocide in Rwanda and 10 years after the genocide in Darfur. I confess to still being quite unsettled that these events occurred in a world of the 24/7 news cycle and we only find out about them after the fact.
Everyone’s interest was piqued when the news of the Boko Haram kidnapped the school girls in Nigeria. Recent news indicates villagers are fighting back. My new friend, whose name is withheld for security reasons, suggested there is more to the story. This led me to watch the video from Friends of the Congo I linked to on Monday.
Pendergast opens his assessment of the situation in Africa,
As commemorations unfold honoring the 20th anniversary of the onset of Rwanda’s genocide and the 10th year after Darfur’s genocide was recognized, the rhetoric of commitment to the prevention of mass atrocities has never been stronger. Actions unsurprisingly, have not matched that rhetoric. But the conventional diagnosis of this chasm between words and deeds – a lack of political will – only explains part of the action deficit. More deeply, international crisis response strategies in Africa have hardly evolved in the years since the Rwandan encode erupted. Until there is a fuller recognition of the core drivers of African conflict, their cross-border nature, and the need for more nuanced and comprehensive responses, the likelihood will remain high that more and more anniversaries of mass atrocity events will have to be commemorated by future generations. (Italics are mine.)
Comprehensive responses require and understanding of the complex matrix underlying the various conflicts that could devolve into an atrocity event. Pendergast describes the situation as integrated conflict. That is, what occurs in one conflict may be fueled or fuel conflict in another place.
In the Friends of the Congo video it is suggested the Rwandan government may participate in what amounts to Tutsi retaliation against Hutu refugees in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This is unfathomable. What’s more if the governments of Rwanda and Uganda are disrupting peaceful development in the DRC by any means, the United States, by law, is to withhold monetary support to those countries. This bears investigation and publicity.
Many could dismiss this as nation-state issues. But, there are other interests at work in the DRC. The mineral rich country provides an ample dirty market capitalized by either non-state groups used to protect foreign interests in these raw materials or as means to overcome poverty in a disheveled country. Either way economics complicates the peace.
First world Peoples benefit from the dirty markets. Televisions, computers, smartphones, and automobiles are among the amenities dependent upon available materials in the DRC. International companies have been outed and shamed for their inattention to the conditions under which their supplies are secured. But, what about governments, first world nation-states, that funnel money to non-state groups to keep markets open for their businesses.
Complicate the situation by couching the conflict as primarily religious and the needed nuance to understand the integrated conflicts becomes obscured. For instance, Pendergast suggests groups in need of recruits will use whatever identifier necessary to secure more troops or personnel for their cause. ris but one of those identity markers.
Take the current situation with the Nigerian school girls. Much has been made of their conversion to Islam. The narrative would lead us to believe this is about the spread of Islam. And, it may be. But, according to Pendergast, at least my reading, the use of religion is more rouse than anything else. It is a cover for extortion. Maybe Boko Haram uses its religious connection to profit from drug or human trafficking. This is anything but religiously motivated. It is used by Boko Hiram and believed by critics because it plays into a larger narrative that is more simply managed.
On the surface it looks like a vast network of Muslim terrorists. Underneath it may be fueled by poverty, and some of it created by first-world nation-states in need of raw materials for the amenities its populations find necessary for the pursuit of happiness.
What is the church to do? First, due diligence. If we too quickly give into these conflicts as merely religious we may be duped into believing we should stay out of of these areas. What if these are more economic than religious? What if our appetites feed the consumer capitalist machine resulting in a willingness to cooperate with those willing to kill at will for the financial security longed for in a country full of poverty.
Second, draw attention. Failure to do so may produce the sort of horrible connection between an inattentive silence and an atrocity event. Timothy P. Longman of Boston University will have his book, Commanded by the Devil published by Cambridge University Press this year. Based on his research, Longman contends the church in Rwanda was complicit in the genocide event in that country. How could the Church at large escape indictment if these events are known and we fail to raise our collective voice?
Third, take action. Ask your representative to co-sponsor House Bill 131. In fact, consider all the actions at Enough Project. Keep checking back here as we learn other ways to help facilitate an end to atrocity events. If it may be determined the U.S. is not enforcing its own laws intended to cut funds to countries that disrupt development in the DRC, then let’s vote out those who refuse to act, and then prosecute them for violating those laws.
The failure of the Church, especially the Church in the West, to fail human beings in Africa will surely border on the fulfillment of the maxim attributed to Marx, “History repeats itself. First, as tragedy, then as farce.” If the Church fails then it should stand the scrutiny not as perpetuating a farce but for in fact being a farce.