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World History of Genocide for comparison with Tigray

Kalayu Abraha



Homo sapiens is the only species in the animal kingdom which is not much affected by the mass extermination of its own kind. Normally, advancement is measured not merely by the state-of-the-art tools and methods we use but by how much we value human life. That was the reason why the preamble of the UN-Charter states: “We the peoples of the United Nations…determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war…reaffirm faith in the fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person …” . One can understand the uncontrolled genocides committed before 1945 as there was no international system to regulate the behavior of one group of human beings over another. The preamble of the UN-Charter is unequivocal but the actions of the UN in converting the preamble into practice has always been equivocal and incongruent. One problem with the United Nations is the crippling mechanism it has at its disposal to convert the words in the preamble into concrete action. The UN is so weakly positioned to act on its own. Although the UN-Charter was signed and ratified by almost all significant world powers and it is up to the UN secretariat to manage the details of implementation with full authority, the UN does not have the freedom to do so. Every time a case of serious human rights violations arises for the UN to act, it is obliged to go into the boring and unproductive routine of a Security Council meeting to decide on actions. It is well known that the members of the Security Council are strange bed fellows with their own diplomatic axe to grind. They are so divided by their ideologies, diplomatic interests, and trade wars that they cannot reach effective decisions on issue that may affect one or the other of them.  The UN secretariat is given responsibility by the world community through the ratifications of the UN Charter but not the authority to implement it through its own management mechanisms. This is analogous to a teacher in a classroom with full responsibility for the subject he teaches but is required to ask the school director for permission to give homework to his students. UN troops evacuated from Rwanda while hundreds of thousands of Tutsis were being massacred. The preamble of the UN Charter evaporated into thin air because the then Secretary General of the UN “did not get his orders” from the Security Council to stop the genocide. When the UN Security Council met, after a long delay, to talk about the genocide in Tigray, the two world powers (China and Russia) objected to any serious action to stop the genocide. Since the veto power these two powerful states possess is given to them to use it to deter bad action not to stop good action, their refusal to agree on significant action to stop the genocide in Tigray rendered the rest of the 13 member states of the Security Council powerless. See? This is how far the giant UN can go! Russia and China had signed and ratified the UN Charter in 1945! Sadly, member states are allowed to go their own ways on key human rights issues based on the nature of the relations they have with the perpetrator states. Genocide perpetrator states always have officially stated excuses for conducting genocides. So do Ethiopia and Eritrea!  Friendly states prefer to believe what the perpetrator states propagate as the “valid” reason for the violations of human rights. Perpetrators of genocide in Tigray use the attack on the Northern Command and the missile attack on Asmara as “valid” drivers for the genocide in Tigray!!! Oh God! What a valid reason to massacre civilians, gang-rape women, loot personal property, destroy civilian infrastructure, burn crops and slaughter farm animals, and displace people? Northern command and missile on airbase are military targets. What kind of military responds to military attacks by genocide?    There cannot be any rationale under the sun to justify human rights violations. Friendly powers support the perpetrator states by keeping their silence or some could go to the extent of barring remedial action as China and Russia did on Tigray. Later on, they subscribed for a watery decision of the UN-Security Council as a compromise. The expected strong decision for action was diluted in order to include China and Russia. What for? If the decision they are included in is a toothless tiger? This is just a diplomatic routine to mend their own internal relations at the expense of the victims of genocide. Would the world be the same or even a better place without the UN? I personally think so! USA and EU have stated the genocide in Tigray in the strongest words possible. Although EU seemed more unified in its position about Tigray USA is split on how harsh the measure it takes should be. The Nobel Prize winner turned genocide perpetrator has put the West, especially the USA, in a very difficult position. USA during the Trump term of office was responsible for installing him in power. In addition, the Nobel Prize is considered to be an expression of western political and cultural supremacy. The dilemma for the West is clear. It cannot live by its principles enshrined in the UN Charter because the last thing the West would like to see is losing its credibility. For this reason more words are spoken than actions taken. When the West is betrayed by a person it helped to power and to a Nobel Prize it would be required to protect its integrity in the face of such embarrassment. For sure the confusion of the West and its desperate effort to cover up does more harm than good. It is unwise to do another blunder to compensate for a previous blunder. Boldly admitting past mistakes and going for uncompromising solutions is the best remedy for the dangerous impasse. The worst outcome of the indecision driven by cover up, and also trying to rescue the perpetrators against a very ugly background of gross human rights violations, is emboldening the perpetrators of the genocide. The Eritrean Government has heard very strongly worded statements from various officials of the USA to leave Tigray. Every time the request to leave comes the Eritrean reaction is to amass more troops and commit more atrocities in Tigray. By now Eritrea must have become tired of the toothless requests to withdraw and could be planning for the long haul in Tigray. There is already no respect for USA or for EU among Ethiopian and Eritrean Government officials. This is the logical outcome of foot-dragging and expecting miracles to happen without strong intervention. Worse still is a case of human rights violation is weighed for its worth to call a Security Council meeting by the discretion of the UN Secretary Generals. Leaving a key component of the UN Charter to the hearts of the Secretary Generals is a great deal of lapse in the noble humanitarian mission of the United Nations. General Secretary Antonio Guterres grew a very thick skin about the massive atrocities committed in Tigray and preferred to confer with the perpetrators and put all his trust on them. For Guterres Tigray was just in a temper tantrum. He preferred to be strictly diplomatic and deal with the head of a member state of the UN rather than pay attention to the cries of agony in Tigray. Later on he “improved” his stance towards Tigray using dozens of empty synonyms that are worth little for the suffering people of Tigray: “Concerned, worried, alarmed, distressed, outraged, etc”. The UN Human Rights chief also got her own personal version of a UN. When an independent investigation of the human rights violations in Tigray by the UN-HR was called for she selected the perpetrator as a partner for the investigation. It is shocking that chief UN functionaries can get their personal wishes commanded by the UN system. Despite the uproar from Tigray about her decision to partner with the perpetrators of the genocide to “independently investigate” the UN-HR Chief has defiantly continued to work against the principles that installed her in the UN position. The logical outcome of her callous decision is the recent report on the genocide victims in Axum by her partner in the investigation.  As expected by everyone else, except the UN-HR Chief, Ethiopia's top body of law denied that civilians died in Axum! The lesson for the whole world is not to put trust on the UN functionaries who are driven more by their own personal attitudes than by bitter realities on the ground. When the World Human Rights Watch expressed its alarm at the report, the UN-HR Chief did not react. Of course, a similar report of  investigation must be what the UN-HR Chief is contemplating; a systematic cover up! It is not only the sick diplomatic formula, which covers up crimes against humanity by the “sovereignty” rhetoric that motivate some states to act against human rights appeals. Some world states that had been genocidal states at some point in their histories are reluctant to involve in the resolution of human rights violations elsewhere. Although positive moves towards ending genocide elsewhere could have helped them to repent for their dark histories of genocide they add more tar to darken their histories much further by their tacit support for genocide. Some states with genocidal histories have gone to the extent of trying to sell arms to the perpetrators of genocide in Tigray.
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