J. Pharoah Doss: Victim response to UN’s 30th commemoration of Rwanda genocide

Day of Remembrance of Rwandan Genocide Victims (Adobe Stock Illustration)

 

The Rwandan genocide stunned the entire world in 1994. The Hutu majority systematically exterminated around 800,000 of the minority Tutsis in 100 days.

Noam Schimmel, a Global Studies instructor at UC Berkeley, published an essay in 2022 titled What Caused the Rwandan Genocide Against the Tutsi?  Schimmel stated that the Belgian colonialists pursued a strategy of divide and conquer that sowed the seeds of hatred and resentment that yielded a Hutu supremacist regime.

During a candlelight ceremony on April 12, the United Nations pledged to never forget the 1994 Rwandan genocide. If the Rwandan genocide victims could talk, they would expand on Schimmel’s remarks and chastise the United Nations.

The Rwandan genocide victims would claim that the Belgians intensified preexisting tribal conflict by promoting a pseudoscientific notion known as the Hamitic Hypothesis.

Westerners are more aware of the Curse of Ham.

The name Ham means “burnt” or “black” skin in Hebrew. According to the Roman-Jewish historian Josephus, the descendants of Noah’s son, Ham, populated Africa. In the Old Testament story, Noah cursed Ham’s son to be a servant of servants to his brothers. European Christians used Josephus and the Old Testament to assert that all Africans were destined to serve others, then invented the Curse of Ham to justify white supremacy and African slavery.

The Hamitic Hypothesis, on the other hand, changed Ham’s race.

According to the Journal of African History (1969), Napolean’s expedition to Egypt in 1798 served as a historical catalyst that provided the Western world with the impetus to turn Noah’s son Ham into a Caucasian. As a result, the Hamitic Hypothesis held that the Hamites, thought to be a branch of the Caucasian race, brought everything valuable to Africa. Belgians believed that the minority Tutsis were genealogically closer to white Europeans than the majority Hutus, resulting in the Belgians elevating the Tutsis over the Hutus in social, economic, and political affairs.

Rwanda gained independence in 1962.

The division produced by Belgium’s pseudo-scientific racial theory was a legacy of colonial rule. Christian churches were also a colonial legacy. The Belgians supplanted the traditional monotheistic faith with Christianity. The Rwandan genocide victims would admit that the false racial theory contributed to their demise, but they would blame the church for failing to eliminate the false theory’s residue. If there was ever a time for a homegrown “liberation theology,” it was in Rwanda from 1962 to 1994, but the churches helped create a vengeful order of Hutu supremacy instead.

The Rwandan genocide victims would curse the priests and ministers who played key roles in inciting, organizing, and carrying out the massacre. Large-scale rape, torture, and murder of Tutsis took place inside Catholic and Anglican churches.

In 2017, the Pope issued a pitiful apology for the church’s role in the Rwandan genocide, but the United Nations’ role was even worse.

The United Nations promised to never forget the atrocities of those 100 days, but the Rwandan genocide victims would see it as disingenuous for the UN to remember the horrors it chose to ignore in real time. The United Nations should remember that it had the opportunity to lead the way in stopping the genocide, but it decided against it.

The United Nations was established following World War II to avert horrors such as the Holocaust and Hiroshima. When a genocide occurs anywhere in the world, United Nations members have a responsibility to take action to stop it.

Schimmel wrote, “Instead of keeping its peacekeeping force in Rwanda and expanding it to intervene and seek to prevent and stop the genocide, the United Nations shamefully … cut down its forces, withdrew most of its troops, and did this with the active support of the U.S., Great Britain, France, and most of the members of the UN and its Security Council, in effect green-lighting the genocide.”

The genocide was informally sanctioned when the United Nations and its members declined to label the mass killings in Rwanda as genocide. American and European media described Rwanda’s crisis as spontaneous tribal violence.

According to PBS News Hour, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for the Middle East/Africa, Molly Williamson, advised against using the term genocide to describe events in Rwanda because a “genocide finding” would commit the U.S. to actually “do something.”

The Rwandan genocide victims would prefer that the United Nations and its members remember their moral failings and rededicate themselves to the original mission of preventing World War II-style atrocities for the rest of the twenty-first century, rather than a renewed commitment to never forget the 100 days of slaughter.

 

 

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