GENOCIDE: Rwanda yesterday, Ethiopia and Sudan today
By: Sophia Tesfamariam
April 16, 2004

For the last two weeks, all over the world, in institutions of higher learning, world parliaments, and religious institutions, addressing a wide variety of audiences, politicians, world leaders, human rights activists, journalists and ordinary people are trying to explain the unexplainable, the Rwanda Genocide. The Rwanda genocide is a horrific massacre that has left indelible marks, not just in our hearts and minds, but also on our collective conscience. This weekend, sitting in Church, my mind floated back to the horrific atrocities committed in Rwanda. 1500 were massacred in a church, where they had taken refuge, in a church just like mine. The images of the survivors, especially the children, took center stage on most of the TV programs, it was heart wrenching. Rwanda’s children have been scarred for life. In the words of UNICEF Executive Director Carol Bellamy:

"Ten years later, the children of Rwanda are still suffering the consequences of a conflict caused entirely by adults… For them, the genocide is not just a historical event, but an inescapable part of daily life today and tomorrow… there are currently around 400,000 orphans in the country”

On March 9, 2004 UN Secretary General Kofi Annan addressed the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa, Canada, where he announced the:

“… establishment of a Special Rapporteur or Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide-to make clear the link, which is often ignored until too late, between massive and systematic violations of human rights and threats to international peace and security…”

In a message delivered on his behalf at the symposium on “The Media and the Rwanda Genocide” at Carleton University School of Journalism and Communication in Ottawa, Canada on March 13, 2003 Mr. Annan said:

“When, on 7 April, people around the world commemorate the tenth anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, that observance should be filled not only with remorse, but with resolve…We must remember the hundreds of thousands of men, women and children abandoned to systematic slaughter while the world, which had the capacity to save most of them, failed to save more than a handful, forever sullying the collective conscience…”

UNSG Kofi Annan said we must pledge to “act boldly” so that genocide is “never allowed to happen again”. He also said:

“There can be no more important issue, and no more binding obligation, than the prevention of genocide”

At the UN Human Rights Commission in Geneva on April 7th, 2004 UNSG Kofi Annan unveiled a UN system-wide Action Plan to Prevent Genocide. He said:

"The genocide in Rwanda should never have happened. But it did…We cannot afford to wait until the worst has happened, or is already happening, or end up with little more than futile hand-wringing or callous indifference…"

But then something he said at that meeting made me a bit surprised, that maybe all this talk about remorse was just perfunctory. Here is what he said next:

“We must all acknowledge our responsibility for not having done more to prevent or stop the genocide. But are we confident that, confronted by a new Rwanda today, we can respond effectively, in good time?”

Well, Mr. Annan, I would hope so. But that would take political will and courage, and would require principled decisions and actions.

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan also took this week's commemoration of the Rwanda Genocide to make the link to the current genocide in Darfur, which has caused an estimated 1 million refugees and many thousands more internally displaced persons, but neglected to mention the genocide and ethnic cleansing that is taking place in Ethiopia, particularly in Gambela. As a result of the genocide over 70,000 have fled to Sudan and over 600 have been massacred in cold blood.

So what is preventing the Secretary General from calling this massacre of hundreds in Ethiopia by its real name-GENOCIDE? What will it take to make UNSG act effectively and quickly? Are the signs not there? Are there not enough Ethiopians being slaughtered by the regime in power? Are there not enough bodies that should jolt your collective consciences to act?

President Bill Clinton, the 42nd president of the United States in a Washington Post article entitled “Learn from Rwanda” on April 6, 2004 said:

“…the Rwandan genocide, a cruel, violent and well-organized rampage that resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent men, women and children… We did not act quickly enough after the killing began… We did not immediately call these crimes by their rightful name: genocide… It is important to remember the horrors of that period with clarity and honesty… to benefit from the lessons learned and to honor the memory of those who perished… It is impossible to go back and amend our collective failures in Rwanda…that the international community will continue to learn from our mistakes in Rwanda … and muster the global political will required to respond to the threat of genocide wherever it may occur…”

Very good Mr. President; now what are you doing about the genocide in Ethiopia? Have we not learned enough lessons from Rwanda? What happened to the pledge ‘Never Again’?

Ms. Gayle Smith who served as special assistant to President Clinton and senior director for African Affairs at the National Security Council in an article dated April 6, 2004 and entitled “Ten Years after Rwanda, has anything changed?” wrote:

“No system for translating early warnings into diplomatic or military interventions that might prevent genocide before its perpetrators succeed…U.S. foreign policy is that resources are allocated and risks are taken in direct proportion to measurable security or economic interests. Possessing no oil and posing no threat to America's security, Rwanda simply did not meet the U.S. interests test…Africa…was and remains on the back burner in foreign policy, and last on the list of U.S. national security priorities…Our diplomats earn little in the way of career advancement for serving in Africa…few of our nation's foreign policy experts has or is expected to have any African experience or even knowledge… Africa warrants only sporadic media attention, and consistent coverage only when calamities of man or nature trigger sensational images of human pain and suffering…”

I agree with Ms. Smith, and these very well have been the factors that contributed to the silence of the United States and other governments back then. What about now? I believe they are still contributing to the silence when it comes to the genocide taking place in Ethiopia.

Ms. Smith also mentioned the Darfur genocide, in which she said the Sudanese Government:

“…willfully implements a policy of ethnic cleansing and pits armed militia against innocent civilians ….”

What about the Tigrayan Prime Minister Melles Zenawi? Is he not pursuing the same ethnic and political policy that is breeding genocide and ethnic cleansing in Ethiopia? After all, by all credible accounts, the Tigrayan Prime Minister of Ethiopia is doing exactly what the Sudanese leader is doing in Darfur. So why is Gayle Smith so conspicuously silent about the massacres that are taking place in Ethiopia? In Ethiopia, Afar, Arussi, Gambela, Gondar, Ogaden,Oromia, Sidama, Tigray , Wollo etc. are on fire.

It is to be recalled, exposing his bigotry and racist attitude, the Tigrayan Prime Minister in July 1998, at the height of the massive inhumane deportations of over 80,000 Eritreans and Ethiopians of Eritrean origin from Ethiopia, had said:

“The Ethiopian government has the unrestricted right to expel any foreigner from the country for any reason whatsoever. Any foreigner, whether Eritrean, Japanese, etc., lives in Ethiopia because of the goodwill of the government. If the Ethiopian government says ‘Go, because we don't like the colour of your eyes,' they have to leave.”

How would Gayle Smith explain her own inaction, as well as that of the various US and other “diplomats”, “political analysts”, “experts” etc. when thousands of sick, old, young, men, women and children, religious leaders, etc. were being forced to cross through mine-infested borders because Melles did not like the “color of their eyes”?

I do not know why Ms Gayle, while talking about Rwanda and Darfur, chose to remain silent about the genocide that is taking place right at this particular moment in Ethiopia.

Maybe Peter Rosenblum may explain why Ms. Gayle Smith has chosen to remain silent on the Ethiopian genocide. In the May 2002 issue of the publication Current History, under the title “Irrational Exuberance: The Clinton Administration in Africa”, explaining about Gayle Smith’s close relationship with the Tigrayan dominated regime in Addis, Mr. Rosenblum says:

“…Gayle Smith was based in Ethiopia, where she was an expert on the rebel history and a confidante. She was widely perceived as a booster for Meles and the new government…Internationally, she was not alone amongst US figures enamored of Meles…she was known to be close to Meles”

In a Washington Post article entitled “How did “Never Again” Become Just Words?” dated April 4, 2004 Richard Holbrooke, former US Ambassador to the United Nations is brutally honest in detailing the failures of the United Nations and the US led international community. I’d like to take a look at some of what he calls “unavoidable truths”. Ambassador Holbrooke writes:

Ø “…The catchphrase for the Rwandas and Bosnias of the world, as with the Holocaust itself, is always the same: Never again. Yet time after time, it does happen again. Of course, the specific circumstances always differ; each time they are described as unique. Each time we are told of "ancient tribal" or "ethnic" hatreds; each time there is international "compassion fatigue"; each time there is a demand for an "exit strategy" rather than a "success strategy…”

Ø “…But there is one underlying constant: the failure of the world to recognize and confront the evil that is occurring, and to deny it the chance to unleash its full fury. This is both a failure of will and a failure of courage -- a deliberate shrinking from a reality too horrifying to contemplate, but one that can only be changed if it is, in fact, deeply contemplated, faced directly and stared down…”

Ø Rwanda's genocide, or at least much of it, might have been avoided had the world acted…when the United Nations withdrew, the genocide exploded… this meant the 15 members of the Security Council; above all, the five permanent members -- the United States, Great Britain, France, Russia and China -- and, even more centrally, the United States, France and Britain. It was not "the U.N." -- that tall building on New York's East River, overflowing with diplomatic talk -- that decided to pull out. No. It was the leading nations of the world, speaking through their ambassadors in New York…”

Ø “Had the Security Council agreed to the U.N. commander's request and sent more troops, I believe, as do most other observers, that at least half the deaths, if not more, could have been prevented. Instead, when the United Nations withdrew, the genocide exploded…On April 15, 1994, in the Security Council, the United States demanded a full U.N. withdrawal. We even opposed helping other nations who might have intervened, and deleted the use of the word "genocide" from the U.N.'s statements…”

Ø “But our failure to act in Liberia last year was a depressing reminder that ‘Never again’ is more a slogan than a policy for our nation…”

Ø “…But one thing is certain: There will be other Bosnias and Rwandas and Afghanistans… We must learn from the errors that allowed Rwanda to take place. Let us pray that there truly never will be a need for yet another memorial, somewhere as yet undetermined, to remember another horror that has not yet occurred…”

Richard Holbrooke also said, “Sudan remains a tragedy”

Thank you Mr. Ambassador. I wish you were this brutally honest when you were at the UN in 2000 as the Tigrayan expansionist regime invaded sovereign Eritrean territories causing the death of over 120,000 Ethiopians and 19,000 Eritreans. Mr. Ambassador, you too mentioned Darfur, Sudan, but neglected to mention the genocide in Ethiopia. Ambassador Holbrooke, what are you doing to stop the genocide in Ethiopia? Or as you said in the Washington Post article ‘Never again’, has it become just an empty slogan again?

I would like to bring to the attention of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, President Bill Clinton, Ambassador Holbrooke, Ms. Gayle Smith and others in the international community, the many reports by credible individuals and groups, as well as the media about the genocide and ethnic cleansing that is taking place in Ethiopia:

Ø Just recently two US- based human rights organizations, Genocide Watch (GW) and Survivors' Rights International (SRI), have condemned the international community for its silence over the "atrocities" being perpetrated in Gambella, which is about 800 km west of the capital, Addis Ababa, where the Anuak ethnic group was being subjected to rape, executions and torture.

In their letter to Melles Zenawi, GW stated that they:

Ø “…received numerous reports of major massacres of Anuak people in and around Gambella, Ethiopia…At least 416 Anuak people were murdered. The massacres were led by Ethiopian government troops in uniform…We have checked these reports carefully with eyewitnesses in Gambella as well as with the United States State Department and the United Nations, and have confirmed that these massacres were committed by Ethiopian government forces… Our sources indicate that those targeted particularly have been educated Anuak men; a tactic often intended to render a group leaderless and defenseless… Massacres of people who are killed because of their ethnic group membership are genocidal…”

Here are yet more others that highlight Melles Zenawi’s ethnic based policies that have contributed to the ethnic cleansing and genocide in Ethiopia:

Ø "…On Saturday, December 13, in a single bloody burst of targeted mass murder, Ethiopia became the world's latest sovereign to attempt genocide as a way to solve its problems …Ethiopian soldiers murdered more than 400 members of the Anuak tribe"- Doug McGuil. McGuil Report, 01/19/2004

Ø "What happened in Gambella verges on genocide as a result of the ethnic policy adopted by the EPDRF government…EPRDF's preference for ruling through an ethnic-based federation… dominated by the minority ethnic Tigrayans… the federal structure in effect divides and rules larger ethnic groups such as the Oromos and Amharas and bars non-members of the Tigrayan People's Liberation Front” -Mesfin Wolde Mariam, chairman of the Ethiopian Human Rights Council (EHRC) January 13, 2004

Today, the genocide and ethnic cleansing in Ethiopia is being shoved under the rug as “the aberrant acts of some individuals”, as opposed to being the results of the apatheid policies of the Tigrayan led minority regime in Addis. Even though the BBC, Red Cross, Voice of America and UN bodies have investigated and verified Ethiopia's "ethnic cleansing" policy, the international community has remained curiously mute. Self-serving Addis based diplomats; NGO and humanitarian workers, “regional analysts”, “experts”, etc. are reluctant to rock boats.

Emboldened by the international community’s inaction, the belligerent minority regime in Addis, remains in defiance of international law. Its continued intransigence and refusal to abide by the Eritrea Ethiopia Border Commission final and binding decision is further evidence of it. It is about time the international community took proper punitive measures against this racist and criminal, genocidal Tigrayan minority regime, before we see the intensification of Rwanda in Ethiopia, and before we see additional innocent Ethiopians being used as cannon fodder and minesweepers in its expansionist war of aggression against Eritrea.

‘Never Again’ must mean never again!

The rule of law must prevail over the law of the jungle