By Georges Budagu Makoko, Publisher, Amjambo Africa

Kila kilicho na mwanzo kina mwisho
Everything has a beginning and an end

In an era when the world remains mostly silent in the face of ongoing atrocities committed in such countries as South Sudan, Syria, the Republic of Central Africa, and Somalia, just to name a few, Dr. Gregory H. Stanton, founder and president of Genocide Watch, used the cases of the Rohingya and Banyamulenge in a recent keynote address to illustrate the stages of genocide development, and to issue a warning about the consequences of inaction and silence from world leaders during attempts to eliminate a people.

The Rohingya and Banyamulenge are both minority tribes, from Myanmar and the Democratic Republic of Congo, respectively. They have both been targeted by other tribes in their countries and have been subjected to systemic discrimination. They both now face eviction from their native lands, and possible extinction. In Minembwe, in eastern Congo, over 150,000 Banyamulenge have fled villages, which have been burned to the ground. These displaced people are now living in camps, in dire circumstances, due to a lack of adequate humanitarian assistance. This is also the case with hundreds of thousands of Rohingya, who have fled their homes and are living in terrible conditions in Bangladesh. Dr. Stanton said that the cases of the Rohingya and Banyamulenge perfectly fit the definition of genocide development, which progresses through 10 predictable – but not unavoidable – stages.

Stanton urged people to stay watchful and to pressure governments to intervene when they recognize that steps are being taken toward genocide. At each stage, preventive measures can be taken to halt the momentum. Development is not linear, and stages may happen concurrently. They include: classification, symbolization, discrimination, dehumanization, organization, polarization, preparation, persecution, extermination, and denial.

Dehumanization is one of the most dangerous stages. This is when one group of people denies the humanity of another group, and the members of the discriminated group are likened to animals, vermin, insects, or names of diseases, enabling the aggressors to believe they are killing animals, rather than fellow humans, during the extermination stage.

The avalanche of hate speech currently circulating on social media in Myanmar and DR Congo targeting the Rohingya and the Banyamulenge is a powerful propaganda tool, and international leaders should quickly and firmly condemn such speech – both in Myanmar and DR Congo and elsewhere –  and sanction authorities and elites who allow it to be aired, which thereby incites genocide. Bad actors should be banned from international travel and have their foreign assets frozen, and hate radio stations should be blocked or shut down, with hateful content banned from social media and the internet.

The conflict in DR Congo has gone on so long that some people have begun to think there is no hope of resolution, and that Tutsi tribes – such as the Banyamulenge – in different areas of the Congo will be exterminated or evicted from their native homes. Other worrisome hot spots in DR Congo include Beni, in North Kivu, where thousands of people have been brutally killed, and Ituri, in northeastern DR Congo (one of 21 new provinces created in 2015 from the former Oriental Province). Also the Batwa – an early, indigenous people, otherwise known as Twa, who live in DR Congo, Rwanda, and Burundi – have been discriminated against for many years, and have next to no representation at any level of leadership in local, regional, or national politics.

The government lacks the political will to maintain peace and security, and the country is divided, with thousands of lives in great danger. The U.N has deployed one of its largest ever peacekeeping missions over the last 17 years, but has failed to bring peace, and innocent people continue to die at the hands of a variety of militia groups. Armed groups recruit young people who wander around the country without any hope of attending school and getting a job. This is part of the cycle of endless conflict. Multinational interests exploit Congolese natural resources, and the trafficking of ammunition that falls into the hands of irresponsible people fuels the killing and rape of millions of women. Corrupt government officials use public resources for their personal interest and fail to deliver basic services.

Albert Einstein once said, “The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.” We all have a role to play in the process of stopping genocide around the world. We can and must understand the stages and speak up, and call upon leaders to act quickly, before more innocent people are targeted and killed. Since 1996, violence has caused the deaths of over 5.4 million people in DR Congo. Since 2017, over 900,000 Rohingya have been forced out of Myanmar into camps in Bangladesh. How many more must suffer? And when will the international community act?