The Definition of Genocide

Courtesy of Google Images
Courtesy of Google Images

by Wyatt Barnes

Staff Reporter

Somewhere, right now, someone is being killed because of their race. Innocent children are being murdered as you read the line of this article. Today Genocide Watch classifies six different genocide emergencies around the world. When a “genocide emergency” is declared, the indication is that actual genocide is occurring in said locations. As you are reading this article, people are suffering in Iraq, Somalia, Central African Republic, Myanmar, and Nigeria. What causes genocide? How are genocides classified? What can we do to help end these terrible events? To find the answers to these questions, one must analyze history, consider how modern advances could have changed the outcome in these historic events, and hypothesize what the best solution would be.

Now let’s use an example. The Rwandan Genocide was an event that took place in 1994, and within just one hundred days, almost one million Tutsi and moderate Hutus were killed. The international community did close to nothing to help end the violence, and because of this, the genocide occurred. What caused the Rwandan Genocide? Now this is a complex question, but the basic underlying cause of the genocide was colonialism. When Belgium colonized Rwanda, they separated the Hutu and the Tutsi based on class. The Hutu majority was regarded as a lower class than the Tutsi minority, and this caused resentment among the Hutu. Over the years, this resentment grew, and when the coup d’état of the Rwandan government happened and the president was assassinated, the Hutu rhetoric of the time was to “kill all the cockroaches,” in reference to the Tutsi. This is what sparked the bloody one hundred day killing spree in which hundreds of thousands of people were killed, which earned the title we know it as today, the Rwanadan Genocide.

How do we know that this was a genocide? The UN General Assembly defined genocide in 1949 as:

“Any of the following acts committed with intent to destroyin whole or in part, a nationalethnicalracial or religious group, as such: killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life, calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part; imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group; [and] forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.”

This definition was formed through the analysis of past genocides, most recently at the time was, of course, the Holocaust. The UN promised that the international community would never allow such terrible things to happen again. Unfortunately this seems to be a hard claim to keep since 1949 there have been many acts of genocide and even genocides. Bosnia, Rwanda, and Darfur just to name a few, and those are just the most popular ones. Many people in the US are oblivious to what is happening in the world. Ignorance of these events until it is too late to help is one of the main reasons they happen in the first place. The first thing we can do is educate ourselves, and Pitzer is a great environment to do so. Let the change begin!


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