According to the former Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, "Genocide is not a single event but a process that evolves over time, and requires planning and resources to carry out". That statement was made on the 20th commemoration of the Rwanda genocide.
But, where was the UN in 1994 Rwanda when 800,000 people were brutally massacred within 100 days? Well, the UN had very few men of the Peace Keeping Force on ground who were not authorized to engage but observe. All calls for intervention were not treated with seriousness until it was too late. The narrative is now a platitude of moaning, "could have, would have and should have" among the super powers who allowed their questionable interests disrupt their sagacity.
However, this piece is not an x-ray of the reason for the UN’s inaction in the past but to point to an area where action is now required urgently. Of course, the past is gone, but in the words of Ban Ki-moon, "we have learnt important lessons. We know more keenly than ever that genocide is not a single event…".
The UN’s Genocide Convention defines genocide as any of the following acts committed with the intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group:
- killing members of the group;
- causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
- deliberately inflicting on the group the conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
- imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
- forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.
According to the Convention, genocide committed in time of peace or war, is a crime under international law which parties to the Convention, including Nigeria undertake "to prevent and to punish". Although the primary responsibility to check genocide lies with the state in which the crime is committed, the UN’s security apparatus can be mobilized in the case of state complicity or helplessness.
We may assert conservatively that genocide is not yet the case in Nigeria, but all the signs of an impending genocide have been obvious. Coalition on Conflict Resolution and Human Rights in Nigeria said, over 2000 lives were lost in the first-half of 2018 (more than the figure for the whole of 2017), to violence and clashes between herdsmen and farmers in the country. Several thousands have been injured and several other thousands, displaced.
The UK House of Lords in a passionate debate described the killings in Nigeria as deeply disturbing and alarming. In the words of Lord Alton of the UK’s Parliament:
"people are dying daily…Are we to watch one of Africa’s greatest countries to go the way of Sudan? Will we be indifferent as radical forces sweep across the Sahel seeking to replace diversity and difference with monochrome ideology that will be imposed with violence on those who refuse to comply? We must not wait for genocide to happen, as it did in Rwanda. Omniously, history could easily be repeated."
– Lord Alton, UK House of Lords. June 28, 2018.
So, how much longer would the UN be silent while vulnerable Nigerians, especially women and children are being slaughtered daily? How many more have to die before the cry of the children, the women and the poor farmers is responded to? These people are already worn-out crying to the state with no help in sight. The appeal now goes to the United Nations: will you please save our soul from the impending genocide?
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