‘This treaty is like a ship carrying survivors, it can not be permitted to sink’

By Andrew Njovu

The words being quoted above were said by Raphael Lemkin a Polish Jew who led the lobby for the ratification of the UN  Convention on the prevention  and punishment of the crime of genocide

Which was approved In December 1948 by the UN General Assembly  and proposed for ratification  resolution number260 A ( 111 ) and  came into force  on 12th January 1951.

Article 1 of the convention provides  ‘that contracting  parties confirm that genocide , whether  committed in time of peace or in time of war, is a crime under international law which the undertake to prevent and punish’ article 2 goes further and provides ‘ in the present convention, genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a  national ,ethnic, racial or religious group, as such (a) killing members of the group (b)  causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group( c ) deliberately inflicting  on the group conditions of life calculated to bring  about  its  physical destruction in whole or in part( d) imposing  measures intended  to prevent   births within the group ( e ) forcibly transferring  children  of the group to another group

Article 3 provides that “  the following acts shall be punishable(a) genocide(b) conspiracy to commit genocide(c) direct and public incitement to commit genocide(d) attempt to commit genocide ( e ) complicity in genocide.

Article 4 provides that ‘ persons committing genocide or any of the other acts enumerated in article 3 shall be punishable whether they are constitutionally responsible  rulers, public officials, or private individuals..

With the end of world war two on 8 may 1945 and the allied liberation of the NAZI death camps, the scale of Hitler’s madness had been  exposed and revealed. All that had  sounded like  far-fetched had been proved truth and real. Some six million Jews and five million non-Jews who were considered as ‘ un desirables’ by Hitler had been exterminated.

In June 1949 President Harry Truman heartily endorsed  the genocide convention and immediately urged the             US senators to ratify the treaty because in his words “ AMERICA had long been a symbol of freedom and democratic progress for people’s less favored”  Regrettably and unfortunately, President Harry Truman was to betrayed when “the ship carrying survivors” was permitted to sink and over  millions innocent children and women perished in Rwanda, Iragi, Bosnia, Cambodia   and  America has been accused of being , behind the massacres. Commenting on President Harry Truman appeal to Senators to quickly ratify the convention, Dean Rusk who was deputy undersecretary of state during President Truman’s administration said ‘ the ratification by the USA was necessary  to demonstrate  to the rest of the world that the USA   is determined  to maintain its moral  leadership in international affairs”.

That moral leadership was to disappeared during the Rwanda  genocide of 1994, Irag genocide of 1987/88,  and Americans to day cannot walk with their heads up over this matter.

What happened, how did the Bill Clinton administration  betray Harry Truman ideals? In her book “ A PROBLEM FROM HELL” Samantha power says ‘ the Rwandan genocide would prove to be the fastest, most efficient killing spree of the twentieth century. In 100 days, some  800,000 Tutsi and politically moderate Hutu were murdered. The United States did almost nothing to try to stop it. Ahead of the April 6 plane crash, the United States ignored extensive  early warnings about imminent mass violence. It denied Belgian requests to reinforce  the peacekeeping mission. When the massacres started , not only did the Clinton administration not send troops to Rwanda to contest the slaughter, but it refused countless other options. President Bill Clinton did not convene a single meeting of his senior foreign policy advisers to discuss US options for Rwanda. His top aides rarely condemned the slaughter. The United States did not deploy its technical assets to jam Rwanda hate radio, and it did not lobby to have the genocidal Rwandan government ambassador expelled from the United Nations”. Samantha Power goes on and says ‘ Those steps the United States did take had deadly repercussions. For example, Washington  demanded the withdrawal of UN peacekeepers from Rwanda and then refused to authorize the deployment of UN reinforcements.”.

In the case of Iragi, the history is that, the Kurds ethnic group is scattered in Turkey,Irag,Iran and Syria. In Irag, they total over four million and have been fighting for self rule for a long time. In 1970 Saddam Hussein offered them partial self rule which was rejected because large parts of Kurdish land rich in oil remained in the hands of Hussein and rebel activities continued.

In 1975 Henry Kissinger who US secretary of State said “ a reversal  policy which previously supported the Kurds should not be confused with missionary work” whatever that statement meant? This statement encouraged the mad man, Saddam Hussein to continue his atrocities against the Kurds.

In 1987/88 Ronald Reagan administration officials made it plain that the fate of the Kurds was non of their business. It is therefore not surprising that US intelligence did not attempt to tract the conditions of prisoners at the time the massacre was  taking place. Although  Irag gas attacks on the Kurds committed received world attention – most Kurds   who died in the ANFAL region of Irag were killed in mass execution and this was down played by the USA administration. The Ronald Reagan officials in 1987/88 knew through out about these massacres but did nothing. Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton , thus have been nothing but traitors of the noble ideals of President Harry Truman.

USA senator Pell who was senator foreign relations committee chairman when  introducing  the law imposing sanctions said “ for the second time in this centuary a brutal dictatorship is using deadly gas to exterminate a distinct minority…. There can be no doubt that  Saddam Hussein intends the campaign to be final solution to the Kurds problem.                 While a people are gassed, the world is largely silent… silence however is complicity. A half a centuary ago the world was also silent as Hitler  began a campaign that culminated in the near extermination of Europe’s Jews . We can not be silent to wrongs again”.

This discussion on the United Nations Convention on the prevention and  punishment of the crime of genocide is meant to be a reflection on the catholic Church Social Teaching ‘ on the Dignity of the human person and the sanctity of life”. which  is founded on Genesis Chapter 1 v. 27 “ so God created them, in His own image, in the image of God, He created them male and female, He created them”. ‘ It is for this very reason that the Catholic Church talks of the  Sanctity of life and Dignity of the Human person” and among the  THEMES under the Social Teaching of the Church, this theme is Key and all other themes are subordinate and  derive their importance from this particular theme. Human beings are indeed created in the image of God and derive their dignity from therein. No human person gives or takes away this dignity. This dignity carries with it certain basic rights and responsibilities  which are exercised  within a social framework.. In affirming this human dignity therefore, individuals  live in common with others and as such the rights and needs of others must always be respected. Human beings are social by nature and do not exist merely as individuals but as persons created in the image and likeness of God. In every human being, there is a God.

Although  the convention wording  is not specific  about the nature of the violence  that needed  to occur  in order to trigger a global or national response , there is now need to create  a sacrosanct category of crime to prevent hooliganism, and lawlessness in the political arena where political cadres have come to take the law into their hands. Admittedly, the  convention does not mention numbers of people in a group or how many people in a group should be killed before a crime of genocide can be committee, this is the reason why civil society and other human rights organizations should take keen interest in the wording of the convention and lobby the UN and other international organizations that democracy on the African Continent is under threat because of violence, intimidations and killings of those opposed to other people’s views. President Edgar Lungu and Mr Hakainde Hichilema in particular should emulate late President Levy Mwanawasa who made it very clear to his cadres that those who committed crime in the name of the party would not be shielded  and Mwanawasa  did just that                 and proved true to his word. If President Lungu and Mr Hakainde Hichilema whose cadres are the major culprits in fanning violence, if the two  gentlemen can not discipline their cadres then  President Lungu and Mr Hichilema are accomplice to those crimes being committed by their cadres. President Edgar Lungu and Mr Hakainde Hichilema , both claim to be God fearing and should prove to us, that they are indeed God fearing by putting in measures within their parties to discipline erring cadres, including  senior members of their parties who encourage violence.

Violence should never be a tool for political campaign. Violence is only associated with dictators such as Kamuzyu Banda, Emperor Bokasa, Idi Amin, Mussolini and Hitler just to mention a few.

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