Failing States and Genocide
The twentieth century was characterised by conflicts – the First World War, Second World War, Cold War, civil wars, and a number of intrastate and interstate conflicts – killing tens of millions of people. Many of these conflicts occurred in failing states. Conflicts are a global phenomenon, but perhaps African countries are most prone to conflicts, as exemplified by the cases of the Rwandan genocide and the Darfur crisis. The prevention and resolution of inter- and intrastate conflicts in Africa have become a much debated subject in recent years, as the region continues to witness old and recent conflicts.
However, most conflicts in the region have proved to be resistant to initiatives at resolution (Brock-Utne 2001, p. 6). This paper tackles the relationship between failing states and genocide. The first part defines a failing state and some forms of state failure. The second part discusses the concept of conflict and the nature of conflicts in African countries. The third part describes the humanitarian crises in Rwanda (claimed millions of lives) and Darfur (which is ongoing and has already killed hundred of thousands of people) and how the United Nations and the international community responded to these civil conflicts.
Failing States A failing state is characterised by national divisions, personalisation of politics, the arbitrary imposition of ideologically driven values and practices, as well as the degree to which the state is incapable of reflecting the complexity of society and managing pressure from above and below. Such a state is also often vulnerable to being physically ruptured, ending up in a situation of open civil conflict, foreign intervention or even occupation, and the collapse of political, administrative and organisational arrangements, with its sovereignty either strained, eroded or divided.
Failing states are marked by varying degrees of incapacity, some of which can leave the remnants of the state as a significant player with which international actors may need to engage. A failing state refers to as “the post-colonial state”; that is, the unconsolidated state in the periphery (Sorensen 1999, p. 24). The forms of failure in these territorial units are many and varied, and can be either internal or external or both. The internal causes can be of various types. They can stem from fragmentation of the national elite and breakdown of social order.
Somalia best illustrates this. After the overthrow of the regime of Mohammad Siad Barre in a popular uprising in the late 1980s, the national elite disintegrated and revolutionary forces lost their unity of purpose and turned their guns on one another along the lines of personality, clan and tribal differences. As the fragile state structures collapsed, no single dominant group could emerge to fill the power vacuum to generate a necessary degree of national cohesion and national order.
The overall effect was that Somalia’s sovereignty was divided, plunging the country into a long-term state of group conflict – a conflict which continues to this day, and which has defied a series of international efforts to bring it to an end (Luling 1997, p. 289). Failure can also be driven by ethnic antagonisms, which in the absence of a robust state and corrective processes lead to open social conflict. The intensity of conflict may be deeper in the states which are generally characterised as “dual-ethnic” rather than “multi-ethnic”.
A clear example of this is Rwanda, where in 1994 the conflict between ethnic Tutsis and Hutus resulted in one of the worst cases of genocide in history. Although the violence has been contained, the factors underlying the conflict remain unresolved. Moreover, failure can be a product of ideological struggle, as in the case of Cambodia and Afghanistan. Whereas Cambodia from the late 1970s to the mid-1990s was dominated by a struggle between Marxists of various stripes, as well as more pro-Western forces, Afghanistan was disrupted by contestation between Soviet-backed communists and Islamists in the 1980s.
The result in both cases was the incapacity of the state to function as a consolidated whole, to exercise sovereignty over its internationally recognised territory, or to claim the degree of distributive power which could generate a high level of national cohesion. In addition, state failure can have confessional or sectarian roots, as in the case of Lebanon during its civil war or Afghanistan after the rise to power of the ultra-orthodox Taliban militia from 1994.
Another illustration is Sudan, where the northern Muslim majority has been locked in a protracted violent conflict with the southern Christian and animist minorities, at the cost of rupturing the Sudanese state for years. State failure can also arise from collapse of the revenue base of the state, and this may be through loss of foreign aid or domestic sources of income. For example, had it not been for a sharp decline in the mid-1960s in foreign aid, especially from the United States, Afghanistan might not have fallen prey to serious economic difficulties and consequent political disruption in the 1970s.
This development was critical in making the country vulnerable to political and social unrest and a Soviet-backed communist takeover, disrupting the country to its foundations (Rubin 2002, pp. 296-297). Internal disruption can stem from a specific legitimacy crisis, especially through the loss either of traditional mechanisms of legitimation and the ability to institute a viable alternative or of a charismatic leader. The case of Yugoslavia is most notable.
The death of President Josip Broz Tito generated a legitimacy crisis, which his successors could not arrest or rectify – a crisis which played a pivotal role in the subsequent disintegration of Yugoslavia and rupture of its core, that is Serbia. Furthermore, states fail due to separatism on regional, ethnic and religious grounds. This is illustrated not only by the case of Sudan, but also by the embryonic states of Kosovo and Jammu and Kashmir. Internal sources of state failures are often paralleled, or even driven, by external sources, which are themselves many and varied.
They include direct foreign intervention, as in the case of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and the Vietnamese invasion of Cambodia; funding of separatism, as in the case of assistance by Iran under the Shah to the Iraqi Kurds (Saikal 1980, p. 141) and Syria’s help to the Kurdish PKK to enable Kurdish secessionism in southeastern Turkey; and unintended destabilisation from events occurring elsewhere, as may arise through refugee flows or increased apprehension on the part of minorities as they witness discrimination against co-ethnics elsewhere (Lake & Rothchikd 1998, pp. 3-32).
In almost all cases, the depth and breadth of state failure, as well as the intensity of conflict, prove severe when internal causes are accompanied by external ones. In such situations, civil strife can be more enduring and resistant to a viable resolution than is the case otherwise. In addition, again in almost all cases, failing states end up either with an authoritarian or concealed authoritarian rule, or alternatively as divided and conflict-ridden states, where not only are armed groups pitched against one another for internal reasons of their own, but these groups are helped by outside actors in pursuit of conflicting wider interests.
In the latter case, disrupted states become battlefields for proxy wars, with some of these states functioning either partially or fully at the behest of one or more of their neighbours. Conflict The extermination of tens of millions of people a result of civil wars, world wars, and genocide has propelled researchers to study the nature of conflicts. The study of conflict within and between nations – including consideration of its prevention, management, and resolution – has gained much attention from researchers since the end of the Second World War.
Moreover, the growing academic interest in the subject of conflict has also resulted in the proliferation of institutes and centres devoted to studying the causes, management and resolution of inter- and intrastate conflicts and the maintenance of peace at the local, national, regional, and international levels. As such, leading exponents in the discipline have emerged to bear the banner of resolving conflict and promoting peace, development and social stability.
The common denominator of all the interstate and intrastate conflicts in Africa, and in other parts of the world, is that clashes occur in regions that are struggling with severe poverty, economic collapse, and the lack of a brighter future. Moreover, it is also apparent that such conflicts are generated by the elite. Conflicts are commonly reflected by events following a deterioration of relationships between elites, or between members of the same national elite.
In cases of genocides, such as the cases of Rwanda and Cambodia, the more educated and enlightened people inflame the poor, provoking them into violent action and carry out their vested interests (National Intelligence Council 2004, p. 1). The Human Security Report pointed to the mixture of poverty, unstable and inequitable political institutions, crime, low state capacity, poor infrastructure, ethnic discrimination, declining GDP per capita, abundance of cheap weapons, and the bad neighbourhoods of other crisis ridden states as major factors that created an environment that encouraged armed conflict in Africa.
Indeed, the prevention, containment, or resolution of the armed conflicts in African countries can be a very difficult task to the United Nations. African countries are the least developed in the world, and their poverty is often correlated with civil conflicts (Elbadawi 1999, cited in Khalil 2000, p. 296). In addition, poverty can be a cause and a result of civil strife (Collier 1999, cited in Khalil 2000, p. 296). In many cases, conflicts arise as a result of clashes over access to resources (e. g.
the encroachment of one party on lands traditionally considered by another to be on its own terrain). Other conflicts erupt because of unmarked or unacceptable borders, or because of poor governance and exclusion from the sharing of power (NIC 2004, p. 1). The Ethio-Eritrean war which started in 1998 exemplifies the irresponsible use of concentrated political power. Reckless exercise of power is also evident in African countries, taking the shape of ethnic and clan-based war-lordism and religious hegemony, which is one of the primary causes of the raging civil war in the Sudan (Asefa 2003, p.
1). In Africa, one of the most common causes of conflict is the disturbance of social equilibrium due to historical disparities between ethnic groups or tribal components of the population (Khalil, 2000, p. 296). Such conflicts are experienced in the Rwandan and Sudan, wherein instead of remedying the injustices resulting from such inequality, those in power perpetuated them. In Sudan, the almost two decade long civil war has claimed millions of lives and damaged the country’s resources.
In the 1994 Rwandan genocide 800,000 people, mostly from the Tutsi tribe, were exterminated (Dutton, Boyanowsky, & Bond 2005, p. 441). In the case of Somalia, the humanitarian crisis was caused by military dictatorships which are characterised by corruption, nepotism, tribalism, and violation of human rights. Following the collapse of the Somali state in 1991, political struggles ensued as clans sought to confiscate resources and land previously seized by the late Siad Barre’s supporters, and terrorised the local population.
The clans view the state as a source of revenue and demand a share through any means possible (Markakis 1996, p. 567). The conflict between Ethiopia and Eritrea was caused by competition over limited water, pasture, and agricultural land. The Ethio-Eritrea conflict, which ended only in 2000, brought enormous damage to the economy of both countries, in addition to the hundred of thousands lives lost.
Also, the conflicts in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Angola began with – and were complicated by – the urge to appropriate natural resources or loot valuable minerals. In Uganda, there is an internal war in the North with a fundamentalist Christian group known as the Lord’s Army, as well as in the western part of the country; in the case of Djibouti, the country went through a civil war after independence from France in 1976, and Kenya has some political problems of transition (Asefa 2003, p. 1).
Aside from the findings presented by the Human Security Report, most analyses of the root causes of conflicts in Africa generally fall into three categories: it is the fault of a generation of African leaders who have been too rooted in ‘big man’ politics; the colonial powers left much of Africa in such a state and such a hurry that it is a surprise that war has not been more widespread; and non-African governments have interfered in African affairs for far too long, stirring up trouble and supporting various factions in each war.
These factors have largely contributed to destabilising a number of countries such as Rwanda and Somalia (Ford 2006, p. 24). Once conflicts follow, many factors complicate the already complicated situation and hinder international interventions in effectively resolving the crisis. The Soviet Union, the United States and a number of European governments supported and, in a number of cases, armed particular factions. This largely helped to perpetuate a number of conflicts (Ford 2006, p. 24).
During the Cold War, the former Soviet Union supported Somalia’s Barre regime against Ethiopia’s Haile Selassie regime, which was supported by the United States prior to 1974-1975. However, the two superpowers switched support during the rule of Colonel Mengistu of Ethiopia, 1974-1991. In the post-Cold War era, intervention by African countries is making the situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sudan more difficult. Some conflicts can be resolved easily and within a short time, if not for the uncompromising attitudes of external forces (Khalil 2000, p.
297). In recent years, the number of armed conflicts in Africa has reduced. The Human Security Report reveals that, although most of the world’s conflicts are found in Africa, there are signs that conflicts in the region are reducing. The report reveals that in the period 2002-2003, the number of armed conflicts in Africa fell from 41 to 35. In addition, in the same period, the number of Africans killed in all forms of political violence fell by 24% in Africa (Human Security Report 2005, p. 3). Genocide: The Cases of Rwanda and Darfur
The twentieth century saw a great number of systematic slaughters of human beings. The numbers tell it all: in 1914, about a million Armenians were massacred by the Turks; between 1933 and 1945, the Nazis systematically exterminated around six million Jews, and five million others including Slavs and Gypsies, in addition to the 20 million deaths in the Eastern European war; Stalin and Mao led the massacre of almost 30 million “dissenters” in the Soviet Union and 20 million “bourgeoisie” in China, respectively; In Cambodia, the Khmer Rouge Pol Pot masterminded the killing of an estimated 2.
5 million “educated people” between 1974 and 1978; in 1994, almost a million Rwandans were exterminated, most of them from the Tutsi tribe (Dutton, Boyanowsky, & Bond 2005, p. 441). Indeed, it may become historically infamous for introducing a sinister type of aggression—genocide. Article 2 of the United Nations Convention on Genocide defines genocide as “acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such.
” Such acts include killing members of the group, causing serious bodily harm or mental harm to members of the group, deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life to bring about its 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. The German and Belgian colonialism brought significant change to Rwanda. Prior to the colonisation, the only major difference between the Tutsi and the Hutu was that the former were cattle-breeders and the latter cultivators, majority of them had no access to power.
However, upon the arrival of the colonisers, it was concluded that the Tutsi were predestined to rule based on their genetics, which were related to the Caucasian race. The Tutsi were taller, lighter skinned, and was favoured for political posts by the Belgians. On the other hand, the Hutu, being a black race, were predestined to be ruled. From then on, the history of Rwanda has been the history of the Tutsi-Hutu conflict. When the Belgians left, Tutsi were systematically discriminated against and subjected to episodic bouts of mass extermination and ethnic cleansing (Power 2002, p.
336). In the period 1959-1962, a Hutu-lead revolution took political power out of the hands of the ruling Tutsi elite and installed Gregoire Kayibanda as the president of the First Republic. In 1973, Kayibanda was overthrown by a coup d’etat led by Juvenal Habyarimana who took power. It seemed that long-lasting peace would be achieved in the country, when, in 1993, the Arusha accords were signed by the RPF and the Rwandan Government, stipulating a peace arrangement between Hutu and Tutsi and calling for a UN force to keep the peace.
It was agreed upon that political power would be divided between the rebels and the government. However, tensions ensued when a close supporter of Habyarimana revealed that the government was inflaming ethnic tensions to mask their own interest as an enterprise. In the same year, Hutu-dominated newspapers and radio called for an extermination of the minority Tutsi who were depicted as arrogant, privileged immigrants who were enemies of the people (Power 2002, pp. 337-340). On April 6, 1994, Habyarimana was killed in a plane crash, inflicting intense rage to Hutu extremists.
In less then 100 days, 800,000 Tutsi and moderate Hutu, who believe in peaceful coexistence with the Tutsi, were raped, mutilated, and slaughtered. Approximately half a million Tutsi were slaughtered and 300,000 Hutu were killed as well by other Hutus in a killing frenzy that took both political and personal victims. The horrific event is described by some authors as “ultra genocidal” (Dallaire 2004, quoted in Dutton, Boyanowsky, & Bond 2005, p. 447), in that it was extended to those moderate Hutu who believed in living harmoniously with the Tutsi.
The genocide was the result of a plan that had been prepared by the network around Habyarimana. The genocide was finally halted in July 1994, when the regime fell to an army of returning Rwandan exiles (Des Forges 1999, pp. 65-95). The conflict in Darfur is said to be provoked by the publication of the Black Book: Imbalance of Power and Wealth in Sudan, by anonymous writers from western Sudan in 2000 (Makki, 2004, p. 29). The book chronicles the disparity between the Arabs, who make up 39% of Sudan’s population, and its African peoples.
The book shows that only three Arab-speaking ethnic groups from the north– the Shaigia, Jaaliyeen and Danagla – have dominated Sudan’s political and commercial life since independence from Britain in 1956. The book also criticises the skewed wealth-sharing arrangements that have always benefited the north. The ministry of finance, according to the book, has, for instance, become a northern estate (Makki 2004, p. 29). Tensions in Darfur between black Africans and Arabs, who have long competed over scarce land, water and other natural resources, dates back decades.
However, the situation became alarming in early 2003, when two groups of black Africans from the region openly rebelled against the Sudanese government, demanding inclusion in new power-sharing arrangements. To suppress the rebellion, the Sudanese government trained and armed Arab militias known as the Janjaweed, to which the Sudanese government vehemently denied. In 2004, the violence has claimed some 5,000 lives and has forced 1. 4 million people from their homes, with 1. 2 million living in camps within Darfur, while 200,000 have fled over the border into Chad (“Sudan Genocide Declaration,” 2004, p.
445). Ironically, the present atrocities in Darfur, Sudan, in 2004 coincided with the 10th anniversary of the Rwandan genocide. The conflict in Darfur has gained increasing international political and media attention (Singh 2004, p. 230). Historically, the international community has relied on five alternative ways of responding to violations of international humanitarian law: doing nothing, granting amnesty, creating a truth commission, assisting in domestic prosecutions and creating an ad hoc international criminal tribunal to try the offenders (Roht-Arriaza 1995, cited in Scharf 1999, p.
621). It seems that the most frequent response of the international community to genocide has been to do nothing. When, in 1993, the Hutu extremists rejected the conditions and killed several thousand Rwandans, UN was quick to warn about a possible all-out genocide. Although the world had already taken notice of the Rwandan issue, many international agencies decided that their involvement would be limited. When the violence erupted, instead of acting, the United States pulled all of its diplomatic forces from the region, and urged the UN to do the same.
In his address to the Rwandan Parliament, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, referring to the 1994 genocide, said, “we will not deny that, in their greatest hour of need, the world failed the people of Rwanda. The international community and the United Nations could not muster the political will to confront it. The world must deeply repent this failure” (UN Chronicle, 1998, p. 4). Similarly, in the Darfur case, despite the terrible news of the increasing number of deaths, the international community and the United Nations were still undecided about whether the atrocities in the region constitute acts of genocide.
It was only in late 2004 when the US declared that the killings, rapes and other atrocities committed in Darfur amount to genocide. The resulting inaction, ironically on the tenth anniversary of the Rwandan genocide, was, as in Rwanda, costing lives. Summary Using the cases of African countries, especially Rwanda and Sudan, this paper has suggested that mass extermination seem to be inevitable in failing states. Such states are more prone to extreme violence compared to cohesive states – they are divided nationally, have personalised politics, and arbitrarily impose ideologically driven values and practices.
As such, failing states are susceptible to civil conflicts. In the Rwandan case, it is clear that the United Nations, the United States, and other countries and international organisations were unsuccessful in their intervention, primarily because they failed to recognize, at first, that the atrocities in the country constituted genocide. The same is happening to the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, wherein interventions are lacking. References Asefa, S 2003, “The Horn of Africa: Background, Scope And Regional Initiatives.
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