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World History of Genocide for comparison with Tigray

World History of Genocide for comparison with Tigray


Kalayu Abraha




Homo sapiens is the only species in the animal kingdom which is not much affected by the mass extermination of its own kind. Normally, advancement is measured not merely by the state-of-the-art tools and methods we use but by how much we value human life. That was the reason why the preamble of the UN-Charter states: “We the peoples of the United Nations…determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war…reaffirm faith in the fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person…”. One can understand the uncontrolled genocides committed before 1945 as there was no international system to regulate the behavior of one group of human beings over another. The preamble of the UN-Charter is unequivocal but the actions of the UN in converting the preamble into practice has always been equivocal and incongruent.

One problem with the United Nations is the crippling mechanism it has at its disposal to convert the words in the preamble into concrete action. The UN is so weakly positioned to act on its own. Although the UN-Charter was signed and ratified by almost all significant world powers and it is up to the UN secretariat to manage the details of implementation with full authority, the UN does not have the freedom to do so. Every time a case of serious human rights violations arises for the UN to act, it is obliged to go into the boring and unproductive routine of a Security Council meeting to decide on actions. It is well known that the members of the Security Council are strange bed fellows with their own diplomatic axe to grind. They are so divided by their ideologies, diplomatic interests, and trade wars that they cannot reach effective decisions on issue that may affect one or the other of them.  The UN secretariat is given responsibility by the world community through the ratifications of the UN Charter but not the authority to implement it through its own management mechanisms. This is analogous to a teacher in a classroom with full responsibility for the subject he teaches but is required to ask the school director for permission to give homework to his students.

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UN troops evacuated from Rwanda while hundreds of thousands of Tutsis were being massacred. The preamble of the UN Charter evaporated into thin air because the then Secretary General of the UN “did not get his orders” from the Security Council to stop the genocide. When the UN Security Council met, after a long delay, to talk about the genocide in Tigray, the two world powers (China and Russia) objected to any serious action to stop the genocide. Since the veto power these two powerful states possess is given to them to use it to deter bad action not to stop good action, their refusal to agree on significant action to stop the genocide in Tigray rendered the rest of the 13 member states of the Security Council powerless. See? This is how far the giant UN can go! Russia and China had signed and ratified the UN Charter in 1945! Sadly, member states are allowed to go their own ways on key human rights issues based on the nature of the relations they have with the perpetrator states. Genocide perpetrator states always have officially stated excuses for conducting genocides. So do Ethiopia and Eritrea!  Friendly states prefer to believe what the perpetrator states propagate as the “valid” reason for the violations of human rights. Perpetrators of genocide in Tigray use the attack on the Northern Command and the missile attack on Asmara as “valid” drivers for the genocide in Tigray!!! Oh God! What a valid reason to massacre civilians, gang-rape women, loot personal property, destroy civilian infrastructure, burn crops and slaughter farm animals, and displace people? Northern command and missile on airbase are military targets. What kind of military responds to military attacks by genocide?    There cannot be any rationale under the sun to justify human rights violations.

Friendly powers support the perpetrator states by keeping their silence or some could go to the extent of barring remedial action as China and Russia did on Tigray. Later on, they subscribed for a watery decision of the UN-Security Council as a compromise. The expected strong decision for action was diluted in order to include China and Russia. What for? If the decision they are included in is a toothless tiger? This is just a diplomatic routine to mend their own internal relations at the expense of the victims of genocide. Would the world be the same or even a better place without the UN? I personally think so! USA and EU have stated the genocide in Tigray in the strongest words possible. Although EU seemed more unified in its position about Tigray USA is split on how harsh the measure it takes should be. The Nobel Prize winner turned genocide perpetrator has put the West, especially the USA, in a very difficult position. USA during the Trump term of office was responsible for installing him in power. In addition, the Nobel Prize is considered to be an expression of western political and cultural supremacy. The dilemma for the West is clear. It cannot live by its principles enshrined in the UN Charter because the last thing the West would like to see is losing its credibility. For this reason more words are spoken than actions taken. When the West is betrayed by a person it helped to power and to a Nobel Prize it would be required to protect its integrity in the face of such embarrassment. For sure the confusion of the West and its desperate effort to cover up does more harm than good. It is unwise to do another blunder to compensate for a previous blunder. Boldly admitting past mistakes and going for uncompromising solutions is the best remedy for the dangerous impasse.

The worst outcome of the indecision driven by cover up, and also trying to rescue the perpetrators against a very ugly background of gross human rights violations, is emboldening the perpetrators of the genocide. The Eritrean Government has heard very strongly worded statements from various officials of the USA to leave Tigray. Every time the request to leave comes the Eritrean reaction is to amass more troops and commit more atrocities in Tigray. By now Eritrea must have become tired of the toothless requests to withdraw and could be planning for the long haul in Tigray. There is already no respect for USA or for EU among Ethiopian and Eritrean Government officials. This is the logical outcome of foot-dragging and expecting miracles to happen without strong intervention.

Worse still is a case of human rights violation is weighed for its worth to call a Security Council meeting by the discretion of the UN Secretary Generals. Leaving a key component of the UN Charter to the hearts of the Secretary Generals is a great deal of lapse in the noble humanitarian mission of the United Nations. General Secretary Antonio Guterres grew a very thick skin about the massive atrocities committed in Tigray and preferred to confer with the perpetrators and put all his trust on them. For Guterres Tigray was just in a temper tantrum. He preferred to be strictly diplomatic and deal with the head of a member state of the UN rather than pay attention to the cries of agony in Tigray. Later on he “improved” his stance towards Tigray using dozens of empty synonyms that are worth little for the suffering people of Tigray: “Concerned, worried, alarmed, distressed, outraged, etc”.

The UN Human Rights chief also got her own personal version of a UN. When an independent investigation of the human rights violations in Tigray by the UN-HR was called for she selected the perpetrator as a partner for the investigation. It is shocking that chief UN functionaries can get their personal wishes commanded by the UN system. Despite the uproar from Tigray about her decision to partner with the perpetrators of the genocide to “independently investigate” the UN-HR Chief has defiantly continued to work against the principles that installed her in the UN position. The logical outcome of her callous decision is the recent report on the genocide victims in Axum by her partner in the investigation.  As expected by everyone else, except the UN-HR Chief, Ethiopia's top body of law denied that civilians died in Axum! The lesson for the whole world is not to put trust on the UN functionaries who are driven more by their own personal attitudes than by bitter realities on the ground. When the World Human Rights Watch expressed its alarm at the report, the UN-HR Chief did not react. Of course, a similar report of  investigation must be what the UN-HR Chief is contemplating; a systematic cover up! It is not only the sick diplomatic formula, which covers up crimes against humanity by the “sovereignty” rhetoric that motivate some states to act against human rights appeals. Some world states that had been genocidal states at some point in their histories are reluctant to involve in the resolution of human rights violations elsewhere. Although positive moves towards ending genocide elsewhere could have helped them to repent for their dark histories of genocide they add more tar to darken their histories much further by their tacit support for genocide. Some states with genocidal histories have gone to the extent of trying to sell arms to the perpetrators of genocide in Tigray.

I.   History of genocide

There must have been hundreds of thousands of acts of genocide since antiquity. As the glory of kings and nations has been at the center of all wars in the past what happened to ordinary civilians was not worth the attention of chroniclers. In this piece of writing, I have compiled 35 documented genocides from web sources. I have preferred to categorize them by the centuries in which they happened with other details, such as the targeted, the perpetrators, the duration and the maximum estimate of the number of victims. The UGenocide Convention defines genocide as "acts committed with intent to destroy, whole or part of a national, ethnical, racial, or religious group. The definition implies that destruction of the group could be both killing and without killing. Destroying life and destroying livelihoods have the same effect on the victim. A person with a destroyed life is as good as dead!  Hence, the perpetrators of genocide use all available and more convenient means to harm a person until breathing or not breathing will have no difference.

1. Before 1800 (1775) the Dzungar genocide by the Chinese ruling dynasty. In four years 600, 000 victims.

2. 1800-1900-In the 19th Century

--Haitian genocide by rulers of Haiti. In one year 5000 victims

--Aborigines’ genocide by Australian Gov. backed settlers. In 57 years 65,180 victims

--Moriori genocide by Newzealnad other tribes. In 29 years 1900 victims

--Amerindians genocide by white invaders Califorinia, USA. In 27 years 120,000 victims

-- Circassian genocide by Russia. In four years 2, 500,000 victims

3. 1900-1940-Before World War II

-- Herero genocide (Namibia) by German colonizers. In five years 110,000 victims

--Greek genocide by Ottoman Turks. In nine years 900,000 victims

--Armenenians genocide by Ottoman Turks. In eight years 1, 800,000 victims

--Assyrian genocide by Ottoman Turks. In nine years 750,000 victims

--Romani (Jipsy) genocide by Germany. In eleven years 500,000 victims

--Polish genocide by Soviets. In two years 250.000 victims

--Polish genocide by German (Nazi). In six years 3,000,000 victims

4. 1941-1945- During World War II

--Jews’ genocide by German Nazi. In five years 6,000,000 victims

--Serbs genocide by Croatia. In five years 500,000 victims

--Bosnians genocide by Yugoslavia. In five years 65,000 victim.

--Chechens genocide by Soviets. In five years 400,000 victims

--Tatars (Crimia)genocide by Soviets. In five years 195, 471 victims

5. 1945-2000- Post WWII to the end of 20th Century

--Maya genocide by Guatemala. In 34 years 166,000 victims

--Bengals genocide by Pakistan. In one year 3,000,000 victims

--Ikiza genocide by Brundi. In one year 300,000 victims

--Acholi and Lango genocicde by Uganda (Idi Amin). In seven years 300,000 victims

--Cambodia genocide by Cambodia. In five years 3,000,000 victims

--East Timorian genocide by Indonesia. In twenty five years 196,720 victims

--Anfal genocide by Iraq. In four years 182,000 victims

--Isaaq genocide by Somalia. In four years 200,000 victims

--Selknam genocide by Chile. In fifteen years 4000 victims

--Bosnia genocide by Yugoslavia. In four years 35,000 victims

--Tutsi genocide by Rwanda Hutu. In one years 800,000 victims

--Hutus genocide by Congo. In two years 232,000 victims

6. Since 2000- Early 21st Century

--Bambuti genocide by Congo. In two years 70,000 victims

--Darfur genocide by Sudan. In nineteen years 500,000 victims

--Yazidis genocide by ISIL. In six years 10,000 vcitims

--Rohinjia genocide by Burma. In five years 43,000 victims

--Tigray genocide (Ongoing) by Ethiopian DF, Eritrean troops, Amhara Militia


II. Attack Types used in the History of genocide

As long as the goal of genocide is to destroy the human person there could be an endless list of attack types used throughout history. In my Compilation of genocide from the 18th century attack types that are common to all or most and those that are unique to each case of genocide are discussed.

1. Mass killings using firearms is the most common attack type in all or most genocides.

2. The alternative to mass killing using firearms used under Nazi Germany are the gas chambers and gas vans.

3. Extermination labor (death) camps where victims work hard to death were used under Nazi Germany and in the Cambodia genocide.

4. Torture is a brutal way of ending life for those the perpetrators want to see them die slowly in front of their eyes.

5. Hunger by preventing food production, burning and looting harvest, denying access to food market or food assistance. For those who would like to enjoy mass extermination in their absence, while drinking their Scotches, this is the most effective genocide tool.

6. Human guinea pigs for scientific experiment is done by genocidal scientist to test a new drug or other research about human physiology. This was widely use in Nazi concentration camps on Jews and Poles. This was also practiced in the Cambodian death fields and on the Herero people of Namibia by Germans.

7. Ethnic cleansing involving the removal of the victims from key political, military, economic and social positions. This has been widely used in the modern period in which victims might have had a golden age before the genocide started.

8. Deportation to other countries like in the Rohingia case and make the victims stateless.

9. Mass internal population transfer from their homelands to alien locations where the victims cannot adjust. This is a common form of genocide.

10.  Death march is where thousands of the victims are lined up and forced to march over a very long distance. The fatigue and hunger on the way kills the victims one by one. This was a very cruel the Armenians and Greeks were exterminated by the Ottoman Turks.

11.  Prison shooting is mass killings in prisons where sound-proof structures are prepared ahead of time. Nazi Germany had these kinds of sound-proof killing quarters. Acholi and Lango genocicde by Uganda (Idi Amin) involved putting the victims in military barracks and kill them by firearms and airforce bombing of the baracks.

12.  Rape is the most immoral of the attack types because it violates the most revered of humanity: motherhood. It was used as a genocidal tool in the Bambuti genocide (Congo), the Maya genocide in Guatemala, and the Bengali genocide in former East Pakistan.  

13.  Human hunting was used by the white settlers from Europe on the American Indians in California. The Amerindians were hunted like game (fowl and deer)!

14.  Forced conversion of religion was used on the Yazidis by ISIL among numerous such acts elsewhere.

15.  Forced disappearance- sometimes when the genocide target very important personalities which may cause uproar disappearance without trace is an effective attack type used. This was used widely in Cambodia.

16.  Cannibalism- the most primitive of the attack types was used in the Bambuti genocide in Congo and the Moriori genocide in New Zealand.   

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