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The Science of Genocide

Last night I attended a talk by Dr Charles Mironko at Johannesburg’s Vega college. Moronko is a Rwandan anthropologist who specializes in genocide.
In the dim auditorium, his spectacle rims reflecting the light off the screen that awaited his presentation, his voice rose above the air con:
“We are all capable of killing. We are all potentially killers. It is what triggers you. When love becomes hate. I met a woman who killed her own kids.”
Mironko sees genocide as a clearly defined process, with distinct stages. He has studied various examples of genocide, and sees a pattern. He amplifies how states follow steps that will, inevitably, lead to genocide.
Quite simply, he says, “It starts with bullying and name-calling at school.”
I have two children starting on the ladder of school, and it was a chilling thought. The cruelty of children is not going unnoticed in our world.
Mironko says that stage one is CLASSIFICATION. Us and them. Prejudice. Bipolar societies are easy to divide. In Rwanda and Burundi, the classifications were Hutu, Tutsi and Twa. That is followed by DEHUMANIZATION (remember the ‘cockroaches’?) and then by ORGANISATION, with the formation of militia, who act with impunity. Genocide is always organised by the state, planning, lists. POLARIZATION follows, there is no middle ground, you are with us or against us.
Mironko referred us to the Hutu Ten Commandments:
1. Every Hutu should know that a Tutsi woman, whoever she is, works for the interest of her Tutsi ethnic group. As a result, we shall consider a traitor any Hutu who
marries a Tutsi woman
befriends a Tutsi woman
employs a Tutsi woman as a secretary or a concubine.
2. Every Hutu should know that our Hutu daughters are more suitable and conscientious in their role as woman, wife and mother of the family. Are they not beautiful, good secretaries and more honest?
3. Hutu women, be vigilant and try to bring your husbands, brothers and sons back to reason.
4. Every Hutu should know that every Tutsi is dishonest in business. His only aim is the supremacy of his ethnic group. As a result, any Hutu who does the following is a traitor:
makes a partnership with Tutsi in business
invests his money or the government’s money in a Tutsi enterprise
lends or borrows money from a Tutsi
gives favours to Tutsi in business (obtaining import licenses, bank loans, construction sites, public markets, etc.).
5. All strategic positions, political, administrative, economic, military and security should be entrusted only to Hutu.
6. The education sector (school pupils, students, teachers) must be majority Hutu.
7. The Rwandan Armed Forces should be exclusively Hutu. The experience of the October 1990 war has taught us a lesson. No member of the military shall marry a Tutsi.
8. The Hutu should stop having mercy on the Tutsi.
9. The Hutu, wherever they are, must have unity and solidarity and be concerned with the fate of their Hutu brothers.
The Hutu inside and outside Rwanda must constantly look for friends and allies for the Hutu cause, starting with their Hutu brothers.
They must constantly counteract Tutsi propaganda.
The Hutu must be firm and vigilant against their common Tutsi enemy.
10. The Social Revolution of 1959, the Referendum of 1961, and the Hutu Ideology, must be taught to every Hutu at every level. Every Hutu must spread this ideology widely. Any Hutu who persecutes his brother Hutu for having read, spread, and taught this ideology is a traitor. (Wikipedia)

Anyone recognising this kind of stuff yet?
“So you think this can’t happen in South Africa?” Mironko asked.
He suggested we write our histories down. There must be multiplicity of voices. PREPARATION. Victims are identified and separated. The USA was asked to block the extremist broadcasts but they refused. Freedom of speech,they said. Moderates are eliminated.
EXTERMINATION. Once it starts it becomes the norm. This is then genocide.
This is followed by DENIAL. Justification, blame the victims. Eliminate the survivors who might be witnesses.
I went to Rwanda and eastern Zaire in the wake of the genocide of 1994. It was a horror beyond imagination. The suffering. Yet the majority of the suffering I was seeing was that of the perpetrators of the genocide. I have scanned and included a set of images from the choleric suffering of the hutus who fled the Rwandan Patriotic Front liberation of the country from the genocidaires. A Francophone doctor walked through the crowd of dead and dying people “This is an act of God!” he shouted and laughed and laughed. This while the French military were stopping the Tutsi rebel army entering areas where extremist Hutus were still killing Tutsi civilians.
The pile of confiscated weaponry at Zairean immigration was a still life of death. The world hastened to assist these refugees, mobilizing vast resources. Yet the same world and United Nations, despite being in place, had failed to stop the carnage, only assisting European citizens escape the mayhem. Countries did not even name the killings for what they were – genocide – as this would have compelled them top act. It was a shameful time to be a human. Some weeks later I would go to Rwanda itself, and watch the cost of the genocide within the country. The orphanage dedicated to the children of rape. The psychiatric hospital for those who lost their minds. The prison, overflowing with killers, including children.
The talk moved and disturbed me. Unfortunately I had to leave before I heard of the possible ways to prevent genocide and it was just that classification and prejudice should be challenged, tolerance and understanding must transcend classification.
The search for common ground is vital to early prevention. Mironko hoped that perhaps one hundred of us would leave the talk and try to prevent the seeds of genocide, wherever we can.
“Use whatever you can to stop the killings. Good people must not keep silent,” he said.

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  • garth

    good piece and thanks for heads up, but how can you deal with going back to those memories?

  • Greg

    its difficult, but it is a part of what we go through, and in our case, mostly vicariously

  • Karel Smit

    Greg, a very vivid image to go with Charles’ work. The discourse must go on.

  • Greg

    for sure. I have linked to a group of Rwandan journalists just in last days

  • Fabiobevacqua

    greg, i don´t know if say you, congratulations, or say i´m sorry, its has been hard expriences for you seing peolpe kill brothers. your work is great, and my english, terrible.

  • Greg Marinovich

    Thanks fabio. it is shit

  • Emma

    My ex-husband who was in the Canadian military served with the UN in Rwanda during the genocide…I will never forget the images he showed me and the things he saw. You speak for those who can no longer speak for themselves. I became a journalist myself so I can do the same.

  • Emma

    I have just watched the Bang Bang Club, and it made me think about how much what happened in Rwanda impacted my life. My husband came back a different person with Post traumatic stress and was not able to adjust to “normal” life again, and things quickly disintegrated. I have always felt because of that experience that war has many victims-the dead of course, but also the living who have to deal with what they saw and experienced, and who sometimes have to stand there and watch as people are killed (as my husband did) and be totally powerless to stop it. That pain seeps into everything and you never quite shake it free. Sometimes you just look at people going about their daily lives and you want to scream at them, “don’t you know what is happening in the world? People are dying!” I felt like that for a long time after Rwanda. These pictures were painful to look at but I think very important. The world can never forget what happened there.

  • Anonymous

    Simply Thank you for all the work

  • Tony Agamata

    I just bought a starter DSLR and started taking pictures of almost anything. My buddy hand me his flash drive with “the Bang Bang Club” film when he found out. I realized how HUGE responsibility it is to bring the story to others thru photos; how far dangerous it is – risking your own life to help the world materialize the idea that there are more issues out there – lives taken every second that passes; issues that need to be addressed rather than focusing on petty quarrels between nation and the like.
    The film defines the power of an inanimated camera bringing life thru the photos in everyone’s consciousness. All these photos (and others that I’ve seen), all the photographers out there showing the like pictures were there for a purpose – at the right place and perfect timing!
    I dont want to say that I’m lucky cos I wasnt here, in these photos (that’s BS) but somehow I’m thinking, wishing that I was there to share their sentiments, to witness the heavy load (heavier heart) – carrying these bodies, aching stomach, etc.
    The film made me realize that my camera (lookin’ at right now) is far more than TAKING pictures, rather it’s more of GIVING life to our consciousness.

  • Sweetshanleigh

    your work inspires me , and brings light to the darkness of the world , I would give anything to have shot in just a handful of these places . Your images speak the truth and dont take away from the reality of the situation . My favourite photo journo

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