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.