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FAO Quotables

"But being right, even morally right, isn't everything. It is also important to be competent, to be consistent, and to be knowledgeable. It's important for your soldiers and diplomats to speak the language of the people you want to influence. It's important to understand the ethnic and tribal divisions of the place you hope to assist."
-Anne Applebaum

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Friday, April 4, 2014

11 Things You May Not Know About the Genocide in Rwanda

20 years ago this Sunday the genocide in Rwanda began.  Read more below to find out what you may not know and what you should know. 

Eleven Things You Should Know about the Genocide in Rwanda (and which I didn't know either until I wrote a paper about it):

1. In 100 days, Hutu extremists killed 800,000 men, women and children--507,000 of them Tutsis (77% of the registered Tutsi population).  That's about 11% of their population.  That would be the equivalent of 26 million people being killed in the US over a 3 month period.

2. The U.S. government (USG) acknowledged early on (on 28 April to be exact, when there were at least 100,00 already dead) that people were being slaughtered, but instructed its UN Ambassador to remain in "listening mode" and "not commit the USG to anything."

3. The best and most complete account of the genocide is the Alison Des Forges' (of HRW) Leave None to Tell the Story.

4. A shorter but equally excellent read is Samantha Powers' damning condemnation of the U.S. government's silence (i.e., inaction) in "Bystanders to Genocide" from the Atlantic Monthly.

5.The USG's belated humanitarian response (after the genocide was over) actual enabled many of the killers to escape the country through the refugee camps.

6.  Hutu hate radio broadcasts were used to incite and organize the killings--the USG had the capability to jam these broadcasts but deemed it too expensive.

7.  The NSA archive is a non-profit group run through George Washington University that archives thousands of previously classified documents (obtained through FOIA) that lend a primary source look into look at hundreds of events in our nation's history.

8.  Never again?  It could happen in Syria.

9.  What constitutes "justice" and reconciliation after the genocide is a lot different than you might imagine (See Gourevitch's top-notch New Yorker Article)

10. In 2001, there was a backlog of 100,000 perpetrators waiting to be tried--this is one reason Kagame instituted the gacaca "grass courts."

11.  President Clinton's March 1998 apology in Rwanda may have been technically accurate: "we in the United States and the world community did not do as much as we could have and should have done to try to limit what occurred," however, in reality the U.S. didn't just not do as much as it should have, instead official in the U.S. government willfully and aggressively pressured the international community to not only withdraw peace-keeeping forces but also prevented others from intervening.

Sometimes When It Rains by Gcina Mhlophe

A beautiful poem from the South African poet, storyteller and activist Gcina Mhlophe.

Sometimes When It Rains by Gcina Mhlophe

Sometimes when it rains
I smile to myself
And think of times when as a child
I’d sit by myself
And wonder why people need clothes

Sometimes when it rains
I think of times
When I’d run into the rain
Shouting ‘Nkce—nkce mlanjana
When will I grow
I’ll grow up tomorrow

Sometimes when it rains
I think of times
When I watched goats
Running so fast from the rain
While sheep seemed to enjoy it

Sometimes when it rains
I think of times
When we had to undress
Carry the small bundles of uniforms and books
On our heads
And cross the river after school

Sometimes when it rains
I remember times
When it would rain hard for hours
And fill our drum
So we didn’t have to fetch water
From the river for a day or two

Sometimes when it rains
Rains for many hours without break
I think of people
Who have nowhere to go
No home of their own
And food to eat
Only rain water to drink

Sometimes when it rains
Rains for days without break
I think of mothers
Who give birth in squatter camps
Under plastic shelters
At the mercy of cold angry winds

Sometimes when it rains
I think of ‘illegal’ job seekers
In big cities
Dodging police vans in the rain
Hoping for darkness to come
So they can find some wet corner to hide in

Sometimes when it rains
Rains so hard hail joins in
I think of life prisoners
In all the jails of the world
And wonder if they still love
To see the rainbow at the end of the rain

Sometimes when it rains
With hail stones biting the grass
I can’t help thinking they look like teeth
Many teeth of smiling friends
Then I wish that everyone else
Had something to smile about

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

20 years and 3 days ago, preparations for a slaughter were in motion

20 years and 3 days ago, preparations for a slaughter were in motion.  Machetes were being sharpened and distributed.  Hatred was being stoked on the radio stations.  Somewhere, one person was readying the missile that would take down a plane that would spark a genocidal killing spree.

Sunday April 6th this year will mark the 20th year anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda.

As Rwanda continues to rise, rebuild and reconcile a generation later--the lingering and lasting implications of the inaction by the international community (the US in particular) continues to affectMartin Luther King Jr.'s admonition that our foreign policy.  I am reminded of

"In the end,
we will remember
not the words of our enemies,
but the silence of our friends."

Want to know more?  Read here:

Monday, March 31, 2014

Latest Poetry Anthology just ordered: Invitation to a Voyage: French Language poetry of the Indian Ocean African Islands

I came across this book doing a google search on Comoran poetry--a topic that I haven't looked into much before.  My previous research had only been into Malagasy poets and among them I have only covered the incomparable romantic poet Rabearivelo:

My current job, however, covers both nations.  Finding English translations of Comoran poetry (which can be in Arabic, French or ShiaComore) is a difficult task.  Once I receive the anthology
Invitation to a Voyage: French - Language Poetry of the Indian Ocean African Islands in a few weeks expect some highlighted Comoran poems.

Here's an excerpt from the poet Djailani (from the island of Mayotte--an isle of contention between France and Comoros):

"O my land!/ forever separated from your Comorian sisters/ at the base of the Indian calabash/ a shining crescent.


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Resolving Ethnic Conflict: Creating a New I Am

Below is a paper I wrote arguing on a multi-pronged approach to resolving ethnic conflict--one that accepts short term violence for the sake of long-term reconciliation.  My complete collection of grad school notes and paper can be found here.

Resolving Ethnic Conflict: Creating a New I Am

For most Americans more comfortable with the concept of civic nationalism, ethnic conflict is a difficult concept to understand comprehensively.  This contemporary American mindset cannot (and should not) mask, however, the bloody primordial relationship between ethnic nationalism and global conflict.  If one is to believe structuralists such as Mueller, these ethnic conflicts will be a regular (if not increasing) occurrence throughout the 21st century as third world nations continue to modernize.  A united international community with unlimited resources might be able to prevent many of these conflicts, however, fiscal realities—and a public reticent to intercede—more often dictate post-conflict recommendations than pre-emptive military action.  What then is the best way to resolve these ethnic conflicts?  Is total resolution an impossible ideal?  How does one define the term best way, as well as its parameters?  In this essay I argue that the best way is an approach that takes the long view—that accepts a short period of violence and instability for the sake of long-term peace and reconciliation.  The approach best suited to do this is a multi-pronged one that emphasizes a liberal democracy tailored to respond to real or perceived ethnic grievances, and an intentional peace-building process that recognizes the nature of group identities as dynamic and incorporates them in the creation of a new worldview.  I begin by discussing the importance of an ethnic conflict’s origin as well as the state’s role in responding to it in determining a solution.  Then I discuss modernity’s role in state formation and its relevance to conflict resolution.  Finally, I analyze the roles of a liberal democracy, civic nationalism and psychocultural interpretation in creating an enduring cessation of ethnic conflict.  

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

The Samaritans Trailer-A 'mockumentary' on NGOs

Heard about this on the always interesting Africa's a Country blog.  You will be MDR (mort-de-rire, i.e., the french version of LOL) after watching the trailer for an upcoming Kenyan 'mockumentary' on NGOs.

The Samaritans Trailer (2013) from Xeinium Productions on Vimeo.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Juliet's Lament: An Argument for Partition

Below is paper I wrote examining the methods by which a multi-ethnic democratic state can reconcile different identities during after ethnic conflict arises.  My complete collection of grad school notes and paper can be found here.

Juliet's Lament: An Argument for Partition

          Were the terms state and nation always synonymous there might be far fewer 
incidences of intrastate ethnic conflict. International conflict, of course, would still flourish but 
it would not stem from ethnic heterogeneity within a state. This observation is offered to 
demonstrate the myriad challenges of state governance. With few exceptions, most states 
contain multiple ethnic identities that compete for power and control. A state’s primary duty 
remains the maintenance of its sovereignty (its stateness) through the governance of its territory. 
When ethnic conflict arises, this governance comes down to choices—of reconciling lines on a 
map to accommodate realities on the ground, or reconciling the identities of the population on 
the ground to the arbitrary lines on a map. Poor choices in this process have caused millions of 
deaths—sometimes intentionally but often as an after effect of well-intentioned state responses. 
In examining the reconciling of a state’s options, one must ask how a state can best respond to 
problematic ethnic populations? Is there an ideal best response? Does it address the origins of 
the conflict? In this essay I argue that democratic multi-ethnic states must balance the 
requirement for their own self-preservation with the needs and rights of its people. Ideally, the 
most comprehensive and widely employable balance for a state can be found in partition. This 
method addresses the primordialist origin of ethnic conflict. Ethnic bonds are not something that 
can be easily broken through assimilation or integration. Respecting the innate nature of ethnic 
affiliation produces an approach that seeks to preserve ethnic identity. This approach must be a 
holistic one—while it must originate within the sovereign state—it then requires cooperation 
(not intervention) by the international community in ensuring that refugee relocation does not 
turn into ethnic cleansing, nor is it perceived as indiscriminate expulsion. I begin the essay by 
distinguishing between nationalism, nations, and states, as well as between partition and 
secession. Then I describe that which is never a viable option—genocide—highlighting 
preconditions that a state must avoid to guard against it. Next, I provide a brief analysis of 
common criticisms of partition. Finally, I address the advantage of partition as well as the 
supplementary responses necessary once a state makes the decision to make a fresh cut.