Essay, 5 pages (1100 words)

State formation and genocide essay

The United Nations General Assembly’s Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, defines genocide as any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, such as killing members of the group; causing serious bodily or mental harm to the members of the group; deliberately inflicting on the group harsh conditions of life, calculated to bring about its physical 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.

Resolution 260 (iii)] Article 2 (1948). There are other legal and scholarly definitions of the word genocide but there is consensus among scholars that genocide denotes an intention to destroy a group. One of the most notable cases of genocide in recent times is the Rwandan genocide of 1994. In this case the conflict was between the majority Hutus and minority Tutsis. (Melvern L, 2006). By most estimates, approximately one million people mostly Tutsis and moderate Hutus were killed in a space of a hundred days.

This conflict can be traced back to the birth of Rwanda as a state. From the fifteenth century, the Tutsis ruled the region currently occupied by the modern state of Rwanda. The Tutsi nobility who were herders ruled over the Hutu majority who were farmers. The divide between the Hutu and the Tutsi was mainly an economic one rather than ethnic or racial. (Melvern L, 2006). In 1886 Berlin Conference, Rwanda and Burundi were annexed by Germany which ruled until the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 after which the territories were ceded to the Belgians.

The Belgians in trying to understand the ethnic divide simplified the distinction between the Hutu and the Tutsi to ethnic and racial basis rather than the class system as had been the case. They subsequently introduced identity cards and institutionalized preferential treatment of the Tutsi over the Hutu. This situation led to a social revolution in 1959 by a Hutu nationalist party Parmehutu and subsequent establishment of an independent Hutu-led Rwanda in 1961. The struggle for independence left some 20, 000 Tutsis dead and 200, 000 others exiled.

This precipitated a Tutsi rebellion led by the Rwandan Patriotic Front (FPF) which led to a civil war. In 1990 the RPF invaded Rwanda in an effort to reestablish Tutsi control in the country. A ceasefire was eventually signed in 1993 but without consent of the extremist Hutu coalition for Defense of the Republic (CDR). The genocide started in 1994 and was carefully organized and orchestrated by the Hutu-led government through the use of armed militia such as the Intarahamwe. Read alsoThe Rwandan genocide resulted from institutionalized discrimination against the majority Hutus and the preferential treatment accorded to the Tutsi and the resentment that was created.

(Melvern L, 2006). The second most studied genocide and one of the first modern systematic genocides is the Armenian genocide that took place from April 24, 1915. The genocide involved the ruling authorities of the Ottoman Empire attempting to annihilate the entire Armenian population in the empire. The death toll is believed to have been between one and one and a half million. The genocide was accomplished through the use of massacres, deportations involving forced marches designed to lead to death for the deportees.

The Ottoman Empire was founded in the 14th century and at the height of its power it spanned three continents. The Empire was predominantly Muslim having been founded by Islamic rulers but it also contained Christian minorities for example, the Armenians. The Christians were guaranteed rights such as freedom of worship but they were treated like second class citizens. Testimonies by Christians or Jews against Muslims were inadmissible in a court of law.

They were not allowed to carry weapons or ride horses. Their houses could not overlook those of the Muslims and their religious practices were subordinate to those of the Muslims. They were subjected to various other legal limitations. The three great powers of the time, the British, France and Russia took issue with this discrimination of minorities in the empire. On November 1914 the Ottoman Empire entered the world war on the side of the central powers.

The empire planned to attack the Russian army and recover territories lost in the Russo-Turkish war of 1877 – 1878. The Ottoman Empire’s army was heavily defeated. Melson R, 1992). The ruling authorities blamed the military loss to Armenian cooperation with the Russian Army. A campaign of arrests deportations and executions were subsequently carried out by the Turkish Army on the Armenian population. The Armenian genocide is a direct result of the foundations of the Ottoman Empire.

The empire was founded on religious inequality and suppression of the minorities leading to a revolt by the minorities against the state to the extent of the minorities siding with foreign forces. The state’s response was a campaign of extermination against the Armenian minority. Another case of 20th century genocide is the Bosnian genocide that took place in 1993 pitting Serbian forces against members of the Bosnian Muslim population ultimately leading to the death of over 200, 000 people. The Republic of Bosnia – Herzegovina was formerly part of Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia was a multicultural country created by allied forces after World War I and it contained ethnic and religious groups that were bitter enemies.

These groups were the Serbs (orthodox Christians), Croats (Catholics) and Muslims. The country was led by Joseph Tito who was a strong leader and uniting factor. After the death of Tito, the country plunged into turmoil and ethnic divisions. In 1991 Slovenia and Croatia declared independence from Yugoslavia. In 1992, the US and European community decided to recognize Bosnia as an independent nation. Bosnia’s population was mainly Muslim with a minority Serb population of about 32%.

The Serbian army immediately moved into Bosnia in the pretext of protecting Serbs in the country, and engaged in a campaign of mass executions, forced repopulation of entire towns and confinement in concentration camps for Bosnian men and boys. Despite all these atrocities, the international community did not respond. Throughout 1993, Serbian forces carried out genocide with impunity culminating in the Srebrenica massacre where 8000 men and boys were slaughtered. The Bosnian massacre is linked to the formation of the state of Bosnia due to the hostilities it elicited from it’s neighbor and bitter enemy Serbia. Serbians saw Bosnian Muslims as a threat to Serbian population in Bosnia they consequently invaded the Bosnia with an aim of wiping out Bosnian Muslims from the face of the earth and protecting their own people. The formation and foundation of the state has played a part in each of the three cases of genocide illustrated in this paper.

The mere fact that people are living together within a set state boundary does not necessarily mean that they share a common national identity. Deep historical rivalry or hatred flare up at the slightest instances thereby leading to conflicts which may turn into genocide if one dominant group uses the instruments of state power such as the army against another.

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