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Genocide is described as genocide against members of a certain race, cultural, religious, or national group with the goal of annihilating the whole population. Following the Second World War, the idea of genocide emerged as an outrage against humanity as a result of the crimes committed by the Nazi empire against European Jews. As a result, the United States declared genocide a foreign crime in 1948. In later years, the offenses relating to genocide became into play in the world due to horrific acts of violence in Rwanda in 1994 and the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s (Temitope and Nathaniel 2013, p. 36).
In 1946, the U.N General Assembly recognised genocide as a crime under international law and the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide codified it as an independent crime. According to the convention, genocide entails acts such as killing members of a particular group of people, causing severe mental or bodily harm, imposing measure with intents to prevent births among the group members, forcibly transferring children and inflicting conditions that lead to physical destruction in part or whole among others. The crime of genocide resulted in the formation of International Criminal Court to try individuals involved in such activities and provide justice to the victims (Scheffer, 1999). Accordingly, this paper outlines different causes of genocide and the possible ways of eliminating it as a practice. This paper will use the term genocide or mass killing synonymously.
Different communities live in a time where mass murder, genocide and other forms of violence directed at a particular group of people based on their ethnicity, political affiliations, culture, religion, and the race is a concern in different parts of the world. After the horrors of Holocaust, many people believed issues relating to genocide would not be part of the problem of humanity. Nevertheless, the second part of the 20th century and 21st century characterise such crimes with Tibet, Chile, Colombia, China, Bosnia, and Rwanda among others being in focus.
Causes of Genocide
Different instigators of violence may lead to mass killing or genocide. Challenging conditions of life in a community, severe economic difficulties, rapid societal change and great political turmoil, are among such instigators and may instigate situations of genocide (Staub 1999, p. 305). Difficult conditions of life frustrate the basic human needs that are fundamental to individuals' survival. Such needs include positive identity, the feeling of control, needs for security and positive connections to other people. The frustrations create chaos and turmoil leading to social and psychological processes in different groups, which, in turn, make people turn against other members of a group they believe, is the cause of their problems or lives in better conditions.
Besides, difficult life condition is often an important indicator of the potential of future genocide. During times of hardship, individuals feel the desire to protect themselves resulting in losing respect for another group of people or rather blaming them for the present conditions. As such, there becomes a long-standing animosity towards those individuals or communities that are accused such as with the Tutsi in Rwanda and the Jews in Europe. As a result, the blame game creates tension and killings that escalates to genocide.
Conflicts involving fundamental interests such as territory for living space (for instance, the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis) are another instigator factor that may lead to genocide. Despite the fact that living space is objective needs that any individual has a right to have, they characterise important psychological elements that can lead to conflicts hence mass killing (Staub 1999, p. 305). The conflict between dominant groups in a society and subordinate group with limited rights may also lead to genocide. In different societies or countries, the demand by subordinate groups for equal rights and resources continue to become pertinent issues that affect the unity of the many communities. Consequently, such requirements lead to conflicts that may result in genocide.
Notably, poverty may not be considered as a distinct and primary cause of genocide or mass killing. Nevertheless, relative deprivation, as well as the experience of economic difficulties and injustices, affects the quality of life of individuals leading to genocide against other communities. For instance, the genocide in Argentina took place at the time of increased demands by subordinates groups, disappearances, and increased tensions. Besides, the cause of genocide may be because of individual self-interest. For instance, an indigenous community may live in a place that other communities want to own. As a result, there may be an increased conflict between the groups leading to mass killing.
Scapegoating and Ideologies to Modernity
Certain social and psychological processes make instigators of violence to the actual violence. When individuals live in harsh conditions, they may decide to turn to a group for connection and identity hence an issue of scapegoating. An emergence of scapegoating makes one group of a community feel that the other groups are responsible for their problems and as such, strive to fight for the creating of a better world in which they would feel recognised, respected and comfortable (Staub 1999, p. 306). Ideologies, scapegoating and the need for identity may be harmful and instigate potential violence that leads to genocide.
When races are based on hierarchy, the civilised races may work towards replacing the underdeveloped races and as such, leads to the start of genocide and mass extermination as a natural product of moving towards modernity. Some regimes instill revolution ideas on their populations and seek to eliminate the communities they perceive as unclean to achieve a perfect society or a more civilised modernity.
Political Leadership and Nationalism
Political followers, leaders, and elites also play a fundamental role in generating violence, which may lead to genocide. The leadership may turn a community against each other leading to political conflicts. in cases of such conflicts, the elite they decide to take a back seat and do nothing while leaders foster actions that result in more divisions hence intensify existing hostility leading to genocide (Staub 1999, p. 307). Nationalism is an instrumental tool for individuals who seek power to justify acts of violence against other people who do not uphold their status quo hence causing genocide. While it is hard to determine the connection between genocidal ideologies and nationalism, breaches to the ideals of nationalism lead to elimination, assimilation, and suppression of unwanted cultural minorities (Malešević 2013, p. 15). For example, the Armenian genocide was a nationalistic force that aimed at removing particular unwanted cultural minority. The force was the Young Turks in the Ottoman Empire.
Predisposition Cultural Characteristics
Cultural features such as political alienation make it possible for ethnopolitical violence to occur in a particular country. Ethno-political practices in a society create tensions among communities leading to hatred. The hatred characterises devaluation of individual members of a group or community leading to scapegoating of another group (Buckels and Trapnell 2013, p. 772). The devaluation also includes seeing other people as evil, morally bad and an enemy. Increase in the intensity of devaluations results in violence against a group, which in turn escalates to genocide. Besides, the existence of a bipolar society may characterise a series of societal concepts and elements that instigate violence and conflict. Notably, a country that upholds different values, beliefs, norms and other ways of life makes it difficult for the severe devaluation of a community or members of a particular group less likely to take place (Buckels and Trapnell 2013, p. 772). As such, it becomes unlikely for multiethnic or multicultural states to engage in genocide especially in cases where democratic processes and pluralism are deeply rooted in culture and rights of individuals as well as in social institutions. On the other hand, a bipolar society with ineffective leadership and values may lead to a community turning against another resulting in genocide.
Besides, the presence of war in a country shapes the psyche of a population and as such, making the willingness of a group to kill other groups more likely. Additionally, there is a probability that individual members of a community may build an out-group during times of war. However, an essential issue during such times is the need to belong to an in-group, a desire that intensifies and as such, leads people to do something extreme like engaging in mass killing.
How to Eliminate Genocide as a Practice
Genocide is a process that evolves from different stages until when mass killing takes place. The primary eliminative or preventive measure at early stages is to foster the development of universalistic institutions that surpass ethnic and racial divisions. Institutions play a vital role in the unity and success of society as they actively promote tolerance, understanding as well as classifications that transcend the divisions (Hamburg 2010, p. 11). For instance, in the case of Rwanda, the Roman Catholic Church failed to play its role in unifying the society and making leadership come together to solve the existing grievances. Besides, there is a need to promote a common language such as in the case of Tanzania to uphold transcendent national identity. Such strategies help in the elimination of the elements of genocide at its early stage.
To eliminate the practice of genocide, there is a need to combat hate symbols and forbid hate speech, and outlaw group marking such as gang clothes or tribal scarring. Nevertheless, there may be difficulties to achieve such strategy due to legal limitations when unsupported by popular cultural enforcement. The courts should work alongside police force to enforce such policies and laws that would help to eliminate genocide. The national police often work for the governments that perpetrate genocide, and as such, there is a need to involve the international police to help the courts enforce laws that would help in punishing individuals whose behaviors and actions that foster genocide. Notably, it is difficult for international law enforcement agencies to work in other countries to prevent genocide; as such, countries may not be willing to cooperate (Kuperman 2009, p. 193). As such, the international community needs to create an International Police Force by passing an Optional Protocol to the Treaty of the ICC. The police force should have authority execute arrest warrants for individuals charged with the court genocide and crimes against humanity and as such, help in eliminating genocide in different countries that would have engaged in such practice.
Notably, genocidal countries may lack constitutional protection for countervailing speech. The local, as well as international leaders, should highly condemn the use of hate speech while also making it a vice that is unethical and culturally unacceptable. The government should ban hate mongers from international travels and freeze their finances. The government should also shut down hate radio stations.
Discrimination is a fundamental element of political instabilities and civil wars that may lead to genocide in the affected country. Every member of society should have equal rights, respect, and abide by the rule of law, the fear of God and the ethical values of the community. As a result, eliminating genocide calls for adequate measures that oppose discrimination. There is a need to have sufficient and effective laws that outlaw discrimination in the case of the 13th and 14th Amendments to the Constitution of the United States as well as the 19th Amendment that gave American women the right to vote. Such amendments foster an equal and just society, which in turn makes people feel respected, and their rights appreciated. To prevent and eliminate genocide, a country should have laws that enforce constitutional prohibitions. For such strategies to be effective, laws should promote the private rights of individuals to sue (Arbour 2008, p. 447). As such, a citizen can go directly to court in defense of his/her rights rather than depending on government authorities to help him/her seek justice. Besides, the international community should impose sanctions on countries where there are violations of human rights and discrimination to prevent the possibility of escalated violence and mass killing. The sanctions can also help eliminate genocide in such countries.
Furthermore, there is a need to create a political will to prevent genocide. The problem of genocide in Bosnia, Darfur and against the Tutsi in Rwanda was not due to the absence of an early warning of the coming disaster but the lack of political will that would prepare for and prevent it. Political will is not a mystery, and it can be built despite the condition or political temperature in a country (Arbour 2008, p. 447). The society needs to hold its leadership to account and fail to accept their excuses.
The perpetrators of genocide also include militia groups. As such, eliminating genocide would involve combating the stage of formation of the militia. The law enforcement agencies should outlaw the membership of the group as they make-up criminal gangs that would lead to destruction and death in society. Besides, the agencies should deny a visa to their leaders for foreign travel and seise their assets. The international community should also play an active role in eliminating genocide in foreign countries by imposing arms embargoes on citisens and governments of countries involved in genocidal massacres (Hamburg 2010, p. 11). In cases where the practice of genocide is on the verge of starting, there is a need to declare genocide emergency and the political will of regional alliances and great powers should play a key role in assisting the victim group to prepare for its self-defense while also preparing for the inevitable tide of refugees.
Genocide entails violence against the members of a particular racial, ethnic, religious or national group with the intention of destroying the entire community. Communities live in a time where mass killing, genocide and other forms of violence directed at a particular group of people based on their ethnicity, political affiliations, culture, religion, and the race is a concern in different parts of the world. As aforementioned, violence Instigators such as difficult conditions of life in a community, severe economic difficulties, rapid societal change and great political turmoil bring about conditions of genocide. Besides, conflicts involving fundamental interests such as territory for living space, scapegoating and ideologies to modernity and nationalism are also among other causes of genocide. Political followers, leaders, and elites also play a key role in generating violence, which may lead to genocide. The leadership may turn a community against each other leading to political conflicts
The research into the causes of genocide as outlined, makes individuals understand that there is a varied explanation for what causes genocide and not a single cause. The reasons are instrumental to the destruction of ethnic and minority groups hence the need to look into ways of eliminating the practice in any society around the world. The possible ways of eliminating genocide include combating hate symbols, fostering the development of universalistic institutions that surpass ethnic and racial divisions, protecting fundamental rights of individuals and combating the stage of formation of the militia groups among others.
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Buckels, E. E., and Trapnell, P. D. (2013). Disgust facilitates outgroup dehumanisation. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 16(6), 771-780.
Hamburg, D. A. (2010). Recent advances in preventing mass violence. Annals of the new york academy of sciences, 1208(1), 10-14.
Kuperman, A. J. (2009). Wishful thinking will not stop genocide: suggestions for a more realistic strategy. Genocide Studies and Prevention, 4(2), 191-199.
Malešević, S. (2013). Is nationalism intrinsically violent?. Nationalism and Ethnic Politics, 19(1), 12-37.
Scheffer, D. J. (1999). The United States and the international criminal court. American Journal of International Law, 93(1), 12-22.
Staub, E. (1999). The origins and prevention of genocide, mass killing, and other collective violence. Peace and Conflict: Journal of Peace Psychology, 5(4), 303.
Temitope, O., and Nathaniel, D. (2013). The 1994 Rwandan Conflict: Genocide or War?. International Journal on World Peace, 30(3), 31-55.
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