The necessity of apology and forgiveness in furthering peace and reconciliation

Posted: August 20, 2018 by PaanLuel Wël Media Ltd. in Commentary, Contributing Writers, Junub Sudan, Opinion Articles, Opinion Writers

After violent conflicts, in what ways are apology and forgiveness difficult, but necessary, in furthering reconciliation?

By Manyang Mador Koch, Melbourne, Australia

tribalism

Bentiu, UNMISS Camp

Monday, August 20, 2018 (PW) — Discussing apology and forgiveness in a post violent conflict can be difficult if not impossible in most cases, it doesn’t work at all. However, there are needs for apology and forgiveness, which will advance reconciliation in any given society.

This essay will explore the implications surrounding apology and forgiveness and how difficult they are to achieve after violent conflicts on a societal scale. This means it will examine the role of ethnicity in political system by choosing Rwanda as case study. The paper will also consider the political establishment and the implications surrounding the Rwandan genocide in 1994.

Therefore, the definition of ethnicity which can be refers to an outdate terminologies such as the tribalism; cleansing conflict and even sub-clan were commonly used in the 1950-1960s during the Cold War (CW) period.[1] It is also significant to paraphrase colonial history and its connection to the Rwandan genocide of the 1994. The historical connection between Hutu and Tutsi, that this paper will technically consider the role of ethnicity in political context in Rwanda.

In most cases apologies are difficult after post violence conflicts simply because they are formal admission of crimes that one have committed throughout the time of violent. The healing process which can lead society to national reconciliation usually would start with open apology/apologies. But in different circumstances, apology and forgiveness can be difficult to some victims who see an apology as unhealable intention that the wrongdoers shall deliver after violent conflicts in spite atrocities they have committed.

The conflicts analysis indicates that there are many challenges which can delay apology in the post conflicts societies. For example, how to create a social dialogue among the former warring parties in order to close the widening gap and fear from one another is a problematic after violent conflicts communities. Zorbas has argued that “in the wake of violence on a societal scale, finding and forgiveness, tribunals and truth commissions, remember and ‘moving on’ is a messy if not impossible goal”.[2]

It is absolutely clear that in the “wake of violence on a societal scale” usually the level of misunderstanding present major threat on the society simply because of the post violence hangovers directly towards other group. The writing that touched Rwanda may not be easy because of its complexity since the Country became Independent in 1962. For many decades before and after the independence of Rwanda in the 1962, Rwanda was already divided along ethnic lines. The political system of Rwanda was a continuation of European model who had ruled Rwanda for decades before the Country officially gained its political Sovereignty.

Suzanne argues “Although forgiving does reduce negative emotions, Richards (1988) pointed out that the motivation behind forgiving another is not solely to feel better and rid oneself of strong negative emotions. That may be the primary motive, but during the process the injured person begins to take the well-being of the offender and the potential restoration of an important relationship more into consideration”.[3] However, Weyeneth as argues that “in recentyears, we have seen apologies for religious prejudice and persecution, racistpolicies and behaviour, colonialism, the dispossession and deaths of nativepeoples, slavery, political executions, complicity in the Holocaust, war crimes, medical experiments, the Red Scare, police violence, environmental contamination, and other historical events and government policies now out of favour”.[4]

The Rwandan genocide of 1994 was purely a cleansing ethnic conflict that came after long tension between Tutsi and the Hutu ethnic groups. Tutsis were favoured in terms of education and employment over the Hutus who were neglected. The Belgium authority introduced identity cards to distinguish one’s ethnic origin. These acts unsurprisingly led to tensions between the two groups Hutu and Tutsi ethnics.[5] In 1959, civil war led to the overthrow of the then ruling Tutsi King, and the granting of independence three years later opened way for a Hutu-led government in Rwanda in the 1962.[6]The independence of Rwanda became a cast as tension arise between Hutu and Tutsi and over the next several years, thousands of Tutsis were killed, and an estimated 150,000 were driven into exile in neighbouring countries like Uganda, Burundi and Zaire currently known as the Democratic Republic of Congo.[7]

The Rwandan diaspora Tutsi community became politically aware of their suffering in exiled and atrocities that are being committed against Tutsi population back in Rwanda. This sense of ethnicity belonging has led to the formation of the rebel group known as the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) which was predominantly Tutsi. The leader of the RPF Major General Paul Kagame who led the rebel forces to Kigali the national Capital of Rwanda automatically become President of Rwanda after genocide.[8] The Rwandan Patriotic Front was fighting to sustain democracy, good governance and the right of Tutsi refugees to return to Rwanda. In 1990, General Fred Rwigema led the RPF as a commander in Chief was killed in the first ever rebel attacked on October 1990.[9] More importantly however, the rebel’s aims and objectives were to overthrown Hutu led government of the ideological ruler of Rwanda president Habyarimana.

The Rwandan ethnic conflict immediately escalated as news reached the Hutu community after a plane carrying President Habyarimana of Rwanda and his counterpart of a neighbouring country President Cyprien Ntaryamira of Burundi were killed in a well design assassination plan. The prime suspects behind the assassinations of the two presidents were now the Hutu’s common enemies; the Rwandan Patriotic front (RPF) predominantly led by the Tutsi rebel and the Ugandan government whose President Museveni work in collaboration with the American CIA. The Republic of Rwanda (RR) has a long history of ethnic tension which has created a permanent political ethnicity where things are planned, using ethnical approach as the best way to deal with national issues in term of political stability in Rwanda.

The power of ethnicity involves in political structure has shocked the World as in the case of Rwandan discriminative genocide of the 1994. The political structure and social economic hierarchy brought in by German and Belgium colonies had established unfair political system which created inequality opportunities to all ethnic groups that are living in Rwanda. For instance, both colonies (German & Belgium) instead of establishing a fair political system which can accommodate all ethnic groups, than now colonial administration had deeply divided Rwanda into ethnic political unit community by relinquishing powers to Tutsi’ the minority group who form 14% of the Rwandan’s population. [10]

The Belgium power handing over to the minority Tutsi group created permanent tension and the Rwandan political system has been established along ethnic line. Some analyse believes that, Belgium thought that Tutsi were superior in Rwanda which allowed them freely to placed them in power.[11] The Tutsi ethnic group became dominant and superior in Rwanda. This means their dominant force had led them to establish some sort of ethnic authoritarianism against other ethnic groups such as Hutu and Twa. Therefore, Tutsi were successful by dominating all institutions in the Country which gives the Tutsi a great advantage over other ethnic groups to achieved high level of education as well as gaining the financial capability.

The cultural supremacy in Rwanda has increasingly become the dominant theory soon after the end of the Cold War era in 1990s.The failed of ethnic association in Rwanda was brought through colonisation. This sort of political structure established by both colonies German and Belgium has evidently created ‘instrumentalist’ contention that ethnicity was invented for political purposes.[12]

For instance, the classification of people into groups by Belgium authority who oppressed Hutu majority with promotion of minority ethnic group such as Tutsi was given especially treatment by the colonial governments. This means, Tutsi opportunities given by the colonial governments as first class citizens created a very big gap between the two ethnic groups. Politically, socially and economically Hutu and Tutsi were totally different. For example, Hutu had intensely less excess to school and achieve post primary education level than the Tutsi.[13]

The Rwandan history is always referring to colonisation and it deep ethnic political division brought in by its two colonies German and Belgium. In 1895, German officially became a colonial authority of Rwanda as European powers divided the African continent amongst themselves. After the defeat of German in 1918, the League of Nation had authorised Belgium to take over as a new colonial authority in Rwanda and with new colonial government in Rwanda, the Country’ main ethnic groups were subjected to social classes which was then created by both European colonies.[14] As Nancy Gibbs, argued that colonialism has destroyed the social and political structures in Rwanda.[15] This is because colonial authority has created a system which favours one ethnic group over the other simply because of their non-resistance policy against European colonies. The question of forgiveness in the absent of apology from the European empires that ruled Rwanda left deep scars in minds and the hearts of Rwandan community. Fundamentally, apology and forgiveness becomes difficult if justice is not fairly served by the authorities in power.

According toTaft, he argues that“healing must be understood in a nuanced way whenconsidered in a legal context. That is, while a legal client may be physicallyinjured, he/she may also be spiritually and psychologically broken”.[16] Morris has also argues “the slow of justice progress in Rwanda points need for protocols for prompts international assistance to national justice system; for permanent bodies, such as an International Criminal Court (ICC) that can be put readily into service when warranted and for clear articulation of the purposes of each international tribunal in order that both national and international jurisdictions may be as effective as possible in responding to crimes of mass violence”.[17] In contrast, the Southern Sudanese community became a divided society in thesplit of its Southern rebel leadership in August 1991. As Hutchinso argues “Ever since leadership struggles within the Sudan People’sLiberation Army (SPLA) split the movement into twowarring factions in 1991, rural Nuer (Neitinaath) and Dinka (Jieng) communities in the South have been grapplingwith an expanding regional subculture of ethicisedviolence”. [18]These two groups have supplied the bulk of the guerrilla forces that have been fighting since 1983 to over-throw a northern-dominated, national state government in Khartoum increasingly guided by Islamist political agendas and ideals. Furthermore, “the central government in Khartoum, of course, rejoiced over the collapse of SPLA unity and proceeded to fan the flames of conflict between rival southern military leaders”.[19]

However, the invasion of Bor and Kongor areas caused huge destruction and a humanitarian crisis that affected mainly the civilian population. Elhag argues that “apart from the Nuer, many civilians from other tribes also joined the Nasir faction, because they simply did not want SPLM and its leaders anymore, viewing it as a Dinka dominated movement”.[20]

On August 11th 2011 Vice President Dr Riek Machar, issued his apology to Dinka Bor Community by acknowledging his responsibility for incident in 1991 which resulted to the loss of hundreds of thousand lives in the community. The apology cause dramatic reactions from his Nuer community believing that their son had produced materials which will prepare him for a possible prosecution in the International Criminal Court (ICC). Up to date being remembered by many politicians, intellectuals and scholars as “Bor Massacre” of 1991 whichwas ethnically engineer by Dr Riek Machar who is currentlyserving as Vice President of the Republic of South Sudan. The Dinka Bor community have not accepted the apology as results of massacre wounded that are left after violent conflict.

In conclusion, apology and forgiveness are difficult if justice is not served fairly in the community. Ethnicity in form of political force in developing countries is a political uniformity of thought in term of mobilisation especially on ethnic base political society. For example, the Rwandan and South Sudanese political structures are pure ethnically base regimes since the foundation of their political systems. However, an apology can be difficult simply because of the fear justice. Again, the leftovers after the violent conflicts can make it even more difficult for the wrongdoers to apology. It is also important to establish an impartial truth reconciliation commission that will prepares the two warring communities in furthering reconciliation. Creating a social forum can prepare former warring parties to fully reconcile. Once the apology is accepted then forgiveness will furthering reconciliation after violent conflicts.

The author is a citizen of South Sudan and a Chairman of Gok State Community Association. Holder of BA, International Studies, Jurist Doctor Student of Law and Human Rights and Political activist. He can be reach @ manyanginafrica@yahoo.com

The opinion expressed here is solely the view of the writer. The veracity of any claim made is the responsibility of the author, not PaanLuel Wël Media (PW) website. If you want to submit an opinion article, commentary or news analysis, please email it to paanluel2011@gmail.com. PaanLuel Wël Media (PW) website do reserve the right to edit or reject material before publication. Please include your full name, a short biography, email address, city and the country you are writing from.

References

Binenwa,B. J. N., Manipulation of Ethnic Identity during the Colonial Reform of Administration (1926-1931) and Conflict in Rwanda, Ch. 3, Programme of Conflict Resolution and Peace studies (CRPS) University of Kwazulu Natal, Feb., 2004, pp. 44-50.

Elhag, N., Dilemmas of Development A tale of two wars: The militarization of Dinka and Nuer indentities in South Sudan, 2008, p. 166

Gibbs, N., Why? Killing fields of Rwanda, May, 16, 1994, pp. 1-7

Hutchinson, S. E., Nuer Ethnicity Militarized, Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, JSTOR, Journal of Anthropology Today, Vol. 16, No. 3,Jun., 2000, Pp.6-7

James D. Fearon and David D. Laitin, Ethnicity, Insurgency, and Civil War, The American Political Science Review, American Political Science Association, , Vol. 97, No. 1, Feb., 2003, pp. 75-90.

Kamuzinzi, R. D., Democracy in Rwanda, Ch. II, Institute of Research and Dialogue for Peace (IRDP), Enpartenariat WSP, Dec, 2005, Pp. 56-58. < E-mail:irdp@rwanda1.com>

Morris, M.H., Justice in the wake Genocide: the case of Rwanda, ILSA Int’l & Comparative Law, Vol.3, No. 689,1997, p.696

Newbury, C., and Newbury D., A Catholic Mass in Kigali: Contested Views of the Genocide and Ethnicity in Rwanda, Canadian Association of African Studies is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Canadian Journal of African Studies, Revue Canadienne des ÉtudesAfricaines, Vol.33, No. 2/3, 1999, pp. 292-328

Newbury, C., 1998, pp.-14-15.

Newbury, Catharine., Ethnicity and the politics of history in Rwanda, Africa Today; ProQuest Central vol. 45, No. 1, Jan-Mar 1998; pp. 7-24.

Ouma, S. O., Reflection on the causes of conflict in Africa: Ethnicity or Failure of Leadership? International Law Students Association Quarterly (I.L.S.Q) Vol. 13, Issue 2, Sept 2004.

Suzanne, F., Forgiveness and reconciliation: The importance of understanding how they differ, Journal of Counselling values, Vol. 42, No.3, April, 1998, Pp.200

Taft, L.,“Apology Subverted”: The Commodification of Apology, The Yale Law Journal,Vol. 109, FEBRUARY 14, 2000, pp.1136 & 1137

Uvin, P., Ethnicity and Power in Burundi and Rwanda: Different Paths to Mass Violence, Comparative Politics, Ph.D. Program in Political Science of the City University of New York, Vol. 31, No. 3, Apr., 1999, pp. 255-257.

Welsh, D., Ethnicity in Sub-Saharan Africa, Reviewed work(s): International Affairs (Royal Institute of International Affairs 1944- ), Vol. 72, No. 3, Ethnicity and International Relations, Published Blackwell , Jul., 1996, pp. 477-491.

Weyeneth,R. R., The Power of Apology and the Process of Historical Reconciliation, History, memory, and Apology, The Public Historian, Vol. 23, No. 3, the University of California and the National Council on Public History, 2001, Pp.9-15

Zorbas, E., African Journal of Legal Studies, Reconciliation in Post Genocide Rwanda, Vol.1, No.1, 2004, Pp.30-35

[1]James D. Fearon and David D. Laitin, Ethnicity, Insurgency, and Civil War, The American Political Science Review, American Political Science Association, , Vol. 97, No. 1, Feb., 2003, pp. 75-90.

[2] Zorbas, E., African Journal of Legal Studies, Reconciliation in Post Genocide Rwanda, Vol.1, No.1, 2004, Pp.30-35

[3] Suzanne, F., Forgiveness and reconciliation: The importance of understanding how they differ, Journal of Counselling values, Vol. 42, No.3, April, 1998, Pp.200

[4]Weyeneth,R. R., The Power of Apology and theProcess of HistoricalReconciliation, History, memory, and Apology, The Public Historian, Vol. 23, No. 3,the University of California and the National Council on Public History, 2001, Pp.9-15

[5]Steve OderoOuma, Reflection on the causes of conflict in Africa: Ethnicity or Failure of Leadership? International Law Students Association Quarterly (I.L.S.Q) Vol. 13, Issue 2, Sept 2004.

[6]

[7]Peter Uvin, Ethnicity and Power in Burundi and Rwanda: Different Paths to Mass Violence, Comparative Politics, Ph.D. Program in Political Science of the City University of New York, Vol. 31, No. 3, Apr., 1999, pp. 255-257.

[8]Catharine Newbury and David Newbury, A Catholic Mass in Kigali: Contested Views of the Genocide and Ethnicity in Rwanda, Canadian Association of African Studies is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Canadian Journal of African Studies / Revue Canadienne des ÉtudesAfricaines, Vol.33, No. 2/3, 1999, pp. 292-328

[9]Newbury, Catharine, 1998, pp.-14-15.

[10]Rue DéputéKamuzinzi, Democracy in Rwanda, Ch. II, Institute of Research and Dialogue for Peace (IRDP), Enpartenariat WSP, Dec, 2005, Pp. 56-58. < E-mail:irdp@rwanda1.com>

[11]Rwanda genocide uploaded by majiik042, YouTube 0n July 13, 2007. Accessed 03/4/2012

[12]David Welsh, Ethnicity in Sub-Saharan Africa, Reviewed work(s): International Affairs (Royal Institute of International Affairs 1944- ), Vol. 72, No. 3, Ethnicity and International Relations, Published Blackwell , Jul., 1996, pp. 477-491.

[13]Newbury, Catharine., Ethnicity and the politics of history in Rwanda, Africa Today; ProQuest Central vol. 45, No. 1, Jan-Mar 1998; pp. 7-24.

[14]Jean Bosco N. Binenwa, Manipulation of Ethnic Identity during the Colonial Reform of Administration (1926-1931) and Conflict in Rwanda, Ch. 3, Programme of Conflict Resolution and Peace studies (CRPS) University of Kwazulu Natal, Feb., 2004, pp. 44-50.

[15]Nancy Gibbs, Why? Killing fields of Rwanda, May, 16, 1994, pp. 1-7

[16] Lee Taft, “Apology Subverted”: The Commodification of Apology, The Yale Law Journal,Vol. 109,FEBRUARY 14, 2000, pp.1136 & 1137

[17] Morris, M.H., Justice in the wake Genocide: the case of Rwanda,ILSA Int’l & Comparative Law, Vol.3, No. 689,1997,p.696

[18]Hutchinson, S. E., Nuer Ethnicity Militarized, Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, JSTOR, Journal of Anthropology Today, Vol. 16, No. 3,Jun., 2000, Pp.6-7

[19] Hutchinson, p.6

[20]Elhag, N., Dilemmas of Development A tale of two wars: The militarization of Dinka and Nuer indentities in South Sudan,2008, p. 166

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