Open Session on Hate Crimes and Fighting Genocide Ideology in Africa

Ideology of Hate and Genocide

Date | 12 April, 2021

Tomorrow (12 April) the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) will convene its 989th session, which will be a virtual open session on the theme ‘hate crimes and fighting genocide ideology in Africa’. The session is to be convened in line with the Communiqué of the 678th session of the PSC that decided to convene annually in April an open meeting on hate crimes and fighting genocide ideology in Africa.

The PSC Chairperson for the month Permanent Representative of the Republic of Djibouti, Mohammed Idriss, is expected to deliver opening remarks followed by a statement from the Commissioner for Political Affairs, Peace and Security, Bankole Adeoye. Presentations will also be delivered by the Representative of the Republic of Rwanda, Mr. Tom Ndahiro, Researcher and Scholar on Genocide; UN Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, Ms. Alice Wairimu Nderitu; and Head of the European Union (EU) Delegation to the AU Birgitte Markussen. The Permanent Members of the UN Security Council (UNSC) are also expected to make statements.

Tomorrow’s session forms part of the annual commemoration of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda, which was observed on 7 April in accordance with AU Assembly Decision Assembly/ AU / Dec.695 of 2 July 2018. The PSC designated the theme of the session for remembering both the lives lost and the destruction caused in Rwanda and the lessons learned from the genocide. As highlighted in previous sessions, this theme also serves to draw attention to contemporary issues of ethnic, religious and other identity-based mobilisation of animosity and hatred as well as incitement of violence.

Recent peace and security trends on the continent show that the rise of violent extremism in Africa has come to pose increasingly serious concerns for peace, security and stability in the continent. The increase in violent extremism in Africa, particularly along religious and ethnic lines, lays a fertile ground for eventual occurrence of hate crimes and genocide. Other related areas of concern include the rise of hate speech, inter-ethnic and communal clashes and sectarian or tribal violence. Hate crimes and genocide are known to occur, not as isolated event, but rather as a result of intensified hatred and violent incitement which develop and strengthen over a period of time. Hence, Council may stress the importance of ensuring concerted efforts at the national, regional and continental level, to fight extremist ideologies. In connection to that, Council may underscore the need of addressing the underlying causes of extremism such as marginalization, tribalism and discrimination, all of which also create the environment for genocide and hate crimes to thrive.

In diverse and heterogeneous communities that are divided along ethnic, religious, racial and other grounds, and in those societies consisting of minority groups, a major policy issue entails measures that would prevent discrimination, exclusion, and ensuing hate speech which eventually leads to hate crimes and risk of genocide. It is also as important to create a true sense of unity based on inclusive approaches that promote tolerance of differences and embrace ethnic, cultural and religious diversity. The National Unity and Reconciliation Commission which was established in March 1999 in Rwanda, with the purpose of promoting unity among Rwandans following the genocide against Tutsi, stands as a good example of an inclusive approach which advances unity. Council is expected to commend the creation of this Commission and call on other Member States to emulate this and similar initiatives in their efforts to build social cohesion.

As the PSC repeatedly highlighted at its previous sessions on the theme, combating impunity of genocide perpetrators is an essential part of seeking sustainable peace, justice, truth and reconciliation. This requires the promulgation and enactment of the necessary legal framework dealing with hate speech, hate crimes and genocide, as well as strengthened cooperation and coordination among Member States to prosecute or extradite suspected fugitives.

Just as important is fighting against genocide denialism which deprives healing and justice to victims/survivors, and prevents a successful process of reconciliation from taking place. Accordingly, Council may urge Member States to sign, ratify, domesticate and implement relevant international legal instruments on hate crimes and genocide, as well as ensure proper prosecution of perpetrators of such atrocious crimes in line with international humanitarian law and international human rights law. In addition, Council may call on Member States to take lesson from Rwanda’s experience of using various mechanisms such as deportations, prosecutions and commissions of inquiry in its fight against impunity and its quest of justice for victims of the 1994 genocide against Tutsis.

The last time PSC had a session on the same theme was in 2019, at its 836th meeting. Among the key points emphasised at that session was Council’s call for Member States and Regional Economic Communities/Regional Mechanisms (RECs/RMs) to effectively utilise AU early warning mechanisms, in order to assess, detect and respond to risks of hate crimes and genocide in a timely manner. Tomorrow’s session offers Council the chance to reiterate its call and follow up on measures taken by States and RECs/RMs, to avert possible risks of hate crimes and genocide. In addition, Council may also reiterate the importance of raising awareness about the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi in Rwanda, through formal education in schools and through media, so as to sensitise the current generation and prevent similar atrocities from happening again.

The vital role of youth and women in peace process has been emphasised by Council at its various sessions dedicated to the themes ‘youth, peace and security’ and ‘women, peace and security’. Grassroots level inclusive initiatives that ensure meaningful participation of women and youth in countering rhetoric of hate and pursuing peace and unity can considerably contribute to preventing hate crimes and genocide. It is particularly important to ensure that the youth play a direct role in social transformation, in order to ensure the sustainability of peace. Hence, Council may call on Member States to adopt inclusive programmes and platforms that fully engage women and youth.

The impact of new communication technology and social media is another area of interest, particularly in terms of their role in the propagation of fake news, hate speech and incitement of violence and the impact thereof. There is increasing concern that new communication technology and social media platforms have also proven to negatively impact peace and security, mainly by serving as a platform for incitement of violence and exacerbation of hate speech, including for mobilizing and recruitment by terrorist groups. The key issue that arises here is the ways and means of harnessing the enormous benefits of the new communication technology and social media platforms in enhancing human rights and democratization while limiting their negative impacts on social harmony and peace and stability. It is also as essential to manipulate the media to counter extremist rhetoric and inform and educate the community of the dangers of hate speech. Council may reflect on the importance of responsible use of social media and the need for proper State regulation of the media space in line with international human rights principles.

The expected outcome of the session, if previous sessions are any guide, is expected to be a press statement. As indicated in the information note of the session, Council is expected to request the AU Commission (AUC) to appoint an officer within the Continental Early Warning System (CEWS) to drive a campaign aimed at fighting the ideology of hate, hate crimes and genocide, through print and electronic media. Council is also expected to request the CEWS to setup a mechanism for regular assessment of potential genocide, in order to alert the PSC and AU Member States. In addition, the CEWS may also be requested to brief Council twice a year, on key developments in the continent, in order to allow timely intervention. Having regard to the importance of the theme, Council is also expected to request the AUC to include in PSC’s ‘Report on its Activities and the State of Peace and Security in Africa’, a section on indicators of hate crimes and risk factors for their escalation into genocide.

Xenophobic Attacks Affecting Nationals of other African Countries in South Africa

Ideology of Hate and Genocide

Date | 11 September, 2019

Tomorrow (11 September) the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) is scheduled to hold a session on xenophobic attacks affecting nationals of other African countries in South Africa. It is expected that the Ambassador of South Africa will address the PCS.

This session was initiated following the recent resurgence of attacks in South Africa against foreign nationals, particularly those coming from other African countries. According to reports, since the beginning of September, xenophobic attacks targeting businesses suspected of being owned by foreign nationals have been looted and vandalized in parts of Johannesburg, Pretoria and Cape Town. During the round of attacks that took place on 8 September, attackers moving in organized groups chanting ‘foreigners must go’ attacked a mosque and looted and burnt shops. Apart from the insecurity and disruption of the livelihood of non-nationals, the various rounds of attacks have thus far resulted in the death of 12 people. According to the government of South Africa, 10 out of the 12 people who lost their lives were South Africans.

The attacks in particular affected nationals from Nigeria, Somalia, Ethiopia, and Zambia, among others. This has led to diplomatic tensions between South Africa and African countries whose nationals have been affected. On 2 September Nigeria summoned South Africa’s envoy in Nigeria to express its protest of the attacks targeting Nigerians in South Africa. After meeting South African Ambassador in Addis Ababa at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ethiopia’s state minister for foreign affairs, condemning the recent attacks, urged South Africa to enhance protection for Ethiopians.

Zambian President Edgar Lungu reportedly went further urging the South African Development Community and the AU to intervene ‘before this xenophobia degenerates into full-scale genocide’. He also expressed fear that ‘this carnage has potential to destabilise African unity’.

This is not the first time that such attacks have been perpetrated against foreigners, particularly those from other African countries. Dozens of people were killed in anti-foreigner attacks in 2008 and 2015.

When attacks took place in 2015, the PSC held a session on the issue at its 503rd meeting on 30 April 2015. In the press statement it issued after the session, the PSC not only condemned the attacks but also ‘underlined the need for a comprehensive approach to these challenges, taking into account the constraints of Member States, the imperative to respect the rights of migrants and ensure their humane treatment, as well as the overall objective of achieving freedom of movement across the continent, as one of the main components of the integration agenda of the Union.’

Faki Mahamat, issued a statement. Condemning what he called ‘the incidents of violence against nationals of fellow African countries in South Africa, including the looting and destruction of their property,’ the Chairperson also called for ‘further immediate steps to protect the lives of people and their property, ensure that all perpetrators are brought to account for their acts, and that justice be done to those who suffered economic and other losses.’ On its part the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights also After the resurgence of the attacks since the start of the month, AU Commission Chairperson, Moussa issued a statement strongly condemning the resurgence of these xenophobic violent attacks as acts that not only constitute possible violations of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the African Charter) but are also contrary to the principles and ideals of African solidarity cherished in the African Charter.

While the reactions from some corners of South Africa was seen as extending support to the attacks, various officials of the Government of South Africa expressed their rejection of the attacks. President Cyril Ramaphosa in his response stated that “attacks on foreign nationals is something totally unacceptable, something that we cannot allow to happen in South Africa”. It was also reported that police arrested over 200 people for participating in the xenophobic attacks.

There are a number of concerns that some members in the PSC raise. The first relate to the threat that the incidents of attacks represent including in undermining peaceful coexistence. There are also concerns about the recurrence of the attacks and the risk of the attacks continuing, hence the need for interventions that properly address the conditions and drivers of the xenophobic attacks, affecting in particular nationals from other African countries. Concerns about the adequacy of the response of law enforcement agencies are also expressed.

There are PSC members who expect to know what South Africa plans to do differently to deal with the current resurgence of xenophobic attacks from previous incidents to avoid its recurrence, including carrying out investigations into what happened and the causes and drivers of the attacks. Of particular interest is the need for putting in place measure to deal with anti-foreign sentiments, directed particularly against nationals from other African Countries including and how South Africa can collaborate with other countries, among others, to use the values of African solidarity and Ubuntu for promoting peaceful coexistence.

Beyond condemnation of the attacks and expressing solidarity with victims, for the PSC and AU member states the need for promoting African solidarity including the promotion of free movement of people remains a key issue. Accordingly, building on its call from its 503rd session for pursuing the overall objective of achieving freedom of movement across the continent, as one of the main components of the integration agenda of the Union, this presents an opportunity for highlighting the imperative of ratifying the 2016 AU protocol on free movement of peoples.

The expected outcome of the session is a press statement. The statement is expected to welcome the statement of the AUC Chair and the measures being taken by the South African government to manage the situation. In terms of immediate actions, it may call on South Africa to initiate investigation to identify the cause and drivers of the violence with a view to put in place measures that prevent its recurrence. It may also reiterate its earlier call for a special session devoted to the issue of migration and its related challenges, with a view to agreeing to an enhanced African collective effort, on the basis of a report to be submitted by the Commission.

Open session on Prevention of the Ideology of Hate, Genocide and Hate Crimes in Africa 

Ideology of Hate and Genocide

Date | 03 April, 2019

Tomorrow (3 April) the African Union (AU) Peace and Security Council (PSC) will hold its 836th meeting. In this first open session of the month, the focus will be on prevention of the ideology of hate, genocide and hate crimes in Africa.

The Department of Political Affairs of the AU is expected to brief the PSC through its director Khabele Matlosa. The UNOAU is also expected to deliver a briefing. Apart from the opening statement the PSC Chair of the month, Ambassador Bankole Adeoye of Nigeria is expected to deliver a statement.
The open session is taking place following the 678th PSC session on 11 April 2017,which made a decision ‘to convene, annually in April, a PSC open meeting on hate crimes and fighting genocide ideology in Africa’. Unlike the previous 678th and the 761st meetings, tomorrow’s session will be open and is expected to allow the participation a wide range of stakeholders.

The session, as indicated in the concept note has two objectives: to debate and identify the means to collectively prevent the ideology of hate, genocide and hate crimes in Africa and to learn from Rwanda’s experience of reconciliation, nation building as well as best practices on preventing the ideology of hate, genocide and hate crimes in Africa. Hence, the session beyond serving as an act of remembrance and expression of the pledge of ‘never again’, it seeks to shed light on the root causes and drivers of hate speech and ideology that evolve into ethnic cleansing and genocide.

In terms of denial of the genocide against the Tutsi, it is expected that the briefing from Khabele is expected to highlight the forms and manifestations of the denial of genocide and the need for fighting denial in all its forms including the propagation of information questioning or creating doubt about the target group, the number of victims and the legal validity of designating the well organized and systematically executed mass murder of the Tutsi as genocide.

It was against this background that the 761st session of the PSC held on 5 April 2018 emphasized the importance of the use of appropriate terminology and accurate analysis in order to avoid the risk of genocide denial and revisionism. The Assembly of the AU Summit held in Nouakchott, Mauritania in July 2018 in its decision Assembly/ AU / Dec.695 endorsed the decision of the PSC that corrected the nomenclature of the Genocide that happened in Rwanda to be: “The 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi in Rwanda”. Moreover the Assembly endorsed the decision of the same PSC session to designate 7th April of each year as the African Union day of Commemoration of the 1994 Genocide Against the Tutsi in Rwanda.

The terminology of the event and the commemorative day has also been corrected globally. Since April 7 2004, the UN General Assembly has recognized the atrocities committed in Rwanda as an “International Day of Reflection on the Genocide in Rwanda”. On 26 January 2018, the UN General Assembly unanimously adopted a decision on the “International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide against Tutsis in Rwanda”, correcting ambiguities in previous resolution by naming the Tutsis as the main target group for extermination.

Another key issue that is expected to be highlightedduring this session is the need to combat impunity in relation to the genocide against the Tutsi. As indicated in the concept note for the session, 980 indictments and international arrest warrants have been issued for suspects residing in more than 30 countries in the world. In this context the Council may reiterate the appeal made in previous session for member states ‘to investigate, arrest, prosecute or extradite those fugitives accused as genocide perpetrators currently residing in their territories’.

With respect to the ideology of genocide and hate crimes, the session is expected to emphasize the need to strengthening early warning mechanisms and prevention measures both at the continental and national level. The Council members may highlight the need to strengthen AU’s early warning mechanism to anticipate and monitor early signs of situations, which could lead to violent conflicts and genocide, if not prevented through early action. Members may also recall the decisions of the 761st session which called on member states to ‘enact laws and put in place legal frameworks that penalize hate speeches, ideologies of extremism among religious groups, as well as marginalization and discrimination of ethnic and tribal groups’.

The open session may also build on previous year’s PSC meeting, which broadened the scope of possible instigating factors for hate crimes and ideology of genocide by particularly focusing on hate speeches, identity-based conflicts, hatred, exacerbation of ethnic division and racist tendencies. Unchecked religious extremism was also recognized in fostering new grounds for hate speeches. In this regard, the council made commitments to promote religious tolerance, as a means to prevent hate crimes and ideologies of genocide in the continent.The importance of awareness creation and educational measures in fighting hate crimes and the risks of violence targeting particular ethnic groups or religious groups is worth mentioning.

The media’s role both as an instrument to create social cohesion but also the adverse effects of its misuse to incite hatred may be of interest for Council members and participants. In this period of fake news and right wing populism, the role of media in general and that of such social media in particular deserves particular attention.The new media platforms in particular are increasingly shaping political narratives and the potential threats associated with it. Beyond and above, the media reforms, the strengthening of adherence to principles and ethics of journalism identified in the concept note as some of the mitigating factors, there is also the need to develop monitoring mechanisms and effective regulatory frameworks.

As an open session, the expected outcome is ordinarily a press statement, although the PSC may decide otherwise. Apart from reiterating its previous call for AU member states and other states that host individuals suspected of being involved in the 1994 genocide to take concrete steps by investigating and prosecuting or by extraditing the suspects, the PSC may urge all stakeholders to implement measures that promote tolerance, cohesion and respect for diversity including through school curricula and media policy and interventions. Building on the outcome of its previous session particularly the 761st session and in the light of the risks arising from the abuse or misuse of the new media platforms and the need for strengthening the existing legal and institutional framework, the PSC may call for the elaboration a consolidated normative standard including a model law on the ideology of genocide and hate crimes, which the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights is able to deliver.

Session on Prevention of Genocide

Ideology of Hate and Genocide

Date | 05 April, 2018

‘Prevention of the ideology of hate, genocide and hate crime’

Tomorrow (5 April), the Peace and Security Council (PSC) will hold a briefing session on a comprehensive approach towards ‘the prevention of the ideology of hate, genocide and hate crime.’ It is the first session of the Council for April that Ambassador Bankole Adeoye of Nigeria will preside over as the Chair of the PSC for this month. The Council will be briefed by Ambassador Minata Samate Cessouma, African Union (AU) Commissioner for Political Affairs and Adama Dieng the Special Advisor of the UN Secretary-General on the Prevention of the Genocide. A representative of the Rwandan National Commission for the Fight Against Genocide is also expected to brief the Council, if not the Executive Secretary of that Commission, Jean-Mamascene Bizimana himself.

In its communiqué of the 678th session, the PSC decided to have the theme on ‘hate crime and the fight against genocide ideology’ a standing theme on which it holds an open session annually every April. This theme avails the PSC a unique opportunity to reflect on its work in the context of the annual commemoration of the horrors of the1994 Rwanda genocide against the Tutsi.

The commemoration is more than an act of remembrance and of honoring the victims and survivors of the genocide. On its own the remembrance serves as a vehicle that contributes to the prevention of genocide. It catalyzes dialogue that enhances awareness within the PSC most particularly on the measures that should be taken including, as highlighted in the in communiqué 678, on steps that states should take in addressing discrimination and the root causes of ideologies of genocide.

The remembrance guards against the risks that arise from all tendencies of social amnesia. It is anticipated that the discussion on the theme of the session would highlight particular issues of concern in relation to the remembrance of the Rwanda genocide against the Tutsi. In this regard, the PSC would reiterate its earlier pronouncement on the importance of the ‘use of clear analysis and proper terminology in order to avoid falling into the problem of denials’.!

The Commissioner Cessouma will highlight in her briefing the initiatives in this respect at the level of the AU Commission. It is expected that she will mention by way of example, among others, the use of human rights tools including deploying human rights monitors and the efforts currently underway for operationalizing the AU Human Rights Memorial.

Dieng’s briefing is a significant development. As the first such briefing since this theme became a standing theme for annual session, it is expected that Dieng’s briefing touches on the importance of the theme, including for enhanced coordination between the AU and the UN. Apart from current issues and challenges particularly in Africa, this briefing also avails opportunity for highlighting best practices and lessons learned from the UN in the prevention of genocide, including vis-à-vis the existence of an office dedicated to the prevention of genocide. Specifically in relation to the commemoration of the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi, Dieng may recall the decision the UN General Assembly took on 26 January 2018 designating the 7 April International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda modifying the Assembly’s 2003 resolution establishing the International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide in Rwanda.

The briefing expected from the Rwandan National Commission for the Fight Against Genocide is expected to present Rwanda’s national experience. Themes this briefing would cover include highlight of the factors leading to the horrors of 1994 and the basis on which it qualified as genocide; the efforts of Rwanda to come to terms with the legacies of the genocide and the measures for national reconciliation and reconstruction. The issue of denial of or revisionist narratives are issues of concern expected to also be highlighted.

For majority of the membership of the PSC, there would be focus on the remembrance aspects of the session. In this regard, they would renew their commitment to the pledge of ‘never again’ and express solidarity with the people of Rwanda. In terms of addressing specific concerns, various member states may highlight the need to implement relevant AU instruments and decisions as well as dialogue nationally and between member states concerned. Rwanda, which is also a member of the PSC, is a country with specific interests on the theme, including particularly the points contained in paragraph 7 of the communiqué of the 678th meeting of the PSC. While highlighting developments with respect to the points in this communiqué, if any, its intervention would thus reiterate PSC’s call for investigation and prosecution or extradition of suspects, ‘including leaders of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda’ and condemnation of ‘denial and distortion of facts relating to the 1994 genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda’.

In more general terms, the focus on this theme allows the PSC to assess its work with respect to the AU’s agenda of prevention of genocide and similar atrocities within the framework of Article 4 (h) of the Constitutive Act. Last year, in its 678th session communiqué, the PSC underlined ‘the imperative of early and appropriate responses to credible early warning signs of situations that, if not addressed in a timely and effective manner, could lead to potential genocides’. In taking its engagement on this theme forward, the PSC may consider review of existing mechanisms of the AU vis-à-vis prevention of genocide and how best it pursues the objectives of this thematic agenda. Options in this respect include the designation of focal point in the AUC and the production of annual report on this theme. The PSC may also consider the establishment of a coordinating role for adequately taping into the expertise and role of various AU bodies, such as the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, whose mandates have direct bearing on prevention of genocide.

When the PSC held its first session on this theme at its 678th meeting on 11 April 2017, it clearly stated this session to be open. Despite this, the session is not envisaged to be open. This limits the participation of wider group of stakeholders in the deliberations, although it may allow the PSC to have a focused discussion.

The expected outcome of the session is a communiqué. This would reiterate the themes from the PSC’s communiqué of its 678th meeting and reflect new areas from the briefings of the Commissioner Cessouma and Dieng. The communiqué may also indicate how the PSC may wish to pursue this theme further. It would also welcome the decision of the 26 January 2018 General Assembly designating the 7th of April International Day of Reflection on the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi in Rwanda.