Ending Poverty, Only Way to Pacify African Cities – UN Envoy

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By Daniel Sabiiti

Adama Dieng, UN Secretary-General’s Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide Addressing the WAR in Cities conference in Kigali city

On October 1, 1990 the Rwandan Patriotic Army, now Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF) started a liberation movement to liberate Rwanda from an oppressive government which has exiled millions into the neighboring regional countries.

The movement was a result of failure to uphold human rights, continuous ethnic segregation, corruption and selective killing among state and non- state actors, which compelled a civilian revolution.

Adama Dieng, UN Secretary-General’s Special Adviser for the Prevention of Genocide says what the RPF did was a ‘necessary’ option as citizens taking up arms to fight for their rights.

Dieng said that unless citizen issues of development are addressed atrocities in Africa will be difficult to prevent and it would end up in situation, like Rwanda, where citizens fought for their rights.

The future can be built not by using arms, but if you don’t have an option, as in this country; the Rwanda Patriotic Army were obliged to use arms to free its country” Dieng said.

He added that to have peace and security on the continent, African leaders must stop corruption and address development but at the top of this, the people themselves have to build their own future.

For the case of Rwanda, this choice has been made 23 years on even when the United Nations didn’t assume its responsibility to avoid the occurrence of genocide.

“We didn’t address the Prevention of atrocities crimes, even when the UN forces were on ground and the Arusha treaty was already signed. Had the international community assumed responsibility at the time, we would have prevented genocide against the Tutsi” Dieng said.

Dieng was speaking at a conference on War in Cities- an African perspective, organized by the International Community of the Red Cross (ICRC) – Rwanda on June 26, 2017.

He said that what happened in Rwanda was unfortunate but it should not happen again to other countries.

Focusing on East Africa, the conference took stock of past urban armed conflicts, reflected on their drivers and humanitarian implications and explore operational and policy responses adapted to the needs of people affected by such conflicts.

Colonel Jill Rutaremara, the Director of Rwanda peace Academy said that African countries should not be defined by wars and there is need to mitigate civilians harm in conflict zones especially when combat attacks and tactics are non-selective and unguided.

“There is need to train civilians to defend themselves during conflicts especially when they are used as human shields. Naturally humans are self-defensive but some skills for example in building bunkers and surveillance- when and when not to move,” Col. Rutaremara said.

On this point, Historian and Genocide researcher, Dr. Tom Ndahiro disagreed and said that- what would happen in a case when the civilians are armed and aggressive?

“We need to rethink how to address atrocities and violence, it is very common that civilian can be a source conflict,” Ndahiro urged.

The UN Special Advisor Dieng, said that is something that should be taken into consideration and rethought on the drawing board but working with civil societies would help in such cases especially in Burundi and DR Congo- where civilians have been caught in the middle of political conflicts.

While the most intensive urban combats in recent years have been taking place mainly in the Middle East, the African continent has also experienced a shift from rural to urban armed conflicts, a trend that is likely to last in view of the growing urbanization.

African cities currently affected by political atrocities, violence and ethnic divisions include- Bangui in Central Africa Republic (CAR), Juba in Sudan and Mogadishu in Somalia, Bujumbura and Kinshasa in DR Congo among others.

It is estimated that 70 per cent of the world’s population will be living in cities by 2050, and the ICRC Rwanda Head of Delegation, Pascal Cuttat, says that there is need to prevent wars in cities to safeguard the infrastructure, health services and ddultimately save lives.

 

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